February 03, 2011

On The Streets, Stray Dogs Ensure Welfare Of Humans

Sometimes the obvious is not nearly as obvious. It’s entirely possible in this age and time to ‘know’ about ‘everything’ at the click of a link and yet not know a thing about most things that matter in ways beyond the cursory as we happen upon them when going about our daily lives.

I’m inclined to believe that this might be truer of those of us who live in Mumbai or cities like Mumbai where making time a premium commodity, to the exclusion of the timelessness of the laidback, is considered a necessary virtue and held up as a standard to emulate. Any exception to the contrary is likely dismissed as a ‘wasted life’ even if not said so in so many words.

This was brought into sharp focus by Abodh’s post the other day.

On occasional walking forays about the city I'll sometimes pause to meet the eyes of a 'stray' I’ve noticed from my earlier walkabouts, delighting in a secret way the sense of permanence the assortment of wet noses and friendly tails bring to nooks and corners of the city they’ve come to inhabit alongside humans who live and work on the streets. In those occasional moments it never occurred to me to contemplate on the depth of bonding that stray dogs and cats will share with those who begin to care for them from mutual familiarity on the shared street, at least not in the way Abodh experiences in his work with stray dogs in Mumbai.

While I knew of the bonding on the street between 'strays' and humans as a fact, I realized I didn’t know of it from experience.

Reading about Rambo, Tiger, Soorya, and Ronnie whom Rajan, a rag-picker, named after his son who died aged two, and other kindred souls like Karunakaran Pillai in Abodh’s warm reminisces in his First Aid Sundays with Street Dogs and Humans merely reinforces the fact that all that seems obvious at first glance isn’t really that obvious the first time around.

While Abodh’s narrative plucks tentatively at heartstrings, there’s nothing tentative about the warmth the stray dogs bring to lives on the street.

It’s in the light of his poignant reminisces in the post linked above that the annual calendar brought out by The Welfare Of Stray Dogs (WSD) takes on a different meaning.

Extending WSD's assertion that: Stray Dogs Are A Breed Apart, I'd add: For More Reasons Than One.

Here’s where you can still buy The Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD) Annual calendar featuring strays with stories in their eyes.

A peek into the WSD Annual Calendar:

Below: Isfahan, a ‘Rags to Riches’ story, came from a Mumbai street.

Below: Rocket, now the ‘King of the Couch’, was born in a WSD kennel.


Riot Kitty said...

Awww! Cute! I know my cats have helped me keep sane in down times, for sure.

Nisha said...

Pets are sure way to keep oneself sane only if one is fond of them.
I think in India keeping stray dogs at home is an accepted norm especially in smaller towns.
Am I right, Anil?

Indian Bazaars said...

I wonder how you observe something in the city and about life that many of us just would not see the first time round or ever. It's as if when you walk the street, it is impregnated with a deep silence just to bring out such contemplation!

Abhilash Pillai said...

I also see a lot of stray dogs on the walk, though it happens occasionally. Now a days they are extinct to the fact that corporation is trying to get rid of them from the city.

The calender is god but none of them now resemble street dogs, good feed and nice care.. huf!

Anil P said...

Riot Kitty: Sure they do.

Nisha: That's true. Colonies in towns, where there're no security guards manning the gates, are homes to strays 'adopted' by children, sometimes adults.

With Bombay now almost entirely made up of buildings, with guards at the gates shooing away strays, it's rarer for people to adopt strays.

But many will still go out on their morning rounds feeding stray dogs in the neighbouthood.

Welfare for Stray Dogs puts up strays for adoption.

Indian Bazaars: Thank you for such a kind comment. It truly made my day. I suppose having been brought up in Goa, meandering is imprinted in my DNA :-)

Abhilash Pillai: Yes, there's been a concerted effort by the Municipal Corporation to eradicate stray dogs from our midst. But if they read Abodh's post of the bonding between stray dogs and folks who've made the street their home, they'd think otherwise.

Lynn said...

What a wonderful program. Animals can teach us much about grace and the stray ones given homes seem so grateful.

Anil P said...

Lynn: The Welfare of Stray Dogs or WSD as it's better known as had to fight many a battle with the Municipal Corporation in saving the stray dogs from a former policy that advocated eradication over accomodation.

WSD holds fund-raisers in the form of second-hand book, DVD, and VCD sales, WSD product sales, and calendar sales as outlined above.

The WSD also runs a vaccination, sterilisation programs for stray dogs in Mumbai, and also adoption programs.

Amber Star said...

We here in Texas have strays too. Many are euthanized, but there are more and more "no kill shelters". My guess they neuter all the strays to avoid an overload of what they are trying to protect. I think the shelters are funded by private donations.

Niamh B said...

A worthy cause - and I think people who are good to dogs are good to people too.

Anil P said...

Amber Star: It was no different in many Indian cities and towns before. Growing up in a town in Goa, I was witness, on several occasions, to the harrowing sight of a Municipality appointed gunman who would go around shooting dogs to reduce their numbers on the street, in the open where he found them.

On one occasion after an argument with him I had ended up putting myself between his gun and the dog that was grovelling on the ground for its life, terrified and whining in fear, all four legs in the air as if scrabbling for an imaginary hold. I was fifteen then. I could never forget the scene ever since, and others I saw.

I think the gunman's name was Abdul, can't remember for sure though except that it was a common muslim name.

Fortunately things changed over time as animal welfare lobbies got stronger.

Most of the dogs mentioned here actually live on the streets among street dwellers.

Niamh B: I would second your observation.

radha said...

Street dogs supposedly make better pets than pedigrees. I wish I could keep one now. Too many constraints.

Anil P said...

Radha: Very likely. For one, the street dogs are hardy, maybe less suseptible to health issues as compared to pedigree dogs.

Dog adoptions are beginning to feature street dogs as well, maybe ther'll be a shift in perception as well. But then folks will adopt pedigree dogs for their looks as well.

Balachandran V said...

Thanks for the wonderful post. As a devotee of dogs, I always tell people to go in for a mongrel or stray dog as a pet rather than a classy breed.

Thanks once again - I want to see if I can get a calender.

dr.antony said...

There are more dogs on the street than people,at some of the roads in Trivandrum. Honestly, I was afraid to go for walks.
Now,it is as if there are only animal rights, and no human rights.
I am a pet lover and I have three dogs at home.But I am against dogs roaming around the streets posing threat to human safety..If you see Rabies for once,every one will change their idea.
When I was a medical student,a good friend of mine was lovingly bitten by a small stray dog. I will never forget the days she spent at the hospital, till she died of rabies.

Anil P said...

Balachandran V: Thank you. Nice to know you liked the post.

I believe The Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD) have an option to mail you the calendar if you place an order. Will need to confirm it though.

Dr. Antony: True, it can get a little intimidating if one has to take one's pets for a walk on the road where stray dogs live. Some animosity is shown by resident strays to homeowner pet dogs.

Going walking alone is not so much of a problem, though sometimes, even if rarely, it might be possible to come upon an extra inquisitive or aggressive canine if one is new to the place, or sometimes even if one is familiar to the place.

At night stray dogs are liable to chase two-wheelers, and have often suffered the chase too.

I also agree with your point that rabies is a very real danger too. The suffering is truly horrendous, no two doubts about that.

It's just that I feel it unfair and unacceptable for the municipality to kill stray dogs across the board, irrespective of whether they suffer from rabies or not, reinforced no doubt by the killings I saw close at hand, and the way the dogs, fearful and terrified as any human would be faced with a similar situation, cried and howled, whining pitifully when the gunman pointed his gun at them after cornering them.

It just makes one realise, not that a confirmation was needed, of how animals value their lives just as any of us do. And so also the joy and meaning they bring to many on the street, and the fact that most are harmless, though not all.

Rabies needs serious tackling for sure. Measures need to be taken. Among them, a sustained drive to neuter stray dogs to control population in densely populated areas. Also an active drive to treat neighbourhood stray dogs with anti-rabies to prevent rabies from taking root. As also quick remedial treatment as a preventive in instances of dog bites.

To this, the municipality could do with clearing garbage that strays will scrounge on, one reason why population increases, and also why such garbage-ridden areas are bound to have large dog populations. And also quick action against canines in the event of suspected rabies infection.

Hopefully we could strike a balance in preventing rabies, and ensuring there's no needless killing of stray dogs either. The stray dog population needs to be controlled but by means other than putting them down indiscriminately.