By S Paul
There were days in the not very recent past when we, the people of this nation, the brown tinted ‘Bharatiye’, were leading a dog’s life. We as well dogs were not allowed in the parks frequented by our alien rulers. However, even in those days of poverty and slavery we had dogs to sooth our nerves and show their adoration for their humans, living even in secluded villages, city slums and urban streets. In those days dogs of our streets and gullies were not protected against any dog diseases. We just lived, died and suffered with rabies or parvo-virus as much as being bitten by snakes. But the bond of human and dog has always been proverbial. We used to make do with any stray pup that we happened to meet on the street and which looked at us with those doleful eyes asking to be adopted.
However, the pedigree dogs, imported mostly from Europe, were the luxury enjoyed only by our ‘gora sahebs’ and royal families who were fond of flaunting their affluence even, or for accompanying them on their ‘shikaars’ of wild animal. But the exotic bread like Apso of Tibet was not acquired even by them easily. Kennel clubs, too, were also in the domain of big city dwellers only.
Now post-independence, since we have become a nation of brown sahibs and the number of elites and affluent has increased, our exotic dog population too has increased. Just a thought worth pondering – every nation which has come out of its economic backwardness seems to flaunt its prosperity by acquiring and exhibiting their exotic dog breads, even imported ones like Maltipoo, Labradoodle, Cokapoo, Alsatian, Apso, Hounds,Terriers, Retrievers, Bulldogs, Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Japanese Akita Inu, Hokkaido, Chin and Spitz, Chinese Pekingese, Chowchow, Shihtzu, Pug, Tibetan Lhasa Apso, Mastiff, etc.
Therefore, it appears that the love of pedigreed dogs and to afford them is directly proportional to the advancement of a nation/race. However, it is also seen that as society advances dog- wise, its concern for the mongrels on the streets decreases. Naturally feeling protective towards their expensive pet dogs, they like to avoid contact with the unprotected disease-ridden pariahs. In our nation, an act of being ‘kind’ to strays has religious connotation. This makes us throw our leftovers or few stale morsels to these strays for which they are always in want and so they also act as our scavengers. It may be noted that the nations that have acquired a status of pedigree canine owners have developed efficient means to reduce and almost get rid of their strays altogether. They have dedicated dog catchers, dog pounds, veterinarians to treat them if wounded and splay or neuter them and keeping them in ‘dogshalas’ till they retire to their heavens naturally. In our own land, Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, notified in December 2001 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), is the law of the land on the matter, and it proclaims that stray dogs can only be removed for neutering and vaccination, and have to be returned to where they had been taken from. Our governments and judicial systems are very prompt in making laws and regulations but are loath to have them implemented.
Our cultural ethos of performing an act of ‘punya’ by feeding the strays is based on our religious belief and not on social considerations. Uncontrolled and hungry packs of canines then naturally become aggressive and attack the very hands that feed them. I, an able-bodied soldier, too have faced an ambush by such an urban pack of strays once. It happened in Mayur Vihar, New Delhi, where I was staying temporarily. I just took an after dinner walk along a well-lit lane at 2300 hours. At that point of time there happened to be no other human within sight. Suddenly, I saw a pack of about 15 street dogs surround me and start walking to towards me, some of them growling. I had the presence of mind to quickly move towards an avenue tree and break a low hanging branch. Seeing a weapon in my hands the pack quickly dispersed. The experience was quite eerie. We now hear of such packs fatally attacking children and elderly even in villages. Should we then not desist from this love of dogs and start loving other human beings?