In his Mann Ki Baat address last weekend, Prime Minister Modi spoke about the Indies. The Indian breed of dogs. Tall, eye-catchy, long-legged and sharp faced, these dogs, born and bred in India, figured in the PM’s address where he spoke about their usefulness in the Indian Army, the CRPF, and other defence. The Mudhol Hound and the Kombai dogs were referred to by the Prime Minister as breeds that had been admitted into the police and armed forces.
The Indian breed of dogs are a great bet according to many. “It does not matter whether you buy or adopt, ask yourself first why you want a dog? You can buy a dog or if your friend is a dog owner or dog breeder he can give you a pet (from a litter produced), but ask yourself that question first. Puppies are very cute. Bringing up a dog is like bringing up a child. One can’t just leave and abandon them after they grow up (and may not be cute anymore). Get a dog only if you are serious,” says S. Theodore Baskaran, author of The Book of Indian Dogs.
The Book of Indian Dogs gives us a close look into each diverse Indian dog breed right from Hounds to Companion Dogs to Working dogs. Listing them in all their glory and detailing characteristics that are specific to each. Whether it’s tracing the origin of dogs like the Pandikona Indian dog, which Baskaran says can be traced back to the Vijaynagar Empire, or talking about herding dogs like the Patti, which were “popular farm assistants” of the peasants of the Kongu region of Tamil Nadu. Protecting sheep in a ‘patti’ or pen from the evil of foxes and wolves out for them.
Ramesh Narayan, VP and Area Director of International Advertising Association’s Asia Pacific region, asked his 12-year-old son the same question when the boy came asking for a pug (think the immensely sweet and floppy eyed Vodafone pug). The question he asked his son was, “Do you want a dog or a brand?” The boy came back saying he had made up his mind and wanted to adopt a dog.
The Narayans chose a rather quiet looking dog, sitting in a corner, from NGO Welfare of Stray Dogs’ (WSD’s) adoption mela. That was more than 15 years ago. The dog, which thereafter came to be their pet and moved into their house, had a personality that could win anyone over. Since their first stray the family has adopted two more strays and the dog they currently have, Missy, was part of a movie on adoption by WSD released a few weeks ago. The movie was made to encourage adoption of strays, mongrel or street dogs, and to create awareness about the sterilisation of strays and inspire people to donate to the cause. The movie (with the tag line ‘Don’t buy a dog. Adopt an Indie’) was produced by production company Another Idea and is seen acting as the canine voice for the ‘Vocal for Local’ movement.
In a big city, like Mumbai or down south in beachy Chennai or another big city like IT hub Bengaluru, in urban homes, Indian dog breeds are becoming popular choice for adoption. The urban, the educated, the compassionate, are quickly seeing the value of Indian dogs. Says Mumbai-based Vishal Sampat, a customer experience professional at an Indian bank, “There is a growing consciousness among people about animals and their well-being. During the lockdown, people have grown more sensitive to animals, birds and nature. Adopting a stray gives one perspective, and is often an opportunity for one to become a better human being. Taking in a pet is not always about being in a race to show off a fancy breed… When I adopted Tiger, my dog (an Indian stray), he was injured, had a bleeding ear and had probably been attacked or run over. In that state we found him right outside my house. He was looking for help. And so I started looking after him. At first I called up WSD for help. They came and looked at him, and after he was healed I thought 'chala jayega', but he didn’t leave and continued hanging out at my doorstep. And so I decided to adopt him and brought him into the house. My chief goal was to make him more confident, happier and healthier. Stray dogs are often adopted because someone was compassionate and wanted to save them from a dire situation they saw the dog in. I have often observed that. I have friends who have done the same. Helped injured strays and given them a home.”
Deepa Talib, Founder of dog adoption NGO The Anubis-Tiger Foundation has also observed an increase in the adoption of our own local street boys and girls. “Adoption of Indies has gone up. But, people shouldn’t feel forced to adopt a particular dog, for example, an Indie. If you have decided to adopt an Indie, perhaps a street dog, it’s best adopting him or her early, at the puppy stage. That’s when the neurosis in the dog is much lesser. The kind of people adopting Indies are the educated, the professional, the corporate kind, the lawyers, the yuppie crowd. This breed of adopters takes the time to read up on the dogs, and is the discerning kind. There’s a ‘Be Indian and Adopt Indian’ shift in the mindset among this group of people. Why can’t we give a child on the street a home? Is what people think. During the extended lockdown period adoption went up. Last year this time, two Indie dogs were embraced. This year the same time, 20 Indian breeds have found a home. Two out of five adopted dogs from our organisation are the Indian variety. Some have even been adopted by therapists and are being trained to become therapy dogs (to help patients) in cities like Bombay. My organisation is proactively promoting neglected Indian species of dogs for adoption. The plight of the Indian dog is deplorable today, and taking on an Indian breed will also indirectly help shut down the illegal backyard breeding of dogs that goes on, because the demand for purchase of dogs will steadily fall.”
Baskaran emphasises that Indian dogs should in no way be neglected or forgotten about because they are, like any other animal or plant species, a part of our heritage. “Every Indian dog breed is unique, like every flower is unique. This is the biodiversity of our country which needs to be preserved. There are around six Indian breeds of horses, different breeds of cattle, for example, the Gir cattle and the Red Sindhi Bull, and there are several breeds of Indian dogs too. It’s not only monuments like the Taj Mahal that need to be preserved. India’s biodiversity needs preservation too, and Indian dogs are a part of that. However, I find that people in this country are highly irresponsible and often abandon dogs. If you have a dog, learn to work with the dog. In India, one often finds that pet owners don’t take care of their dogs. They are found to be smelly and full of fleas. I think every dog should be cared for well. Many of our Prime Ministers had dogs — Vajpayee had Poms; Nehru had a Golden Retriever. It’s nice that the PM spoke about Indian dog breeds in his Mann Ki Baat address. The government should do something to improve the condition of dogs in our country. I see a dog as a bridge between the human and the animal kingdom and that bridge must be looked after….”