Rooting for the underdog!

By Mohita Nagpal, IANS,

New Delhi : “Whoever said you can’t buy happiness for little puppies.” When author Gene Hill said this, he probably forgot street dogs and the fact they come without a price tag.

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They are a nuisance to some, threat to others, invisible to some, a sore sight to others, a leftovers disposal mechanism to some, an occasional friend to others. They don’t help your social status, they don’t make heads turn, they don’t make it to television, they don’t get stolen.

They just pile on the streets while the likes of Labradors, Dashunds and Cocker Spaniels make for fast sales.

So when someone makes a pet out of a street dog, it’s for reasons beyond mere love for the canine. The reasons range from ideological to economical.

Like 28-year-old Lavanya Priya who can’t fathom why someone needs to shell out a few thousands when there are so many dogs out on the streets waiting to be embraced.

“Pedigreed dogs anyway have a huge market, but no one pets a street dog. Having a dog today is like buying a car. You have so many brands, it’s ridiculous,” Chennai-based Priya, a dog lover, told IANS.

Agrees Anisha Ralhan, who adopted an abandoned dog two years ago from a camp organised by Maneka Gandhi’s People For Animals.

“I hate the concept of dogs as brands. There are so many dogs out on the streets without a home. Being a dog lover, I adopted one in 2009,” says Anisha, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student.

While for Ralhan and Priya it was a conscious decision, it was an act of impulse for Shabnam Rahman, a Delhi University student.

Two years ago when Shabnam was going home in a rickshaw, she saw an adorable puppy lost in a sea of traffic.

“It was about to come under a car. I took it home, gave it a bath and fed it. And then I didn’t have the heart to leave it,” she said.

These animals are also called Indian dogs to lend them an air of respectability, say dog lovers.

They might not possess the exotic features of a pure breed, but Indian dogs make for better guards, says Manmohan Sharma, a vet in the capital.

“They have better IQ, they are more dependable and make for better guards as they are territorial in nature,” Sharma, who owns two pet clinics, told IANS.

“They are more adapted to Indian climate, more immune to diseases, low maintenance, their hair fall is less. A Labrador for that matter sheds seven to eight times more hair than an Indian dog.”

Sharma says in his 35 years of work experience, he’s seen people’s obsession with exotic breeds touch the ceiling. But he also regularly comes across people who bring abandoned dogs to his clinic for treatment.

“Around 10 percent of my clients own Indian dogs. They are hardcore dog lovers, for them breed doesn’t matter, they just love dogs,” he says.

Bangalore-based Sowmya Reddy is one of those clients. And her love for the four-legged creatures don’t end with dogs, she’s been championing the cause of animal rights for years.

A proud owner of seven “desi” dogs, Reddy became sensitised about the issue when she found out the “cruelty behind puppy mills”.

“There are dogs who spend all their lives in a little cage, just breeding. Customers demand a puppy with a black spot on the head, and the breeder mates two different breeds to produce a customised product. It’s ridiculous how much can you objectify a dog.”

“A dog is not a trophy, it’s a member of the family. People who buy pedigree dogs don’t have any right to talk about the street dog problem,” said Reddy, who works with the NGO CUPA.

Then there’s Achala Paani, who runs Let’s Live Together, an NGO that aims at promoting adoption of Indian dogs. She rescues abandoned dogs, fosters them to become healthy and clean and then finds them permanent homes.

“Our foster homes are basically families that want dogs for one or two months. There they become happy, healthy, chubby and clean. Then we try to find them permanent homes,” says Paani, who lives in Bangalore.

For this she organises monthly adoption camps. In the two-and-a-half years of work, the NGO has been able to complete around 230 adoptions.

“The whole idea of a dog is to have a companion, someone who can love you. You don’t need a pure breed for that; an Indian dog serves the same purpose very well. Besides, you save a life.”

(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at [email protected])