I once came to Rishikesh for a wedding. The hotel was a disappointment, it had looked fine on the website but appeared dilapidated once I came inside. I was given a room with a window facing the corridor. I said I couldn’t accept it. I needed daylight. We looked at another room, but it was the same; the window was facing the corridor. As if I hadn’t made myself clear. The third room looked fine though, light flooded into the room which was facing a backyard, at least I wouldn’t be bothered with traffic noise. And the man promised that curtains, straight from the laundry, would be in place within two hours. He kept his promise.
I went to bed that evening in a dark, cool room and not a honking horn within earshot. Then arrived a pack of dogs on the scene; barking, howling & growling … and kept me awake for hours.
Stray dogs in India are omnipresent. I have always called them ’The All India Dog’ because they look as if they have been cast in the same mold. Light brown, short coat, skinny and light-footed. Oher distinct features are sharp nose, perked up ears and curly tails.
I didn’t know until recently that this dog is actually a breed called The Pariah Dog. Indians with a soft spot for these dogs, and animal activists, don’t like this name – for obvious reasons – and prefer Desi (national) Dog. Other commonly used names are Pye Dog, Indi-dog or In-dog (various spellings occur).
On the other hand, it’s obvious that many stray dogs gallivanting Indian streets are of a mixed breed.
They are known to be extremely intelligent, which is required for their ability to survive with little human support. They are often used as guard dogs or police dogs, as they are both territorial and defensive.
But many people find them a nuisance and nothing but a problem. The biggest reason for growing in such numbers is open garbage, a problem which India has yet to solve. Stray dogs rely on garbage while hunting for eatables.
In India, killing of dogs has been banned since 2001. But dogs are probably intentionally (and illegally) killed anyway, and some should definitely be put to rest due to hunger, illness and injuries. Their existence can be tough.
Every sane grown-up (tourist) knows that one should avoid stray dogs in India at all cost, the buzz word being rabies. An estimated 35 million stray dogs live in India and according to World Health Organisation (WHO) India faces about 18,000 to 20,000 cases of rabies every year.
Once, in Calcutta, I was pointing my camera towards a street vendor, and a dog probably reacted to my movement of the camera and jumped towards me while barking. People were quick to call him, the dog was probably known in the area, and everybody must have noticed how frightened I became. Since then, I have become even more wary towards stray dogs, no matter how cool I think they are. I often take photos of them, but mostly when they are lying down and I make sure to move my camera in a controlled way.
That night in Rishikesh wasn’t my first night in India accompanied by the hullaballoo of stray dogs. But somehow, they belong to the Indian ‘backdrop’. You go to sleep with the sound of honking horns, wake up in the middle of the night to howling dogs and welcome the early morning together with cawing crows. [END of text]