The Pariah Dogs

2. a.m. Outside the dogs are in fine form, barking up and down the street, raising hell.

Dogs will forever be imprinted on my memory as my first impression of India. My plane landed near midnight and by the time I got through the customs it was after 1 a.m. As the taxi drove through the wet, humid streets of Kolkata it looked like a city of dogs. Literally hundreds of them roamed the streets, scavenging through piles of garbage, running alone or in packs.

And so my first photography project of this new country was born. The Pariah Dogs.

Once I got to Shillong I found them there as well. In the mornings, there was usually one going through the garbage bin. I got to know the locals and carried biscuits with me to feed them.

Known as pariah dogs or desi dogs, they have links to the world’s oldest dogs. They’re smart and savvy. Survivalists. And I love them for their scrappy nature and because of their outcast status.

Others love them as well. I found a Facebook group called Stray Dogs of India. And there are blogs like Indian Pariah Dog. They have a rough life on the streets of some of the largest, most crowded cities in the world and many of them have mange or other illnesses, not to mention injuries.

Several people are also involved in international adoption placement for these dogs. A lot go to Vancouver. Others go to the U.S. or other places around the world. At least one will be going to Susanville. My impulsive nature got the better of me. In fact, I will likely be bringing back an entire litter and finding homes for the other ones. Adopt an Indian Desi Dog has placed dogs all over the world.

My kids think it’s a great idea. At least one of my friends thinks I’m insane. But I have the space and while my neurotic dog, Radar and my bitchy cat, Shasta, may have some initial resistance, they’ll adapt. Maybe I just want to get at least one dog off the streets.


10 thoughts on “The Pariah Dogs

    • True. They really do sort of own the place. Some are more or less pets of the slum dwellers in the big cities. I’ve seen them curled up next to people sleeping on the sidewalks.

  1. When i was in India there group of undergrads I was with became infuriated about the lack of dog care until I pointed out that these dogs are survivors and are free and just like all sentient beings, are reincarnated souls.

    When we hiked up the mountain to see the Dalai Lama, who was speaking at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala, there were three dogs who walked with us. One led the way and stayed with us the whole time until we returned almost to the hotel. I kept saying that this dog was a Bodhisattva but no one believed me.

    After returning to the states I read Pico Iyer’s Biography of the Dalai Lama. He told the story of being in the temple during morning chanting when a dog walked in and sat on one of the prayer mats and began howling. The leader for the morning grinned. Two monks picked up the dog and took it out of the temple. The dog came back and sat on the mat again and howled to the rhythm of the chanting. Later, Pico was told of an old Tibetan belief that if a dog hangs out around a monastery, it’s not just to hopefully be fed but it was considered a monk in his/her past life, who did not attain a spiritual level and was trying to regain his/her entrance back into the monastery in its next life.

    I stand by my belief that our guide dog was a bodhisattva, helping us find our way to enlightenment.

    • Great story! I’ve definitely met a few Bodhisattva dogs and your guide certainly sounds like one! That’s interesting about the monks–I have noticed that there are always dogs at the monasteries here. There were quite a few at the pilgrimage areas and I did wonder about them. Sadly, the puppies I had planned to bring were quite sick and three have died. Of course, the vet has asked me to take others and, of course, I agreed. Puppies, especially, do have it hard, especially in winter. And while these dogs are truly survivors, it’s a rough life with a high mortality rate. I’m looking forward to a desi dog joining my family.

    • Paklucas54, that was a fascinating tell – almost as good as Jodan’s post! That was enormously interesting. Thanks for saying.

  2. The story of the dogs is touching…
    I haven’t heard about them till now. And I can understand and appreciate your desire to take one back with you… you have come, just one, to learn from the wisdom of the orient, and so you will lighten the load, by taking just one with you, on your return… and what a lucky dog that one will be.

    • Thanks, Shimon! I read some where that the vast majority of the world’s stray dogs are in India. The desi dogs are considered a breed of their own–descendants of the first dogs. These days most of them have intermixed with other breeds. I think a lot of people turn their pets out when they can no longer care for them. I’ve seen collies, shepherds, golden retrievers all running together as a pack.

    • Shimonz this is great, this desi dogs tale. Lightening the load by taking just one with you… yes, a difference can be made one by one.

  3. Jodan, I totally loved this telling. It was fantastic.

    When I was first reading it, I could think of nothing more scary than streets of hundreds of dogs – I imagined snarling, starved, angry dogs. But then I realised they were part of the town – or no, owned the town, & it all turned – & like one reader said, YES, they do carry themselves differently. Reading all the comments has been great, too. Terrific share! 🙂

    • Thanks! There ARE times when the dogs can be a little scary! I once approached some who were eating garbage to take some photos and they did turn and start snarling. But, for the most part, they seem to weave in and out daily life pretty well. One of my friends from New Delhi recently sent me a great photo of a rickshaw driver whose dog went everywhere with him. I agree about the comments, too. I loved Patti’s story about the monks and the dogs–in fact, I’ve been writing about that a lot lately in my journal.

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