Indian Stray Dogs
I have just returned from Kerala, southern India from a wonderful surfing and yoga retreat. Whilst I had the most amazing holiday, I was also really pleased to observe dog behaviour of which was a daily occurrence as there are many street/beach/stray dogs co-existing amongst the humans, I just had to share with you.
The most common thing I heard said from fellow travellers was that seeing the dogs was so sad, so many of them with out homes etc. However I beg to differ….. What I saw was packs/families of dogs living as nature intended, adapting to their environment, surviving and clearly thriving as there were lots of them with puppies and living in groups. None of them were displaying any stress symptoms as do many of our domestic dogs who are deemed naughty or disobedient. They were relaxed and chilled out, watching life go by, conserving their energy for finding their next meal or when the need arose to protect their young. Sometimes they would sunbathe or find some shade to rest during the hottest part of the day.
I saw a male who would use our garden wall to get around between the houses, as you would see a cat do here in the UK. Interestingly Ed & Sofie our hosts inherited a dog when they took on their house. Initially there were 5 dogs in all and luckily some moved on, Trevor on the other hand, chose to stay and spend most of her time sunbathing on the roof! (I did say her, after naming her they then discovered she was a girl). Ed & Sofie were glad they other moved on, otherwise the only other option would have been to call the dog catcher in!!
Some local people also had dogs and we could only tell that they had owners as they would be wearing collars. Other than that they had the same generic look as all the other dogs, a bit like miniature dingo’s, long legged, big eared, long nose, long tail – all the essential elements needed for survival. Stray dogs all over the world have this same generic look and breed with each other for these reasons, so that their offspring have the best possible chance of surviving. Some of the owned dogs of Kerala have the same amount of freedom as the street dogs and the ones that didn’t were often heard barking as we walked past their houses or barking at the street dogs.
There were so many great dog stories unfolding that I won’t bore you with them all so I have picked one:
We were sat on a veranda sipping our drinks while over looking the beach. A western lady had fallen asleep under her parasol and lying next to her was her dog, a smaller version of a golden retriever with some white patches. We saw her dog wander over to meet one of the beach dogs who was white, it was the classic meet and greet we all see with our own dogs, a gentle curved approached, come in sideways then very still, ears pricked and tail wagging. They mirrored each other beautifully and it was all going very well, until the lady woke and realised her dog had wandered off. She ran over grabbed his trailing lead, pulled it tightly and marched him away. This startled both dogs and the one being dragged away felt vulnerable so let out a warning bark. This in turn made the street dog bark back. To the left of us we saw a good sized tanned female beach dog come running over and joined in the barking at the lady and the retriever. This tanned female had a litter of 4 puppies approx 12-14 weeks old sleeping under some sun beds. It was clear that the tanned Mummy thought that this situation presented a danger to her family, upon her barking another 2 dogs came from nowhere to back them up and the puppies woke and were alerted, ready to run away.
By now the lady is panicking and picks her dog up as she has now 4 dogs barking at her, it didn’t make a difference so she carries her dog into the water, that didn’t help much either. She then took refuge on a fishing boat with her back to the street dogs and finally allowed her dog to stand and he barked a few times in his own defence and then popped his head down, totally stressed. At this point a large dark male beach dog came over and walked between the barking beach dogs and the lady and her dog, a classic splitting manoeuvre and calming signal, the barking dogs back down and the male lets out a couple of barks, he makes sure the others have retreated and then stalks away from the lady, casually cocking his leg at strategic places, as if to make a point!!! Beautiful.
I truly think had the golden retriever been left to his own devices, he could have handled the situation much better and this is a classic example of when humans interfere and mess things up for their dogs. I’m pleased she eventually made a good decision to rectify the situation.
I also heard many people comment about the state/condition of these street/beach/ stray dogs and true, many of them have battle scars and I would imagine that illness and disease would be claiming a fair few lives. Without a doubt the chaotic traffic in India will definitely be hazardous for these dogs, although they seem to be pretty savvy. Without human intervention their life span is much shorter than our domestic dogs; however this is the same for all wild animals across the planet. The average life span of a wolf is 4-7 years. I think this is what Mother Nature intended and this means that when in their prime they are most able to survive and raise their young.