You may not know this, but a majority of street dogs in your neighbourhood have a name, story and relationship with people from the locality. They’re friends with the boot-polishwallah, pavement-dwellers and traffic policeman; they’re recognisable to the driver, hawker and rag picker; and they’re buddies with some apartment-dwellers who feed them. Street dogs have their own quirks, personalities and idiosyncrasies. Here are some you may recognise.
No fixed address
Most black street dogs end up being christened Kalu. But there isn’t a Kalu quite like the one at Colaba’s Regal cinema. The fellow is a big-time wanderer. People have spotted him at Chowpatty, Marine Drive and CST station. But his most ‘wandering’ story was when a staff member on the Alibaug ferry service at the Gateway of India told WSD that he spotted Kalu at Bhayander station. He’d been missing for a few days and they asked a volunteer from Bhayander to check it out. It turned out to be the Regal Kalu! He’d probably followed someone he knew into a Virar local and ended up there and we had to bring him all the way back by cab. He’s seen more Mumbai than some people living here for years!
On the job
Mumbai’s street dogs do more than doze, bark and chase cars. Some like to think they’ve been put on the streets for a higher purpose. Tatya, a scrappy guy at the LT Marg Police station would take his job so seriously, he’d actually accompany the cops on their night-time rounds.
Another canine, Lalu, accompanies the garbage van whenever it makes the rounds of Churchgate and Colaba. To locate him, WSD has to often figure out where in the neighbourhood the van is at a particular time. Find the garbage van and you’ve got Lalu.
Traffic, however, is the city’s most visible worker. You’ll often find him right in the middle of the road at Fountain, one of the busiest junctions in South Mumbai, as if he’s managing the vehicle flow. He must have been a traffic cop in his earlier life, the cops all speak fondly of him and feed him biscuits. But in his heyday, whenever he’d hear the policemen blow a whistle and pull someone over for a traffic offence, he’d run to the car and sit by the door, as if on guard. He’s fairly old now, and takes lots of breaks on the pavement behind — but he hasn’t quite retired from the force.
Fuelling the mood
There used to be a dog at the Warden Road petrol pump whose name was Petrol. At the pump near the Mantralaya, a new pup has just been christened Diesel. Like most dogs at fuel stations, these happily co-exist with the attendants and staff and guard the area at night. But Brownie at Turner Road even joins the staff during tea breaks, lapping up his own serving of chai in a plastic glass.
In Tardeo, Babloo, a short dog, loved Chinese food and often had dinner with the staff.
In good taste
Street dogs can be absolute foodies just too. Motu from Zaveri Bazar loves jalebis. He’d get his fix every evening from a man who’d buy them off a cart. Passers-by would often see Motu take the packet in his mouth, walk a little, open the wrapping with his paw and gobble them all up (I guess that explains his name).
Lali, near Dalal Street, may as well have been called Ms Karamchand — she really loves carrots. Then, there’s one near Shobha restaurant close to the Mahalakshmi temple who can take an entire tomato between his jaws and gulp it down with relish. His name: Tamatar. Shengu, in Chembur, hangs out with the peanut seller and sleeps under his cart. And one dog near Dadar’s Kirti College isn’t named Vada Pav. She instead answers to Kachori presumably because there’s a pani-puriwallah just outside the building.
So the next time you see a street dog, ask the people around about it. They’ll definitely have a unique story or two to share.
Abodh Aras runs Welfare of Street Dogs, an animal welfare NGO that sterilises and immunises stray dogs.