The frenzied howling and barking of the 6-month-old pup woke up the Srinath family.
The dog was frantically clawing at the door trying to get out of the room. Thinking it needed to go out to answer natures call the family followed the small pup out of the house. Seconds later an earthquake shook the house.
Dogs are super sensitive and have senses of hearing and smell that we humans cannot even imagine.
A product of millions of years of evolution our canine friends are more sensitive and evolved than we might give them credit for.
Wolves are the closest relatives of the dog family. Domesticated dogs have been around for nearly 17,000-18,000 years.
For the Eskimos living in -60 C freezing climate, the muscular and powerful Husky is a lifeline. Even today they are used in hunting expeditions and as a means of transport across the frozen Arctic. These fully domesticated Huskies have enabled Eskimos to survive under extreme conditions.
There are other working dogs like these — St. Bernards, sheep dogs, police dogs, sniffer dogs and canine guides for the visually challenged. Dogs have an incredible memory; they are very intelligent, faithful, loyal and brave.
Dogs have been heroic, taking food and medicine to military outposts on remote mountaintops in harsh conditions. Soldiers on the front have many wonderful stories to tell of their dog mascots who have given them love and companionship in lonely bunkers.
Time and again villages in Kashmir have been saved from terrorist attacks averted in the nick of time by the timely alarm by the ever-alert village dogs. Even in total darkness a dog can actually see and identify an intruder. No wonder whenever terrorists target a village, they try to kill the dogs first by poisoning them.
Our stray dogs, with their deep warm eyes, are amongst the hardiest, courageous and most lovable dogs in the world. Yet they are one of the most badly treated animals.
I often wonder — we are supposed to be a compassionate nation with reverence for all living forms. Are we really?
Jim Corbett's brave and faithful dog was a legend. He accompanied him into the jungle and stood by his side to face even a ferocious tiger. I have known a dainty but brave Dachshund, Chhaya, to attack a Rotweiller to protect a child. No wonder the dog is known as 'man's best friend'.
Dogs are not programmed to bite people. A dog may bite in self-defence, to protect its young, when provoked or while defending their territory.
If dogs are maltreated, stoned and abused or just hungry they will become irritable and chase people without any seeming provocation. They can be aggressive if they are sick or injured. During the breeding season they move around in packs. The pheremones in the air draws dogs from a large area. Fights take place and sometimes turn ugly as fangs and fur fly all over the place. If strays were neutered then this problem could be reduced considerably.
Management, a little thought, intelligence and concern by the citizens could go a long way in solving these problems. We need to manage the stray dog population.
Neutering a dog is a simple affordable surgery, which in the long run is a viable solution.
Another workable solution is adopting of strays by the RWAs, as guard dogs in addition to their security guards.
These dogs take very little looking after. They are happy to sleep outside and are free of debilitating and painful diseases like some of the inbred domestic dogs who need expensive visits to the vet.
Today our senior citizens are vulnerable and some even lonely. They could be safer — they just have to adopt a stray pie dog, feed him and give him anti-rabies shots and love. This will be returned hundred times over by the loving pet. Actually the stray dog makes a faithful companion, loyal friend and a wonderful pet. The added bonus is that they are alert guard dogs and would warn you against intruders.
There are already some good role models of intelligent and thoughtful action around the city.
Khan Market is one market where no mangy dogs follow you, slouching and sniffing in the garbage dump. The reason is easy to find. The strays have been adopted. What does this mean? They are fed, so they are healthy. Someone is responsible for them so they are neutered (their population does not grow.) They are regularly given their anti-rabies shots so that they are safe to be with and free from disease. They have a name and a collar. These simple and affordable actions give dignity to these creatures and help us too.
The shopkeepers are also motivated and look after these dogs.
Then there is Karishma, the dog who lives at the UPSC bus stop on Shahjehan Road. Her pups were run over by a bus and she was hurt by a motorcyclist. Since then she chases buses and all motorcycles. Despite this bee in her bonnet she has never bitten anybody, perhaps because she is fed and looked after by a caring individual.
Delhi has thousands of strays. However hard the MCD and some NGO's try, their burden can only be lessened if we all lend a hand and do our bit too. Working together may be the answer.
So let us not complain about the stray dogs roaming our colonies. Let us instead do something about them.
(Mike Pandey is a conservationist and winner of three Green Oscars)