The community dogs of Dhanbad: pampered, protected, proud

In the coal capital of India, a group of animal lovers is encouraging people to treat dogs with love and compassion
By Shara Ashraf Prayag
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 11:45 PM IST
Bagchi doesn’t like the terms stray dogs or street dogs. Dogs living within localites are community dogs, he says.

They recognise his white car from a distance. Almost as if they can read the number plate. Observant, hopeful eyes light up at its sight. “Aye, aye” (come, come) Anutosh Bagchi tells them in Bangla, signalling them to gather. They show up from different directions, excited to break bread together. Kalu, Kalia, Sheru, Chhota Sheru…they know their names well and respond with respect and affection.

This is how the “community dogs of Dhanbad” begin their day. “Our dogs are well fed and they are well behaved, too. We don’t address them as strays,” says Bagchi, who lives in the Coal Capital of India situated in Jharkhand.

The 71-year-old general manager of Skylark Hotel leaves from home a little early every morning to ensure the dogs get their share of fish and rice laddoos on time. The dogs are fed once again in the evening by members of Bagchi’s animal lovers group.

The group of ten members came into being when the pandemic struck. “In the initial few days of the lockdown, one didn’t realise what animals were going through. With dhabas shut, there was suddenly no one to give them leftovers. That’s when we got into action and formed this group, connecting to members via Whatsapp,” shares Bagchi.

The city was divided into various zones with one person heading each. “Soon, we included even a few cows and oxen in our feeding program, along from cats, dogs and birds,” says Bagchi. Oxen and cows are fed gud, choker and kutti (cattle feed). “We realised what a challenge it was for these big animals to keep their stomach full. Thus abandoned oxen and cows in the city became a part of the feeding initiative,” he shares.

Once they are assured of love and care, dogs start trusting you and treat you with 100 times more love, says Bagchi

Cultivating compassion

Bagchi has also started organising sensitisation classes across the city to encourage people to do their bit for animals. “We want to reduce the human-animal conflict. I come across instances of mischievous people pelting stones on dogs or beating them with sticks mercilessly for no reason. This leads to aggression in them. Hunger is also a big trigger. It’s a battle for survival. As long as you give them love and feed them, they don’t pose any threat to humans,” he says.

Bagchi and his team conduct sensitisation meetings in various localities across the city to pass this message. “We go to clubs, schools and play grounds where we talk to children and their parents as well as grandparents and show them videos explaining dos and don’ts of taking care of dogs living in the community,” he says.

“Dogs are quick to learn and inherently compassionate. Once they are assured of food, love and care, they start trusting you and treat you with 100 times more love and care,” says the animal lover.

Greeting passers-by with exuberant tail wagging in the daytime, the loyal community doggos are always willing to play chowkidaars as night falls, guarding localities from suspicious elements, he says.

Bagchi’s group is also getting the dogs sterilized through non-invasive methods. “Female dogs are given oral contraceptives during the estrous cycle . This is quite an effective measure that our group is carrying out to control the population of dogs,” he says.

No one’s a stray here

Baghchi also corrects people when they use the terms stray or street dogs. “If you address dogs with such terms, you are likely to mistreat them. They are community dogs. If they live with us, they are a part of our community. Let’s give them the place they deserve,” says Bagchi whose group has been taking care of some 10,000 dogs in Dhanbad.

Bagchi’s four-legged friends are grateful for all the love. There’s no growling and teeth gnashing for food. They wait for their turn to be fed patiently, for they know there’s enough meal for everyone. They are the community dogs of Dhanbad. Pampered, protected, proud.

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