Mumbaiwale: Who’s Your Doggie? Met these city mutts
What makes Mumbai India’s most stray-dog friendly city? And how can you help?Updated: Dec 14, 2018 08:42 IST
For years, when I’d get off at Churchgate station, a pudgy ball of white fur would greet me by the shoe-shiners at the south end. I’d call him Fleece, though I never said the word out loud. I’d give him a quick head scratch, though I never told anyone.
Fleece was my private dog. Until I realised, while waiting at the platform for a friend in May, that Fleece, was everyone’s private dog! In the 15 minutes that I hung around, he’d got hellos, scratches, one biscuit and/or a face smoosh from eight alighting officegoers. And Fleece, like a boss, treated them all like they were his only friend.
If Fleece is your friend too, I’m not surprised. Mumbai is kinder to street dogs than perhaps any other city in India. Abodh Aras, who heads the non-profit Welfare Of Stray Dogs, which runs sterilisation, immunisation and health care programmes for strays, knows why. “Bombay is a friendly city to begin with, and that extends to the dogs,” he says. “The animals are friendlier too. They are used to affection and trust from humans, and this is largely because of the huge population of citizens who live on the streets and in slums and look after dogs. So the strays are not nameless or faceless, they’re somebody’s Raju or Tommy.”
Or somebody’s Tamatar, as green grocers in Khar bazaar have named one dog who loves the tomatoes they feed her. Or somebody’s Taimur, a pretty white dog born in Mazagaon about the time Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor named their son.
Aras recalls meeting one dog around the former American Consulate building at Breach Candy. “He was short, smaller than usual, and brown, though he greyed as he aged,” he says. “George W Bush was the US President at the time and he had a dog named India, so the local policemen had named this dog Bush.” Aras didn’t realise how popular Bush was until he died, at 18. “Our Facebook page was flooded with messages from people who’d known him. One guy said he’d share his school dabba with Bush as a kid.”
You’ve probably also seen Traffic, white, patchy coloured, tall and fearless. He’s the one usually fast asleep in the middle of the road at Hutatma Chowk in Fort, blissfully aware that no car or bus can make a turn sharp enough to run over him. He’s also friends with the local traffic police and will wake up and join them when they stop errant motorists.
At Shivaji Park, Captain knows everybody despite having only one good eye. He’s white and is usually found near the mallakhamb exercise area. “He’s a good runner,” says Aras. “He often bounds alongside people who are training for the marathon.”
In Churchgate, say hello to Julie, a brown, sweet-natured dog near Eros cinema. She’s a bit of an attention-seeker, Aras warns. “Give her a pat and she’ll keep nudging you for more.”
Further west, near the Kasturi buildings, you might run into brown, 14-year-old Jaggu, also known as Salman, who hasn’t let his ample curves get in the way of his social agenda. “He has a cat girlfriend and a dog girlfriend; he’s quite the ladies’ man,” Aras says.
At King’s Circle, Matunga, you’ll want to shake hands with Periappa, who hangs around Anand Bhavan. “She’s a sweet old thing,” says Aras. “She’s white, well-fed and very friendly, though her face is now mostly grey.” Or brown, excitable Thor, named by Aarav, who sells colouring books at the circle. Thor lounges hopefully near the kharvas cart in the evenings, but will happily jump all over you, given a chance.
This is isn’t to say that some Mumbai folk aren’t cruel. In addition to WSD’s vaccination drives, volunteers also clean dogs’ wounds caused by neglect, a cruel beating or a vehicle that didn’t brake in time.
Here’s how you can help. WSD publishes wall and desk calendars featuring star strays, the proceeds from which help with funding. The 2019 theme is Street Dogs of the World. It features Rajus and Tommys from foreign lands, and is priced at Rs 200. Check out WSD’s Facebook page for a list of places you can pick them up. Or get them couriered to your home or office. E-mail email@example.com or call 7208043341 for details.
First Published: Dec 08, 2018 00:59 IST