They come in various colors, white, a ginger brown, black, and mixtures of the three. A few have long coats and all have pointed snouts. And they are not pets, or so we thought. The dogs live in the street scrounging in the sweeping piles and jumping with strong legs to scale a low fence for a morsel. They are “hunters and maybe gatherers,” just trying to survive. Their ribs show prominently through their skin and they are caked with mud. The Indians ignore the dogs except if there is a fight between the males for territorial rights. Then they yell and wave their hands.
The picture shows Ginger and Burnt Marshmallow with one of the puppies in front of our hostel. They live and control a pack of several females and various puppies in our lane. They rarely venture out into the busy street at the end of our road, but they”work” every morning trotting, one on each side, as our guards, as we walk to the end of their territory. They don’t run and jump up on us, or bark or demand any attention whatsoever. We are in parallel universes. As we head to the rickshaw stand, our dogs snarl and bark ferociously at the pack across Samved Hospital Road. (Yes, a city of 5-6 million has unnamed streets.) I sent these pictures to my friend Donna who taught at an International School in Egypt. To my surprise, she said the Indian dogs are cousins to the Egyptian ones and look the same. Packs roam the village streets and into the desert in Egypt and they are killed by the Egyptians. This is probably the case because dogs are considered unclean in Islam. Bowls of milk are left outside for feral cats. Student alert: Remember when we talked about the ancient Egyptians worshiping cats, especially the hairless cat? There is even a cat mummy in the Albany Institute of Art. It seems that five thousand years later, cats are still revered in Egypt.
On the a fore mentioned street known as Samved Hospital Road, we made an Indian friend. We were walking to a favorite restaurant when half a dozen dogs scooted in and out of traffic to reach a man standing on the sidewalk. This was Sunil, a social worker in Ahmedabad. He has adopted this pack of dogs, taking them to a veterinarian for neutering and vaccinations; plus, he regularly feeds them with scraps and bread crusts. Laughing, he commented, “The dogs know my license plate, so they come.” One Indian trying to do what he can by entering, if only momentarily, the canine universe of the city streets.
David and I have resisted touching our guard dogs or the ones at the University until last week. The first time was a quick pat on a dog’s head, followed by a big dog smile. Next, I started calling them by the names I had chosen for them, Burnt Marshmallow, and Ginger. They respond with a vigorous wag. Could they understand English? Oh, it must be my tone. The students have been placing their left-overs on the trash piles for sometime. It seems we have dog friends in Ahmedabad.
The most touching feral dog story happened on our first trip to the old city market which was filled with teaming masses, wonderful sights, smells, and sounds. As we wandered in and out of ancient streets looking side to side, trying not to miss a thing, something caught my eye at the end of a street next to a display of flowing, vibrant scarves. There was a low table with a very old dog lying on the top. He was stretched out, eyes closed, and his legs straight out. He appeared to not be breathing. Next to him was an elderly Indian, standing quite still, looking down. Now, the dog could have been sleeping there, I guess, but this is not a usual sight. To my mind, the man had placed the old dog on the table for a more comfortable passing, and he was standing next to his friend in order to be with him to the end. I understood as I, too, have loved and lost a very special dog friend.
Nameste! T I I…..