An article written in 2018 when I took my 4 month old puppy for a walk on the streets of Pune.
I cannot believe that today, I became the person who had to be rescued by being handed a stick in my hand by a random stranger on the road while walking my dog.
How did I not anticipate this and what happened today?!
My previous 2 dogs, Zara and Taco were old and would only walk around my house area, so I didn't have to venture too far with them. After they passed away last year, I took a few months off before I adopted a blind, 2-month-old breeder-discarded Husky, whose name is Maya. Maya just finished all her vaccinations and is about 4 months old now, bursting with energy, needs long walks to burn it off, and finally it was time she could get out and take walks on the road.
Maya, a blind and epileptic breeder-discarded puppy
Now, in the lane that I live in, I've managed to contain the number of dogs (to 1 for the past 5 years) because I've neutered the 1 female there is and do not feed any other dogs that come straying in. The one female dog, Salsa (as I joking call this bum-shaking-happy-girl) is also vaccinated regularly and provided food at specific times only in one spot that is out of the way of public traffic. She is also sufficiently socialised with the pets in the lane and no one views her as a threat. It's also because she is only one, that she doesn't exhibit the behaviours that dogs do in packs. Ashok Nagar is also very responsible about leaving no garbage outside to attract more dogs and we all diligently give our segregated waste to the ghanta-gaadi that comes around. So long story short, the area I live in is a good place to have pets and safe for kids to play in because our one street dog is healthy, clean, and peaceful with humans and animals.
Back to Maya's walk this evening...
This evening, I set out to walk a longer route behind my house (Bhosale Nagar). Maya kept getting chased by packs of dogs (8-10 of them at a time). She's young and would absolutely freeze when dogs came chasing at her. They were different packs every 200-300 meters and finally I had to pick her up in my arms about 4 times and make absolutely ridiculous noises to drive away the dogs barking and running after us. The 4th time, I picked her and froze myself when about 5 dogs came chasing at us. My head blanked out because my hands weren't free to wave around, Maya was in my face so I couldn't even make the strange sounds (which I was getting better at rather quickly!) to scare them off us a little. Talking wasn't helping, walking on wasn't helping, I was out of ideas. I was finally standing there on the road, with a 4 month old Maya in my arms, yelling at the dogs coming at me relentlessly and looking like an absolute lunatic.
Suddenly, this bai (lady) walking on the road picks up a stick and shoos the pack of dogs away (one of whom was lunging at me/Maya). Then she hands me the branch/stick and said "madam, ये हाथ मे रखो और चलो, कुछ नहीं होगा". And you know what, I did take that stick in my hand and walked back home through another route on the main road, depressed.
At the end of my barely 30-minute walk (I had ambitious plans of walking for an hour when I set out!) I was frustrated, angry and depressed. So, what's the point?
- Why should anyone have to wave sticks at street dogs to feel safe? There is no way I would use that stick to hurt an animal, but not everyone is an animal person and I am certain someone else in my place would have hit the dog/s (especially at the one that lunged at us). Our inability to control the street dog population has led to an increase in the unnecessary violence meted out to animals on the street.
- One or two dogs present in a lane are not really threatening but when a pack of dogs gets together, it is truly frightening because they are fully aware of their own strength in larger numbers.
The dog population in our city is OUT OF CONTROL. Things have rapidly deteriorated in the last few years as the city's street dog population has exploded. It set me thinking about what I can do to change things. We have not gotten involved in Animal Birth Control so far because there are other entities doing it. Clearly, it is not working. There has to be another solution.
First and foremost, before Animal-loving-folks shoot me down for writing about this incident openly, please remember that accepting a problem is the first step to finding a solution. Animal organisations and animal people acknowledging the problem helps animals because not-so-animal people understand that you are aware and not delusional about existing issues. It will probably help instil a little more patience in them with the street animal issue because they know someone recognises the problems and is working on a solution actively.
It is time for change. We are going to re-evaluate our RESQ budgets and make space for an Animal Birth Control Program. We hope to join hands with other organisations in the city and collectively do a better job than what is currently happening. Our street dogs, our pets, and all of us need safer streets to walk and live on. Only when the population is under control, will the animals and humans that exist in our urban ecosystem be at peace.
Instead of only pointing fingers at others, I am quite determined to drive change and action myself, but this cannot be done alone or by a single organisation. While the solutions are becoming clearer in mind, I’m going to take some time out to research and figure out how to work this out to become a reality.