Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Dogs and Donations

There's a photo from our trip to India a few years ago that's not spectacular, and yet, I can't bring myself to delete it because of the story and the memory behind it. Here it is:

That's our vehicle the dog is next to. We'd just driven out of the city for the first time since we'd arrived because we wanted to visit a waterfall in the jungle. The jungle entrance had closed early due to issues with elephants (some habitat encroachments are more equal than others) and so we were standing around, talking about what to do next. Being inclined to take photos at all times, I started snapping away and shot the one above.

And then my husband Mowgli (not his real name) became mildly agitated and told me to back away from the dog. I recall being unimpressed by it -- as you can see, it's pretty small and a bit on the thin side. Also, we have two dogs that, combined, outweigh me, and since I've fed, bathed and walked them for 10 years, I'm pretty comfortable around canines.

But I took my husband's word for it and backed up instead of trying for a shot of the dog's face, which was reasonably cute. As I moved away, I recalled him telling me more than once that dogs in India are not to be touched or even looked at because most of them are street dogs and therefore dangerously aggressive. It's not just his opinion -- the Mumbai high court ruled 2-1 earlier this year that "nuisance" dogs can be killed. Which might sound less awful once you know that 25,000 Mumbai residents a year are bitten by one of the 70,000 feral dogs who also live there.

By contrast to the photo above, here is one of my dogs, Georgie, recovering from knee surgery:

Even as I think "aw, the poor thing," I think, "she has it better than the vast majority of dogs, and maybe people, in the developing world." And that's when the guilt kicks in and I start to think about donating to an organization that helps the poor. I think I'll use Gori Girl's excellent "how to help the poor" guide to figure out which one to give to.


  1. Economic growth is the fastest method of poverty reduction, look for the made in India label

  2. Excellent point, and very true. Plain old-fashioned tourism dollars help, too.

  3. Great point, and I'm pleased that you posted the link. Now more of us can do something pro-active to go beyond our lipservice.

  4. Stray dogs do perform a somewhat useful function in India
    Dogs are omnivorous and will eat vegetable matter when hungry enough
    Dogs eat away a lot of garbage in Indian towns
    They also eat a lot of rats

    They also perform a useful anti-terrorist function
    In many parts of India, there are maoist and jihadist terrorists and thousands of paramilitary are deployed there
    These paramilitary adopt the local stray dogs since they bark when a stranger / terrorist approaches
    These stray dogs are also very useful in sniffing out IEDs
    For the Indian paramilitaries, feeding the local strays is a low cost solution

  5. These are fascinating pieces of information, and not mentioned in any of the articles I've read about the issue of strays in India. Thank you very much for taking the time to share.

  6. I'm glad you liked the post! :-) We have big dogs too, and it's always difficult when you realize that they have better nutrition and health care then, like, 10% of the world's population. But that sort of realization exists for all of the luxuries we have here in the US.

  7. When I was in Chennai, I was astonished at the number of wild dogs roaming the street, barking and yelping all hours of the day and night. They looked dangerous! Totally different from the type of pet doggies we have back home, huh? I am also very friendly with animals, but I knew to stay the hell away from those dogs. Their fighting and brawling woke me up all the time when I was there.

    We drove south of Chennai to go to my Appa's family temple. Ammma brought lots of fruit and flowers and clothing for the dieties... We waited for several hours while the priest make preparations, finally presenting us with a fuit saldad to eat. It was really good... After I ate it, I walk around the temple... and saw a couple of those wild dogs lapping up the leftovers from the fruit we had brought. It made me happy to see they were getting something to eat!


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