One of the first residents of Gurgaon, Yudhishthira (of Mahabharata fame) was in a way a stray dog lover. As the Pandavas, post the war, set East towards the direction of the Himalayas, a stray dog follows Yudhisthira. On the way Draupadi and the younger brothers fall one by one but Yudhisthira trudges along with the mongrel in tow. At the door to the heaven, it is said, Lord Indra welcomes Yudhishthira but tries to deny the dog entry. Yudhishthira pleads the dog’s case and says that he cannot desert him. As Yudhisthira makes Indra relent, the dog who is actually god Dharma transforms to his true form and blesses Yudhisthira.
Whether the dog really turned in to god Dharma is a moot point.
But the fact that a stray dog might have followed Yudhisthira is quite plausible. Why? Because the breed of dogs which we call stray is the Pariah/Mongrel breed-which has been around for 14,000 years all over Asia and the Mahabaharat is only 5,000 year old. So these dogs were there even before our earliest recorded ancestors. This land truly then belongs to them. So we must no longer lament when someone says that Gurgaon or India is going to the dogs. Both always belonged to them.
Gurgaon has its share of population of strays which has grown. And frankly speaking this is quite a problem. (If Yudhisthira was to set out from Gurgaon today it will be not one but many stray dogs which would follow him).
Compassion for dogs is one thing- handling the stray dog menace is quite another. Dog bites, Rabies, barking and howling and most importantly the fear they generate. In my complex sometime some neighbours who have a big or fierce looking dog leave it unleashed and it comes rushing at you. The dog owner with a reassuring smile says “Don’t worry- don’t worry- Kaatega nahin. See his tail is wagging”. I feel like telling them that your dog’s jaw is so menacing that it takes all my focus and I can hardly see the tail or that it is wagging. But as I don’t want to be rude and I don’t want to seem a coward, I keep quiet and move on but my heart jumps in to my mouth at every such encounter and I hate the owner’s lack of sensitivity.
Stray dogs are smaller in size, less belligerent and rather than coming at you usually they scamper away from you. And though I know that except in the mating season or when you come near a she dog’s litter they usually don’t bite you, they still invoke fear in me.
The other problem of strays is that they love eating from the garbage. Archaeological studies indicate that wolves started living near human settlements so that they could eat the garbage thrown outside. Dogs evolved from these wolves, and have always been scavengers.
As they meddle with the garbage, they tear open the plastic bags in which we dispose of our garbage, strew it around and thus make the task of the garbage pickers even more difficult.
So what is the solution. In the 19th century the British tried mass killing but it did not work. Electrocution has also similarly failed. The new remedy is neutering under which the dog is anaesthetized and if it is a male his testes are removed (And if it is a female its uterus and ovaries are removed). Sounds a gory operation- science should find something less bloody after all we call him Man’s best friend)
Since aggression against humans is more the trait of the male dog- its testes removal reduces the testosterone in him thus making him milder. The female dog’s aggression surfaces when she feels some harm may come to her litter. Since she can no longer reproduce her aggression also tapers.
Barking and howling mostly occur during dog-fights, which take place at their mating time, so with sterilisation this problem also lessens. They also howl when they live and move in packs. When the dog population dwindles in size, pack behaviour also declines.
It was heartening to note that the Gurgaon administration has plans of capturing and sterilizing these dogs. And that is a good intention. It will be good if post their programme’s implementation they share with the public not only the statistics but also pictures providing hard evidence of work done. (A reader who missed the satire in my last piece on the new railway roads has berated me thus “Are you being paid by Rajesh Khullar (Municipal Commissioner of Gurgaon)? totally crap….these two roads r still bad to drive on… Comment excerpted from TOI website). Another called to say- “Challenge them to show the pictures of the road. They are taking credit for something which is as disordered as its previous avataar”.
They have a point. So let us get the pictures. The pictures should show the number of strays rounded off as well as the sterilization operations in progress where best practices should be followed. This project should be something for the other cities to emulate.