Fancy breeds are catching the attention of Kozhikode’s dog lovers

A few steps up the dimly lit stairs of Chamundeswari Tourist Home and one is at the door of 208 – the Suite. The photographer and I are a tad puzzled for we had come to see Sajeesh Raj V’s rare breed of dogs. Unfazed, Sajeesh, the owner of tourist home, dramatically opens the door. We step in to find two cages and inside are squeaky, tiny, wide-eyed Chihuahuas springing all over their home. Chiny, the long-coat father weighing a grand two and a half kg, is used to public appearances and peaceful. But his three-month-old smooth-coat puppies are wild and playful. The Chihuahuas and an American Staffordshire Terrier are among Sajeesh’s rare possessions. And those like Sajeesh are a growing tribe in Kozhikode.

This was, not long ago, a conservative city when it came to dogs. “All we had was the Alsatian,” says Arangil Gireesh, secretary of the Malabar Canine Club and the owner of a Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff). “People just needed watch dogs and very few bothered about pure breeds,” he adds. From mostly Alsatian, dog lovers have progressed thorough German Shepherds, Dobermans, Dachshund, Labradors and Rottweilers to reach fancy breeds. In the past three-four years a handful of rare and exotic breeds have made their presence felt here. Those found in households include Chihuahua and Brazilian Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff) and American Foxhound, Tibetan Spaniel and American Staffordshire Terrier. As the breeds tune themselves to their new clime, they prove to be lessons in learning for their masters too. Most of them do not have any previous history to fall back on.

Exposed to breeds

Gireesh attributes this new found interest in fancy dogs to exposure. “We conduct dog shows every year. When people see these breeds making an appearance, they too desire to own one,” he says. Sajeesh highlights the boon the Internet has been. Details on breeds, their availability and market price are a mere click away.

For Gireesh, the Brazilian Mastiff is the latest in a long journey with dogs. He has had a dog ever since he can remember. “The first dog I had was a Doberman,” he says. Since then German Shepherd, Pug, French Bulldog and Indian Spitz have adorned his kennel. “Now I have five — a Labrador, two pugs, a Dachshund and the Brazilian Mastiff,” adds Gireesh. The characteristics of the mastiff appealed to him. “It is a ferocious breed and is banned in Norway and the United Kingdom. It is committed to the family and unfriendly to strangers. I want good guarding dogs,” says Gireesh.

On the contrary what lured Sajeesh to Chihuahua is its sociable nature. “They are playful and get along well with children. They are also about less maintenance. They do not shed hair and take very little space. The terrier Mambo is also friendly,” he says. Victor Gabriel has always been a fan of big dogs. He still has five German Shepherds and two Dachshunds at home. But a Tibetan Spaniel joined his brood lately. “Whenever I take it for shows, I hardly see another one,” he says. Compared to his heavy companions, the spaniel, which Victor calls Span, is quite a feather weight at 6 kgs. “If I am going somewhere I just have to put it in the car. It sleeps under my cot, learnt toilet habits fast and is a good watch dog,” he says.

Biju Karthikeyan’s Tissa, the French Mastiff, though has no pretensions of being friendly. She was quite a change for Biju and his friends who mostly breed Labradors. “She is ferocious and strictly a one-master dog. That Salman Khan has one also lured me to buy the French Mastiff,” says Biju.

Gireesh bought his Rio from Chennai. A Brazilian Mastiff puppy would cost about Rs. 75,000. He warns though that the breed is not for those who do not have a previous history with dogs. Sajeesh got his Mambo, the American Terrier, from Delhi for well over Rs. 60,000. Gabriel’s spaniel came from Goa, a litter of Chinese parents. Biju got Tissa from Kottakkal. A direct import of these breeds will cost between five and 10 lakhs, often more.

The breeds originally belonging to different weather conditions take time to settle here. “Despite the care I take, last summer Rio had a heat stroke,” says Gireesh. “She cannot stand humidity. She has a fan in the kennel and I keep water 24 hours a day in summers,” he adds. The Chihuahuas originally a Mexican breedcannot take it when it becomes too cold. But Tissa has taught Biju and his friends a few vital lessons. “The French Mastiff is prone to a lot of skin complaints. So one needs to be alert,” he says. He also burnt his fingers after an attempt at breeding. Though Tissa gave 10 litters, they lost all, some soon after, others a while later. “The breed tends to get a milk infection and the puppy that has the milk dies. She needs to be given an antibiotic beofrehand. Her gestation period too is shorter and it caught us by surprise,” he says.

An undying love for their pets unites these dog lovers. For them it is about making the line of communication with their pet clear and heartfelt. “A dog lives to make the master happy,” says Gireesh.