decade definers Society

How India embraced indie dogs this decade

Raj Rihal with Khushi

Raj Rihal with Khushi   | Photo Credit: Jason T Clark

Both offline and online spaces began to push for improved legislation for indie dogs

Two years ago, with bated breath, Raj Rihal waited at Chicago O’Hare airport for a special addition to his home. The Los Angeles-based concept artist was anticipating the arrival of neither a relative nor a long-lost friend, but Khushi, an onyx indie dog with a sharp snout and perked up ears. Yes, Raj had adopted an indie dog flown in from Delhi with the help of International Street Dog Foundation in the United States and Karma Animal Trust in Rishikesh. The vetting process was thorough and the communication about Khushi’s initial years was constant between the pup’s foster mother and Raj.

“I’d wanted to adopt since I was a kid visiting Delhi and seeing these dogs,” recalls Raj. When Khushi was brought to Los Angeles and slowly assimilated in her new surroundings, she became part of a growing community of indie dog transplants. “I can see the ripple effect of what has been happening in India over the last 10 years,” Raj observes.

Indeed, indie dogs or canis familiaris have been around for almost 6,000 years but they only truly started being appreciated when animals rights’ organisations exerted their collective influence on them during the early 2010s.

Reaching out to society

Despite the existence of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, animals rights’ groups, including Hyderabad-based People For Animals claim this Act needs to be updated as indie dogs are culled for numbers when budgets run low for sterilisation, as well as for other loopholes in the legislation. So far these entities have relied on crowdfunding sites which only sprouted around 2013.

Delhi-based Stray Relief and Animal Welfare (STRAW)’s Compassionate Classrooms initiative formalises concepts of sensitisation and humane treatment into school textbooks, working with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and state educational boards.

How India embraced indie dogs this decade

The plight of indie dogs did not only reach millennials. In 1999, Chennai-based elderly couple Padmavathy and her husband Narasimhamoorthy founded the Animal Welfare and Protection Trust in Santhoshapuram. AWTP currently comprises a hospital with a fully-equipped surgical theatre to treat hundreds of animals in need. They also have a well-ventilated shelter that houses over 120 animals and birds at any given point of time.

Dog shows have also included indies, subverting the stereotypical snobbery of dog shows. A prominent one has to be the Great India Dogs Show by Blue Cross in Chennai. It is not just the major metro cities where indie dogs have been embraced. Cities like Visakhapatnam and Coimbatore have hosted dog shows for indie dogs too.

In the media

Social media has also changed the way people consume information about indie dogs. In the mid-2010s, Instagram accounts such as that of The Modern Mowgli in Delhi and Faridabad or Street Dogs Of Bombay help catalyse adoptions.

Arundati Rao in Hyderabad found a tawny-hued indie pup. She created an Instagram post for the adoption announcement which instantly went viral. “People just melted at the sight of her picture, especially the ones of her snuggled up with my golden retriever Sage. I didn’t anticipate this much response for an indie; I had over 60 to 75 reposts on Instagram and shares on Facebook,” she recalls, “Immediately offers to adopt her poured in, from places like Kurnool, Nellore, Vizag, apart from Hyderabad. In just two days, I got over 50 prospective enquiries for her adoption, then I started filtering them on the basis of suitability to take care of a small puppy.” Eventually with the help of a foster, the pup now named Billobabe found her forever home in Hyderabad.

Indie pup Billobabe, formerly named Kabuki

Indie pup Billobabe, formerly named Kabuki   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

Just dogs are indie, so are documentaries and when these two worlds collide, the result is worth a watch. New York-based documentary filmmaker Jesse Alk spent three years in Kolkata filming award-winning Pariah Dog, which arrived to India’s film festival circuit just this year. “A film like Pariah Dog would not have had the impact is has now had it been released ten years ago,” admits Jesse over the phone, “and I observed Kolkata has a number of indie dog activists who make it their life’s mission to keep them safe.”

Here is to hoping for not just updated legislations for indie dog protection in 2020, but a continued ripple effect across other countries where indies’ voices and rights are either unheard or non-existent.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:24:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/decade-definers-how-the-2010s-embraced-indie-dogs-across-india/article30401379.ece

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