Day 88: How to catch a stray dog in India
My first experience catching and treating street dogs
I feel stronger today. Which is just as well because I asked to go out and find stray dogs in distress. There are hundreds out there that need help at any moment and if possible we will bring them back to neuter them. Catching them is the problem however.
Shibu, the driver, takes me out in the doggy-ambulance-cum-tin-can. We rattle down the road towards Trivandrum in the midday heat.
‘Oh, yeh, the dog ate the seat belt’ I remember.
The mad hot roads of India
A lot of India happens on the roads. It’s where the drama plays out. And the roads haven’t changed much in twenty years, at least to my eyes.
I’m surprised. I thought all of India would be covered in microchips.
Oh I know, the large cities have boomed (Bangalore was a rough old place when I went and is now, apparently, centre of the world) and everyone has mobile phones (when I was here twenty years ago they gave me the option of sending telegrams) but outside the cities the potholed roads are still lined with people carrying laundry on their heads, goats and chickens walking in the dirt, old ladies selling fruit and a general sense of dusty madness typified no better than the insane rickshaw drivers who overtake into head-on traffic.
It’s one long beep-fest. Beeee-eeeeepppp. Lorries overtake buses which in turn overtake cars, often all at the same time, three vehicles racing towards you side by side. The rickshaw drivers don’t overtake, they sort of weave in and out. The sure way to die is to drive calmly and in a straight line – expect to use the soft-verge and swerve randomly.
Dogs live alongside this chaos, feeding off the fuzz of life at the edges of the tarmac – discarded rubbish, stray chickens, thrown out food. They don’t all do so well. Ticks and fleas, mange and skin infection – these are the most common issues.
Catching the dogs
Within about twenty minutes we have spotted a mini-pack of three dogs that aren’t doing too well. Shibu and I follow them with our poles and wires – the rather unsavoury equipment needed to catch dogs. These are basically small lassos but with a rigid arm that allows the catcher to keep the dog at distance once caught. They look ominously like nooses.Only a very very small fraction have rabies but others might still bite out of fear. Most, however, are extremely nervous of humans.
We track the dogs and one leads us deep into the backwaters behind the road.
After lengthy following we close in on it from two directions and then Shibu creeps up behind while I distract it and slings the lasso round it’s neck. Stray dogs have never been on leads and often put up a violent fight. They wriggle and scream for their life, flipping in mid-air. Not pleasant but for the best. I am assured the noise is out of fear not pain.
We catch a second but the third gets away. It looks in grim condition.
Once in the van the dogs calm down. One of the dogs has a missing eye, the other huge ticks. They will be cared for and released back to the same spot after neutering.
Later that evening another volunteer and I spot an injured dog with a very swollen face. I try and catch it with the pole but I instinctively weaken my grip when it screams and he wriggles free. By then the trust is broken and the dog slinks off, looking at me like just another of those humans not to be trusted. It makes me feel awful. We track it down with some help from the locals and get it into care.
Moose and Bug – the NON street dogs.
Ann, sensing I’m feeling a little weighed down, has sent me these pics of the dogs at home.
Moose and Bug – you have no idea how easy you have it. Never again shall I feel sorry for you when you whine to be on the soaf. Here is moose who apparently went to watch the ipad by himself that was left playing on the bed.
I can only imagine how long they would survive out here – they’d last one day, assuming they didn’t wander into the road, which of course they would. Middleclass western dogs, my-my.