About Me

My photo
Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

Are you a Pariah Dog fan?

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Our brand new mobile-friendly INDog website!

INDog fans! BIG news!! 

Seven years after we first made it, our INDog Project website has been recreated from scratch, and most importantly has been made mobile-friendly.

Oh good, it's mobile-friendly now!

My colleagues Javed Ahmed of the INDog Project, and Dr Krishna Mohan, put in months of hard work and late nights to make it happen. I can never thank them enough!

Lots of new content, and many many links to books and scientific papers, for those who want to read more. (We recommend reading all of them). You can also download the classic reference book 'The Indian Dog' by W V Soman, from our 'Read more' section.

A very important part of the site is still under construction, so keep watching this space. It's our updated 'Map of Aboriginal and Primitive Dogs Around the World' and it's going to be gorgeous!

The next part of this post is addressed to that smaller but creepily persistent, unpleasant segment of readers who like to harvest other people's hard work and pass it off as their own. I mean the plagiarisers. I'm tired of finding photos stolen from my blog and posted without permission or acknowledgement in your websites and pages. No, everything on the net is not free, so please abandon these misconceptions left over from the 20th century. All my blog and website content is the intellectual property of the INDog Project. If we find it anywhere it shouldn't be, we will take legal action. 

Okay, so here's the link again, below! Hope you like our site!


All the content in our website and this blog are the intellectual property of the INDog Project. Please do not use any text or images without permission and acknowledgment.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Polar dogs of the High Arctic

It's the tenth birthday of this blog! And I'm celebrating it not with an INDog post, but with this photo- essay about another breed of landrace dog far, far away: the Greenland Dog!

We met Greenland Dogs and other gorgeous 'Polar' dogs in Svalbard this summer when we finally went on an Arctic trip - something we've been wanting to do for years! 

Before embarking on a seven day cruise-expedition to North Spitsbergen, we spent a couple of days in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of the Svalbard Archipelago. 

At 78 degrees latitude this is the northernmost human settlement on the planet. It's actually a charming little town in an odd way, despite its somewhat bleak industrial appearance.

For instance, you see signs like this:

And sled dogs all over the place! Some have signs pasted on their kennels requesting people not to touch them (because a lot of people actually do silly things like trying to pet every dog they see). There are photos of some of these dogs at the end of this post.

Our own sled dog experience had been booked months in advance, with a family-run company called Green Dog. I was as excited about finally meeting sled dogs as I was about seeing polar bears, walruses and auks. All so exotic to someone from the tropics!

We reached Longyearbyen at around 1.00 p.m. after a long flight north from Oslo. A couple of hours later our guide from Green Dog came to pick us up from the hotel and drive us to the dog kennels along with five other visitors.

In June they use a special kind of dog cart and not sleds with blades, since there isn't a lot of snow on the ground at this season.

The dogs here, generally described as 'polar dogs', are actually of different breeds and mixes between those breeds. Some are Greenland Dogs, an aboriginal breed genetically identical to the Inuit Dog.* They are quite large robust dogs with broad skulls. Others are Alaskan Huskies, mix breeds of no rigidly defined type: they are selected strictly for performance as sled dogs, and mostly have a slender build and narrower heads than the Greenland Dogs.

At the dog kennels

Typical Greenland Dog (with a name from Norse mythology!)

Greenland Dog mother and pup, keenly watching us
The Greenland Dog pup is taken out for cuddles!

This Alaskan Malamute doesn't belong to Green Dog; he is a pet and was just visiting with his owner

An Alaskan Husky

We spent some time meeting the dogs (and playing with puppies - there were several!) All the dogs were extremely friendly and looked very healthy. And they were all just raring to go!  

Then we went to the changing room to put on the company's special thick overalls, boots and gloves, to protect us from the icy wind. The actual temperature there was around 2 degrees Celsius, but the wind chill factor made the effective temperature lower.

The dogs were harnessed in teams of eight, with us guests helping to hold them. 

The leading cart was driven by one of our two guides, Jimmy. Our cart was right behind it, driven by Kiran: his first and possibly only experience of driving a dog team! A third cart was behind us. 

This is Kiran with our lead dogs, Willow and Chilli. 

Willow was quite a handful at first, he was so excited to be out and running! But he calmed down after a bit of energy had been worked off, and after Jimmy had turned back a few times to make sure he stayed on course.

These photos take me back there! We loved the austere beauty of this treeless landscape. It was hard to select just a few pictures, so be warned, there are LOTS!

We took frequent breaks for the dogs to splash in the water and drink. Our guide told us polar dogs are most comfortable at -20 degrees C, so 2 degrees is rather warm for them!
Guides carry rifles and flare guns outside the settlement area of Longyearbyen, as a precautionary measure for protection against polar bears. Killing a bear is a criminal offence and they are never shot except in self-defence, if there is absolutely no other option.
Water break!

Svalbard Reindeer seen from the dog cart
A colony of Common Eiders have selected a spot between some dog kennels as a breeding site. The best protection
against Arctic Foxes and hungry bears!  The place is an attraction for birders and photographers. It's not near Green Dog 
but some other companies.
Above and below: Some dogs about town

*'Population genetic analysis of the Greenland Dog and Canadian Inuit Dog - is it the same breed?' by Dr Hanne Friis Andersen, DVM http://thefanhitch.org/V7N4/V7,N4SameDog.html

Photos: Kiran Khalap, Rajashree Khalap

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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Epic Saga

Epic is not only a stunningly handsome little INDog: he's also an absolute hero! 
His human Aparna Tiwari Pandey sent in his survival and rescue story. 

'Kindness' is a word that should be ingrained in every decision that a person makes. When we returned to India after many years abroad, the biggest shock was for my daughter Sakshi, who had been out of the country since the age of eight. Her initial reaction to seeing so many street dogs on Indian roads was horror and disgust at the callous treatment meted out to these creatures by humans - including people in our housing society.

She resolved to do whatever was in her control to help them. She spent all her pocket money feeding the dogs in our area twice a day. Although we initially viewed this with slight trepidation, as time went by we were bowled over by the intelligence, friendliness and protective behaviour of these street dogs. Dogs that were shunned by society and abused beyond belief, showed more humanity, kindness and love than most people we had met since coming back. They seemed to do it as their duty, accompanying us to rickshaw stands and trying to protect us and showering us with playfulness and love every time they saw us.

Over the years we befriended three generations of dogs living in our housing society, becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in the process, especially when we informed the management that under animal welfare laws they could not prevent people from feeding the dogs, could not relocate them anywhere, and could not kill them. All these are criminal offences and we would complain to the police or registered animal welfare officials if necessary. 

Some months ago the resident pack consisted of Bosco, the first dog we had looked after; her daughter Elsa from her first litter; Bosco's second litter now also grown up; and Elsa's surviving pup Spotty. (Their story is a long one: you can read it in my personal page)

Spotty as a puppy

The society people were getting increasingly paranoid about the dogs. One of the residents who works for an NGO, arranged for the municipality to pick up Bosco, her two seven-month old pups, Elsa, and a couple of other dogs living here, for neutering. When I came back in the morning after dropping off Sakshi, there was quite a commotion going on. There were two vans and groups of some ten or fifteen men running around with ropes and sticks. They were trying to corner the dogs and the dogs were squealing piteously as well as barking at the tops of their voices. In the midst of this I felt a furry body suddenly clinging to my ankles and whining. It was Spotty! He was hardly two months old and wasn't a candidate for neutering but no-one told him that! I pleaded with the people there to release Elsa as she had just delivered pups two months back, it was winter and puppies need to huddle with their mothers, and also that her other puppy had recently died so she was still grieving and in shock. But to no avail. They packed off all the dogs and took them to the municipality premises.

Some three days later the municipality people came and discharged the dogs back in the society. They had all been operated (their ears notched to mark this). They were still in quite a bit of pain and were famished and extremely weak. We did our best to nurture them back to health.

In their absence the nights were bitter cold and poor Spotty didn't know where his mother had gone. He would try to play with the society kids, try and avoid the cars...but he was so small and terrified. I convinced my husband to give him shelter. He was against it initially but reluctantly agreed. We brought Spotty home and kept him for the nights. We would feed him, give him water, let him sleep in warmth for the nights and then let him go downstairs in the daytime where he could gambol and play with the kids. 

When Elsa came back three days later we continued to feed both of them. We could see them running and playing with each other. It was a sight to gladden anybody's heart. 

Then one day we heard that a person from the neighbouring society meandered too close to a recently born litter of pups on the road. Two male dogs guarding the litter attacked him. This was just the excuse the society needed. Although our society dogs had nothing to do with the incident, all the societies wanted to club together and eliminate the dogs. They planned to either poison them or relocate them far away, or cut off their food supply forcing them to move away. We did some research and warned them of the legal repercussions of any of these actions. We were already popular with the other members but with this we became the celebrities of the society!

One day I came back after dropping Sakshi to college and couldn't find Spotty anywhere. Elsa, Bosco, and her pups Goofy and Dufus seemed dejected and forlorn. I asked the watchman where Spotty was and he was nonchalant. As I sat down to have lunch with my husband I could not swallow or chew my food. For some strange reason I was filled with apprehension and dread. I told my husband that I wanted to go down and search for Spotty. I was sure something nasty had happened to him.

So I went down, caught hold of the watchman and started searching the four wings of the society. After quite some time we found Spotty. Someone had dumped him behind some bamboo bushes. He was hidden behind them and when I found him he was lying in a raised area behind the plants. He couldn't possibly climb down neither could any dog climb up to reach him. He was calm, hardly whimpering, had two thick tear stains down his cheeks and looked utterly composed and resigned. When I asked the watchman to lift him up, he howled and screamed! That's when I noticed that Spotty's lower back seemed depressed and his leg had shrunk up so that it looked like a tiny stub. I didn't understand what had happened. When I touched the stub it swung as loosely as if it was just a piece of skin.

With my husband's help we gently lifted Spotty down. He was moaning and trying gamely to put his weight on his legs when he buckled and collapsed. He looked drained, exhausted, had cried all night and yet was calm and resigned. As my husband said, he was waiting for the end and hoping it was close by. I couldn't allow it. I would not allow it. It turned out after much questioning that the society chairman had asked the watchman to beat up and throw out all the society dogs. The watchman (probably drunk) tried to chase away the dogs. Spotty being a puppy misunderstood the man's intent and tried to play with him...The watchman hit Spotty three times with a stick. Then stifled the pup's screams, picked him up and threw him behind the bushes leaving him to die in pain, hunger and thirst.

Not trusting the local animal welfare organisation, we looked up treatment options and came across a rather upscale animal hospital not far from our home. We took Spotty home, cleaned him and tucked him up in a blanket, fed him and stroked him to sleep. Poor puppy went to sleep and woke up in severe pain. But there was a strength in him. He refused to howl or cry. He would just lie there stoically and tried to co-operate with us in everything we were doing to help him. For example when we took him to the hospital to be x-rayed, Spotty lay there stoically not complaining and in fact curious about what was happening. After x-rays as we sat waiting for the doctor, Spotty at our feet, a dog walked by and stepped on Spotty's broken foot. Spotty screamed in agony just two or three times but lay back moaning and looked at us calmly after that. He seemed to be a super-strong dog!

The doctor showed us in the x-rays how the back had been fractured. Then another blow had broken Spotty's femur into two pieces. A third blow on his tibia had shattered it to pieces. The doctor explained that the only option was amputation and then hoping for the best. She apparently did not expect us to spend time or money on a street dog.

But we decided to do the best we could for Epic. We decided to rename Spotty 'Epictetus' because of his stoic demeanour. 

Later the doctor called us to tell us that a famous veterinary surgeon was coming from Pune to operate on the leg of somebody's collie, and would we like to get Spotty treated? She figured with two dogs being operated one after the other it would work out cheaper for us. We were ecstatic! But on hearing the cost we started having second thoughts. It was prohibitively expensive and Epic would need to be hospitalised for a day. When I discussed it with Sakshi and my husband, we all decided unanimously that the right thing to do would be to get the best treatment for Epic and worry about the money later.

True to his nature, Epic was stoic and calm throughout the night. He had to stay without food or water in preparation for the surgery. All he wanted was to be petted and to lie there watching us calmly. He had also figured out a way to drag himself to the toilet (balcony). Imagine the intelligence, no need for house-training, the little dog figured out that the right place to 'go' was the balcony!

The night went by in a half-awake, half-asleep state...every time I woke up, Epic would wake and wag his tail. He looked in some discomfort but was being quiet, calm and docile as always.

The next day was a haze and a blur...get through all the chores, get through a rushed breakfast...then bundling up Epic and taking him a rickshaw to the hospital. At the hospital the surgeon was finishing up the first operation and we had to wait for an hour and a half before he was ready. During his examination of Epic's injuries, we forgot to muzzle the pup but in his trademark style he just moaned, licked his lips, shut his eyes and bore the pain...The surgeon had good news. Chances were that Epic would make a near full recovery, and he would put the rods in such a way that they wouldn't cause problems for the pup as he grew up. He also said that Epic would take about four or five days to stand up, and would start limping around in a week. Possibly taking fifteen days to run and be normal again. He wanted a commitment from us that we would tend to the pup for seven days before returning him to his mother. Feeling glad that Epic would maybe become normal again we readily consented to everything and also gave assurances that we would take care of Epic for a week and regularly bring him to the hospital for physiotherapy.

The operation took about two hours. The surgeon told us it had gone normally, that Epic would come out of anaesthesia in another hour or so and then we would have to start drips. This turned out to be a whole-day affair...with Epic waking up gradually, looking around, moaning and whimpering, but otherwise not creating any problems. It was around 6.00 p.m. by this time and Sakshi came directly to the hospital from college. As she came to the table where Epic was lying, on his second drip, she whistled in a low tone. Epic had been looking comatose but woke up and started wagging his tail vigorously! What a relief that was...and what a dog he is!

Epic was not going to lie around waiting for recovery. He was standing on his fractured legs the very first night, and wanted to urinate the proper doggy way! He was limping around in a day, and four days later he was running full tilt! During all this, along with physiotherapy, he figured out where to potty, how not to bother us, and how to ask for food. Never did he howl, moan or raise a ruckus. We were completely caught up in Epic's charm and his antics managed to bowl us over. No-one had ever waited for me, or greeted me in the morning as happily as Epic did. We were reaching a point when at fifteen days we needed to take a decision on when to release him back to Elsa.

Should we release him to Elsa? As the day came closer I was agonising with conflicting thoughts. 
What if someone hit him on the legs? How will he forage for food? Meanwhile just days before we had to make a decision, someone smashed Elsa's leg with a bamboo stick making her limp and unable to take care of herself. That did it! We decided we had come too far to do a half-baked job, and also, Epic had started making our lives brighter. He would wake up cheerful, greet us with tail wagging, want to be hugged, was a low maintenance puppy and essentially made our days a little bit brighter. Did we want to dim our days? We decided to not do so! 

And that's how Epic became a part of my family.


~ Today, Epic is extremely friendly, handsome, loving, a fast learner (he is so intelligent he has mastered more than ten words already), and super-resilient. He is calm most of the time, yet can be a handful when he feels like he needs to run and play. He suffered from severe dermatitis after recovering from his operation and we had to get that treated too. He has received his vaccinations. We wanted to give safety and a better life to this darling puppy whose extremely short life has already seen such an ordeal - lost three siblings and experienced so much pain. Each member of my family has been involved in saving the 'Last of the Mohicans' as we call him (all his family members are neutered and this puppy is literally the last hope for their family line). But Epic repays us every day when he looks at us with joy, begs to be rubbed and wags his long white tail exuberantly. We are so blessed to have him with us that we can't imagine what our lives would have been like without him.

~ I also wanted to dispel one notion. It might seem that ALL the members of our housing society are wicked, cruel, dog-hating people. Not so! When we got Epic operated we had to spend roughly Rs 25000. I decided to do a fundraiser and put up a message in the society Whatsapp group. I wrote the entire story of Epic and how he was battered and thrown into the bushes to die in pain. I didn't expect any response. But quite a few people stepped forward and soon transferred money into my account. At last count some ten people had contributed around Rs 16500 in total. So the good news is, there are quite a few good souls in the world, and then some people are misinformed and misguided. I hope the latter, the M&Ms (misinformed and misguided), update themselves and join us folks in a bid to co-exist with our dog friends and make the world a better place than it is.

~ Even today, Epic starts limping when he has overexerted himself or slipped. Sometimes he starts limping when it's cold. We want to ensure he makes a full recovery, so we would like to show him to a specialist as soon as we can. If my readers know of any good doctors/surgeons, please contact me on aparna0112@gmail.com


Story and photos: Aparna Tiwari Pandey

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Radha revisited

Here's an update on lovely Radha, from her human Connie Hills! If you've followed this blog for a while, you may have read her earlier posts Radha and Radha eight months later.

Our INDog-mix Radha, from Chennai, India, came to live with us in San Francisco four years ago. When I met her, it was love at first sight. That sweet face with big doe eyes melted my heart. She walked slowly due to her funny feet - which suited my pace just fine.

At home, she was initially timid - stayed on her cozy bed round the clock - unless it was time for walks or food. She rarely drank water. Outside, she was reactive with other dogs, especially those off leash. She bristled at cars passing by, motorcycles, trucks, even pedestrians. We stopped walking her in the neighbourhood, and instead drove her to the park, or the lake - where there are fewer distractions. At our cabin in the mountains, she enjoyed the quiet of the tall trees.

Photos below: Radha in the mountains

In the last four years, Radha has opened like a rose. She is now interactive with us at home. In the morning she howls 'good morning,' enjoys pets and back-scratches. She drinks water day/night. 

She comes to the kitchen when I prepare her food. When I set her food down she does a 'two-step twirl' - leads with two front feet, twists her torso, jumps behind herself, then jumps clockwise back to the front. At walk-time, she howls, (we sing), she howls more. And at the end of the day, when I come home from work, she jumps off her bed, greets me in song. She sleeps on our bed, sandwiched between us.

We now walk her in the neighbourhood on leash. Car, truck, motorbike noises don't affect her. She obeys the 'heel' command when crossing streets, sniffs and marks poles, lawns, sand, bark, dirt. She is more tolerant of stranger-dogs. In parks, beaches, and the mountainside, she walks off-leash and stays near me. 

Radha doesn't like it when we go on holiday and leave her with a petsitter. Her 'roaming' roots resulted in three 'escapes'. Perhaps she goes looking for us? Each time, she was unharmed, rescued, and brought home. A miracle in a busy metropolis. 

Radha, our lesson in Karma.

Walking in San Francisco at night

Story and photos: Connie Hills
San Francisco

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Jelly in all her glory

Revisiting Vandana's INDog family after quite a long gap. Here is Jelly, perched on high places in true landrace dog fashion, looking gorgeous as always!

Now only Jelly remains of beautiful Chocos's clan.

The beautiful, serene-looking area in which they lived (in Palakkad) turned out to be death-trap after all. The state of Kerala seems to have little law enforcement or decency where dogs are concerned, even pet dogs. In the last few years Chocos, her daughters and her friend Karumban fell victim to hostile and criminal neighbours, and there was one tragedy after another. 

In an earlier post I had admired the freedom and safety this family seemed to enjoy; so much better, it seemed, than the fate of our city INDogs confined to sofas and pavement walks. Now with great sadness I have to take back those words. 

Two other pet INDogs I knew of in Kerala also disappeared without a trace. 

I suspect the life of village dogs all over India will also change a lot over the coming decades, even in real villages. More humans = more free-ranging dogs = less tolerance for dogs, even when there is no conflict as in this case. 

Coming back to Jelly, she is now confined to her family's area, for her own safety, but she is still very lucky as we can see from the photos, and lives like a queen (and looks like one too, especially in the second photo!

Photos: Vandana SB


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