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.

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.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is Bandu less interesting than a tiger?

A few pictures of my friend Bandu, taken in a hurry on two trips to Tadoba Tiger Reserve this year. Perhaps you've read about Bandu in this earlier post?

Bandu is one of the resident dogs at the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation resort near the park entrance. I've been his fan ever since I first met him in January 2008.

There is a particular dog personality-type that I love a lot, and I recognized it in Bandu soon after meeting him. It's seen in some male dogs: highly intelligent, bossy with other dogs, very friendly and polite and docile with humans, and VERY VERY independent. These dogs just don't want to be house pets. Ever. They want to live on their own terms and will
never trade in their freedom completely, no matter how much you bribe them!
Another close dog friend Brownie has more or less the same personality; and so did one of our building dogs Toby-Raja.

Why does Bandu look so sleepy in these pictures, and why were they taken in a hurry?
Unfortunately I can only meet and click Bandu after returning from the morning safari, since I go into the forest before sunrise. By the time I get back to the lodge it's 10.30 or 11 a.m. and very hot and sunny. Bandu and the rest of the gang (lady friends, sidekick, offspring) have all gone to sleep in the shade here and there. I wake him for a few minutes and he's always very pleased to see me and thumps his stumpy cropped tail on the ground, before going back to sleep. But he doesn't look his alert and intelligent best at that time of day. He also rolls around in mud to cool himself and it's often liberally plastered on his body, taking away from his good looks somewhat. Next time I go to Tadoba it will be around 47 degrees C there and he'll spend a lot of time wallowing in the nearby marsh. So he'll probably be almost black.

My friendship with Bandu does not go unnoticed out there. Villagers in India tend to gawk for lack of anything better to do, and possibly a woman who travels alone and talks to dogs is considered a bit of an oddity. The lodge staff clearly think I'm eccentric, because no-one much fusses over dogs in that sort of area, though they are passively fond of them and think them useful. Enthusiasm about dogs is pretty much a big-city thing in India, though I have met a few rural adults and children who dote on their pets. I catch other tourists staring at me too, no doubt wondering why I'm clicking a dog, a pi-dog at that (!!!) in a place famous for its tigers and bears. After all unless an animal is critically endangered it can't be interesting or worth photographing, can it? These weird Mumbai women and their weird whims!

One time there was a tourist family sitting nearby while I clicked Bandu's pictures. I overheard the woman of the family commenting (in sniggering tone) on my strange choice of subject. For the first time I was irritated by this unwanted attention and by her insulting attitude to Bandu. I toyed with the idea of telling her politely: "Ma'am, you are no beauty exactly; in fact you are rather common-looking and considerably uglier than this dog if you don't mind my pointing it out; and yet your husband has probably taken hundreds of pictures of you though you have very little aesthetic value, objectively speaking." But of course I didn't really deliver this forthright speech, and besides, her husband quickly hushed her up and she looked a bit uncomfortable when I stared at her.

I can't help wondering when, if ever, Indians will recognize that our dogs are unique and wonderful and deserving of attention?
Well we've made a tiny bit of progress at least...we've made a start. Let's just keep telling everyone we can the truth about INDogs, and hope the message will some day penetrate the collective thick-skulled consciousness.

There will always be space for Bandu on my memory card, no matter how many tigers or bears I click in Tadoba. So watch this blog for some pictures of an extra-muddy Bandu next month!

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve


Smita said...

Definitely as interesting as a tiger! Its great to see Bandu's photos again.I would love to meet him one day.
What is he doing in the last pic-giving you a " shake hand "?

Rajashree Khalap said...

No he had his back to me! I think he had just finished wiping his face or rubbing his eye.

Lee Sverkerson said...

That really is the puzzle, isn't it? That Indians have these magnificently noble, fun and intelligent 'fellow travelers' right here and they seem to go so under appreciated. I have more than one right here on my lane in Pune and I'm going to feel so bad not taking one home. Samson would love Baba as a family member. I guess I'll have to be content to go looking for him and Scooter and Veteran as soon as I come back next time and hope that they've survived another year. And by then there will probably be a couple more to fall in love with and worry about.

Rajashree Khalap said...

I guess it's just familiarity breeding contempt, Lee. "English" dogs are much respected and coveted here as you must have noticed. The labrador should be declared the "state dog of Maharashtra," there are so many of them just in Mumbai, all overweight too. I even know of people in Mumbai who keep St Bernards and huskies!!

Is there any NGO vaccinating and neutering dogs or doing first-aid on your street in Pune?

Tom said...

You have great observation about dogs in many places. Since there are lots of dog photos, I guess the places that you have visited were majority a dog-friendly places. By the way those photos are great, nice shoots…