Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 07/17/22 4:21 AM

Guest column: Doggone it, I say!

Stray thoughts on stray dogs

In a country where casual  cruelty towards animals is woefully common,  increasing awareness about the need to look after our stray denizens is something to cheer about. However, for the purposes of what I wish to convey, I am training focus only on stray dogs here.

Though not a currently a pet parent, I have been, in the past, a devoted, caring one. Plus, I am a dog-lover. Not one who will go over, chuck a strange dog under its chin and give it a scratch behind its ears, no. But one who will stop to stare admiringly at a hound passing by, any time of the day or evening.

Having made that all-too-necessary disclaimer,  I need to point out that we may have become a bit too strident about our love for strays. And quick to pillory those who are not like us. Let me elucidate with a couple of examples. I recently edited a book which told of its protagonist`s fear when attacked by two pet dogs off their leash. She reacted instinctively by raising her cloth bag over her head in defence. What followed was a nasty scene,  with the pet parent taking the protagonist to court. All through the book, the writer makes the protagonist`s lukewarm enthusiasm for dogs very clear.

The story read well, but  it was set in Bangalore, a city which loves its dogs to bits. I have neighbours who walk their indie breeds, come rain or shine. I have a neighbour who feeds a large number of strays at 7 pm every evening. I have seen people stepping up when stray dogs have been stuck in drainpipes. And three cheers for them.

It was my job as editor to gently break it to the author that though her protagonist had every right to not be a dog enthusiast, it wouldn’t garner her book too many readers, given that the number of dog lovers around far exceeded the number of those for whom a dog is just a dog. And so, we had to highlight the protagonist`s wariness and fear, and dilute her lack of warmth towards canines.

Just playing safe, like we are currently doing on so many counts in this land of ours.

The second example comes from a recent thread in my residents association`s Whatsapp group. This thread was fired up in the wake of a most unfortunate occurrence in the neighbourhood. Someone had, inadvertently or otherwise, run over a stray dog. There were calls for police action, hectic invective heaped on the driver of the vehicle. And in the midst of this outcry, someone who had witnessed the incident suggested that this was an accident, that the driver had not deliberately run over the dog.

The focus of outrage immediately shifted. Scorn was poured on the individual who made that   statement. Apparently all those who run over dogs do so deliberately. Then it got personal, with the hapless poster of the mitigating statement lambasted, and some very offensive insinuating statements made.

But you know what? Even neutered strays have been known to attack when they feel threatened. Many people have been bitten by dogs on and off-leash.

You know what? Not everyone is a dog lover, cat lover, animal lover.

You do your thing, let them do theirs. Just stop passing judgement.

This ran in the Sunday Express magazine of 17 July 2022.

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atrident lovebullyingDoggone ithectoringstray dogsstreetie-loveSunday Express magazineTNIE

Sheila Kumar • July 17, 2022

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