The street dogs of India (#TheIndieDog), there are just so many of them. More than 30 million, according to some estimates. We need to urgently feed, neuter, rescue, vaccinate, adopt and care for these dogs. Neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city and eventually, all over the country. This podcast is about enabling dog lovers to get actively involved through stories of hope and happiness, and also provide a few resources to be effective.We begin our journey in #Bangalore.
Beat Kaestli From Switzerland, Jazz Singer & Dog Trainer Says The Streets of New York Are Alive With The Sound Of Music
Maybe some of you know that I’m a jazz singer, maybe some of you don’t. I’m not bringing that up randomly, there is a reason why I mention this. During the pandemic, I ended up making a bunch of virtual jazz videos with musicians from Russia, Argentina, France, Italy… all over the world really.
And oddly, as I got to know the musicians, I discovered that there are streeties / rescue dogs everywhere. Many of my online musician friends had dogs under their feet as they played for me. It felt so good to know this.
One such person I met is Beat Kaestli, (pronounced Bay-At Kae-Slee) who is originally from Switzerland and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a marvellous jazz vocalist, a passionate dog lover and trainer. My favourite kind of human combo.
He has spent time working for many animal shelters in NYC… placing hard-to-adopt doggies in good homes… and you know how hard that is.
It was really wonderful to talk to him on FaceTime. One of the big takeaways for me was that as humans who love dogs, we must constantly advocate for them. Even little things like telling a guest in your house not to make eye contact with your dog if it’s a nervous animal. Or telling a newcomer not to bear down with outstretched arms holding treats, but rather to toss them in front. Things that make so much sense, once you think about it.
Beat trains dogs in NYC who are possibly more stressed than dogs in other parts of America, from the sheer pressure of humanity living one on top of the other in tall buildings. Constant stimulation and constant noise. Not really having much privacy or open space.
His company is 3for3DogTraining.com, focusses socially challenged, under-socialized, fearful (in parentheses.. rescue) dogs, with a history of abuse or neglect. If you have an internet connection… he’ll help you.
Bismi Anil of Whitefield, Bangalore, Learns How NOT To Pick Up Puppies On The Streets
I first met Bismi Anil about 6 years ago when my streetie Brownie had disappeared. Vanished. I hunted for her for a month and gave up hope.
Then a girl I knew on FB posted a picture of a doggie that looked so much like a little Brownie that I had to have her. So we trudged all the way to Whitefield from Cooke Town… a two hour drive each way… to find that this little doggie didn’t want to come home with me. She ran up a winding staircase and peered at me suspiciously from the top. I was crushed.
Until I found some a warm and squiggly wet tongue licking my ankles. It was kara. Love at first sight. Kara and her mom and sisters were being looked after by Bismi. But she was doing much more than that. She was cooking and feeding about 150 dogs n the Whitefield area while holding down an IT job and the rest of her life.
Over the years her priorities shifted and now she’s into doggie welfare and rescue and feeding, while maintaining a business that caters to dogs. Literally. She bakes delicious stuff for dogs. The company is called DumasBakesNMeals.com. They use no artificial foods / colouring and other bad stuff in their food at all. They are in Bangalore, but I have had dog cookies delivered in Chennai once.
Oh, the cakes and cookies look positively beautiful too… which is great for humans.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that many foods, inhalants, spices, medicines that human beings ingest regularly with positive effects, can be toxic and perhaps fatal for dogs? Depending on dosages of course.
Essential oils for example… eucalyptus , tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, ylang ylang are no good for dogs. Their noses are more sensitive than hours. So I’d say ditch the infusers if you’re a pet parent.
No ibuprofen or acetaminophen or methyl salicylate or paracetamol. All this stuff is bad for dogs. So no Brufen, no Dolo please
Same with human antidepressants. Don’t give your dog your gabapentin or pregabalin just because you thing the doggie is anxious. You could kill it. And here’s a list of food items that are bad for your dog.
Alcohol. A for Alcohol.
Avocado – yes. It causes diarrhoes in dogs.
Grapes and raisins
Xylitol. The sugarfree stuff
Tomatoes, mushrooms and most seeds and nuts. They are not good for dogs.
Chocolate. Especially dark chocolate contains methyl xanthines that cause vomiting and even death depending on the quantity. Coffee and caffeine are also bad for dogs
And how about plants? Did you know that Azaleas and Rhododendrons contain toxins that are not good for dogs. Same with tulips and daffodils. Seeds from sago palms are especially bad. Eating just a few seeds may be enough to cause vomiting, seizures, and liver failure.
So be careful what you have around your house and garden and Google, Google Google
From Running A Butcher Shop To A Dog Shelter, Sajesh of ALAI Has Made A Remarkable Contribution to Bangalore's Dogscape
ALAI (Animal Lives Are Important) is a dog rescue organization, about 5 years old here in Bangalore. Well it’s not in the city, but in a place called Mitganahalli about 15 kms from the heart of town.
It’s well known in dog rescue circles in this city and Sajesh, the founder is legend. If you talk to people in Electronic City, or the Nandi hills and other outlying areas of this city, beyond the limits of the BBMP, where veterinary clinics and hospitals are scarce, people talk about Sajesh in the same way they talk about God. Not kidding here.
Back in November of 2021, Bengaluru recorded 224 mm of rainfall, that’s 329% above normal. The city was flooded and the rain continued to pour for days and the situation was horrendous. If you’re from Bangalore, maybe you remember this
One night, November 21, specifically, Facebook pictures started revealing a horrible situation. ALAI was getting flooded. About 300 plus animals were getting soaked with nowhere to go because they were confined in the shelter. Sajesh and his staff spent the better part of the night recuing the animals one by one. The city of Bangalore and indeed other parts of the country pitched in with funds, volunteers and a lot more to help Sajesh secure each and every animal. It was a dreadful night, one Sajesh will never forget.
I have been trying to reach Sajesh for a while, but like other rescuers, his time is never his own. There’s always some animal with an emergency to shove me to the back of the queue, so I’m really happy to have finally netted him.
Anju Nanavati, 'Nai Akka' (Dog Sister) of Nandi Hills, Bangalore
Prestige Golfshire, in the Nandi Hills, is possibly one of Bangalore’s most beautiful residential areas. 275 acres of landscaped villas, with an 18-hole golf course, pool, tennis courts and other wonderful amenities that make life just special, besides being close to the airport and not that far from the heart of the city.
But this is not a real estate commercial.
This is about what’s happening at around, oh, let’s say knee level. Yes. It’s about dogs. Ownerless, rudderless, street and village dogs that come on to this pristine property from around the many villages nearby and wander around, unaware of the next golf ball that could crack their skull. Life is unpredictable and scary if you’re a street dog no matter how upscale the neighbourhood.
Fortunately for the streeties at Prestige Golfshire, there’s a lady named Anju Nanavati who lives there, zipping around in her little car plastered with pictures of doggies all over, as she gaily and joyfully tends to their needs. She knows all the dogs and they know her.
Although Anju and her husband moved there presumably to lead the quiet, retired life, at least for Anju, it’s been nothing but that.
She has spent the last few years, including the lockdown, trying to fix all the problems of as many dogs as she possibly can, not only in the community, but slowly expanding to the villages in the vicinity, one, two, three and more.
Anju says her husband Ajay has been of huge support to her as she spreads the word.
And that word of course is ‘woof’.
Long-Distance Dog Healing: Poornima Harish Explains How It's Done
If you’re taking care of street dogs in Bangalore, I guess anywhere in India, it’s a heart breaking, pocket emptying, frustrating but ultimately very rewarding and joyous experience.
Once you begin taking care of streeties… you mostly cannot stop. It becomes a lifelong addiction. Because these dogs are on the street, they are way more susceptible to road accidents, pack fights, diseases and so on that your pet dog is mostly spared.
So sometimes, even the most logical and rational human being is driven to despair and flailing helplessly. It happened to me on one occasion about three years ago when our community dog Toby was listless, apathetic and wouldn’t eat. He had an angry tumour in his mouth. We took him to Cupa, where the wonderful and caring late Dr Vishal did a bunch of tests and scans etc. He told us that Toby had cancer and the chances of his survival were non-existent. There were no meds as such, except pain killers which we agreed to administer. He had a week, tops, Dr Vishal guessed.
We brought Toby back home and he promptly ran away, we assumed to find a quiet place to die.
Around that time, I met Poornima Harish, my guest today. Another friend had told me she was an animal healer and that I should mention the situation with Toby to her. I thought to myself, what the heck, why not? What do I have to lose?
Poornima asked me to send a picture of Toby and then text her every day so she could heal him. Alright I said, and texted her diligently for about two weeks. I wrote cute messages and poems. Toby hadn’t come back. I was hoping in vain I knew, and yet something made me persist with this charade.
And then about two weeks later our watchman came rushing in yelling excitedly. Toby 'Aa Gaya. Toby Bandidare. Toby is back.'
And bloody hell if he wasn’t back, no sign of a tumour in his mouth,. Hale, hearty and a waggedy tail. Coincidence? Is that Poornima’s middle name?
I don’t know.
Toby & Inkling, Two Community Street Dogs on Milton Street Finally Get Peace
When I first started podcasting The Indie Dog, one of the first stories was about a little dog named Inkling and a lovely lady named Vinita Rabbi.
A little background:
Inkling’s mother was Inky, and her uncles we believe, were Pinky and Ponky.
Yes I named them, because I saw the three of them one night, and had to come up names quick, so I could report their presence in Cooke Town on our dog squad Whatsapp Group.
This was during lockdown and before we could get these three spayed, along came Inkling, Inky’s puppy.
Poor Inkling had been run over by a car and was discovered in a terrible state in Milton Street Park, by Vinita’s husband. She was taken to CARE by squad members, where she was tended to and returned to the streets in a few months.
But she wasn’t able to live on the streets in her feeble condition, a disabled leg and timid personality. Other dogs on the street were only too happy to pick on her and make life miserable. Of course, Vinita offered to take her in, so she could be friends with her other dog.
Happy end to sad story you thought? Not so fast.
Vinita’s landlady a dog hating curmudgeon chased Vinita and her family out as quickly as she could. The following is an update from Vinita, in a Whatsapp message to The Frazer Canine Squad, and I quote:
“Inkling has turned her back to living on the streets. I would like to thank all in the FCS for the support and being with me through the ordeal. Our landlady was the meanest person. She just could not tolerate the dogs, especially inkling. She was abusive too and forced us to vacate.
We have found an independent house near Ascension church, which is good for our doggies, Kubo and Inkling. They love it here. It's peaceful and spacious.
I do feed Inky, once and day, early around 6:30 am when I take Inkling for a walk. They also get to catch up with each other. I do not feed her brothers, Pinky and Ponky. They do not come to our new place because there are other dogs on this street. Right now we have found peace. We are a happy family again, happier because of inkling. “
Well, this week, I’m not interviewing anyone. This episode is a tribute to Toby – The Gentleman of Milton Street.
I don’t know where Toby’s story started exactly, but by the time it ended, there were at least a hundred people in Cooke Town, my neighbourhood, who knew him, loved him, fed him, patted him, gave him belly rubs and ran to his rescue when he got ill, dropping all their other activity.
He had that effect. Which brings me to the reason why this episode of The Indie dog is dedicated to Toby.
Taking care of street dogs in a community does more than satisfy one’s own karmic needs. It actually creates a common cause where people can unite.
Creating a common ‘enemy’ is fairly common. It’s a tool employed by despots, dictators and perpetrators of world wars to whip up frenzy and polarize the public, usually to attack some minority, some imaginary threat.
Toby was a polarizer in the community, for sure, but for exactly the opposite reasons. He provided a focus for people to love. Also give vent to their feelings of intense adoration. This includes baby talk, treats, cuddles, belly rubs and so on, which everyone knows releases endorphins and makes you feel good.
Toby gave Cooke Town all this free therapy for several years. His fans could approach him for a session and go back home and not have to worry about regular feeding, medical issues and so on.
Ramjee (my significant Other and I and our household staff) took care of those needs since his primary place of residence was outside our gate on Milton Street. We live exactly opposite the park which was also Toby’s haunt.
We came into Toby’s life I suppose in the middle of it. He appeared out of the blue some seven years ago, already a full