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Babes in the woods

Having switched from a Scorpio (our car of choice for most of the last 15 years) to the much smaller Alto, we were wondering what it would be like for the dogs – now down to just two, Hero and Soulkadi – to take a long trip in the new car. It turned out not great, the ride at least.

First of all, the roads themselves were in terrible shape. We were driving up to Amboli, a route we’ve done quite often, either to stay there, or while passing through to places further afield. It’s always been a very pleasant drive, through lovely landscapes. But with the highway widening that has been the bane of the past couple of years, driving anywhere in or out of Goa has become a crater-filled nightmare.

[Includes photos by Anjali Dar Sen Gupta, Srijit Kumar, Rajiv D’Silva, and Arvind Siva. All collages can be enlarged by clicking on them]


In this case, it was bad all the way up to Banda, across the border in Maharashtra, after which we turned off the highway. But that didn’t improve things. The roads into and out of Sawantwadi – which used to be part of the main highway before the development of the bypasses – now lie neglected, and are shock absorber killers as well.

Only once one hits the bypass coming in from Vengurla does the road get better, but on that stretch too, there are unheralded bad patches. In some ways, these are worse. When you are negotiating potholed and cracked roads, you are perforce driving slow; but when the going seems good, you start moving at a rapid clip, and hit the rough spots without warning, which is far more jarring to car, body, and soul.

The condition of the roads aggravated the effects of being in a smaller car, and our canine passengers were visibly unhappy for most of the journey. Their initial excitement at seeing their belongings packed and put in the car, and then at setting off with the wind in their faces, were quickly forgotten in their discomfort as they were buffeted around in the close confines. They hardly barked at the monkeys we passed on the tortuous climb up towards Amboli. Soulkadi even threw up along the way.

Thankfully, when we arrived three hours later at Mrugaya, the eco resort we were booked at, it turned out to be perfect for them. The property is set just a few hundred metres off the main road, making it a breeze to get to, but it’s nevertheless tucked into a wooded area that isolates it from the traffic and noise. Our group was just large enough that we had booked all the three rooms at the resort, so we had the place completely to ourselves.


Mrugaya was set up and is run by Parag Rangnekar, a naturalist from Goa. It’s on an ancestral property that he has developed with a focus on natural resources and locally-relevant and sustainable materials and techniques. No plastic is used in the premises (except when we brought in some Coke bottles), and the wet waste is disposed of in an eco-friendly way.


The dogs settled into our room quickly and comfortably. Though Parag generally doesn’t allow pets – citing the difficulty of getting fur off the blankets as the reason – he had made an exception for us. We, on our part, took our usual protective measure of covering everything with our own sheets.


We spent a relaxed weekend there, which is exactly what we were looking for. The resort is in a sylvan thicket surrounded by open fields, with a stream gurgling along one boundary. The dogs found much to sniff at in the woods, and long excursions to go on across the fields. Given that the property is open on all sides (and taking into account the sort of adventures that they have been on a couple of times), we couldn’t leave them off-leash, but they were quite comfortable sitting around while we ate and drank in the communal dining and hangout space that spans the front of the building.



Talking about eating, the food was absolutely marvellous. On the first afternoon, Hari – one of two caretakers who take turns looking after guests – got us rotis and a delicious chicken dish from a local joint. For dinner, we ordered food from an Amboli restuarant (which delivers to Mrugaya) which was also very good. The next day, Sukumar, the second of the caretakers, got a gauntthi kombdi cooked at his place in the Malvani style, with the pandhra rasa and rthe tambda rasa, which we had with solkadi and bhakris made at the resort. But the highlight for me were the breakfasts. I have never been a big fan of misal, but the way Hari prepared it and the accompaniments he laid out with it made a convert of me. To complement that archetypal Maharashtrian meal were little omelette rolls that we put away by the dozen.


Having landed there Friday afternoon, we headed back after breakfast on Sunday. The dogs were again uncomfortable, and Soulkadi puked once again, when we had almost made it back. Bookended with those two incidents, we could have felt bad about the trip, but the stay at Mrugaya more than made up for it.


However, it seems unlikely we will take the dogs for trips to places outside Goa again in this car. They are also growing old, Hero in particular, and the excitement of going to new places is not the same with them any more. Like it happens when humans grow old, the comfort of home and a routine seems to be outweighing the pleasures of travel for them now.

So long, Sungta

Death came by our house on Friday, and whistled at the gate, and our sweet little barrel, Sungta, went for a walk with him. No longer will she do her head-tossing prancing in anticipation of her food. No longer will she proffer her ample butt for a scratching, casting coquettish backward glances and gurgling for attention. No longer will she plonk herself in the most inconvenient locations on the bed at night, growling and digging in her feet against efforts to re-position her.

It all happened suddenly and unexpectedly, within a matter of minutes. She had been a trifle unwell over the past two days, but nothing to indicate it was serious. On Friday night, though, as we prepared to go out with friends, she suddenly started having silent but severe convulsions. In less than ten minutes, she let out one last loud cry, and was gone.

Luckily for us, we had friends at hand, including one who’s a vet and was trying to guide us on the phone while driving to our place. They helped us bury Sungta in a patch near the bougainvillea plants in our yard.

At times when she was feeling a surge of affection for Anjali or me (which was, like, all the time), Sungta would nibble excitedly and fervently on whatever was close at hand. Often this would be the bedsheet she was sitting on. On Friday, she was on the bed when the seizures started, and we bundled her in the bedsheet to carry her to her grave. When we tried to unravel her from it, though, we found that she had one corner of it in her teeth, clenched tightly in the throes of rigor mortis. We had to cut the sheet, and she went into the darkness with a little bit of it sticking out of her mouth, as though she was still nibbling away at it in ecstasy. So long, Sungta!


Sungta came to us as part of a litter of days-old puppies that had been dumped in a field and rescued by a local shelter with which Anjali volunteered. It fell to us to foster them, feeding them like babies every few hours from milk bottles to begin with.


As they grew a little older, they got more adventurous. Their preferred hangout was under the moda on our balcao. Their interaction with the bigger dogs (four at the time) was minimal. My nephew Abhimanyu, who was visiting at the time, helped out with the care.


Two of the litter found homes, one died in the first month. Sungta and Soulkadi spent the first few months outside the house, but eventually became ‘foster fails’ and indoor dogs.


Anjali and I were her de facto mother and father. She, on her part, was a fat little bolster that we loved to trouble.


She wasn’t the most social dog, but she had her favourites. There were a handful of other special friends whom we sadly don’t have photos of her with.


Such a cutie she was!


Walking with Sungta was a pain. She would put her head down and put her entire weight into yanking you about.


Oh, the places she went…


…right till the end.


Any time of night or day, we would return to the sight of her in the back door, yodelling with joy. The bed is colder without her there.

Beauty Walks a Razor’s Edge

Stray animals anywhere lead precarious lives, even those that have someone looking out for them. Anyone who cares for them knows this, but every once in a while, the lesson is brought home, often in deadly and devastating ways. This is a tale of something that happened recently with one of our community dogs, one whom we call Beauty.

We have been seeing Beauty ever since we’ve been in Olaulim, part of a pack that hangs out on a grassy patch on the hill behind our house. Four years ago, when we moved here, she must have been the newly-anointed alpha female of the pack, that was dominated by a larger yellow-brown dog. Over time, she has grown into the confident core of the pack. The pack itself, as these tend to, has seen a lot of comings and goings. Over time, more or less all of its other adherents have disappeared, and only Beauty remains of the original dogs. The attrition rate of stray dog packs is often greater than that of IT firms.

Our interaction with Beauty’s pack used to be restricted to drive-bys with our dogs, where both gangs would hurl abuse at each other – ours from the safety of the car, the others as they ran alongside it as it traversed their territory.

This changed when, driven by a sudden fetish for fitness, I started going for morning walks. On the first day itself, I came across Beauty, sitting by herself outside the gate of a cemetery a short distance from our place. As is my wont when I see a dog, I did the whistling, tongue-clicking, kissy sounds and finger-snapping that is the universal tactic of a human trying to get friendly with an animal. To my delight, she came running up to me and did a little prancing around, then lay down submissively at my feet. When I got back home and told Anjali about her, I spoke of what a beauty she was, and that’s what we started calling her.

She was a scrawny little thing, so I started carrying rotis to give her, which she would nuzzle my pockets for after the initial welcome greetings.

From these beginnings, things came to a state where, for the past year, Anjali and I have been taking food for Beauty and her pack twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday nights. We know that they have other sources of food as well, and we don’t want them to become completely dependent on us, as there are periods when we won’t be around, and they will need to find food elsewhere. As of now, the pack consists of (though none of them are aware that they are referred to by these names) Beauty, a bratty but very affectionate male we call Beastie, three unrelated pups called Clouseau, Shady and Pumpy, plus an old guy called Hangal who appears on occasion.


Beauty waits for her dinner, her tail a furry blur of anticipation


Beastie likes to get intimate with his feeders


Top to bottom: Clouseau, Hangal and Shady


Beauty and Beastie have to be fed inside the car, as they tend to gobble down their helpings and then go after the others’

A couple of months ago, on one of our regular feeding runs, we found that Beauty was holding her mouth open in a strange manner. The area where we feed the pack is not well-lit at all, so we couldn’t really figure out what was wrong with her. When we gave her food, we found she was trying to eat, but her mouth was not closing and a lot of the food kept flowing out. There was also a lot of salivary discharge, and when we got close to her, we could make out a bad smell from her mouth.

Our first surmise was that she had been hit by something or someone, and that her jaw was broken. Her eagerness to eat seemed to indicate that it was perhaps not some more debilitating ailment, such as distemper or something that causes lockjaw. But we couldn’t completely discount that it was one of those diseases at an early stage.

What was most worrying was that we were due to head out of town a few days later, and wouldn’t be around to give her whatever care she needed. Thankfully, there is an active community of animal welfare workers here in Goa, and once Anjali sent out an SOS on those groups, response was quick. Karen, a volunteer with the Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS) hospital and shelter in Assagao who lives in the same village, offered her help.

We brought Beauty home for the night, and parked her in the back room, keeping our hyper dogs at bay. The next morning, just hours before we were due to leave for the airport, Karen came by and picked her up. Later that evening, we learnt from Karen that the problem was not medical, strictly speaking. Beauty had a large bone stuck like a cap over the back molars, and that was preventing her from being able to close her mouth. The edges of the bone had dug into her gums, causing wounds that had got maggot-infested, therefore the rotten smell.


The bone that caused the problem

The WVS doctors put her under anaesthesia, and did a minor operation to remove the bone and clean and suture her wounds. Within a day or two, Karen reported to our relief, she was eating. When we got back to Goa, Karen brought her back to our place, and we released her back to her accustomed spot, where she was greeted with curiosity by the rest of her pack.


Mmmm… biscuits!


Food and love at our place before being released


What’s going on in there??!!


Back home in the wild, and off to mark her territory immediately

This story ended well, but it made us think of how such a simple thing – chewing on a bone – could have ended up killing her. Most strays in such a condition – even those who are fed by people – wouldn’t end up getting the little care that she eventually needed, and would die of the maggot infestation or of starvation. We come across so many cases where strays get their heads stuck in plastic jars or wire loops or other such discards of humanity that can prove fatal to animals. It takes so very little to devastate a life like theirs.

A getaway for hot dogs

Until the unseasonal rain in mid-May, it was hot as hell, and the dogs were lethargic and bored. A trip to cooler climes seemed like a good idea, but Goa doesn’t offer much within easy driving range. After some scouring of the Internet, we zeroed in on a resort called The Last Resort, in the hills near Chikmagalur. But that was still a long drive away — Google Maps said it would take close to nine hours, but with our way of doing things, we new that would stretch to ten or ten-and-a-half.

That’s a little too much for us to do at one go, so we looked for a pit stop closer to home, and found it in the Coqueiros Beach Resort at Kundapura, which promised air-conditioned cottages to offset the heat. Anjali sprang into action, and soon had the Coqueiros management convinced about allowing the dogs at their place. The Last Resort guys were willing anyway, so the itinerary was sewn up.


Waiting to leave

But one knows what happens with the best-laid plans. To begin with, a bunch of chores backslid into the day of departure, and by the time we left from Porvorim, it was already noon. The bothersome business of negotiating the bridge construction work either side of the Mandovi and the Zuari became much, much worse once we crossed over into Karnataka. The National Highways Authority of India seems to have gone into overdrive there, and construction was afoot virtually every inch of the way till Kundapura.

We were, as a result, driving through half-built highways, with chaotic traffic going both ways on the constricted roads. The effects of a cyclone over the Arabian Sea were also making themselves felt, and by about 4pm, thunderclouds were overhead, plunging us into a deepening gloom. The light stayed in that quasi-twilight zone till nightfall some three hours later, creating a strong sense of disorientation. Oncoming vehicles would sometimes have their headlights on high-beam, sometimes not have them on at all; some had double-blinkers in action, others drove as though it was bright daylight. To add to everyone’s woes, piles of gravel and sand, haphazardly-placed barriers, and construction crews would pop up out of nowhere. I usually enjoy driving this stretch of the coast because of the spectacular landscapes cut into strips by wide rivers. But even those were a bit hazardous under the current circumstances, as many bridges were being enhanced or newly-constructed, and a lack of signage plus, in several cases, vanished siderails, made negotiating them a tricky prospect.


On long drives, initially the dogs are all hanging out the windows, but after we hit the highway, they figure that they aren’t going to have any more dogs to bark at, or other interesting pastimes to indluge, so they settle down. Hero, of course, takes up most of the space in the middle seat, leaving the others scrunched up in the remaining space. Sungta, in particular, can’t abide this.


This time, therefore, after about four hours of driving, we put Sungta up in front, and Anjali sat in the middle of the rear bench, with Hero and Soulkadi on either side of her. This arrangement seems to be the precedent to follow on future journeys.

It was one of the more difficult drives that I have done, and I was mentally and physically quite drained by the time we turned into the Coqueiros compound. By that time, the storm was raging around us, winds and rain lashing, lightning flashing, and thunderclaps booming like massive explosions. The sea across the road from the cottages was a deep slate grey, and wild and frothing.

The Coqueiros Beach Cottages have been set up by a local entrepreneur named Chandrakant Shenoy, who we learnt had had a long professional association and a strong affinity for Goa. He named the resort after the O Coqueiro restaurant in Porvorim, and dotted the area with the coconut trees that the original is named for. When we drove in, those trees were whipping themselves into a frenzy of headbanging in time with the blasts of wind. Prashant, who oversaw our arrival, was quite nonchalant about the weather conditions, mentioning casually that it had been raining there for the past 20 days or so.

It was good to get out of the storm — the cottages are cosy and pretty much insulated from exterior weather. They are pre-fab wooden cottages which we had, in fact, seen some years ago being promoted in Goa. We had stopped by a demo site where they had been out up, off the highway between Verna and Nuvem, and had a look at them as a potential option for use when (or if) we got around to building a home for ourselves.


The complicated protocol of bed occupation


Ah, bliss!

Though there is a dining area, we ordered in, not wanting to brave the bad weather again. On our trips with the dogs, before we settle in for the night, we give our dogs one last walk. This one got quickly aborted, however. While the main entry to the cottages is from the compound, they each also have a balcony that faces the sea, which would no doubt be a lovely place to watch the sunset from in more pleasant conditions. We decided to go out that was with the dogs, but had just got out when a local mutt came trotting out of the darkness. Fearing a raucous battle, we beat a hasty retreat. After a while, I peeked through the curtains to see if the coast was clear, and found her sitting right outside our balcony door. She seemed to feel that if these interlopers could be allowed access to the shelter of the cottage, she should be too.

The next morning, we learnt that the dog is Rani, a much-loved dog that hangs around the resort, and we got to make friends with her too (our dogs, of course, are anti-social brutes and only want to tear non-pack dogs limb from limb, so they didn’t get to meet her).


The view from the cottage balcony




The Coqueiros resort


Dogs at rest; dogs in action


By the dim light of day

After a heavy-duty breakfast, we drove out towards Chikmagalur. The storm had abated, and the weather was much more pleasant. Once we turned off the national highway, the drive was also a dream, and we reached The Last Resort by around 5.30pm. The cottages here were much more basic, but huge! There were two double beds in our cottage, and there was still enough room for us to have had a kabaddi match if we had so desired.


The road to the hills; the truck in front of us said ‘Vegetable Express’ on the bumper


At The Last Resort


Our cottage at The Last Resort


Coffee and dogs


Room to stretch

The landscape was the opposite of the previous evening’s. The Last Resort is in the middle of agricultural fields and orchards of arecanut and coconut, and looks out towards misty hills. The day after our arrival, we drove up into the hills. The road, to our surprise, was concrete up to the start of the Bhadra Tiger Reserve, some 10-12 kilometres up. Till that point, the hillside is covered by coffee plantations, many of them sporting signs announcing their association with Coffee Day.


Tourist map of the region


Happy dogs walking


The lantana poacher


An installation presumably inspired by the Appiko movement, which started not far from here. The sign says something along the lines of ‘Save trees, save the environment’


Panoramic view of the beautiful landscape


Panoramic photography in progress

This area, of course, is the birthplace of coffee in India, legend having it that the plant was brought from West Asia by a pir called Baba Budan, whose shrine is in this area.

We had hoped to take the dogs to a stream or waterfall, but the only one in the vicinity, the Kalahatti Falls, can only be accessed through some dratted temple premises. Religion messes with everything!

We enjoyed the drive and the walks, though. The area is beautiful, and the weather was great.

By the time we got back to the resort, though, a potentially undesirable eventuality had happened. We had been given a cottage right at the end of the resort, one of a bunch of three. When we got back, we found that some group of young people — either college students or perhaps colleagues at an office — had occupied the other two cottages. Some horrendous music was emanating from phones, but luckily they weren’t particularly loud and obnoxious.

That night, they had a bonfire lit in a little clearing across from our cottage, and partied into the night. The Kannada and Bollywood film music was interspersed, to our surprise, by Pink Floyd and Santana, and we were please to find that our cottage was astonishingly soundproof.


Bonfire awaiting party


Dogs behind bars

The food that they had, and the detritus from it, presumably, had a different side-effect that had repercussions for us. Late in the night, around 3am, Soulkadi suddenly needed to take a walk. As I was taking him out, I found that the plush sofas in the patio were occupied by two dogs, one of whom greeted us by thumping his tail on the sofa arm. Hidden by the sofa backs, though, they escaped Soulkadi’s attention and I managed to take him for his spin.

On our way back from the resort the next day, we stopped at a small shop selling the produce of a farming initiative run by a young woman, from whom Anjali ordered some ghee and stuff to be delivered by courier.


The stuff that nightmares are made of


On the way back, near Hubbali

The trip back — we returned directly to Goa — was also long, but not as harrowing as the outward journey, as we drove through the interiors which are largely forested or covered with fields. For the large part, the roads are in excellent shape, and we reached home tired but quite satisfied with the uneventful but relaxed trip.

Coffee Home

This Sunday morning was a little disorienting. For starters, I woke up in our bed in the bedroom. My slippers were right by the bed where I had left them – I had had no cause to put them up on some out-of-the-way spot the night before. On my way to the loo, I didn’t have to carefully negotiate the little puddles of pee and look out for the occasional coprological booby trap. I wasn’t ambushed on the way by something small with teeth like a shark. When I shut the door, it didn’t get pushed in after a short while by a curious trespasser. The main door to the bedroom stood open all along, and I didn’t even have to shut it when I fed the dogs later.

All this was at odds with how it was for the month before. Around that time, the sound of a puppy crying in the immediate vicinity of our house had roused our sympathetic instincts, and resulted in Anjali bringing in a terrified little black puppy from the road outside. I had vehemently opposed her move, arguing that we were not in a position to have another dog, especially not a small pup that would be around for another 12-15 years (Anjali and I had agreed on this a couple of years ago). She was adamant, saying that she would find a home for it.


Soon after she arrived, wide-eyed and worried

The first couple of days she was here, we hardly saw her. We kept her in our bedroom with the door locked, to keep her safe from our pack. When we were in the room, she would scoot under the bed, and find herself a hiding place amongst the suitcases stored there. She was so completely black that it was impossible to spot her except with a torch, and even then it was difficult at times, so cannily would she conceal herself.

We would haul her out from time to time and take her out into the yard on a leash, running the gauntlet of enquiring dog noses on the way. On these jaunts, she would sometimes stand petrified and be more or less dragged around on the leash; or strain away from Anjali at the other end of the tether.

Over a few days, though, she started gaining confidence and courage. She would come out and greet Anjali when she brought her food. My presence too was accepted. One day, Anjali ecstatically reported that she had got a few licks. A few days later, it was my turn. It felt great!


Out on her own in the backyard

Gradually, she came out of her shell. From supervised ‘visits’ with our dogs, we took to letting her wander about as long as we were around. There were a couple of minor skirmishes with Soulkadi, who is always the most aggressive towards other canines, but on the whole she ruled the lower levels while the older dogs escaped to higher ground — the sofas, the diwan, the bed — to get away from her.


Soulkadi was aggressive, Hero dismissive; so she took to tailing Sungta whenever she could

I had felt from the beginning that it would be difficult to find an adoptive home for her. So, about a month into her stay, I was beginning to waver from my position that she remain She-Who-Has-Not-Been-Named. A few names had passed through my mind – I liked Kiwi (since she was all black). But Anjali finally decided on Coffee – she likes hers black.


Just when it looked like our pack size had increased to four, though, Coffee found a home. Anjali had been trying everything she could all along, and from time to time we would try and identify new targets for our adoption efforts. Last week, we thought of our friends Elaine, Anushka and Sachin, who had lost two dogs over the last couple of years, and had adopted a young puppy. Why not try them, we thought.


Getting her shots before going off to her new home

Anjali’s call to Elaine revealed that they had adopted not one, but two pups, but Elaine was large-heartedly open to the idea of having a third. She said that, if not them, her sister-in-law on Divar had five dogs of her own but might be open to having another. Quickly, the deal was sealed and on Saturday morning, Coffee went to her new home. Earlier that morning, Elaine’s sister-in-law had told her that a neighbour whom she vouched for was looking for a puppy, so that was also an option.


Coffee with Elaine and Anushka

We handed Coffee over, and met Elaine and Anushka’s dogs Mojo and Zober at the same time, fat boisterous little pup both. By the evening, Elaine sent us video of Coffee romping around with her two new housemates (though she was still wary of the new humans), and we knew she had gone to the perfect home for her.

Lost and found dogs (part 1)

A while ago, I had written a post about how we managed to find homes for three puppies that dropped into our laps (not all together, at different points of time). I had meant to include stories about some lost dogs who have also passed through our life, but that post grew too long, so I decided to keep those tales for a separate update. It’s taken me almost a year to get around to it, but here is the first of those anecdotes.

This was when we were living in Porvorim, a year or two after we had moved to Goa. Late one night, one of our neighbours — not one we knew too well — landed up at home, so drunk that he was swaying as he stood there. With him was a dog on a rope, a young Labrador, panting and excitable. While our four dogs raised raucous objections to this sudden intrusion from inside the house, he tried to persuade us that the Lab was one of ours.

Too sozzled to take no for an answer, he left the dog with us and stumbled off into the night. At a loss about what to do, we gave the dog some food and water on the balcao while the others continued to rage away inside. After he had wolfed it all down, Anjali and I ventured out into the night with him on a leash, hoping he would recognise something and find his way home. No such luck. For close to an hour, we walked this way and that around the neighbourhood, but got nowhere.

On our way back home, we worked out a plan of action for the night. Back at home, our fearsome foursome were bundled into our bedroom (they generally slept there anyway), while we took the lab into the dining room. We set up a makeshift bed for me on the floor, and I spent the night there with the dog. While he had been generally cheerful as labs tend to be, the way he clung to me after we lay down betrayed how insecure he must have been feeling. It was almost as if he was afraid I might leave him at night and disappear, and therefore needed the assurance of physical contact.

Early the next day, Anjali and I walked out with the dog again, this time towards the shops and apartment complexes a couple of roads above where we stayed. At the shops, we were told that he had suddenly appeared there a couple of days earlier, and had been wandering around since. He had even tried to get into cars when people had opened the doors. Combined with his general good health, this reinforced our belief that he was from a home where he was well looked after, and used to going places in a car.

If such were the case, we felt our best bet would be to canvass the vets in the neighbourhood. There aren’t too many in all of Porvorim, so it wouldn’t have required a whole lot of effort, but we lucked out with the first one we visited — Dr Marilyn Estibeiro, quite close to where we lived. We were told by staffers at her clinic that they had had an enquiry the previous day from the GSPCA shelter nearby, about a lab that had gone missing. Excited by the information, we rushed him down to the shelter, and were told to our immense relief that our peripatetic pooch was indeed the missing pet.

His name, we learnt, was Miles, he lived in Alto Betim, and was brought regularly to GSPCA for his vaccinations and stuff, just as our dogs were. He and had been spooked by some crackers a few nights before and had run out unnoticed by his family, probably through a break in the compound wall. Alto Betim wasn’t exactly next door to where our house was, and Anjali remarked how the dog had lived up to his name in the distance he had travelled to get there.

The shelter staff contacted his guardian, who was delighted that Miles had been found. He was at work, and said he would come by in his lunch break to take the dog home. Happy at how things had turned out, we left Miles at the shelter and returned home, where we were given a rigorous investigation by our dogs.

That wasn’t the last we would see of Miles, though. A couple of weeks later, we had taken our dogs for shots or something to the GSPCA, and had just put them back in the car to head back home, when a car drove up with a dog in the back. Never ones to pass up a chance to meet a new dog, we waited for him to be taken out. To our delight, it was Miles! His guardian (whose name I can unfortunately not remember — yes, I know what it says of me that I can recall the dog’s name but not the human’s) told us that from the moment he drove up, Miles started to get all excited. He could evidently see us through the windshield and couldn’t wait to come out of the car. A short and ecstatic reunion happened, and then we said goodbye to Miles.

Six on the beach

While digging through my back-ups trying to locate a file, I came across this folder of photos from a friend of ours, Urvashi, who had come to Goa with a bunch of her colleagues from Femina magazine. We had gone to meet them on Morjim, which has of late been our favourite beach to take the dogs to. This was sometime late in October 2012, when we still had six dogs. Over the course of the next couple of years, the three older dogs –Ms Chipku, Jaya and Bhaloo – would all pass away, leaving us with the trio of Hero, Sungta and Soulkadi.

Morjim is perfect for the dogs in several ways. Off-season, it is relatively uncrowded; added to that, it’s a long beach, so it’s easy to find a stretch that has no people on it. It also does not generally have a large dog population, so low chances of confrontations between our pack and the local ones. The beach is flat out to a longish distance, so one can take the dogs into the water without having it get too deep for them soon. And, barring the jam-packed stretch of beaches from Vagator to Sinquerim, which is pretty much off-limits for us, it is the closest beach to where we live.

Here are some of the photos from that outing a few years ago. [You can click on the images to see larger versions.]

Mario’s dogs

If you’re familiar with Mario Miranda’s cartoons and illustrations, you’re likely to know that he had a thing for dogs, which make an appearance in many of his works. My personal favourite is this one, which hangs above our bedroom door as a sort of ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here’ warning.


I recently came across this tribute of Mario’s to a beloved dog, a rescue named (what else?) Tommy. Thought I’d post it here. It’s a little long, but worth a read if you like dogs.

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Homes, sweet homes

As a member of several groups on Facebook devoted to animal welfare and adoption, I have a clear picture of how difficult it is to find homes for strays. In the very large majority of cases, the person who carries out a rescue either ends up keeping the animal for life – even when they already have a large menagerie already in their care – or the unfortunate animal soon lands back on the street or in a shelter.

Given this general awareness, our personal experience has been astonishingly different. Twice earlier, in the past three or four years, we have chanced upon puppies on the street, clearly separated from their mothers / packs, and helpless and defenceless as a result. On both occasions, we have taken them in with a lot of trepidation (and the feeling in the back of our minds that here’s yet another one for our ever-burgeoning household) but in each case have managed to find homes for them.

With Googly (pix of her here), who spent a month with us, it was through an indefatigable Dutchwoman named Fionna Prins who takes care of a multitude of animals herself, and has successfully homed many of them. Bijli’s story was quite something else (written about her twice on this blog, here and here).

Now, it’s happened a third time! One night, a little over a month ago, we kept intermittently hearing the sound of a puppy crying somewhere around our house. Every time it would whine, our threesome would respond with a barrage of barking, and it would shut up. So Anjali and I went out, and located it in an empty plot across from ours. The plot is densely overgrown, and at a lower height from the road that runs in front of our house. The puppy had either jumped in, or had been dropped there, and was unable to make it back out because of the height, which is why it was crying.

I reached down and it waited for me to pick it up, stock still. Thankfully, it didn’t run away in fright. We would never have been able to go after it in the overgrowth at night. Once I had it in my arms, Anjali recognised it as one she had seen a few days ago, negotiating a different road on the other side of our house, so it had been roaming the neighbourhood for a few days. A quick examination revealed that the puppy was female, probably about three months old, emaciated and petrified. A mark around her neck indicated that she had at some point of time had a rope tied rather tightly around it. The likely scenario was that some kids had probably taken her away from her litter and pulled her around on a rope for a while, then – perhaps at being told off by their parents, or having got bored of the plaything – dumped her. This is, sadly, quite a commonplace occurrence.

A bit nonplussed about what to do with her, we finally took her in with us and set her up in the bedroom where my mother stays when she’s with us. It was vacant at the time, Ma being with my brother Abhijit in Hyderabad. When she’s here, that’s the one part of the house that’s off-limit to the dogs, so they rarely venture that way. Also, it has what we have been calling an air-lock system – a door to the passage to the room, and a door to the room itself. With both doors closed, the puppy was effectively sealed off from the rest of the house, and our other dogs were clueless about her presence.

For the next few days, we would lock them into our bedroom before we took the foundling out for a romp in the grounds, which we did once every four hours or so. Then we would secure her behind her double-level protection, and let our guys out. They would rush madly around the house and the yard, aware that some foreign canine presence had been around, but couldn’t for the life of them figure out where it was ensconced. That she didn’t make a sound – at least for the first few days – also helped in the subterfuge.

Not only was she completely quiet, the first day or two she was petrified of us – literally so. When we would enter the room, she would stand in front of us frozen in place, her head down, her tail curled between her legs. But soon, she had started greeting our arrival with tail wags and then little licks. Soon she had a name – Chikoo. The hectic and hopeful / desperate business of finding her a home started from day one itself.


Chikoo on Day 1 with Anjali

Given their reactions, we had to keep the policy of sequestration in place. With our house help on her annual month-long leave, the situation was very difficult. Our attempts at finding a home for her went through several start-stop stints, but didn’t result in any positive outcomes.

Despite being aware of the high mortality rate of puppies in shelters, eventually we felt we had no choice but to put her in one while we continued looking for a home. Our hopes were not very high. And then, astonishingly, within two days of having deposited her at the PAWS shelter in Panjim, we learnt that someone was keen to have her.

The breakthrough came because of the efforts of our friend Sanchita Banerjee Rodrigues. She and her husband Anil are an astonishing couple – dogs just walk up to the door of their first-floor flat, are let in and make themselves at home. As Sanchita says, it’s like they talk to each other and tell them – go up there, you’ll be in good hands. The Rodrigueses (there’s also a grown-up son named Jatan) currently have four dogs that have come into their lives this way, and they have successfully homed several others as well.


Sanchita with Chikoo

Someone on Sanchita’s WhatsApp contacts had seen her message about Chikoo, and expressed interest in adopting her. So we picked up Chikoo from the shelter, and headed out to Vasco along with Sanchita.

In Vasco, we met Chikoo’s prospective adopter, Pio Colaco, and his sister Chionia, and were straightaway quite taken with them. Pio, it was immediately evident, is a very decent, kind young man, and we could tell he would make a very good guardian for Chikoo.


Pio and Chionia greet a nervous Chikoo

Though this is the first dog that he and his family have had at home, he had gone to a huge amount of preparation to welcome Chikoo into the household. His schoolgoing sister too was excited and delighted to have Chikoo, as were their parents Mauricio and Elodia when they arrived home a little later. We left there happy in the knowledge that Chikoo had found a home that we could contentedly leave her in.


Already quite at home, being babied by Pio and his family

About a month later, we went and met her again and after a moment of trepidation, she came to us whining with pleasure, her entire body wiggling with the force of her tail-wagging. We spent a pleasurable half-an-hour playing with her and listening to tales of all that she’s been getting up to. A very happy ending for this puppy adoption saga.


During our second trip, Chikoo was too hyper to get a decent photo of her. The only time we could get a shot where she wasn’t a blur was when she stopped to have a go at a chewie treat

More about Bijli

Some time ago, we had a weeklong visit from an abandoned pup who then found a home as suddenly and unexpectedly as she had come into our lives (read all about it at A short while back, we went and visited her in her new home, where she’s now called Clivey. Though a little hesitant to begin with, once she recognised us, she was all over us. She gets food and care at the home of the people who’ve adopted her, but spends most of her time on the streets and open spaces around their house, fraternising with the other people and dogs around. Glad to see she’s growing up happy and spunky. Here are some photos.

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