Posted by: cochinblogger | March 1, 2016

The Dog Catchers of Cochin

I cannot abide dogs. We’ve always had an uneasy relationship. Whenever I enter a house with a dog, I inquire anxiously if the dog has been chained. Sometimes the I’m told that the dog is very friendly and harmless, but I can’t take those words at face value. Cats, on the other hand, are another matter altogether. I had pet cats when I was a boy, and was very much attached to them. A female cat had its three kittens under the bed in the bedroom, and the four felines became part of the family. I haven’t had a pet cat since my boyhood, but stray cats outside my house sometimes meow a greeting; one even began purring and tried to rub itself against my leg. I had to discourage it gently. At night when I go out to lock the front gate, sometimes I find a big ginger-colored male cat sprawled on the wall adjacent to the gate, within touching distance. It’s reaction is telling. The one thing it never does is get up and scoot. Sometimes it pretends it is fast asleep and has not noticed me, though I know from its twitching ears that it’s awake. Mind you, its back is to me. It has evaluated me and judged that I’m not an enemy. Sometimes it’ll turn around and look at me. I meet its gaze without a pause, my hands continuing to secure the gate. If I’m in the mood, I make a soft clicking sound. The other day I even addressed it softly: “Pussy, pussy, pussy.” It continued to look unblinkingly at me, then turned around and resumed its nap.

Dogs are noisy; they bark loudly, which makes me nervous. Cats are noisy only in the rutting season. Dogs leap at you, and I can never tell in advance whether it’s in joy or anger. I’ve read too many stories of dogs that have unaccountably bitten their owners. Here’s a horrific example:

Raj Thackeray’s Wife Gets 65 Stitches after Pet Dog Bites Her

Dogs are in the news in Kerala these days because of the stray dog problem. Their population is burgeoning, and there have been numerous reports of pedestrians being bitten by them. In some places, vigilante squads have hunted down and killed the dog. The most frequent targets appear to be women, children, and early morning walkers/runners. Animal lovers have approached the courts to protect the dogs. A prominent business magnate has launched a crusade against stray dogs. When I go on my long, solitary walks, I take the precaution of carrying an umbrella. It’s heft gives me confidence, which matters in any confrontation with animals, as they can sense fear. I have not been attacked, but on a couple of occasions, I thought I might, against my will, be made an interested party in a canine dispute. I was grateful then for the umbrella in my hand.

Here is a typical newspaper report of a stray dog attack:

17 Injured in Stray Dog Attack in Kannur

This is an analysis of the problem:

Why the Kerala Government’s Plan to Cull Stray Dogs Is Just Plain Wrong

One morning last year I happened to witness a dog-catching squad in action. This is the one measure the local authorities have taken: capturing stray dogs and sterilizing them. Here, two dog catchers have trapped a dog in the net, but it soon became clear that they were making no progress with the next step. Maybe they were trainees.

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This was the vehicle they used, suitably official looking.

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The senior dog catcher now joins the junior dog catchers, and things start happening quickly.

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I didn’t understand what he was trying to do here.

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It looks as though he was getting the dog in position for his next maneuver: he flipped the dog out of the net and into the vehicle in one smooth movement.

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The dog seems none the worse for wear.

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This is the senior dog catcher. He happily posed for this shot.

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And lastly, a happy stray dog story from my online library:

How Did Moscow’s Stray Dogs Learn to Navigate the Metro?

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