Generally in India you see only one type of dog – a small yellow mutt – but you see them everywhere. Beside every road there will be a dog, or a pack of dogs, doing one of two things, because not only is there only one dog, they are only ever in two states. They are either fast asleep, legs stretched out, totally oblivious to all around them, quite often in the middle of the road… or they are trotting off somewhere totally focused on a mission. Very occasionally you see them sitting up looking attentive… but they’re quite obviously waiting for their pack to arrive, so they can get on with todays mission. Soon as everyone’s assembled, they’ll be off.
The dogs are feral, but very used to people and should you so desire very easy to tame. I have several friends who adopted a ‘beach dog’ (same mutt, better location) and they almost instantly domesticate. If it was always this easy, you can understand why dogs became mans best friend back in the Palaeolithic. I’m guessing the dogs just followed Pict man around long enough till they eventually caved in and decided the dog was part of the family.
Though right enough, at night these dogs are less friendly looking and get a bit more lively and often chase unwitting motorbikes (or two wheelers) down the road barking joyously. I’m told this can be more than a little scary, and of course because they are feral the dogs often look fairly mangy and sometimes carry rabies. That would give an extra element to being chased by any dog. There’s also a lot of ticks and fleas and a fair amount of fighting. There’s a pack of wild dogs that live near the mall at the top of the road – and judging by the barking at 3am, they live a riotous night life. But when I drive past them of a morning, they’re all curled up in a heap on the pavement like butter wouldn’t melt…
What’s interesting about these dogs, called pir dogs locally, is that they are everywhere. And not just in India, you see the very same small yellow scrappy dog all over Asia, and Africa and although I’ve not been to South America, I’m sure they’re there too, as they’re certainly all over Central America. And this scruffy little dog, with its yellow fur and occasional white splotches, and even more occasional black bits, seems to be the basic default dog in almost all countries – except North America and Europe. There we have hundreds of different breeds of dog there, but you just don’t see this small yellow one. Even the mixed breed mutts don’t end up looking like the little yellow dog. It’s most odd.
And I think it’s a sign of how affluent Bangalore is that people here own dogs that are distinct breeds – you see people walking Labradors and Alsatians (though man, Alsationa look really hot in this weather), someone at work even has a boxer… all very fancy and a sign of middle class life. So perhaps dog breeds are the new class indicator? Or am I reading too much into this? Quite probably.
Anyway, back to our main – there are a lot of these yellow dogs. I used to car pool with a French chap in Kerala and as we drove home one night I was discussing the yellow dog syndrome – what yellow dogs? says he, they’re everywhere, says I. What, yellow, what? He asks, trying for clarity and no doubt slightly amazed the conversation had taken this particular turn away from the usual discussion about work. Dogs, say I, yellow dogs. And I began to point them out – being a helpful sort, I did it in my appalling schoolgirl French – chien jeune says I pointing, and chien jeune, and over there chien jeune. And gradually, it dawned on him, that old India hand that he was (and he’d been there for about three years at that point), somehow he’d managed to never notice the small yellow dogs all around him. For the rest of the year, we spent most journey’s nudging each other and saying chien jeune, or very occasionally vache jeune, as there were more than a few yellow cows on the road as well. Gradually the driver began to believe chien jeune was a word for food stall as the dogs are often found where scraps can be had…