My new flatmate

He wakes me up at 4am. Before the temple bells. Before the Amul man with the milk-crates. Definitely before I want to wake up. He won’t sit still at prayers, falls down steps all the time, and I can’t take him to a restaurant. He’s not fussy about where he goes to the loo, and he chewed up a broom yesterday. He’s Lucky!

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a friend, and saw the dog that lives around his building had had another litter of puppies. There are hundreds of street dogs here, thin and dusty, scavenging the streets although to be fair, people do feed them. They’re not seen in the same way Australians see dogs though – these are mongrels, semi-wild, co-existing rather than cohabiting. Back to the point – one of the puppies had a badly broken foreleg and was dragging itself around, much smaller and weaker than his litter mates – I felt the leg and it was knitting together so I petted the little fellow, and walked away, desperately resisting the urge to pick him up and take him to the vet as I was scared the mother would reject him even more if he came back smelling different. And he was too young to leave his mother.

After a week of worrying I went back to see how he was doing – I’d asked my friend how he was but he hadn’t seen him at all. There he was, weaker than before. He was so skinny and small… ! Theres a vet on the corner of RTO Circle, catering mainly to the newly affluent Amnavadis with their pedigree dogs, and this one was quite surprised to see a middle-aged white woman with a street puppy wrapped up in her dupatta but tenderly examined the leg, agreed nothing could be done, wormed and vaccinated the puppy and told me to bring him back in a month. 670 rupees later, the multivitamin syrup, calcium suspension, liver tonic and very small brown puppy in my bag clearly represented a commitment; home we went.

I bathed him, fed him, and took him into prayer the next morning, where he was warmly welcomed by the Manav Sadhna family, and named Lucky, because he is… so it looks as if we have a dog, at least for a while!

Since then, he has grown rapidly with access to food he doesn’t have to fight for. The leg, while it still gets tired, and will always be weak, is much better. He is not afraid of fireworks – we have lived through Diwali! It has been interesting to watch the varying reactions of the locals, from wonder and approval to sheer disbelief, and kids in particular struggle to overcome their initial fear and love to cuddle and play with him… this is almost an experiment in changing attitudes towards dogs, although I can completely understand why they would have a reluctance to approach one, given that most of the dogs one see’s here are pretty feral.

Obviously, I can’t keep a dog! So, I called the only available animal shelter in the city, the Asha Foundation, for advice and help, and met up with the lovely Lalu who dedicates his time to rescuing street animals large and small. You can read more about their wonderful work at

Vets from around the world come and volunteer their time with Asha, the current vet-in-residence is from Australia, and they deal with some horrific cases – animal welfare just isn’t high on most peoples list of priorities here and I recognise that and the reasons for it, but it’s painful to see nonetheless. With dogs, many of whom arrive with fearsome injuries from traffic incidents, or cancers, their priority is to heal and then desex before release.. Lucky will not leave here without losing a couple of body parts either.

However, Lalu couldn’t take Lucky as he’s healthy now… oh dear, what am I to do? “Don’t worry Mam, we’ll find a home for him, we’ll get him in the paper.” Instant celebrity as if I needed it!

This story will continue…