Indie at Heart– Anuja Chauhan & her love for Indie dogs
Anuja Chauhan is a famous Indian author who worked as an advertising professional before pursuing her full-time literary career. She is known for her books, The Zoya Factor, Battle for Bittora, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, and the latest being Club You to Death. She’s a mom to three loving kids and her love for furry babies is all over the social media. Let’s hear from Anuja in her wit and manner, how she fostered her love for dogs and is fostering Indies and setting such a nice example!
My family has always had pets. My mother and grandmother were very fond of dogs and cats, indeed very fond of all animals. Besides any number of dogs and cats, my mother had a mongoose too, and my nani had a tortoise and they always let the squirrels eat the mangoes and guavas off the fruit trees. And of course in my dadaji’s village there were lots of buffaloes, each once lovingly named and cared for.
We grew up sort-of assuming that everybody has animals. I once went to somebody’s house and after waiting for the family pet to show up for a while, finally asked “Where’s your dog?” and remember being so amazed that they didn’t have one.
The books we read gave us a special love of animals too. My parents used to love the James Herriot books, All Creatures Great and Small series, about this vet who works in Yorkshire. And Animal Farm, which of course is a satire, but as kids we read it just as a children’s book, and the Narnia books were full of talking animals, especially Aslan the lion, after whom we named our Lhasa Apso Ashoo, and others like Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with the talking rabbit, the Dormouse, the Mock Turtle, the Walrus and the Oysters and the lizard named Bill! So yes, we grew up around animals and knew no other way than to love them.
Love for Amma and all other wonderful Indies
Adoption happened to me very recently. It all started with my rescue baby Chabbis, an Indie puppy who I found howling inside a manhole while walking my two other dogs (Django and Goldie) on the 26th of January two years ago. He was one month old and he’d fallen down the manhole and he didn’t know how to get out. So, I got him out, and then of course, I looked into his gulab jamun brown eyes and I couldn’t give him up.
And you know, once you have an Indie, then all the Indie dogs on the streets and the galis start looking different to you. Your eyes get opened in a whole new way and you connect with them and they connect with you. So, I get friendly with this stray on my street whom we nicknamed Amma because she was always pregnant.
The first time I saw Amma she had just delivered nine tiny puppies and she was so weak and tick-ridden and emaciated. Plus, she was scared of me and wouldn’t let me get close. And the vet came and looked at her and said she was too weak for neutering surgery, anyway. So I just left food for her at a distance. Then one of her puppies died, and we suspect the municipality came and got rid of the others, because one fine morning Amma just had the one puppy following her around. But we continued to befriend her and feed her and slowly she started trusting us. Then she got pregnant again, but this time we were prepared. We fed her well, gave her supplements and she had a litter of six gorgeous, healthy puppies. Two months later, we got her neutered and vaccinated and started looking for homes for the puppies.
And then we realised two things – nobody wants Indie dogs in India, and especially if they’re girls.
There were three boy puppies and three girl puppies and we finally managed to get the boys placed to lovely homes after posting a lot on FB groups and our Insta stories – but NOBODY wanted the girls. It really bought home how deeply sexist we are as a nation! I kept telling people that the neutering surgery is safe and inexpensive, but they would just shake their heads and ask for a boy. It was so frustrating and heart-breaking.
Happy, Kali, Cola & Rani— Make it to the US
Finally, I had no choice but to reach out to my sister Nandini Bajpai, a Boston-based novelist, who has fostered puppies with the organisation ‘Rescue Without Borders’ for years. They have rescued more than a thousand puppies from India and the Middle East and got them placed in carefully chosen homes in the US.
The puppies need a sponsor (which was Nandini, in this case), an international health certificate, all their vaccinations and must be more than four months old to fly to the US. They need to be micro-chipped also. It’s not a very difficult process. But the pandemic made things much more difficult. Usually, ‘Rescue Without Borders’ looks for friends and animal lovers who are flying to the US on Lufthansa (which has hands-down the best animal transfer service) and requests them to take the puppies along as excess baggage for an additional fee of about US$ 300-500 per puppy, which is easily recoverable at the other end as the adoption fee is usually about US$ 700 per puppy. But because of the pandemic, Lufthansa wasn’t flying to the Bangalore – Boston sector anymore. The only way to send the puppies was via Lufthansa cargo, which was not only much more expensive, but also a little scarier, because they would be flying unaccompanied on a cargo plane.
This was a huge hurdle; especially as the puppies were eating away and growing with gusto and the larger they got the more it was going to cost us to transport them! Also, some of my elderly neighbours were getting more and more antsy about the fact that I had mongrel puppies outside my home.
Finally, Nandini paid for the transfer out of her own pocket and once the puppies were placed into loving homes, carefully whetted by Rescue without Borders, the puppy adoption fee helped her recover (some, but not all of) the cost of the tickets and the paper work. Siva from ‘Global Pet Relocation Agency’ handled the actual paperwork and the transfer – he was very helpful and very experienced.
We got Happy, Kali, Cola and Rani ready for their long journey by sleeping them in their crates for a week before the actual flight. We put in their blankets and some of my old clothes to calm them, but that moment in the cargo terminal when I had to put them into their crates and shut the grill on their sweet, trusting faces was a heart-breaking one for me!
It was a ten hour flight, then a day’s layover in the large airy animal transit lounge in Frankfurt and then another ten hour flight and then they were with Nandu. They came out covered in poop of course, but they perked up soon. So it all turned out well. And their mother Amma still lives outside my gate. She’s healthy now, and carefree and tick-free. She loves belly-rubs in the sunshine and is an excellent gatekeeper for our home.
A caste system in the dog-universe?
Indie dogs are ideally suited for Indian conditions. They have short coats, they barely shed, and they’re acclimatised to the heat. Because they depend on humans for their food, they’re very friendly. And they’re right there on the road outside and available, if you want one!
But we insist on paying so much money to breeders to get fancy breeds like Huskies, Shitzus and Poodles to swelter in our hot weather, and in-breed them so much that they develop all kinds of health issues. Indies are original dogs, healthy dogs like the Australian Dingoes who are dogs the way dogs were meant to be before breeders started messing around with them to create exotic strains.
People need to realise this. Train and feed an Indie well, get all her vaccination and medication done and she will grow into a beautiful, healthy, intelligent and loving pet.
In our township, so many construction workers and their families keep Indies. They know how loyal Indies are, and how well they guard sleeping babies and the home and hearth of their masters’ tiny homes. It’s only us middle-class folks who are too snobbish to keep them. We only want pedigreed dogs, because those are status symbol. It’s like there’s a caste system at work in the dog-universe too – and so, in spite of all their beauty and their many virtues, the Indies are at the bottom of the heap!
Ah well, perhaps Indians will start adopting more Indies when they realise they have become such a craze in the US!
The awesome ‘paw’some family
As a family (my husband and our three children) we’ve had Django – our Lhasa Apso, now almost for 14 years. Then there was Goldie, our Golden Retriever who passed last year at age 14+ and is buried under a golden bougainvillea in our garden. And now we have Chabbis January Alva, who is just recently two. We’ve had Chaep, a gorgeous marmalade coloured ginger tomcat, and Lakai, a gorgeous calico girl and Christmas, a grey boy tabby.
Sweetest memories of my beloved furry friends
All our pets are special. Goldie has a piece of my heart because he was such a loving dog – practically human because he loved me so much. And he was absolutely fearless and super-protective. Every year, while other dogs would cower between the beds during the Diwali season, Goldie would come racing out like a golden streak and pick up lit Anars and Chakris in his mouth even as they fizzed and sparkled, because he thought the fire crackers were attacking our children! We tied him up every year, but he always managed to get out somehow and come running to attack the fire-crackers.
And then there’s our grumpy old man Django, who spends the whole day dozing on his cushion, ignoring us, but the moment you put on your shoes and pick up the car key, he turns into a capering puppy, rushing around like crazy and leaping into the front passenger seat before the garage door is even properly opened. He has a real Need for Speed.
One of Amma’s puppies – Happy, was just such a godi (lap) monster. He would stand and look at you beseechingly till you sat down and crossed your legs and made a godi and then he’d leap right into it. He’s still doing it. In his latest pictures on Facebook, I saw that he’s trained his American mom and dad to sit cross-legged and form a godi and he was sitting in it – the huge hulk!
Unconditional love in more than one way I’m at home the whole day with my pets, so that’s how I spend time with them. Whenever someone asks me – what you love most about your pets, I always say ‘their eyes’. I love the way they look at me. I love how non-judgemental and forgiving they are.
And now talking about what my dogs love about me! I think they love the food, the belly and bum rubs, and the sound of my voice.
Encouraging responsible pet parenting with a little help
You have to be consistent. Consistency is the key. And the dog needs to know you’re the boss. You cannot be afraid of your dog. Because then he is just not your dog.
To be honest, I’ve delegated the walking and the feeding to my domestic staff. But I do feed the puppies!
Chabbis with Anuja Chauhan
Favourite activity together: Chabbis and I love soaking up sunshine and he loves to chase butterflies! Django and I go for long drives with country music playing, and that’s our favourite way to unwind
Annoying habits: Django is always asking to be scratched… he is such a champi addict. We should have named him Champi. And Chabbis eats my socks – while they’re on my feet!
Qualities you love: They love me – even though I’m a really difficult person to love.
Goldie in Battle for Bittora
My novel Battle for Bittora has a dog called Ponky who is based totally on my darling Goldie.
Looking for home
Our four Indie puppies are looking for a home. If anyone wants to adopt the new Indie puppies they should contact me at my layout’s volunteer group PAWSS (Protection And Welfare of Strays and Our Society), e-mail: email@example.com