Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘My family & other animals’ Category

Made My Day

MaximusIt had rained and muddy puddles greeted us everywhere last Saturday, when I was doing the usual doggie-baby-ma walking routine. Baby-ma was strapped on my back in her carrier and Maximus was pulling hard at the leash and ju
mpi
ng into every muddy puddle that he could spot….


And then there came a girl, who looked like she had stepped out of the covers of Vogue – very pretty, very chic and very elegant in her boots & thigh-length dress. And then there also came Maximus who splashed her thoroughly. I restrained the dog and gingerly moved upto her to offer an apology, when she bent down and patted Maximus. Baby-ma too popped her head out to see the reason for the halt. And that’s when the girl looked slowly at me, the kid, the dog and asked “You are just surrounded by cuteness aren’t you?”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

garden1

In our family’s private circle of church friends and relatives, my grandfather Dr E.J.C.Job’s sprawling plot of land in Mandaveli was always referred to as the “Garden of Eden.” And indeed it was an overwhelmingly lush and green spot. My grandfather was such an enthusiastic, scientific gardener that if one were to call him a horticulturist it wouldn’t be far of the mark.

Another irony is that despite my grandfather’s deep love for the soil and all kinds of flora and fauna, he spent the majority of his life on the high seas as an Indian Naval doctor. It was only after his retirement as Surgeon Commander I.N.S that he was able to revel in his life-long passion for botany by converting his house into a veritable paradise.

If I remember right, we had 5 coconut trees, 2 jackfruit trees, 1 really top-of-the world alphonsa hybrid mango tree, a neem tree, two drumstick trees, stalks of banana in the backyard, papaya, Ram Sita (sugar apple), pumpkins and custard apple. We also had our own lime tree and I still love the fragrance of crushed lime leaves; even today while rambling through Russell’s market I can buy a whole cartload of lemons if I spot them with their leaves intact. We also had a sapota tree and one lovely nellikai/amla tree, which was nearly 2 stories high. My grandfather unfortunately cut it down later when he felt he couldn’t deal with the hordes of school boys descending on us and almost breaking their limbs in their quest for amlas.

My grandfather used to garden everyday – meticulously pruning, shaping, fertilizing and generally coaxing his wards into good health. He would also casually mention the scientific names of animals and plants as I followed him around the garden like Mary’s little lamb. For me if I can remember off-hand names like clitoria ternatea, Annona squamosa, Phyllanthus emblica (mixed up in my child’s mind as umbilical cord), Panthera leo, panthera tigris, Canis lupus, Felis catus – it can only be because like Enid Blyton I had in my grandfather a deep connoisseur of nature.

garden2My grandfather was also a strong believer in letting children learn for themselves. So when my 8 year old father got stuck climbing a mangosteen tree, my grandfather just casually told him to come down the same way he went up and walked off; even as my worried-sick grandmother hovered around shouting frantic instructions. My father finally plucked up enough courage to make the attempt and descended in safety. It was the same with me – when my grandfather told me not to climb the drumstick tree I didn’t heed his advice. Later when I had huge welts on my skin from coming into contact with the stem-boring caterpillars, which had made the drumstick tree their domain, he never told me “I told you so.” But there was a twinkle in his eye as he ministered to the swelling, which sealed our own private pact of discovery and growing up.

We also had a lot of flowering shrubs – white, magenta & violet december flowers, gundu malli, jaddi malli (jasmine), kangambaram (red & orange firecracker flower), fiery red roses, spreading vines of pink button roses, Idli poo (jungle geranium) and abundant bushes of Vadamalli. The Vadamalli was a plant that my grandfather had never fancied much, but then nature finds its own way; and this abundant crop had grown from the discarded garland of one of our dear departed relatives.

<photo id=”3″ />

Come March and we had the Easter lilies! The Easter lilies adorned the edge of the lawn facing our house and my grandmother used to faithfully cut them every Easter to occupy pride of place in our drawing room. And these Easter lilies were huge ones that were almost a hand span in diameter. Now I wonder if they were that huge as a result of my grandfather’s experiments as I’ve never come across any to rival them in terms of sheer size.

 Another lovely thing about the garden was that it was the pleasantest place to be in if my grandmother set me down to finish my embroidery or knitting exercise for the day. It used to be so pleasant to sit under the cool shade of the neem tree, with the wind tousling my hair and listening to the low hum of local gossip as our street watchmen gathered under it like me on the other side of the fence to take their afternoon siesta. Many of them used to also pluck the neem stems to use as toothbrush & toothpaste – such a healthy habit, which I never picked up because of the intense bitterness of neem.

Despite being a gardener, my grandfather never once resented the predatory and destructive activities of my cats and dogs. He always tolerated their mischief in the manner of Issac Newton and his dog; “O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done.”

During the jasmine flowering season, the garden smelled heavenly with the smell of ripening mangoes, the jasmine and the sweet pink button roses (traditionally used to prepare attar).We used to string together the abundance of our garden flowers to adorn the heads of our care-cell members and my own unruly, tight oily plaits. I used to love this job and one of the few things I’m good  at it – is stringing flowers together with the speed and professional ease of the road-side flower girls!

My grandfather also loved his ferns, edible tubers (maravelli kizhangu, sakkaravalli kizhangu) & kitchen herbs (coriander, pudina). We also had plenty of medicinal plants too – like aloe vera, Kuppaimeni, Kathalai, Ceylon Spinach (that I really wished my grandmother didn’t include in her menu) and Manathakalli – it must be more than 10 years since I last had those wonderful berries, but I can still distinctly remember their taste.

garden3One of our maids Dhanam hailed from Vaniyambadi and was a farmer herself. She used to be thatha’s assistant in harvesting our sundakka trees (turkey berry), grafting the rose bushes, taking a burning torch to the caterpillars on the drumstick tree, etc. But she really came to life only with our coconut tree; she would painstakingly split the leaf stalkes down with her pocket knife and hem and haw at them till they produced nice, thick broom sticks, she would fashion kitchen scrubbers from the coconut matting and little monkey faces for me from the coconut husks.

I think for my grandparents it was a marriage made in heaven. They perfectly complimented each other in every way. Apart from their deep, abiding love for each other they were also very supportive of each other’s hobbies and interests. I can still remember how my grandfather even at the age of 70 would go clambering up a ladder with a long stick & wired net to pluck mangoes for my grandmother’s jams and pickles. My grandmother was an amazing cook, who used to produce the most dazzling array of pickles, chutneys, squashes, jams, relishes and alwa from the flood of fruits that used to descend on us with each passing season. There used to rows and rows of salted limes or mangoes laid out on clean white sheets on the terrace, on the balcony, on the window ledges, on the garage roof to be dried in the sun and later turned into bottled goodness.

Before the family’s finances permitted my grandfather to pursue his medicine, for nearly a year he studied at the local agricultural college. He was passionate about horticulture and was open-handed and generous with the efforts of his labour. Every visitor to our house – would leave with gunny bags brimming with coconuts, mangoes, jackfruit or whichever fruit was in season. For some of our friends – who were not country-born – there would be this big jackfruit-cutting session with oiled knives, newspapers and cordoning off of kids and dogs with grubby paws.

I think my grandfather’s garden was a testimony of his overflowing love for plants, animals, his family and his friends and it is with the fondest memories that I view these pictures of the halcyon days.

Read Full Post »

Husky1

I was recently very hurt, surprised and shocked, when I recently got ear-marked for dog abuse – all for the crime of owning a Siberian husky. At Pets Stepin where on occasions I’ve put up my husky for boarding – I’ve seen other huskies happy and playful and the “husky owners” treated with respect not contempt.

 

Now is it a crime to own a husky? Actually it is a crime to own any pedigree dog or mongrel – if one does not have the time, money or resources for the dog. Lately it has become a trend to claim “dog saintly-ness” because of the ownership of street dogs, while lambasting and rail-roading pedigree dog owners for their “snobishness”, “stupidity,” “callousness”, “cruelty,” “insensitivity” and general lack of research about “pedigree dog needs.”

 

Individual attacks on husky owners will not solve the problem of Siberian huskies being bred in the tropics. Or for that matter solve the problem of irresponsible breeding of any other breed. Do you think it is responsible to breed GSDs with super-sloping hind legs so that they cease to be the active working dogs, but become show-prize winners for extreme angulation? Do you think it is ethical to breed bulldogs and pugs so that they carry over their plethora of health problems to the next generation? Or do you think it is necessary to over-breed Golden Retrievers to the point where breeders in Bangalore are finding it difficult to locate homes for their 6 month-plus puppies?

Husky2

 

What about eco-friendly breeds? I think everyone will agree that we need to promote the breeding of our native dogs. As much as the Rajapalayam, Chippiparai, Kombai and Kanni are great dogs and ideally suited to the climate of most cities in India – there is the question – Are you the right owner for a hound? Most sight-hounds are one-man dogs, and I’ve known a Rajapalayam to pine away and die when its owner left it for two weeks to the U.S. Also without proper socialization and when under-exercised, Rajapalayams like Dobermanns can turn vicious.

 

Now, I think it would be near impossible to go up to each prospective husky owner and try and dissuade them from buying the breed. But what is possible is a social and political movement seeking to ban the breeding of huskies and other high-risk, high-maintenance dogs.

 

More serious than the husky (a gregarious, generous, child-loving soul) is the problem of breeding dogs that can turn vicious without an experienced handler. Dogs like the pit-bull terrior, Presa Canario, Neopolitan Mastiff, American bulldogs have actually killed or fatally injured people leading to their own deaths and outright bans in several countries.

Husky13

As individuals we can’t do anything about irresponsible breeding or the puppy mill. But the Kennel Club of India and the many animal welfare groups have the political clout and influence to get things done in the right direction. 

 

In India you cannot have a tiger in your bedroom like in the U.S. or organise hunting parties to shoot your pet big cats. We have a strong Wildlife Protection Act – that does not spare even celebrities. In the same vein, we can also try really hard to get a ban on the import and breeding of foreign dog breeds that might suffer in India!

 

Otherwise it is very difficult to resist the appeal of a Siberian husky. They are the most handsomest creatures in the dog kingdom. They also have a heart of gold and are extremely good with babies and children. They are friendly, playful and highly-intelligent on top of which they are too beautiful for their own good.

 

Shaming, name-calling, criticizing people won’t keep people away from huskies anymore than you can keep bees away from a honey pot. We need to a conscious movement towards more responsible breeding and adopting of all dogs

Husky3

Read Full Post »

Pomeranians are such wonderful, friendly, generous and lovable creatures. Yet, I don’t why there is so much bad press about them that they are mean, little dogs, who shed truckloads of hair, bark, snap, bite and have bad tempers.

I have had one Pomeranian and associated with many of these creatures and have never once been bitten by these dogs or found them any less lovable.

Shedding hair

Pomeranians do have long hair and shed copious amounts of it during the summer. Since the breed is imported, it has never really got acclimatized to the Indian heat. I have known Pomeranians that have shed hair all round the year in India; because here the seasons are really not distinct and even during the monsoon the temperature is quite high and humid.

We had a Spitz named Achu, which was also long-haired so experience speaks. If you don’t want the dog’s hair all over the place and circulating in the air every time you switch on the fan then you should groom it well. A good grooming every morning with a rough, big toothed comb and then another fine brushing with a smaller-toothed comb will ensure that you don’t have hair all over the place. Also the regular brushing increases the blood flow under the skin and keeps Ur dog’s hair shining and glossy. During the periods of high hair fall, you must brush the dog twice a day and try giving it a bath once a week to weed out dead hair.

Poms bark all the time

I grant it to you Pomeranians are high spirited creatures, but that is one of the characteristics of the breed. You wouldn’t want a sheep herding collie to suddenly start imitating a blood hound, would you? Alsations are versatile dogs; they can be guide dogs for the blind, deaf, therapy dogs, police dogs, sniffer dogs, army dogs and companion dogs. But not every dog can be a multi-tasker like the GSD. Dogs are bred for certain distinct purposes and there are inherent characteristics of the breed. Some dogs are one-man dogs or loners like the Afghan hound. Others like the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute or the Samoyed excel in team work and are working dogs.

But dogs never bark unless they want your attention, are upset about something or want to alert you. With its high spirits and intelligence, your average Pomeranian does get bored cooped up in the house. It will not lazily sink to complacency and fatness like the Labrador. When it doesn’t get any other avenue of expending its energy or when not properly socialized, it does bark a lot. That’s the owner’s fault, not the dog’s or the breed’s.

Poms being meanies

Pomeranians are not irritable, unless you irritate them. How would you like it if some stranger on the street suddenly patted ur head? You will snap. And so will the dog.

Never touch a dog because its wagging its tail at you. Dogs wag their tails when they are excited, curious and a little afraid. You must first let the dog sniff you and then place your hand on its chest or shoulders. Directly putting ur hand on its head, makes it fear ur trying to subdue it and it will retaliate or shy away. Its also seen as an act of dominance by the dog.

The dog will also feel more comfortable, if you bend down to its level and pat it.

Most people seeing a nice, cute, pretty, little Pomeranian, forget its a live thing with feelings. They try squeezing it, carrying it and molly-coddling to its great displeasure. And when it snaps, they label all poms “small and mean.” Shucks! Su unfair!

Read Full Post »

Regulars to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park will be familiar with a huge, gusty male elephant called Vikram. This post is about when he was a baby. I first met Vikram when he was a six-month old baby at the Vandalur zoo, where I was working as a volunteer. The poor guy had been abandoned by his mother and was rescued by the forest guards near Comibatore and sent to the zoo.

Can you imagine a shy elephant? But, yes, elephants at least the little ones are sometimes are shy. Vikram initially would refuse to approach anyone other than his keeper. He in fact, used to slowly back away if we directly approach him. It took a few more weeks (since I volunteered only on weekends after college and didn’t get to go near his enclosure too often), before Vikram was ok with accepting food from other people.

Vikram hated the zoo veterniary doctor. He always tried to hide himself if the vet turned up (and elephant’s do have long memories, as the legend goes, especially with regard to injection needles). Now, I am told, he loudly trumpets his displeasure when the vet arrives for a check-up, giving the long-suffering government servant nearly a heart attack. He is also a great lover of chocolates. He prefers eclairs and sweets. Of course, such food is strictly prohibited and off-limits, but who can resist a sweet, roly-polly thing pawing you with its trunk.

He also had this habit of scratching his back by rubbing himself against the bamboo branches that formed his enclosure. As he grew older it really became a problem, because with one shake, the entire bamboo shed would collapse. That is why, if you go to the zoo now you can see Vikram tied up under a cement shed with metal chains around his feet (Yeah! I hate animals being chained up and I hate the concept of animals being held in captivity).

Vikram also hated fleas and used to rub mud on his back to protect himself. I remember once, when an IFS officer had come for inspection, special attention was given to Vikram. He was bathed and scrubbed clean, all ready for the inspection. Just 10 minutes before the forest officer arrived, however, Vikram managed to get himself thoroughly dirty by rubbing himself in the mud….His keeper was nearly in tears. Finally! They decided to leave out the elephant enclosure in the tour. And so the star attraction of the zoo was never shown to the VIP, because it was having such a jolly good time in its mud bath.

Vikram loved to be petted. He liked nothing better than having other people scrub his back for him. And it was very comforting to see him ambling up to the edge of the fence when he saw us. I do have a few snaps of me and Vikram and I will post them a little later. For now I’m posting pictures of this artistic jumbo from Thailand. Enjoy 🙂

Read Full Post »

Though I’m a big, big dog lover, I’ve got bitten four times by dogs. Actually its because I’m a dog lover that I got bitten so many times. The one thing to my credit is I haven’t been bitten by a dog after I was 14 (Now at 23 I can hopefully claim that I know how to socialise with dogs).

The first time I got bitten by a dog was when I was 3. Being extremely fond of my neighbour’s cute little puppy I had hugged it tight. The puppy, alarmed by the tight embrace and thinking I was making an attempt on its life, bit my hand and escaped. What scared my parents, even more, was that the puppy was killed that very same evening by a train in Vandalur. My mother, for weeks, was praying that the puppy shouldn’t have had rabies.

The second time, I got bitten was at my Uncle Nirmal’s place. Uncle Nirmal and his wife Nirmala (apart from the names, they are also engaged in the same profession – medicine) love dogs and have this huge, affable German Shepherd housed in their hospital-cum-residence. The poor dog had been cooped up for more than three hours, because we were expected (my grandmother hates dogs). Not knowing this I happily went up to the dog and started patting it, seeing it wag its tail. Within a second I retreated with my hand bitten and everyone in an uproar. (My skin was indented and no bleeding).

The third time, it was definitely not my fault. I was walking up to my friend’s house in Vandalur. Their house does not have a garden or a wall and looks out straight into the street. When I was nearing the house, I spotted a Doberman. Seeing it I halted in my tracks, but the dog with no provocation at all and with no warning bark or anything lunged straight at me (dogs usually give a warning when ur threatening it in some way; they bark before they attack). At 14, I knew that dogs tend to attack people if they run. So I stood my ground, expecting that the dog will sniff at me and then leave me alone. Instead it bit me hard in the arm. I was shocked, but I didn’t struggle. After three minutes of holding onto my arm, it got bored and let go off me. My arm was bleeding and my dress was soon soaking. After 10 minutes of me calling for my friend Tamil selvi, she finally appeared and tied up the dog (the whole time the dog was standing there guarding me and giving me dirty looks).  She was shocked at what happened.

She said her relatives had purposely trained the dog to bite people. The local postman and the paper boy had earlier been severely mauled and disfigured by this dog. She said I was lucky to have so little a wound inflicted by that dog.

I was of course furious with the owners. It is so harmful for the dog and others if you train it to bite (unless its a guard dog, a police or military dog).

Everyone know why it is harmful to a person if a dog bites.

Why is it harmful for the dog, if it is trained to bite?  

  • because the person, who was bitten by the dog, can take action. A complaint to the local police station will be enough reason for authorities to cart the dog away to the local pound.
  • because the dog itself will become anti-social & unhappy. Of course, the individual owner’s ego may get boosted if it becomes a one-man dog, friendly to him and a biter to all….but in the long run, the dog will be unhappy, if it is not properly socialised.
  • because the dog will become a burden eventually; If it is trained to bite no one other than its owner can feed it, bathe it or take it to the vet. The owner cannot leave the dog with anyone and go off on a vacation

The fourth time, I got bitten by a dog, was when I was at vacation bible school. I had become very pally-pally with the neighbour’s dog. On the last day of the event, there was the feast. I thought I’d give the dog a few tit-bits off my plate. I went up to the dog and it got really excited. It started jumping all over me trying to get at the plate. As I was wearing a sari, I lost balance when the dog jumped on me….In its attempt to get at the plate, its teeth accidentally cut through my skin. I didn’t realise it had accidentally bitten me, till a few minutes a later, when I got up and saw the abrasive.

Moral of the story:Dogs are basically nice creatures, they don’t bite unless provoked. When they bite, you can be sure some human being is it at fault (the dog owner, who didn’t properly socialise it, or the person who provoked it).

Read Full Post »

My interest in the name debate of this breed was sparked off when my cousin insisted that GSDs were different from Alsations.

Me, being the aspiring vet (at 15) that I was, took him all the way to Connermara library in Egmore to prove my point.

Many people think that Alsations and German Shepherds are two different breeds, but they are actually the same dog with different names.

The breed was named German Shepherd as they used to help shepherds herd and protect sheep. But when World War I was over, dog breeders felt that the inclusion of the word “German” would affect the dog’s popularity, because of the anti-German sentiments prevailing in Britain then. So the British  Kennel Club renamed the dog as ‘Alsatian Wolf Dog.’

Again this caused problems as the media published reports that the Kennel Club was letting loose half-bred wolves in Britian. It was as late as the 1970s that Alsations came to be called German Shepherd Dogs again in Commonwealth countries like India and Britain.

But even now my cousin insists they are two different dogs. He says, there is a German breed and an English breed. I of course have to learnt to ignore him and his opinions 😉

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »