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Bond between dogs and humans


The fact that canines risk their lives for people who bay for their mass killing has once again been iterated

Kanika Mehta’s report in The Pioneer of October 17, about Tyson, a year-and-a-half-old dog, taking on a gang of 12 armed robbers that had attacked its master, provides yet another example of the legendary loyalty and devotion of canines to those who love and care for them. Despite being stabbed thrice, Tyson fought on until the victim’s son and neighbours rushed in to help and apprehended three of the robbers.

One can cite numerous instances of dogs jumping to defend humans. In June 2014, Sako, a four-year-old King Shepherd fought off coyotes in British Columbia, Canada. to protect a teenager who had become immobilised following a car accident. The basic factor is the instinct to protect, which is manifest even when no fighting is involved. On May 25, 1996, the Bengali-language daily Aajkaal, published on the front page a report by Pinaki Majumdar of three street-dogs guarding a new-born baby, a girl, abandoned near a dustbin in Kolkata. The three — shown in a photograph by Tapan Mukherjee published along with the report — as sitting protectively around the baby, followed her as some people from the neighbourhood took her to the local police station. They, had not eaten anything since the night of May 23, but sat there until 2 p.m. when the baby, which was very much alive, was put in a car for being taken to a home. Then they walked slowly back to their neighbourhood.

In a similar instance near Tumkur in Karnataka, three village dogs had saved the life of a new-born baby abandoned by its unwed mother at the Devarayanadurga reserve forest. According to a report in the New Indian Express of March 10, 2007, the three, who had followed the mother into the forest, stayed on guarding the baby even after she had returned home. Next morning, their barking drew the attention of a man who had gone into the forest to gather tamarind. He brought the baby back to the village and returned it to the mother after finding her. The villagers lavished affection on the dogs and resolved to get the woman married to the man who had made her pregnant but had refused to marry her.

Not all such cases, however, end happily like the one above. Dogs die in many instances. Thus, in July, 2016, a pet Doberman fought four mountain cobras, killing all of them, in a bloody combat in a village in Odisha’s Gajapati district. Shortly thereafter, it died from the poison that had got into its bloodstream from the cobras’ fangs. However, while the dog’s conduct was heroic, utterly cowardly and dishonourable was that of the onlookers who merely watched as the fight dragged on for a long time.

What explains dogs’ legendary loyalty to their masters? Animals have the same feelings of happiness, anger, love, loyalty and hatred as humans. A bitch loves her puppies deeply and feels the loss of one just as humans feel the loss of a child. Besides, instinct being the dominant element in their psyche, they  automatically  intervene when love or emotion moves them. Shamefully, there is a widespread tendency among humans to deny the presence of nobility and emotions among animals as admission will impose a huge morale guilt over their ceaseless and horrendously savage exploitation--whether it is killing them and eating their flesh or making them pull unconscionably heavy loads--on which human civilisation runs.

Animals not only have emotions but can be incredibly kind to one another. In an article in The New YorkTimes of March 8, 2007, Nicholas Wade cites instances of animal behaviour which, according to the noted primatologist Frans de Waal, “are the precursors of human morality.” Wade writes, “Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, which cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by a pulling a chain that would also deliver a shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for days.”

Contrast this with the horribly cruel, and mostly unnecessary, experiments that humans conduct on chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys.  Recall the loyalty of dogs to humans with the savage mass killings, like the one in Karnataka in 2007, of stray canines that humans perpetrate and bay for! Linda Bender writes inAnimal Wisdom: Learning from the Spiritual Life of Animals, “How we value all life forms and how we treat them are true measures of our humanity.” Most humans fare very poorly judged  by that yardstick.

(The writer is Consultant Editor, The Pioneer, and an author)