A dog of a different breed – the desi street dog

Barbara with some desi dogs at Adopt an Indian Desi Dog (AAIDD). | Photo courtesy of Barbara Gard

Barbara with some desi dogs at Adopt an Indian Desi Dog (AAIDD). | Photo courtesy of Barbara Gard

A tiny puppy, rescued in a marketplace in Mussoorie, India during a monsoon in 2003, inspired an organization that has since connected hundreds of Indian street dogs with grateful North American owners. The movement that became Adopt an Indian Desi Dog (AAIDD) began during that monsoon when Barbara Gard was teaching at a school called Woodstock International.

Gard was in a market when the monsoon started and took refuge in a small shop nearby. In the roadway, she saw a tiny puppy screaming and looking for shelter. She asked the shop keeper if he knew anything about the puppy and they discussed the topic of suffering street animals. She watched a group of school boys pick up the puppy in a newspaper. To her dismay, they were going to throw the puppy over a cliff. Gard scooped the puppy up, placed him under her jacket and continued with her shopping. She called him Francis; he was five to six weeks old and weighed about five pounds. “He was tiny and scrawny,” says Gard. Her passion and purpose had been set in motion.

Working to help Desi dogs
She visited India a couple more times, bringing puppies back with her despite her dog sitter’s, friends’ and colleagues’ protests. She went through all the channels, and spent many hours discovering how to work with airlines and their cargo requirements. She met Dr. Choudhary in 2006.

“He tracked me down in Delhi and said he’d been waiting for me” she says.

Dr. Choudhary’s Pet Clinic is a veterinary clinic located in New Delhi. Dr. Choudhary helped her board and treat five puppies she rescued in Mussoorie during that visit.

Adopt an Indian Desi Dog (AAIDD), located in Abbotsford, B.C., started in 2009 with an airlift of 11 puppies. Dr. Choudhary again helped Gard with the paperwork and health checks. Gard remembers that it was an incredibly complicated first year for AAIDD. Dr. Choudhary continued to stay in contact with Gard, asking for more and more puppies to be rescued and brought back to North America. During September to December of 2009 she rescued 25 dogs; in 2010 she set a goal of 50 and in 2011 she set a goal of 100, and met each goal.

A fateful meeting
This was fortunate for Chelsea Newcombe and Jeremy Newcombe, a couple who adopted a sweet and sensitive puppy just over two years ago named Chloe. Chelsea Newcombe has lived in India and knows the plight of the native Desi dog. They learned of the Desi adoption option through a website called Petfinder.

Then, as they were walking along the seawall in Olympic Village, they happened upon a Desi dog meetup. They were able to meet the people behind AAIDD, the Desi dogs and their owners.

“It must be fate, they were thinking about it and then ran into them,” Chelsea Newcombe says.

Jeremy Newcombe says that they had both owned dogs before, but Chloe, being a Desi dog, is quite different. Chelsea Newcombe says she was more cat-like than dog-like – she is very independent. As well, she is quite clever, which has its challenges as they cannot bribe her. She is very sensitive to their moods and emotions and can tell if one of them is upset. When she senses a person is upset she will go over and try to placate the party, says Chelsea Newcombe.

Kathy Gibson is a dog trainer who works closely with Gard and Desi owners. He says that the Desi “are almost a true dog, as the dogs have been domesticated. They are quite amenable to human beings and easy to train.”

Desi dogs respond best to training that allows them to fully express themselves. A good approach is to treat them like a child when they are puppies, as their learning patterns, approach to learning and approach to relationships are similar. With the street dogs, their breeding and their genetics are about living along side humans and being very social, but they also live in a community with themselves, says Gibson.

“They have strong family situations and have really clear, strong communication which is closer to what wild animals have, but they aren’t considered wild animals.”

Due to their uniqueness, Desi dogs do not respond well to typical obedience training. Like wolf hybrids, an animal Gibson has worked with, Desi dogs protect their own interests. If a person is able to show that he or she can do that, they are quite willing to cooperate, learn and work within the relationship.

The Desi dog becomes part of a person’s family, a companion and a friend, and contributes as much to the household as that person does, but in its own way. The Desi dog is not for every family situation, but if a person puts the time, effort and money into training they will gain another faithful family member.