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  • Student Journalist

Dog Paw-litics: The Canine Gangs of Kasavanahalli

Every weekend, I accompany my dad, and our dog Hiccup on a walk to Kasavanahalli Lake. Every weekend, we run into several gangs of stray dogs, that occupy different territories on our route. Every weekend, these dogs get four bone-shaped Purepet biscuits each, and despite this routine, they never hesitate to use their soulful, pitiful puppy-eyes to plead for more. As the weekends have passed, I’ve quickly learned so much about these dogs. I’ve learnt that they have physical traits and behavioural quirks that make them so very distinct from each other. I’ve learnt the different ways in which they show their love, appreciation, and protectiveness. Most importantly, I’ve had the chance to observe how they interact with one another, other groups of strays, and the humans around them. It’s been so interesting gaining so much knowledge about these canine companions, and I’m sure their stories make for a deeply entertaining read!

The first group we encounter are the ‘ICICI Bank Dogs‘. We’ve named them so not because of any sponsorship deals, but rather, because they seek shelter under the ICICI ATM that we pass. They occupy the first stretch of road that we walk on, and are up in the early hours of the day, greeting fellow walkers, truckers, and passers-by at 4-5 AM. They’ve made friends with the humans they see regularly, such as the security guards and ATM staff, and among all the dogs we encounter, they are most well-fed. Every morning at around 7 AM, a man comes and drops off kibble and rice for them, which they feast on throughout the day. This treasure causes them to be extremely protective of their territory, and they do not hesitate to growl and bark at other dogs that might be invaders. We’ve heard horror stories about this gang, and apparently, they’re not so nice towards other pet dogs. But, they seem to have a soft spot for us and Hiccup. Who knows why that is? (It’s probably the biscuits.)

The first in this lot is this dog, who is the least sociable out of the four of them. He maintains a safe distance even when I hand out the treats, and unlike the rest, he shies away when I try to pet him.

These two are the keenest ones, with a persistent, almost clingy interest in the treats, that enables them to stick right by me when I walk by. The one on the right is the only girl, and I like to believe she’s the “leader“ of the pack, just by the way she barks at the others, ordering them around. The pointy-eared boy on the right adores me, and more importantly, the box of treats I come with.

I’ve fondly nicknamed this dog “Labby”, because of his very Labrador-like features. He is by far the gentlest out of the four, and approaches me calmly, letting me pet him. For a while, he wasn't particularly interested in the treats, but I guess he must have heard the others rave about them. Now, he always sits down with a sort of grin on his face as I hand them out.

As we turn the corner, we run into a second gang. They reign over a huge part of our route and are growing bolder by expanding their territory every day. Their land is peppered with construction sites all over, so they’ve established a good rapport with the builders and workers there. These dogs are ever-strategic in their territorial pursuits, and they will not back down from a fight with a potentially hostile gang.

This is ”Oreo’s mom”, and as the name suggests, she is the mother of Oreo, who is unfortunately very camera-shy. Oreo’s mom is my favourite, and I am hers. She always greets me with an energetic sprint in my direction and is the most enthusiastic when receiving treats. Sometimes, she even blocks the other dogs from getting their share!

”Oreo’s Puppy” is just there for the treats. He has absolutely no interest in interacting with me or Hiccup. He stands, eats the biscuits, and then he’s off on his way.

When I first met this dog, she was very terrified and completely averse to human interaction. She would stay far away from me and never had the biscuits. However, we’ve become a lot closer now, and I think she’s beginning to get more comfortable with me. She still remains farther than the others, but a lot closer than she used to be. She enjoys the treats now, and greets me the same as the others do!

The final gang we meet are ‘The Lake Dogs‘, who rule over the area in and around Kasavanahalli Lake. They too, are extremely possessive over their territory, and act extremely hostile towards any potential threats.

This dog is the son in the mother-son duo, and he’s the only one that I don’t know much about. He, along with another dog (not pictured here), is the ‘muscle’ of their gang, and they are the first to bark and chase away other dogs.

This dog is the mother in the mother-son duo. Although she seems perfectly innocent with her puppy eyes and wagging tail, she can get very aggressive towards other dogs, especially when she feels as if her food is under threat. She has few friends and a lot of enemies around the lake. Still, she often chooses to accompany us for the last stretch of our walk around the lake, quite possibly to ensure that I don’t distribute the biscuits to any other dogs inside (I do).

I’ve nicknamed this one ‘Squealy’, because of her tendency to squeal and whine at passers-by. Through her adorable and hilarious vocals, it seems as though she’s having a genuine conversation with people, complete with deeply emotive and persuasive language. She will jump on me if I dilly-dally in giving her the rightful share of the biscuits, and she uses her talkative squeals to attempt to convince me to give more. 

Among all the dogs we meet, Foxy is the only one with an official name, that has been given to her by frequent visitors at the lake. Don’t let her fiercely cunning expression fool you, though - she is actually a sweetheart and adored by everyone who has the pleasure of interacting with her. She enthusiastically runs towards me and then immediately sits down at my feet, looking up expectantly at the box of treats. If I bend down to pet her, she jumps on me in an action of reciprocated appreciation.

My interaction with these dogs has created some very entertaining memories, that I will forever cherish. It has also taught me a fair bit about the perception of stray dogs in our society. I’ve met people who absolutely love these canines, people who are terrified of them, and worst of all - people who are disgusted by them for no apparent reason. These dogs mind their own business most of the time and do not provoke others unless they are provoked themselves. They are adorable, funny, and such wonderful companions, and it pains me to see people hate them without really knowing them. So, the next time you encounter a group of stray dogs, I invite you to think a little more closely about their lives and personalities, and maybe even interact with them. Who knows, perhaps all you need is a box of dog biscuits, and you’ll find yourself with hordes of loving canine companions!

Written by Sia Thilakar

Sia wrote this article as a participant of the Media-Makers Fellowship's April'24 cohort. 

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