BY MINI SETH
Yes, you got that right. An Indie stray dog, born on the streets of India, adopted overseas would be an expat
Kind-hearted people are saving street dogs in India from abuse and neglect, volunteering time, effort and funds to find them a home abroad
Helo and his five siblings were born in May 2015 to a stray dog, named Lisa, in Green Park, New Delhi. As they grew older and started moving about, the little ones were at risk of being run over; one was crushed under a car before the remaining five pups were rescued and then fostered by Sonia and Dieter Schulthess, an expat couple living in Delhi. A foster home is a temporary home for rescued dogs where they are
looked after, given required medical care and vaccinations, and socialised to make them adoption-ready. To help with their adoption, I contacted overseas rescue organisations. Two pups, named Kira and Shiloh travelled to Vancouver, Helo, Laitee and Pippa to Chicago. Helo had been selected for adoption by Mita and Subhojit Roye, an NRI couple in Pittsburgh, US, who generously offered to fund his travel. Helo
even has a Facebook page, Fans of Helo. A few years later they adopted a second desi dog from Delhi. Helo’s mother, Lisa, was later spayed and continued to live in Green Park under my care till she passed away in 2020 of a medical issue.
Mita Roye says: “My grandmother used to compare her desi to the vilayeti breeds my uncle would get later: These are all good dogs but that one was part human. He understood not just words but my facial expressions; he even had words for me. That’s how Helo is; he is undemanding and easygoing. But he lets you know what he wants—he’ll complain and grumble; he’ll stare you off his favourite couch; when his favourite people visit he lets them know. Helo came to us as a pup and was energetic to begin with. Being a smart desi he would pull a Houdini on us every time we crated him, even if for a few hours. Fortunately, as my husband works from home, Helo was happy to be in his office. However, those sharp teeth and mere minutes of inattention would result in catastrophic damage to anything from furniture to cables. He once made the office ‘wireless’ and another time destroyed a book that was very precious to me. This was The Bhagavad Gita presented to my parents on their wedding by Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, then President of India and the author of the book.
Helo was the child that had come to stay, and I had to decide between being at home full-time and being on the edge every time I left him alone. I decided to quit my job to be with him for a few months.
When I left him at a daycare where my older dog, Muffy, was a regular, Helo came home with hives that the vet diagnosed as the result of stress. We became constrained to making only short trips away from home. While Muffy was happy to stay with family and friends, we couldn’t leave Helo as he would outwit them and run away. On a short trip to Philly once, we noticed him hugging the road, away from the sidewalk, to avoid human contact, never coming close to any building. My older son had to carry a trembling Helo throughout the day while we went about our younger son’s college admissions.
Helo adjusted well with our older dog and followed her around everywhere. I finally found a doggy day care for them. The owner stayed on the premises where the other dogs didn’t interact with one another. Helo and Muffy stayed together in their warm area. It worked like a charm. When we moved to Morrisville we looked for houses with a fenced-in yard. Our yard is fairly small but the dogs love their regular run- around there.
Helo took Muffy’s demise badly. He was depressed and would not engage with us. A long-planned vacation was upon us and Helo would have to be in daycare alone. He became so depressed that we actually saw what the term hang dog really means. We decided to adopt a companion for him.
He will turn seven this year and has settled into a calm and loving dog. His favourite place is his bed under my husband’s desk during the day and at the foot of my son’s bed curled up into a ball at night. He loves his two daily walks and will remind you when it’s time in his own unmistakable way. At dawn he comes to our bedroom and thwacks my side of the bed.”
Asha and her siblings, born in 2011, near Aurobindo Market in New Delhi, introduced me to the world of overseas adoptions for Indian stray dogs. A few weeks after their birth, their mother was run over by a car. Local adoptions were not common then. Destiny connected me to Adopt an Indian Desi Dog, a rescue organisation in Canada. Five pups made their way to Canada where Asha was adopted by Stephanie. On a visit to Canada in 2017, I was able to spend a day with Stephanie and Asha in their home. Asha is now ten and continues to live a good life with love, the best of medical care and a family of her own.
Stephanie says, “This year Asha will be 11. I feel blessed to have spent over ten years with her as my companion and teacher. Being with her steered my life in a direction I had not expected: I started working at my local SPCA and then became certified to train dogs. Today I’ve trained hundreds of dogs. Asha is smart, sensitive, polite and extremely loyal to her family, two and four- legged. I think she considers her role in life is to guard me. Asha’s favourite activity is the private scent work classes, she absolutely loves them.”
In December, 2019, I received a heart wrenching video of a disabled dog living on the roads of Hapur, Uttar Pradesh. The dog was missing a paw, had twisted hind legs and was struggling to fend for herself on the road. We immediately arranged to bring her to Delhi, get her medically checked and place her in a facility. She was named Pearl. Through my overseas network, Caroline Blose, who had adopted several other special-needs dogs, saw Pearl’s rescue story and agreed to adopt her. Stray Dog Support Inc, a rescue organisation in the US, arranged her travel and in January 2020, within a month of rescue, Pearl reached her forever home in Dillsburg, US.
Caroline says, “The first time I saw a picture of Pearl, my heart melted and I fell in love with her. She looked like such a gentle soul. Arrangements were made to fly her to me in the US. Pearl immediately fit into my pack. She loves all my other dogs and loves me. She is very independent (doesn’t like her custom-made wheelchair) and goes outside through the doggie door to hang- out on my enclosed deck to sunbathe or just hang out. Because of Pearl, I have decided to adopt other dogs from India, and in particular, those with special needs, as soon as the CDC suspension is lifted.”
Desi strays tend to have a short coat that requires little grooming and maintenance. Because of their genetic evolution and natural breeding, they are generally hardier than ‘bred’ dogs.
Desi dogs are highly intelligent, amiable, loyal, loving and street smart. The feedback from most adopters is that their dogs make them laugh, a virtue which is due to their unique nature.
Well-suited for an active lifestyle, they make excellent running and hiking partners.
THE PROCEDURE FOR ADOPTION
Indie dogs should be adopted either through a reliable overseas rescue organisation that handles the adoption themselves or works with local rescue partners in their country. Adoption is possible through a local rescue organisation in India that is aware of international adoption logistics and is willing to send the dog overseas. In both cases, prospective adopters fill out an adoption application which helps understand the lifestyle of the home, and match a dog accordingly.
Sending a dog abroad involves export paperwork from India, a microchip, vaccinations and travel logistics. Every country has its own import regulations that are frequently revised. It is therefore best to work with specialised pet relocation agencies and local rescue organisations in the country of import.
Cost is a deterrent. In the recent past, both the high cost and travel restrictions due to reduced flights during the Covid-19 pandemic have been factors. Frequent policy changes hamper overseas relocation. The US has been the largest receiver of Indie dogs as there are several rescue organisations working for this. In July 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) temporarily suspended entry of dogs into the US from countries considered high-risk for rabies.
MODE OF TRAVEL
Although the most expensive option, unaccompanied cargo is the most common mode of travel as the dog can be booked for travel anytime other than certain embargo months as per airline policy. The dog is checked into the cargo terminal and travels in a crate in the pressurised cargo hold area of the aircraft. It is far cheaper when the dog is accompanied by a passenger (flight volunteer) as extra baggage (not counted in baggage allowance). The dog (in travel crate) is checked in at the flight departure terminal with the passenger. When boarding, the dog travels in-cabin (if below 8 kg) or in the cargo hold.
ADJUSTMENT Integrating into the lifestyle of the adoptive home may be a challenge for some dogs. An ideal home for an Indie would be a quiet one, with not too many or frequent visitors, a fenced yard and ample space to expend energy. They are fiercely protective. Some, however, may not be very social with other dogs. The love and commitment of the adoptive family are of utmost importance, and the effort the family members put into working around the dog’s needs and providing security to the dog.