On a few select occasions we made the difficult decision to drag ourselves from our already disturbed sleep to go dog catching at 5AM. One saving grace of being up so horrendously early was the temperature, the harsh heat of the day had not yet set in and there was a welcome breeze. Another advantage was the lack of traffic and the relative tranquillity…. At least by India standards! We set off down the road with Anil, Shamlal and the driver whose name I never found out and after travelling about 5 metres down the road promptly stopped for Chai. We came to discover that little could be done in India without the task beginning and ending with chai (and I thought I was bad for needing a cup of tea in the morning!). After chai had been lapped up at scalding temperatures we set off towards the Pink City and by vehicle we got to see a different side to the Indian hustle and bustle. We sped past people beginning their morning routines; making chai, dressing children and bathing from the public water taps in the street while some were still slept heavily on wicker beds by the road side.
Once we reached the Pink City the Man Vs Dog games began…. The men used a large burlap sack with a rope stitched into the lining which pulled tight under tension to trap the dog inside. This was an incredibly safe way of catching for both the dogs and people involved, though as we found out, required a tremendous amount of skill. We drove past multiple packs of dogs all with an ear notch, the mark that showed everyone these particular pooches had been vaccinated and sterilised, we were on a hunt for those that had not yet paid a visit to HIS. Much to the men’s delight we filmed their catching efforts which they were keen to watch back and squabble with each other over who had the best technique. The men had one shot at lassoing a dog before all the canines twigged what was going on and went racing off down the street, sounding an alarm call to all nearby hounds. After a successful morning catching the truck would return to HIS full of protesting dogs and while they were unloaded we had some time for a well-deserved breakfast before the ABC started.
One afternoon we were lucky enough to see the men in action during a rescue mission. HIS got a phone call to report a dog had fallen down a 125ft well in a small village on the outskirts of the Pink City and was miraculously still alive! Myself and Beth were a little worried what state this poor animal may be in but took it upon ourselves to go along as an extra few pairs of hands can always be put to good use. When we arrived a small crowd was already peering down the well and with the strongest flashlight we could find, we dangled precariously down the well to try and assess the situation. Astonishingly the dog could be seen seemingly unscathed noseying around at the bottom of the well, the resilience of animals in India (and the people for that matter!) never ceased to amaze me. In a manner which we are slowly becoming used to by this point, as soon as people got wind that there were westerners on the scene a larger crowd gathered and people started handing us their children and giving us chai. I am ashamed to say we definitely caused more excited to the locals than the dog down the well.
The rescue itself was an incredibly long winded process as there was no fire brigade to help, no sturdy enough ladders or winching equipment and no purpose made harnesses for the dog as you would expect in a rescue situation in the UK. Instead the rescue involved everyone lying on their stomachs holding various light sources with two men trying to direct a loop of rope down the well and then fish it around the dog’s neck and front feet to safely hoist it up. This process required infinite patience and it was hard not to get frustrated with the multiple near misses where the dog wiggled through the rope too fast before it was tightened. There was also, in seemingly true Indian fashion, no designated leader and lots of excitement and squabbling. However eventually when our bones were stiff and muscles were numb from kneeling so long, they finally managed to ensnare the dog and hoist it to safety. Apart from being a little scared after it’s ordeal the dog was somehow fine and was eager to escape the clutches of the humans who’d spent their evening dangling around a hole to rescue it ( that’s gratitude for you!) and ran off into the darkness. There was much congratulations and cheering that followed before we could finally get back in the truck to head back to HIS for a long awaited dinner.