We have had our Indian pariah dog, Maya, for about six months. I promised months ago that I would blog about her “soon.” Obviously, my definition of “soon” has changed considerably under the influence of India Stretch Time.
The hardest decision we have ever made was to give up our Spice Bear, our American mixed breed. Compared to that decision, deciding to move to India was comparatively easy. Move half way around the world? No problem. Give up our beloved dog? Big problem. Deep down, I knew that Spice would have been miserable in India. She loves the outdoors too much. Life in a small flat in the city was not what was best for Bear. As a former feral dog herself, Bear’s reaction to the street dog population here was a concern, especially if she felt her boys were in danger. Realistically, given her age, we also questioned whether she would survive the 24-hour ride in the cargo hold of the airplane.
When Brian liked the World For All Facebook page, I knew deep down that adopting another dog was inevitable. You cannot withstand the daily onslaught of adorable animals without taking some action. Our first attempt at adoption was Mitten, an adorable three-legged kitten. Mitten melted our hearts instantly, but Peanut was less than impressed.
Correction from Peanut: I was downright hostile. That cat was an interloper of the highest order and needed to go! Didn’t she know we are a dog family? D.O.G. Not C.A.T. Hmph.
Mitten was deemed unworthy by the pack, and had to look elsewhere for her forever home. Eventually, a couple of sweet dogs let her join their pack, but our pack was not for her.
A few weeks later, Brian reposted a photo of Maya, a street dog who looked like a mix of a Doberman Pinscher (maybe min pin) and Indian pariah dog.
Maya met Chip and Peanut outside the gate to our apartment complex. We walked the trio together along the wide sidewalk that borders the park across the street from our flat. Everything seemed great. We headed upstairs to the flat, and the trio seemed to get along well. Maya seemed quiet and sedate. So much for first impressions! After she became more comfortable, she quickly showed her true colors of a mischievous imp, full of energy.
In Hindu philosophy, Maya is often translated as illusion, although there seems to be some debate about this translation. Others translate it as “knowledge of the vital air.” Maya is also the occasional name for the Hindu mother goddess Durga, filled with her most creative energy. Regardless of the name’s meaning, it seemed to fit our Indian mutt. Someone suggested we change her name to something more properly Christian, but she is an Indian dog, and a Hindi name fit her best. So, Maya she remains.
Indian pariah dogs (INDogs) are highly intelligent, alert animals and notoriously difficult to train. Maya is certainly intelligent and curious about her environment. She will pounce on leaves because they move, and she notices when something does not belong, like the person sitting on the street corner, who is not normally in her territory. I don’t know if it is because she is a mixed breed or not, but we have found Maya is no less difficult than any other dog to train. She has learned some lessons better than others. Potty training was fairly easy. Shoe chewing, however, is still a challenge, especially sandals. We always correct her and provide an appropriate chewing item, like a Kong toy, but given the opportunity, she will chew on a sandal any day.
Maya loves to play with the other dogs and her toys. Sometimes, I have wondered if she sees Peanut less as a pack animal and more as a live dog toy. But, she clearly loves him and Chip. Overall, Maya’s transition into the pack has been fairly easy. She has a good temperament for Chip. She does not rise to his prima donna diva dog antics. But, merely looks at him with curiosity when he goes all “psycho poodle” about the doorbell or vacuum.
When Maya was still in her puppy stage and chewing everything in sight, I struggled with the decision to adopt her. Partly because I felt that we had replaced Spice with Maya. Why had we bothered to give up our dog in the States just to adopt another street dog here in India? All these feelings came to a head just as we were returning to the States for the first time in 16 months. That visit marked the first time we would see Bear since Mom and Dad had adopted her. After seeing Spicy, we knew she was in the right place. She serves a vital role as a companion for Mom while Dad is away working. She also keeps their yard snake free. Free of charge. We no longer need for that particular service, so I am glad Mom now gets to use it.
Every dog we have ever adopted was neutered or spayed before adoption. Peanut had wandered into Leigh’s backyard full of Chihuahua manhood, but before we adopted him, we paid to have him neutered. He was about one year old when we adopted him. Before Maya, we had never adopted a puppy before; we did not know how that process and the timing worked. Maya came to us from the animal sanctuary still intact. She was about five months old. We dutifully went to the vet and asked when to spay. We wanted it done before she went into heat. It was late May. The vet advised that we wait until after monsoon, which would start soon. We resisted.
What if she went into heat before monsoon ended?
Would there be blood all over the floor?
How would the street dogs react?
How would Chip and Peanut react?
Reaction from Peanut: I always liked Maya, but I liked her even more when she went into heat. We had so much fun! But, I think I had more fun than she did. Sometimes, she seemed quite annoyed with me, but I’m not sure why. Since “the” operation, we don’t have as much fun as we used to. Mostly, she just tries to tear off my clothes, which is not as fun as it sounds.
We tried to push the issue, but were told it really was better to wait.
So, we waited. During the height of monsoon. Maya went into heat. In the States, when a female goes into heat, the owners use doggie diapers. We had no such luxury in Mumbai. We were relieved when the blood was minimal and easy to remove from the marble floors. An awkward conversation ensued with Jude about the situation, which we left to him to explain to Johnny. We wanted to be sure that the male street dogs did not harass her during that time. The last thing we needed were baby Mayas. After a few weeks, Maya’s cycle ended, and we arranged for the spaying procedure. By that time, monsoon had ended, and the doctor felt the hygiene and infection issues frequently seen during monsoon had abated.
One fine day, we took Maya to the vet for “the” operation. Poor thing had no idea what was about to happen. All she knew was that we loaded her in the car, took her to the vet, and put her on a cold, hard, stainless steel table. Next thing, she woke up completely disoriented, goofy, and drooling like a St. Bernard.
She had a bandage covering almost her entire belly. The vet had made three small laparoscopic incisions, but those incisions were several inches apart. To ensure Maya did not pop a stitch, the vet had covered the entire area. That afternoon, Maya was still goofed up on pain meds. By the evening, she seemed to be on her way to recovery. After a few days, she managed to pull off the bandage. A week after surgery, the stitches were removed, and Maya was pronounced in good health.
For all the stress over when to spay Maya, I will admit, she seems to have calmed down considerably since she went into heat. That process alone seems to have calmed her, but I think “the” operation has also helped as well. Now, she seems far more like the goddess Durga, a mother to her pack.