The street pup was screaming, making a racket at the busy Indian market. Some kids scooped him up using a newspaper, and were going to throw him off a nearby cliff.
Barbara Gard, a teacher working in India, convinced them to give her the little dog. She managed to bring it back with her to Canada, and now Francis is the grey-muzzled patriarch of a small group of Indian street dogs Gard has at her hobby kennel on Sumas Mountain.
He was the first of some 200 dogs she has rescued from India, where street dogs, or Desi dogs, often live miserable lives. They are often thought of as vermin, carriers of disease and parasites, and in some regions are afflicted with rabies. Authorities round them up when they become a nuisance. The best these dogs can hope for is to be snared by a wire noose on a stick and thrown into a crowded kennel. At worst, they are killed by workers employing a three-pronged spear.
Each of her dogs has a story. One was part of a litter of pups that was being stoned to death by the security guards at a university, but students managed to save a few pups. Another was living at the garbage dump. And one was in a litter that the mother had underneath a car. When the car moved, it was injured.
What makes their plight more tragic to Gard is her love of the breed. She bred border collies and trained them for sheep dog trials for 17 years. As intelligent as that breed is, she is more impressed by the Desis. They learn more quickly, and are incredible athletes. They are calm indoors, but a deep chest and a ‘whippety’ build give them great energy for the outdoors. While all native North American dogs are gone, this is a heritage breed, as old as India.
The experience with Francis taught her that travellers can bring home a pet to Canada, provided they have vaccinations and health records, which requires the services of a good vet.
Gard brings dogs to Canada through the non-profit AAIDD (Adopt An Indian Desi Dog). She is partnered with a veterinarian in Delhi, and they select dogs that are simply not going to make it unless they are adopted, and which will make good pets. They are treated and given all their shots before they can board a plane.
She has about 20 Desi pups coming. Anyone interested in adopting a dog can contact AAIDD at 604-852-3375, see www.petfinder.com/shelters/BC190.html, or email email@example.com.