New Delhi is teeming with homeless hounds. The dogs spend their days trotting through the dusty streets and their nights scraping out a living in India’s capital. Many of the females have sagging nipples that nearly drag on the ground, the product of being a puppy factory most of their lives. Several have small patches of fur missing from scratching away their fleas or duking out their territory. They really are quite perfect.
And, like most of the poor in India, they are largely ignored, including the five or six pups in our neighborhood that always congregate outside of our grocery store, Hawker’s House. They sleep under cars and keep at respectful distances from humans. One recent evening Ben and I decided to walk to the store for an ice cream when I came up with, what I thought was a genius idea.
“We get a treat, why shouldn’t the dogs?” I asked Ben as I put a bag of dog bones on the cashier’s counter. He gave me a funny look and reluctantly paid for the 60-rupee bag of raw hides.
“These dogs are going to be so happy,” I said as we walked out of the store, opening the bag, thinking it would be a sort of trick-or-treat holiday for our neighborhood pets. I saw my first dog, a brown dog so skinny you could see his ribs poking out through his fur. I set a bone in between his paws. He sniffed the bone and then meandered to a garbage pile of onion peels, fruit scraps and plastic bowls that once held street vendor samosas and panipuri.
“These dogs are stupid,” said Ben. “They don’t even know what bones are.”
It turns out, he was right. After attempting the same routine with several other dogs, we decided they had never had a bone in their lives. One dog pawed at the bone, unsure what to do with it, another ignored it completely. The next morning, the bones lay in their original spots.
I recently read that over 2,000 dogs are born in India every hour. Someone should inform them about bones.
Next time, I think we’ll skip the bones altogether. Double ice-cream for the both of us.