Dogs in the Andaman Islands
This past November I had the pleasure to go to the Andaman Islands which are a group of islands off the coast of southern India. Going to the Andamans is kind of like taking a journey back in a time machine. The islands are mostly uninhabited and many of those that do have people on them are almost primitive. I spent about 3 days on Havelock Island and watched how the dogs lived on the island. Most groups of dogs that I saw seemed to be families living together. Studies over the last few years suggest that the idea of a pack of dogs is really just a “family” of dogs.There appeared to be two different groups of dogs here—one that was living amongst the natives and one that seemed to be living a much more isolated existence.
I witnessed a turf battle between the two groups. One dog lived in a territory right by my cabin. I would hear him bark every night to keep other dogs away. He was very protective of his turf. In the afternoon on my second day, I heard a dogfight going on from inside my cabin and ran to discover a horrific sight. The dog that l had heard barking every night had taken a huge chunk of flesh off the head of an intruding dog. I tried my best to help the injured dog but could not get near him. As I pursued him, he ran away from me.
Dogs in the market (or town) are shooed away and seen mostly as pests. It is not the norm to see these Indian natives treat these dogs with much compassion. However, I did witness some exceptions. Shop keepers and street vendors will typically have a resident street dog that lies on the stoop outside the shop waiting for left overs that may or may not come their way. These resident street dogs are very wise while at the same time a bit leery. I met one outside a wonderful restaurant and tried to approach her. However, she would only let the restaurant owner pet her. They had established trust over the years and although she certainly was not the restaurant owner’s pet, she viewed him as a friend.
When I told the natives I was here to study the dogs on the island, most people could not understand why I would be interested in these dogs. These people are far off from viewing the dog as part of the family. The dogs remain as they have for thousands and thousands of years—scavengers that live among the people.