Doghood

Having a dog is akin to parenthood and yet at Dog with Blog, every few days we receive emails from pet parents putting their ‘beloved dog’ for adoption. We are but dogs, aloof of the ways of the world but we understand that mothers don’t abandon their children so why abandon the pets?

Far from the the oft celebrated puppy days, in this guest post, acclaimed travel writer Shikha Tripathi writes on what it truly means to acclimatise and eventually share a life with the rescued dogs, the responsibilities a pet parent must own up and the patient journey that parenthood err… doghood is.

king of the north himalayan mastiff
Kings of the North

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France

Most people have heard this quote, but the truth of the matter remains mere words unless you experience “Doghood”. While Doghood literally is the time or state of being a dog, for lack of a better word I’m using it for motherhood, except to describe an experience one has on getting a dog in his or her life instead of a child. I speak about my two Tibetan mastiffs, Lucy and Jian, in a similar fashion, often comparing their behaviour patterns to infants of young mothers. Midway through my conversations, I realize that perhaps it’s not the best comparison to be drawn and I steer towards more polite exchanges. But Doghood is indeed similar. It’s all consuming; it’s demanding, challenging and taxing. While Lucy came to us as a three-month puppy of European lineage, Jian came as a much bigger 1.5 year-old. Work started immediately on gaining his trust, and hunting for that perfect name. As an ode to his Chinese roots, my partner and I spent hours going through “Chinese names for boys” on the Internet to christen him. We decided on Jian, meaning strong, which proved to be his greatest gift. He could tow a mini truck, and on the flip-side, break a strong iron chain like a cotton thread and charge at someone he dislikes.

dogwithblog himalayan dogs
Time stands still here, over the mountains and far away, the only sound being of the puffed grass under the paws of mastiffs as large as humans.

Doghood is no mean task. While what most people see is the rosy picture of two giant, cuddly mastiffs running around with gay abandon in sunny gardens and licking our faces with joy, there’s a lot more to the package. Some of it is prevalent across all homes with dogs, such as cooking for them, feeding them, walking and bathing them. And yes, cleaning up after them when they poop as they please, especially as young pups. Other concerns, though, are more specific to the breed. Tibetan mastiffs have a massive diet, and primarily a carnivorous one. A weekly trip to the market becomes part of your regime, and so does cooking a giant meal every morning and evening, that could very well feed ten humans. A most difficult task is grooming their supremely thick coat and keeping it allergy and tick free. It means hours of dedicated tidying with a hairbrush and watching out for signs of any skin reactions or fleas, much the same as looking for a needle in a haystack. A big bottle of shampoo cleans this coat thoroughly one time alone.  It’s also not the best deal to have to wake up at 6 am on a freezing winter morning and walk the dogs in minus temperatures, braving sleet being hurled in your face along with forceful wind.

Not only is Doghood a financial commitment, but an emotional one too. You have to maintain your calm when you find your new shoe ripped to pieces, or your laptop covered in a kilo of drool. You have to manage travelling and other schedules such that someone is a stay-at-home guardian to them at all times, even if it means sacrificing the best-laid outing plans. It also means staying put mostly in the mountains, because taking Tibetan Mastiffs to anywhere over 25 degrees is sheer torture for them. This is one of the reasons why I don’t say much when requests for Lucy and Jian’s puppies come pouring in. Jian was acquired from a place where he had started losing all his hair and weight because of the intense heat, and Lucy was rescued from someone who had the environment but not the time or resources to take care of her long list of needs. Tibetan Mastiffs are only for those who ensure that the dogs have enough space to run around, cool mountain air, plenty of meat-based foods, and owners with time for them. Get them only if you can personally go that extra mile. Anything less, and you are not ready for the commitment that Doghood demands.

dog show winner bhutia dog
Guess who topped the University?

In return you get fierce loyalty that you might never get from a best friend, a dizzying welcome when you get back home that you might not get from family, excellent guarding no watchman can provide, and joy that fills you with pride when your dog gets protective about you. There’s really nothing more than that. Because despite all you do, at the end of the day, one needs to understand and accept that Tibetan mastiffs can be temperamental and unpredictable. They aren’t Labradors that love being petted all the time. They will not fetch, will sit and stand as they please, and only oblige you if they wish to. Obedience is not one of their stronger traits. They are instead aloof dogs, and don’t care too much about being fussed over, and won’t show affection either if they don’t want to. They are like difficult teenagers, who love you but like to maintain that cool demeanour. But like all things in Doghood, you’ve got to understand and accept them for who they are, because like motherhood, it demands your greatest unconditional love.

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What you need to know about Game of Thrones Direwolves

It may be April, the onset of great Indian summer but in Westeros, ‘Winter is coming’. Billed as the most epic TV series on the face of the planet, HBO’s Game of Thrones has legions of fans. The multiple award-winning medieval fantasy epic based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series “A Song of Ice and Fire”, is all set for the fifth season. This dog, too belongs to the tribes who swear by Stark sigil. Given the dog that I am, the chosen house had to be Stark.

House-Stark-sigil- gameofthrones
The House Stark sigil – Direwolf

Of the dragons, draconian lords and devils, the most alluring of all animals in Westeros are the direwolves (A pre-historic large breed of the wolf; Extinct in the natural world). As per those who chronicle the realm, Direwolves have not been seen south of the Wall for a very long time so when Ned Stark (Lord of Winterfell, House Stark) found a dead wolf mother and still-born pups, he lets his children keep them post Jon Snow’s persuasion that the Stark children were “meant” to have them as the direwolf is their sigil and there are exactly the right number of puppies in terms of gender and an outcast (Jon Snow and Ghost).

Stark children direwolf pups
“Direwolf is the sigil of your house. They were meant to have them.” ― Jon Snow

As the series has progressed we have learned that Bran and eventually all the other Stark children are wargs, (Wargs are people with the ability to enter the minds of animals and perceive the world through their senses and even control their actions.) Each of the Stark kids’ direwolves are reflections of themselves personality-wise. Many a times, fans are left putting (or shall I say pitting) theories against another theory – what if the fate of the Stark children and direwolves runs in parallel? And in most cases, it has.

Game of Thrones Direwolves have appeared in fleeting images all through the four seasons but every time they grace the screen, its momentous! Just in time for the season V premiere, here’s taking a walk down the fallen seasons to see how are the wolves and their humans placed as of now:

Jon & Ghost — Jon named his direwolf Ghost because of his white fur and unnaturally quiet demeanor for a wolf. One of the most fan-favorite moment of season 4 was Jon’s reunion with Ghost in the far north.

i-missed-you-boy jon snow ghost
“I missed you boy!” – Jon Snow

Jon and Ghost are perhaps the most relatable of the Starks and direwolves pairs. Jon, an illegitimate child is different from the lineage of Stark and Ghost, a snow white wolf was different from the others.

The books have it underlined…


Jon smiled. “You’re the one deserves an honor,” he told the wolf… and suddenly he found himself remembering how he’d found him, that day in the late summer snow. They had been riding off with the other pups, but Jon had heard a noise and turned back, and there he was, white fur almost invisible against the drifts. He was all alone, he thought, apart from the others in the litter. He was different, so they drove him out.


Jon Snow Ghost
Ghost was a part of Jon Snow.

Bran & Summer —Bran and Summer have been together the longest, and they have forged a great bond.  Perhaps the other Stark children, if reunited with their direwolves would have a better foreseeable future in the realm.

When Lady Catelyn Stark  struggled to fight off an assassin sent to kill Bran, Summer leaped into action and tore out the man’s throat. Afterward, Catelyn looked on in astonishment as the direwolf simply curled up next to his master and watched over his bedside.

Summer saves Bran - GOT
Summer saves Bran from an assassination attempt

“And who is Summer?” Jojen prompted.
“Mydirewolf.”Bran smiled.  “Prince of the green.”


Summer saves Bran - game of thrones
Summer sits next to Bran, after saving him from an assassination attempt.

Arya & Nymeria — Arya named her wolf after the Rhoynar princess who sailed across the Narrow Sea to Dorne and effectively laid the foundation of the current ruling house of Martell. One of the saddest sights in #GOT was to see Arya bid adieu to Nymeria. Stranded, Arya Stark is learning to become an assassin but she still dreams/lives through Nymeria in Westeros. Here’s hoping that season five sees this untameable pair reunited!

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Nymeria defends Arya and her friend but has to go wandering to avoid the blades of the Lannisters.

Robb & Grey Wind — Robb named him Grey Wind due to his fur colour and his speed. Unfortunately both Robb and his wolf met their end at the Red Wedding. Grey Wind however, did serve his human to help him stand as The King of the North before their tragic end.

Grey-Wind-Robb-stark
Grey Wind died saving Robb Stark (in vain). The North remembers his sacrifice.

Sansa & Lady — True to her name, Sansa Stark’s direwolf was the perfect little lady. Sansa Stark’s dire wolf Lady met an untimely end as a sacrifice to mollify the queen’s anger after Arya’s dire wolf Nymeria bit the evil Prince Joffrey (and then ran away). With the untimely demise of Lady, Sansa’s storyline has also taken a morose turn – first the Lannisters and now Petyr Baelish.

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Sansa and Lady, both are met grim times.
sansa adopts direwolf
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) adopted her direwolf Lady from the Game of Thrones.

In real life, however, Lady’s doing much better — especially after actress Sophie Turner adopted the dog who played her.

Rickon & Shaggydog — We know they are in Skagos (a land of cannibals) along with Osha, a former wildling as of book 5, the fans are left wondering if they’d turn to the feral side?

Shaggydog-and-Rickon
Rickon and Shaggydog, none can’t be tamed.

As the madness and its methods resurface in a week, here’s hoping the Starks and the wolves have it good this time around. There will be dragons wrecking havoc but remember if you must, DireWolf shall reign supreme and winter is coming, of course.

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The world as the dogs sees it.