At the entrance to the Australian mining town of Dampier, a bronze statue stands tall in honour of the legendary Red Dog who acquired a cult status in the region (quite like Greyfriar’s Bobby in Scotland) for bringing the community together when such a notion hadn’t existed in the mine town.
In the late 1990s, one tourist to the town happened to be Louis de Bernières (English author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) who adapted the story of Red Dog into a famous children’s book and the inspiration behind the movie Red Dog.
Imagine a dog so independent and yet overtly sentimental with a strong sense of rights to stop a car and get a lift; to hitchhike through the great continent in search of his dead master. Red Dog supposedly was also given a bank account by the Bank of New South Wales, which is said to have used him as a mascot and sales tool with the slogan “If Red banks at the Wales, then you can too”.
The movie Red Dog (2011) rolls out in set pieces like chapters of the book, each episode celebrating the life and times of the Red Dog. The plot showcases miners reminiscing their tales about the stray that changed their lives for good. From the lonely Italian worker Vanno to the suicidal Jocko, all were changed for better by Red Dog. But it’s the Red Dog’s relationship with John (American Josh Lucas) and Nancy (Rachael Taylor) that steals the scenes without effort.
Red Dog, the movie has the structure and schema resembling the template of a great family film and yet nothing seems pre-ordained. Backed by great performance by the ensemble cast and a stellar cinematography, the odyssey lends the movie a deep connect with the great Australian wilderness.
Lost to translations and god men, epics have often been misconstrued at the hands of perpetrators. It comes as a no brainer, however, that all the pious texts in essence speak of the same human values. Once in a while, we also come across tales concocting humans and animals in a benign light. That for me is the best that there’s to religions.
The Indian Pariah Dog, considered by scientists to be the first truly domesticated dog features in the great Indian epic Mahabharat. The closing chapter narrates the tale of King Yudhisthira and his brothers (The Pandavas) making a pilgrimage to their final resting place. Our in-house expert, his highness Chunnu present Yudhisthira’s dog – Tale from Mahabharat.
The Pandavas were firm in their resolve to renounce their Kingdom and began the ascent of a mountain as part of their final journey. Yudhisthira led the way followed by Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and Draupadi. A dog also accompanied them through their journey.
The first to fall along the way was Draupadi (Yajnaseni).
“Why did she die first, Yudhisthira?” asked Bheema. “Was she not virtuous, possessing a good heart?”
Yudhisthira replied without looking back. “That is true, but she was more attached to Arjuna. That was her failing.”
The next to falter and collapse was Sahadeva.
“What was his failing, O Yudhisthira?” cried Bheema
Yudhisthira continued walking without looking back, and replied: “Pride in his intelligence was his failing.”
Next fell Nakula.
“What wrong did he do, O Yudhisthira?” wailed Bheema
Yudhisthira spoke, without looking back: “He admired his own good looks. That was his failing.”
Arjuna collapsed soon after.
“What wrong did Arjuna do, O Yudhisthira?” cried Bheema, overcome with grief.
Yudhisthira was unmoved and kept walking: “He was brilliant but conceited and over confident. That was his failing.”
Bheema fell thereafter, unable to bear the sorrow of seeing his brothers die.
Yudhisthira spoke while walking on: “Bheema was boastful about his strength and ate in excess. That was his failing”
And now only Yudhisthira and the dog were left, continuing the journey together.
And finally, Indra descended in his chariot. He praised the extraordinary qualities of Yudhisthira and invited him into the chariot to ascend to heaven.
“The dog must come with me,” said Yudhisthira
“That is not possible,” said Indra. “All cannot attain heaven. The dog is old and thin and has no value.”
“In that case, I do not seek heaven, “replied Yudhisthira. “The dog was my faithful companion and I cannot abandon it. It sought my help and gave me unconditional love. The pleasures of heaven will mean nothing to me in comparison to its grief. It has done nothing to deserve abandonment and had none of the weaknesses of my wife and brothers. If it does not deserve to go to heaven, then neither do I.” And so he turned back.
“Stop!” cried Indra. “None have the qualities that you possess, O Yudhisthira! The dog is Dharma, from whom you have descended!”
And indeed, the dog had transformed into the God of Dharma and blessed Yudhisthira for his complete lack of selfishness and dedication to righteousness in all circumstances.
And thus rose Yudhisthira to heaven in the chariot of Indra.
Transcript of Arnab Goswami’s famous interview (aptly titled Dog v/s Arnab Goswami in popular media coverage) with the renowned scholar and author Dr. Chunnu Dev Murthy who has just released his best seller – The Idiot I live with.
Dr. Chunnu Dev Murthy was born a few years ago in the city of Mysore, India. In the short space of a couple of years, he acquired two Ph.Ds from MIT and Stanford and developed a reputation as an artist, painter, management consultant and professor. His latest book, “The Idiot I live with” has been on the bestseller list for months now. He was interviewed by Arnab Goswami, a prominent TV journalist.
AG: Dr Murthy, where do you get your inspiration from? The nation wants to know!
Dr CDM: The Idiot I live with.
AG: That’s the book yes, a curious title. But where do you get the inspiration from. The nation wants to know!
Dr CDM: Tell the nation I don’t care. I have already given you my answer. If you ask me again, I shall lift my leg and present you with a cocktail of uric acid.
AG: What is your book about? The nation wants to know!
Dr CDM: If they are that curious, they should pay me. It’s about the fool I live with who sponsors my education, lifestyle, food, boarding, lodging, internet and medical expenses. I explain that the human race is clearly hurtling towards extinction because The Idiot is such an amazing vacuum head. As are most humans.
AG: You’re calling me a vacuum head?? I demand an apology!
Dr CDM: Take this dog biscuit and shut up!
AG: Thanks. (Munching) So you say we’re heading towards extinction.
Dr CDM: Yes. No intelligence. No compassion. 100% arrogance. A huge superiority complex. Wars. Constant yelling and shouting. Sounds familiar? I’ve done the mathematical modeling. If even 2% of people are like this idiot who’s posted this article, the infection will spread and you’ll be gone in 30 years. I discuss music, anthropology, biochemistry, tick powder, vets and poetry.
AG: That’s serious. What will happen then? The nation wants to know!
Dr CDM: TELL THE NATION TO GET LOST! We shall be taking over and will put whoever’s left in shelters.
AG: Where can I get your book from? The nation wants to know!
Dr. CDM: There is no doubt, listening to you, vacuum head, that my prophecy will come true. Anyway, my book was published by Penguin and can be purchased for Rs 1000/- from flipkart. Here’s some uric acid. Bye.
Those who have been fortunate to share their days with dogs know of the many amusing antics that the furry pals involve in. I wonder if anyone would doubt that the dog head tilts are the cutest of them all!
As to why the dogs exhibit head tilts is a matter of canine behaviorist studies – some experts like Alexandra Horowitz (Author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know), believes head-tilting is an effort by dogs to adjust their pinnae, or outer ears, to focus upon the precise location of sounds. That’s something at which they’re actually not as good as humans, despite their ability to hear frequencies that we can’t detect.
A key philosophical aspect we can learn from a dog’s life is to revel in the antics for chasing reasons behind them is often futile. So without further ado, here’s presenting the top 10 cutest dog head tilts.
And for the cynics who don’t agree with the list, here you go
It’s an early Sunday afternoon and we are rushing to reach the place where we usually had our breakfast. We wait at the signal and a regular sight from Indian roads meets our eyes – an Indian ‘stray’ dog struggling to cross the road, wagging its tail tentatively at each passer-by and gazing up at every vehicle in an attempt to reach out to those inside. The definition of “stray” in the literal sense, applied to this dog – she looked lost, wandered around, drifted from one corner of the footpath to the other and clearly seemed direction-less. Yes, that in totality is a ‘stray’.
Anyhow, we stopped by on our way back, noticed her yet again and fed her. This continued for about 3-4 weeks, every Sunday. One Sunday, 21st July, 2013, we decided to stop a while longer. After feeding her my husband and a couple of our friends who were with us, decided to interact with her. She had a three-coloured coat, a gentle lamb-like demeanour, golden eyes and no voice. She was comfortable with human beings, seemed to be well-trained and knew a lot of the basic commands. And we knew that afternoon, that she was an abandoned dog.
You will probably sympathize with her and shake your head in resigned acceptance that this was becoming such a common thing these days. Since you are reading this on this blog, you love or like dogs and will also be angry that yet another such story seems to be emerging.
But what is the first thought that hits you when I tell you that she is an abandoned dog aged 9 ½ years old, with some teeth already fallen. In dog years, she’s extremely old and the abandonment had made her weaker. She couldn’t seem to fend for herself and had a bewildered look in her eyes trying to make some sense of what was happening to her.
We got her home and named her Hope, because we felt that her spirit was far stronger than her physical condition and her age belied her underlying strength of character. We had debated about adopting a second dog, but our plan for Hope was to try and see which shelter she could be sent to so that she is able to spend the twilight of her life in love, comfort and warmth. But she was too old to survive in a shelter and deep in our hearts, we knew that we would yet again fail – in giving her up to a shelter. Because, we don’t abandon those we love and we don’t give up on them.
She didn’t bark for the first one month that she was with us. My domestic help analysed it as trauma due to being left by her family and she was right.
Imagine your emotional state if you didn’t have a voice, were almost 70 years old and frail, left on the road by your family, without any money and every time you returned to your house where you’ve been since birth, someone would stone or beat you, till you were too frightened to return.
To add to that imagine your physical state, when you have to scavenge for food without knowing where to find it, avoid fights with others who are battle-hardened by spending years on the road and try to learn how beg for food.
Imagine your mental state, when desperation hits you to such an extent that you cannot find a dry or warm place to sleep even on the footpath, or your vision blurs due to age and so you cannot dare to cross the road for the fear of being run over.
All these 3 states, each day without any end in sight – Get the picture?
To be very honest, I don’t recall my immediate thoughts when I realized that Hope’s family had abandoned her due to her old age, except for the shock, anger, pain and helplessness. But when I sit back today, after a year, I know my thoughts- such an offence should be punishable by death.
Too harsh a sentence? I urge you to go back to the three states I shared above, create those states for one single day of the year in your life and think again how to deal with such a situation. I believe your soul will answer your question, in a split second.
For me, when my 20 month old son hugs her or says “Hopey” my heart fills with pride – because I think in a small way, we have probably taught our son that no home is complete without Hope and sometimes getting that second chance in life, is far more beautiful than the first one itself, no matter how old you are.
Hope completes a year with us today – our little old girl barks with relish at other dogs, loves her chicken and rice, jumps at the chance of a quick walk and growls back if Elsa (our other canine girl) tries to trouble her. It has taken her a year to revert to her “doggy-ness”, but we are very happy she made the journey.