Animals in the city

IMG_0710One day, walking home from shopping, I saw an ox in the middle of a busy road. He stood still and calm, engulfed by endless cars, auto-rickshaws, and motorbikes. He was unperturbed by the loud honking, directed less at him than at other drivers. I was amazed that he wasn’t hit.

A couple of shopkeepers were watching with amusement. I joined them, waiting for an owner to appear. A man, braving the traffic, handed the ox something to eat, but he was only crossing the street. The cow chewed the food.

Eventually I left, walking away with a backward glance. I wanted closure; I wanted a happy ending. (I didn’t have my iPhone that day, but here’s a trio of the same species, sharing the street from a safer spot.)

IMG_0524In Pune I see a lot of stray dogs. They hang out in empty lots, busy streets, near shops and produce vendors, even in garbage-ridden gutters. They’re everywhere. (Dog poop is also everywhere. Watch your step!) They appear lean but not starving. They are calm and never bark or act agitated. They resemble short-haired mutts you might adopt from the pound. This one hangs out directly in front of the Toyota dealer.


One night in my apartment, I heard a cat fight; the low guttural growling went on forever. I rarely see cats around in daylight. One rainy day, however, I saw a skinny cat creeping around outside Pune Central mall. I was walking toward the entrance and the cat suddenly noticed me, cowered, and skittered away. It broke my heart. I love animals and can hardly stand to see them so fearful and miserable.

IMG_0726In a country such as India, where poverty is pervasive and millions are living in squalid conditions, there’s no way that animal welfare can be first priority. But I can’t help my Western point of view. I can’t help feeling sorry for them. What is the point of being born to a life of struggle? What is the definition of a decent life? Do these creatures derive any pleasure from life? (Actually the dogs look fairly content.)


  1. I was recently driving on Hwy 101 through Crescent City California… the traffic stopped without an apparent reason but I soon noticed there was a duck in the road and the cars were waiting for it. It soon took off and flew to the other side of the highway causing cars there to stop for it; the driver of the first car got out and shooed the duck off the roadway so they could proceed…


    1. A very California story indeed!

      Here, stray dogs abound, and they are remarkably adept at crossing the street. They look left and right and proceed when there’s an opening. Survival skills are essential here.


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