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The Adorable Gaddi Dogs of Himachal

The Adorable Gaddi Dogs of Himachal

Meghna ‘Phoenix’ Ghatak

Himachal has seen a boom of tourism in the last decade with people clambering to its various scenic spots the second mercury spikes above 40 degrees Celsius in their native regions.  With the heat soaring straight to the sun every summer in the plains, the various hill stations sequined across the map of India offer temporary respite.  A Himachal holiday with the entire family is costly, not to mention long with the absence of direct trains and planes.  Still the traffic there overflows with overbooked hotels and taxis charging skyrocketing prices for a visit to the highest possible tourist hubs such as Rohtang pass for a slight snow experience.  It at times burns a hole in the pocket of the ever suffering middle class. 
My nuclear, middle class family of three members decided to embark on a Himachal adventure this summer after the Modi wave swept the entire nation with a spectacular second time victory.  The mercury was touching 45 degrees Celsius in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and was ever threatening to soar further up. Hence we booked ourselves three seats in a Delhi bound train and post a few hours' wait, transferred in an AC coach to Manali.  The chill in the air was felt straight from Chandigarh, where we stopped for dinner and toilet breaks.  There were a few stray dogs curled up in the reddish soil, unfettered by the screeching sounds of the highway, frequently scurrying away at the sight of human approach. 
When we reached Manali the next morning, we were greeted with sights of a bountiful river gushing wild on white stones amidst chasms lined with coniferous trees.  The roads were somehow running parallel to them, minus the boundaries and one could stare right into the roots and foam of the tall trees and the river. Picturesque cottages nestled in the backdrop of snow-capped and green-draped mountains appeared to have leaped out of a child's typical drawing of sceneries - complete with the sun rising. Big furry dogs were calmly observing the long procession of Volvo buses into their territories along with vibrantly dressed humans pausing from their daily routines.  

A brief auto ride through the almost pollution free streets of Manali lined by big and small hotels took us to the village of Prini, where our Airbnb booking awaited us. The moment we entered the beautiful wooden cottage complete with an Apple tree in its compound, we were welcomed by the wagging tail of a huge Tibetan Mastiff, Tom.  The owners were at first a bit worried about our temperament towards him but the moment Tom licked and hugged us and I let out a squeal of childish laughter, did the owners rest easy. My parents and me had recently lost our beloved dogs one after the other and were parched of their companionship on an everyday basis. Hence when Tom bounced around us with jovial black and white fur floating with the cool breeze, tongue lolling from his happy snout; we accepted him wholeheartedly.  He would bask in the morning sun at my parents' feet and walk around the cottage by my heels. He would even wait for us to arrive from our daily excursions and drop us to our daily commute. 

I had a tearful goodbye with Tom when we checked out of the beautiful cottage and moved on with our sojourn towards Dharamshala.  Throughout the journey, I kept on peeping back at the silly selfies I had clicked with him.  Upon reaching Kangra, we encountered several calm mastiff type Gaddi dogs snoring peacefully in the splendid tea gardens sprawled for acres at end.  When I pet one, several more raced through the boulevards lining the tea shrubs, eager to be petted and probably fed.  I clicked selfies with them after our local driver told us that they were not aggressive and the dogs happily obliged. I made more furry canine friends at the majestic Norbulingka Institute, Tsuglagkhang Monastery Complex which is the private abode of the present Dalai Lama in Mcleodganj to as far as the Chail Palace.  A temple priest's pet dog named ‘Doggy’ introduced us to his friends who looked like Bhutia dogs due to their large size and extra fur around the water-deprived Bhagsunath Falls.  

These dogs mostly keep to themselves and occasionally click pictures with fellow dog loving tourists like me and also at times, accept tokens of food in exchange.  I found them at every nook and cranny of human habitation in and around the tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh. They may be feral but their pristine presence lends an added ambiance of the exquisite natural beauty and loyalty to the good people of the hills.  I wish they continue to thrive and flourish, increasing the tourism and beauty of the state that is the abode of the gods - Himachal Pradesh.  


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