The Stray Dogs of Sri Lanka

Venice had its Doge, and Galle has its dogs. They wander from street to street and sleep under cars. Black ones, brown ones, and black/white spotted too.

Not that we haven’t seen dogs elsewhere. Yet never as uniformly nor as ubiquitously as here.

Spot the sleeping dog

They patrol in ones and twos like the brown suited policemen, keeping an eye on the tourists and, were they able to speak, giving directions. One bark for right, two for left, and a growl for get off my tail. Together with the tuk-tuk drivers – “hello sir, taxi?” – and the crows – “caw, caw, caw” – they rule this town.

Crow fest

Yes, there are crows too, dozens of them. Big black beaks and shiny noir plumage, perched on telegraph poles and flapping their wings to ruin your sunset photo. Combine them with the high stone walls of the fort, and you might think you’d wandered onto an episode of Game of Thrones, one in which the men of the Night’s Watch defend the ramparts.

But back to the dogs, because every dog has its day. Despite their overwhelming numbers, they are generally polite. They rarely bark or give chase. And when they do have to pooh, they make sure it’s conspicuous and always at the side of the road. Only the couples posing in elaborate costumes, or the photographers following them with light umbrellas and professional cameras, are likely to step into something they shouldn’t.

The dogs’ welfare also seems to matter. There is a school for training dogs for guard duties, dog shows and ajilaty (agility). And a shop that sells T-shirts, shoes and bones, a percentage of which goes to help the stray dogs of Sri Lanka.

Water monitor

Not so fortunate the rats, one of which I saw sheltering in a drain. They mostly live in the sewers, where the Dutch once introduced them for their musk. Nor the water monitors, who look as though they don’t belong here at all, yet sadly shelter in shop doorways.

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