Butter, Bella, Charlie and Veeran are Indie dogs, all rescued, adopted and living in different parts of the country. Their stories of finding forever homes are very different but what binds them is their many adventures on the road as they travel with their human companions.
Yati Gaur and Butter
Yati Gaur, @theunfoldingplay on Instagram, travels on foot. He estimates to have covered around 10,000 kilometres over the past three years, ever since he started walking during the pandemic. On one such ‘trip’ in 2021, walking through Rajasthan, a little Indie pup joined him.
“I just couldn’t leave Buttercup behind; so I adopted her and carried her along with me on the onward journey,” he says. Since Butter (as the two-year-old is now known) was barely three months old and too little to accompany him on his subsequent trips, he left her home with his family in Noida.
“She would stop eating each time I left and be quite lonely without me. That’s when I decided I would take her along with me once she was old enough and ready,” says Yati, who has been on the road with Butter for the past 274 days or nine months. He wants to give her the best, adventure-filled life possible. On this trip with Butter, on his itinerary are Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameshwaram, besides the 12 Jyotyirlingas scattered across the country.
Before setting off on this trip he trained her, tested her endurance to see how she would handle being on foot for extended periods of time. “I took her to the Himalayas for three to four months to get an idea about her stamina, that is if she could manage without water for some time on warm days, or stay without food.”
Butter’s maiden trip has not been without mishaps. She was attacked by a pack of dogs, causing Yati to ‘lose’ her for several hours. When he found her she was injured and an infection caused by shoddy treatment led to her tail being amputated.
Finding a good doctor willing to treat Butter, who was in pain, was an effort. But he finally found one, with a soft corner for Indies, in Bhubaneshwar. The veterinarian also gave him a box of emergency medicine for Butter. The treatment-related rest led them to take a 15-day break. Subsequently he started leashing Butter, “an inconvenience for both, but inevitable.”
Although he carries dog food, she also eats chapati, rice, and curd if available and boiled chicken if the weather is not too hot. Butter has her set of pet shoes, which Yati makes her wear when road surfaces get too hot, “but not always as it is not healthy to make her wear it constantly.”
Accommodation, if they are not allowed, is not a problem as he travels with a tent. Yati plans to travel, on foot, with Butter till she is four-and-a-half years old. “I will stop then. I don’t want her to spend her entire life walking!”
Akshay Radhakrishnan and Veeran
On one of his first motorcycle rides, as a puppy, Veeran decided he prefers to ride in the front with Akshay. “Each dog has a personality and character, they have their likes and dislikes and Veeran likes to travel,” Akshay says. The actor, who is riding high on the success of the Malayalam film Valatty, his latest release, is vocal about animal rights, especially against cruelty meted out to street dogs. He has rescued several dogs and looks after many of them.
Last year, Veeran travelled with Akshay, on his motorbike, right up to Himachal. On their way back, Akshay adopted another Indie, Titli, who will turn one soon. “I don’t ask if a place is ‘pet friendly’ or not. I take camping gear, pitch a tent and we are good to go. Also, it helps if you have friends who give you space. However, I do carry dog food with me.”
Since Indies easily adapt, extremes of weather are not a problem. “It was cold in Uttarakhand, but Veeran adapted and, you won’t believe it, he was playing in the snow. He loves to run around in the meadows,” says Akshay about one of six-year-old Veeran’s favourite things to do on their rides. He rang in the new year with Veeran at Lapas in Himachal Pradesh this year, something that he intends make a ritual of. And he enjoys the attention these rides get him. “Charlie, the film, had just released then. We were on the Bellary-Hampi road, we had children running after our motorbike screaming ‘Charlie!’ and he was enjoying every minute of it.” Veeran’s Instagram handle is @veeran_the_sunflower
@foto_peedika and Charlie
@foto_peedika has been on the road for the past 130 days and has covered over 3,000 kilometres. He started his journey on a bicycle from Kannur, Kerala now he is in Kashmir. He does not want to reveal his identity, for reasons of privacy, and prefers to go by his Instagram handle. The purpose of the solo bicycle trip, ‘Save the Earth’, through India to Nepal, Bhutan and back is intended to create awareness about plastic pollution. “That continues to be the plan, but with modifications since Charlie has joined me on the trip. Having him with me has thrown me off schedule, but I cannot leave him with anybody else. So he travels with me,” he says.
A steel mesh box he fabricated for plastic bottles he found along the way is now Charlie’s space. The duo has had their share of adventures with baggage and phone getting stolen in Punjab. The pup has grown since June. “To accommodate the rate at which he is growing, I might just have to get rid of my bag,” he quips.
He has racked up 140k followers on Instagram, who closely follow his adventures on the trip. The 22 year old rescued Charlie, who was barely a couple of months old, from Mumbai. He travels with dog food, and is careful about what he feeds the pup. He shares a tent with Charlie, preferring to cycle when it is cooler.
Travelling with a dog is not easy. Does he regret the inconvenience? “Not one bit, he gives me company. I talk to him and I don’t feel lonely at all!”
Sureng Rajkonwar and Bella
Sureng Rajkonwar’s travelling partner Bella, a Pahadi Indie, that he adopted from Uttarakhand in 2021, had a terrible case of motion sickness as a puppy. Bike rides or drives in a car would make the pup howl hysterically.
The Noida-based fashion designer and content creator, @one_crazy_guy on Instagram, worked on making her comfortable by taking her on short rides on his scooter. “I would take her everywhere and give her a treat each time to encourage her and over time she got over it. She would happily jump in the front of the scooter and stand on her hind legs so that she could see the road ahead,” says Sureng over the phone.
Cut to now, she refuses to sit in the specially fabricated seat for her on the pillion seat of Sureng’s bike and instead prefers to stand wearing her personalised goggles. She sits in her ‘cockpit’, as Sureng calls her seat, only when tired. Her first trip with Sureng was a 33-hour, adventure-filled 2,500 kilometre ride from Sureng’s hometown Dibugarh, Assam, to Noida in 2021.
“Travelling with a dog in India — in planes or trains — is not easy. I had sent my motorcycle to Delhi, and was planning to take the train with her. But I didn’t get a reservation. So we had to travel on a friend’s Scooty to Delhi.”
However, Bella’s big trip came in August 2022 when she and Sureng rode to Ladakh with his motorcycling group, with which he always travels. He is yet to undertake a solo trip with Bella. “She is probably the first dog to ‘ride’ to Umling La Pass, the world’s highest motorable road and on another ride, in February 2023, to Lukla, one of the villages near Everest Base Camp.”
Bella could not go up to the Base Camp as dogs are not allowed there. Sureng keeps Bella leashed most of the time, “as she tends to pick fights,” he says, laughing. But each time they are on an isolated stretch he lets her loose so that she can stretch and run around. Bella’s next trip with Sureng and his group is to the North East. “Out of a 100 there are four or five negative comments on social media. But now I have learnt to ignore them. Bella likes to travel. I am taking care of her the best I can. I want to give her a life, I am not going to lock her up!”