Kukur tihar : A dog’s day


Kukur puja or dog worship is an ancient festival honouring one of our first domesticated animals for its special traits. Moreover, kukur puja elevates the common dog as a religious symbol — it is believed Lord Bhairab rides a dog. Whatever it’s past religio-socio-cultural value, dog worship holds special meaning for us today.

Kukur puja highlights a dog’s rare qualities. It is a loving companion, especially for the old and children. It guards us, our family and property, forewarns us and protects us. It goes out of its way to please us.

It is the most selfless creature. It asks for nothing in return except what we choose to give. It hardly, if ever, complains of neglect or maltreatment. It is no wonder that during kukur puja people garland it, anoint it with a tika and feed it the best food.

Still this day is treated as just a one day affair losing its message for the rest of the year. What we need to remember is the real message. Kukur puja draws our attention to not only to the dog’s worth, but also our responsibility towards it. This includes physical and emotional care, prevention of cruelty, and compassion for the common dog — pedigreed, cross-bred or mongrel, pet or street dogs, male or female, young or old, healthy or diseased.

Kathmanduites have always kept dogs as scavengers and tol guard dogs and been kind to them albeit in a disorganised way. This festival highlights an extremely pathetic aspect of the condition of dogs in our country. People are either callous about these great human friends or ignorant about how to care for and how to interact with them. Two points need to be kept in mind — owner-counseling by vets is essential. Such advice protects both the dog and the human from dog bites, rabies and other zoonotic diseases.

The other point is that Nepal has unfortunately seen a rise in quacks or home-visiting paravets posing as vets or dog-experts. Dogs must be handled scientifically. In fact, animal health care needs to be managed by highly qualified professionals who have undergone long and thorough courses and gathered experience in the field. Some suggested hospitals/clinics include the Government Veterinary Hospital, Tripureshwor, Patan vet clinic, Kathmandu vet clinic, Chakrapath, Mobile vet clinics, Jawalakhel, Vet clinic, Krishna Galli, and Chabhil vet clinics.

Proper counseling helps us to choose a puppy and plan for its keep. We need to know how, when and where to vaccinate. We need to know about proper nutrition, grooming, bathing, skincare, oral health, nail care, exercising, common diseases and pest infestation. We need to know about dog collars, leashes, kennels and bedding, how to spot an ailing animal, and which canine diseases we can catch like tape worms.

The dog is a creature full of love — it gives and needs loves. You pooch needs to be touched, stroked, cuddled. It will want to play with you, exercise in pleasant, open and safe natural surroundings. It needs to have a routine and a sense of belonging. It needs to have a sense of ownership — whether it is you, your family, or your property. The potential of your dog needs to be tapped to build up its self confidence. This is done through training.

Let us not make this Kukur puja just another festive day that we have to observe. Let us promise to take care of our canine companions in the best possible way we can all the year through.

(Dr Thapa is the director of Mobile Veterinary Service, Jawalakhel)