Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Tibet Travel log 6, Those bloody dogs

with 3 comments

Monastery dogs, I seem to have an issue with them. Which is strange, I like dogs and dogs like me, at least in Europe they do. In Tibet it is different, in Tibet the dogs are different.

Single dogs are OK: they seem to mind their own business and can be chased away by throwing a few stones, I always have a few stones in my pocket, if that does not work because they just wait with attacking until you have thrown your stones, then you can fight them of with a stick. In my case a tripod does miracles.

The problem is packs of dogs. In some villages and monasteries in Tibet packs of dogs take over the streets, and not only at night.  Even Tibetans themselves are careful, but the dogs seem to pick out the strangers. Typically one dog starts howling, others join, they follow you, start growling, one attacks the others join in and before you know it you are hunted down by a pack of dogs. I have been warned so often by Tibetans not to go in some direction because of dogs, they have offered me rides to avoid ‘dog area’s’, they have chased dogs away for me. And I had been on edge, but fine, so far.

It turned out the other problem is sudden attacks. Dogs that do not bark mean business, they just growl look straight at you and bite. Or bite before you even saw them.

I was at one of the Buddhist teaching colleges in Tagong on the main road. No dog in sight. There was an interesting statue being erected on a mountain and there was a rather big concrete building I had not seen in previous years. I was trying to find the right angle to make an interesting picture. As I raised the camera something hit my leg, at least it felt like that. I looked down: a dog, attached to my leg, very angry. My black coat, black daypack and tripod probably triggered him. Luckily only one smallish dog and he let go when I wacked him and I managed to pull back, or depending on the point of view, the dog chased me away.

The Tibetans say that the dogs hanging around at the monasteries are the reincarnations of monks that violated their vows. So Tibetans often joke I must have done something to a monk or a dog in my previous life and am now paying for that.

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Written by Marieke ten Wolde

July 13, 2012 at 08:42

3 Responses

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  1. I feel so sorry for those dogs, though I also get scared of packs of wild dogs. I wonder if they do anything to try to domesticate them. Do you know what that is they’re eating in the photo?

    Savitri Ananda

    July 13, 2012 at 08:47

    • For these you do not have to feel sorry. They are eating the intestines of a yak that starved at the end of the winter season. With regards to the monastery dogs, I think they gather there because the nuns and monks feed them. Tibetans in general are quite kind to animals, if I were a stray dog, I would probably want to live close to a Tibetan monastery. And have some fun scaring the occasional westerner.

      Marieke ten Wolde

      July 17, 2012 at 23:00

      • Great–thank you for the information. I’m glad they’re not just running around starving (which is the image I had from the photo). Yes, I’m sure being near a monastery would be the best place to live …

        Savitri Ananda

        July 25, 2012 at 23:27


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