Nepal's dogs have their day

A Nepalese policeman puts vermillion powder on his dog’s forehead during Tihar festival celebrations in Kathmandu. (Niranjan Shrestha, AP)
A Nepalese policeman puts vermillion powder on his dog’s forehead during Tihar festival celebrations in Kathmandu. (Niranjan Shrestha, AP)

Kathmandu - Nepalis celebrated the day of the dog on Tuesday as part of the wider week-long Tihar festival.

The country's dogs were adorned with marigold garlands, had vermillion smeared on their foreheads, and were fed special treats. Kukur Tihar, or dog festival day, is a ritual among the Hindu majority and is also widely observed by the rest of the population.

The week's Tihar festivities also honour crows, cows and oxen.

"I don't have a dog but I enjoy them anyway, so I decided to make garlands for two streets dogs outside my house," said Kalpana Shakya, who spent her morning picking flowers for the garlands and making a pot of chicken and rice for the dogs.

"Dogs are the symbol of the protector god, Bhairava," an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, said Yalambar Man KC. "They bring us prosperity and they were born to be our friends, so we worship them on this day."

"I think Nepalese should do this every day," said Warrick Middleton, an Australian tourist who participated in the ritual. "It's great to love a dog and to show that love."

Others pointed out that Nepal's stray dogs are not always so feted.

"How is it that these animals, so respected one day, can be neglected the next?" said Uttam Kafle, director of Animal Nepal, who estimates that more than 22 500 dogs live on the streets of Kathmandu alone.

This year the organisation took in more older dogs than usual, he said, partly because so many were made homeless by the devastating earthquake in May.

"Some were also abandoned by their owners when they got sick or old."

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