Close to three years ago, filmmaker and biker Gaurav Prabhu, 31, was told by the Pune-based animal NGO RESQ, that the one-month-old Indie he wished to adopt would most likely lose his tail after a month or so. That’s how severely the dog had been injured — soon after he was born someone had gathered him and his little siblings from their neighbourhood and thrown them away in different parts of the city.
But Prabhu had made up his mind to bring him home. “I had wanted to get a dog for a long time, but my family and friends would dissuade me from getting one as I have been biking since I was 18,” says Prabhu. “But this one got the better of me,” he adds. He checked with the NGO if a dog could be trained to go on bike trips with him. They promised to help him with the necessary training.
The pup he talks about is Captain Roads, whom he now lives with in Goa. The duo has been invited to the India Bike Week in the same city on December 2 and 3, where Prabhu will talk about his adventures with his furry friend.
But the training to get to this point had started early on, while the pup was still at the NGO’s shelter in Pune. Prabhu and the NGO workers were initially a little sceptical. Captain Roads was traumatised after what had happened to him as a new-born baby. He was petrified of road and vehicles. Every time he heard a bike or a car, he would run away in a frenzy into the farthest corner of the shelter. It wouldn't be easy to get Captain Roads used to Prabhu’s loud Royal Enfield.
First, Prabhu, who was then based in Mumbai, started shuttling between home and Pune regularly, to spend time with the pup and bond with him. After a few days, the baby was introduced to the bike. “We started slow. First, with my friend’s not-so-loud bike," recalls Prabhu. "We gave the pup a toy and a treat, and got him comfortable in the tank bag,” he adds. He then started taking the pup for a short ride, for one kilometre back and forth, and short walks thrown in between.
By day five the experts from the NGO realised that Captain Roads had what it takes to be a biker pup. “They were confident that it won’t jump off the bike, scared or anxious. In fact, he had started enjoying the rides,” says Prabhu. By day 10, our furry friend was merrily riding on the Enfield as well. “He would go off to sleep in the bag and wake up only when the bike stopped,” adds Prabhu.
But the first couple of months were challenging, as the still unwell pup had to be given special kibble, and several medicines a day. Prabhu made a timetable of its activities — the time he pooped, peed and also ate food and medicines — by observing him at the shelter.
“I followed the schedule strictly, on all my rides, halting several times a day.” He would also break down his trips and take two days instead of one to get to a destination. “I had to make sure that the dog is not exhausted and stressed,’ says Prabhu.
For all of Captain Roads’ trips, Prabhu would and still packs a separate bag that includes his kibble, multiple clothes, his chew-toys, treats, towels and a spray bottle. The clothes come in handy to make a comfortable bed for him inside the tank bag or at places where the duo spends the night. They also shield him from sun and cold. Spraying water on the pup is another way cool him on a hot day.
“Initially, my biggest worry was to get warm water on road, almost five times a day, to mix his kibble with and feed him,” says Prabhu. “But all the chai wallas whom I have met on my trips have always been willing to give me hot water for my baby.”
In fact, Prabhu’s experience with people in smaller cities, towns and villages has always been great. “They understand animals, care for them and are not scared of them,” says Prabhu. “They are okay if I leave him off leash and let him explore a forest or a beach. Whereas, people in bigger cities have no contact with animals, so they fear them, some, also dislike them” he adds.
In the interiors, Prabhu has never had issues finding an accommodation to sleep the night along with Captain Roads. “So many property owners and staff members have welcomed my dog and even taken pictures with him.”
These experiences have made Captain Roads, now three years old, a calm and confident dog. “He isn’t scared of loud sounds, is not anxious in new places and never bothers people around him,” says Prabhu. Sometimes, Prabhu also leaves him to wander away on his own. “When he is done sniffing around or playing with other dogs, he always comes back.”
But Prabhu doesn’t take Captain Roads on trips longer than 100 kilometres any more. He leaves Captain Roads with his parents on such occasions. “The longer tours can get quite intense, not leaving room for many breaks…For the dog’s safety and comfort, its best he enjoys shorter trips,” says Prabhu.
When Captain Roads is not biking with Prabhu, though, he missed him "all the time…Captain Roads is a friend, a companion who I know always has my back. When he was a pup, I protected him. Now, he protects me by guarding our bike and belongings.” Captain Roads has now, after all, grown from severely injured pup, to a large size dog with a thick, fluffy tail.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, Kathak student, and first-time pet parent.