Who let the dogs out?

Published: December 20, 2011

The poor Rottweiler will never be anything but a dirty kutta.

The puppy is six weeks old. She has black fur all round except for a little white mark on her neck. She likes to drop her food on the ground before attempting to eat it. If she likes you, she will bite your foot.

Her owner, my friend, is madly in love with her new pet. I spent the evening at her house playing fetch with her Rottweiler puppy and went inside to wash my hands. And that’s when she says: “You should probably do wuzu (ablution) you know.”

The tap water is running, I have soap in one hand. “Sorry?” I said.

Because of the dog?

“It’s what my Nani says,” she said and shrugged as if that was the final word.

And in some ways it was. Play all you want with doggie dearest, so it seems, but remember a dog is not a cat. It is not remotely a normal pet. It is an anathema, a furry, wagging tail symbol of dirtiness.

I have been hearing the dog arguments for as long as I can remember. “You cannot pray in a corner where a dog hair has fallen,” said the elder aunt. “Dogs are dirty, didn’t you know? Second only to pigs and look at them.”

That we don’t eat dogs has nothing do with it. Dogs are not a part of our culture, end of story.

I have been trying to figure out the dog problem for a while now. People do not seem to like dogs and yet they do. How much of it has to with religion and how much of it has to with where we live? So you hear the story of the couple who bought a St Bernard, and then had to construct an air-conditioned room for it to live in, because the St Bernard couldn’t stand the heat in Lahore.

You hear of how sections of the house are cordoned off – the dog can stay in the garden but not enter the house. No, the dog can enter the house but only the downstairs portion. .

“I don’t think it has anything to do with dogs,” said a friend sagely. “I think we are just not a pet-loving society.”

She may have a point. Only a precious few own pets, let alone dogs.

Around 80 per cent of cat owners are usually people who have simply become accustomed to ‘billi’ making a corner for herself on the roof. When all else fails, there are the colourful chicks in little cages sold on the roadside. (I owned one at age nine and it died after I accidently fed it biryani). Type in ‘dogs in Pakistan” in Google and the first few links are about dog fights. “Entire families base their social esteem on the results of such bloody confrontations,” said one link. Perhaps dogs do hold a place in our society, in a disturbing way. Ah well. As the puppy puts her paw into my hand, I wonder, when she grows up, will she be a feared Rottweiler, or a reviled Rottweiler? What is the fate of a pet in this land anyway? Someone pointed out (as high school children will), that non-Pakistani universities have animals for mascots, and yes, at times, dogs. “Can you imagine that happening here?” said the puppy’s owner. “The first thing anyone would ask is why is our mascot a kutta?”

With those connotations, the poor Rottweiler will never be anything but a dirty kutta.

Meiryum Ali

Meiryum Ali

A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nandita.

    Another brilliant post !
    Intolerance, i thought, was only limited to other humans beings- Followers of one religion not being able to tolerate even the mere presence of people from another faith etc but i guess animals aren’t spared either. So, these poor mute beings are often at the receiving end of man’s cruelty.
    I don’t want to get into the reasons as to why dogs are hated in certain parts of the world but i wish people find it in themselves to show a little bit of compassion and love to man’s loyal friends – dogs. Recommend

  • anjum pervez

    it is so tragic that religious hate and bigotry targetted towards dogs has resulted in millions of pakistanis being deprived of the company of man’s best friend.whenever i asked my parents for a pet puppy i was met with a prompt reply “jis ghar may kuttay rakhtay hain waha farishtay nahi atay”. i don’t know how in this day and age the religious fanatics still succeed in propagating canine hatred amongst our people.this is just another example of the sick obsession with religion being taken too far by our people.Atleast spare the poor bezaban animals from religious fascism.Recommend

  • Rizu

    What is the fate of a pet in this land anyway?
    What is the fate of a human being in this land anyway?Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    1) Such intolerance is not surprising in a society that is hell-bent on classifying the contents of the entire universe under two labels, “halal” and “haram”

    2) It’s pretty silly to try raise a St. Bernard in the sub-continent. The best bet for us would be labradors or dobermans. German shepherds would be the next best.

    3) Beware of the fact that Rottweilers are very energetic and intelligent. If not given proper training to channel their energies, they get frustrated and violent (just like human adolescents). Otherwise, they make very good pets.Recommend

  • Faheem

    Well, well…. a kutta is a kutta! but let me tell you, we Pakistanis are all pet loving people, but our love is very conditional, if a pet gives egg and saves the money that we have to spend everyday on eggs for breakfast, we would love keep and feed the pet… but if it is tortoise the mother would say, “aaini boo aandi ye aide vichoun!” and eventually the child will have to throw it away. yes about fish, because we done have to pet them like the Kutta and cat, tu we don’t have any problem keeping them (still if they occupy a small place in a huge house).

    Now coming to the Kutta, well, I would say it is an adorable being and keeping it shouldn’t be a problem if it is trained well….. religions have many other things that are forbidden but we humans esp. Pakistanis keep doing them without arguing, but when it comes to the Kutta ………. we say, “kutta te pher kutta hi houda ye na!” Recommend

  • reader123

    whatz your point? just because Islam asks you to wash yourself after touching a dog means you have to be cruel to the animal?

    please try writing a better (read: Mature) piece of work next time.Recommend

  • Adeel

    I disagree. There are loads of dog lovers in this country.
    Also, the whole argument of dog being dirty comes from one Hadith,
    where it is said that angels don’t enter the house where dogs are…
    but that same Hadith also talks about photographs and statues… but no one seems to care about them… only dogs… why?
    Also… dog’s lick does NOT break your wudu, and you are perfectly PAK to say your namaz…
    all the scholars (read NOT MULLAHS) agree to this. Because everything/anything that can and does break your wudu is clearly mentioned in Islam, and a dog’s saliva ain’t one of them.Recommend

  • Adeel

    Please tell me where does Islam ask you to wash yourself after touching a dog?
    Enlighten me.Recommend

  • zalim singh

    the creator in Hindu faith, Brahma has a few dogs surround him in most pictures. I think Pakistanis should learn from this.Recommend

  • reader123

    thank you for your query, please visit:

    My Allah guide us all to the right path.

  • reader123

    the link is not properly formatted in my last post, so I am posting it again here:



    May Allah guide us all towards the right path.

  • Talha


    You probably read the comments to your blogs … what does the fact that those who have a hatred for religion (or Islam in particular) or Pakistan are jumping up and down with glee here say to you?

    Doing wudu after touching a dog is part of our faith, end of story. If you don’t like it, don’t follow it, but please don’t tell us off for doing so. You’re supposed to be a liberal remember? Or is that limited to when you find it convenient?

    Maybe before taking this indirect swipe at Islam you could also have quoted incidents such as when Khalid bin Waleed RATA, a fearless warrior, left his tent in place when moving on after resting so as not to disturb a bird, or the Prophet SAWW cutting off his shirt so as not to disturb a cat sleeping on it, or the Prophet SAWW saying to a camel owner that his harshly treated camel would complain to God on the day of judgement. Remember that even centuries AFTER this time your intellectual masters were burning women for being witches, what to speak of animal rights, and that cruelty even to people was pretty much an accepted thing in those times.

    In your mind, how exactly does “make wudu after touching a dog” equal cruelty to dogs? And if it does, what do you have to say for yourself, given that you were washing your hands anyway? Is it only a problem when Mr daarhi wala does it, and perfectly fine when Ms Liberal does?

    Before you tell me that criticising religion was not your intention, it’c clear from many of the comments that that is exactly what you ended up doing. Recommend

  • shabeer

    Musharraf always kept dogs as pets and is is your leader. Please answer.Recommend

  • catLover

    thanks for sharing that link…it was great… I hope miss meiryum u got the answer.. it was very well described in there.. if u’ve read!!
    anyways .. plz do read a bit of religion’ related to ur topic before commenting on it… !!Its a humble request:)

  • Adeel

    I don’t know who this guy is and what his credentials are…
    But here is a world renowned scholar and you can see/hear him yourself what he says about dog licking and wudu…

    There are more videos on youtube…

    How can dog licking you break your wudu… ? A dog is a blind man’s stick, a deaf man’s ears, a therapy for patients, etc etc, Recommend

  • JR

    DOGS ARE NOT ‘a wagging tail symbol of dirtiness, second only to pigs”‘ ! They are man’s best friend! There are alot of people in this who are disabled and their life is eased due to their pet dogs! Recommend

  • MK

    I don’t think she’s criticising religion at all. Rather, she’s criticising Pakistani society, which always equates a dog with lack of religiosity, where as there is really no link between the two. I also think her story on doing wudu after touching the dog, is more to show a mindset – how a) people just follow what their elders (in this case Nani) tell them without questioning the reasons why it might be so, and b) how people often act pedantic and feel the need to tell people how to live their lives.

    Her article talks about how religion is misused to create a hatred for dogs, where as you rightly point out – our Prophet was very kind to animals, hence how can there be this dichotomy?Recommend

  • Godhpur

    @every fatuous zealot: Why not talk about religion? There is no unconditional respect for animals in Islam…who says that? Self-satisfied windbags that you people are, you quote two grade 5 Islamiat textbook incidents to show your ‘deep study of religion’ and then sign off with an advice that we follow your path. Please have some sense if not shame! In Islam, some animals are ‘paleet’, some are not! And we know dogs belong to the former group…..Why this division? Just because god said so! Don’t try to be more humane then you people actually are!Recommend

  • A.S

    i have had dogs since i was born. my father loves animals. we also happen to believe that wudu is broken after being licked by a dog, BUT THAT DOES NOT LABEL US AS INHUMANE PEOPLE WHO MISTREAT DOGS AND THINK OF THEM AS DIRT. we spend time with them in areas of our house where they are allowed everyday and frankly, we love them to death.

    by the way author, rottweilers have brown and black fur (i had one). the dog you are referring to is probably a lab (i have one just like the one you described); please get your facts right.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Great topic and again nicely written. The way a people treat animals says a lot about the people.
    Saw a dog movie recently called ‘Hatchiko’ with Richard Gere. It’s a true story and after watching it all I could think of was that very few humans would display the qualities, especially devotion, that the dog had, without asking anything in return. Movie worth watching.Recommend

  • amrita

    How much of it has to with religion and how much of it has to with where we live? Whether you consider a dog as ‘napaak’ and how you deal with that just depends on how strictly you follow Islam.
    And I live in Pakistan…..people who can afford an air-conditioned room for their St. Bernard don’t really make up the majority of the society. I see more children sorting through garbage heaps for food than dogs. People have way too many children to wish for a pet to keep them entertained. In such an environment it’s natural to become apathetic to stray dogs, cats, etc, anything that you can find freely roaming.
    As for cruelty it’s not limited to dogs, or even animals. We seem to like inflicting pain on whoever we can to prove our dominance (hint: abuse of child domestic labour). Recommend

  • Jahiz

    Well said. I think a lot of people are missing the point of your article, which is not related to religion, but about how all aspects of Pakistani society have become such that we have no heart towards dogs (or innocent animals in general), so much so that it has even unjustifiably ingrained into our religious beliefs. Islam tells Muslims nothing but to be kind towards animals
    I am a proud dog owner and it took me some time before I become completely comfortable with my dog given I was born and raised in the culture you describe.
    Dogs, like any pets, are innocent. Yes, humans are treated terribly in our country. But then its humans that do it to other humans. Dogs, or other animals on the other hand, are innocent. They never hurt anyone. Have you noticed how a dog runs away the second you show any aggression?
    Our treatment of dogs is a perfect manifestation of how society is in Pakistan. Cruel beyond comprehension. We will sadly stay like this, no matter what Islam says…Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    Check out the Pakistan Kennel Club in Karachi. They used to have dog shows regularly and you can see dog lovers with their pets on display.Recommend

  • akmal

    a proud owner of two highly trained german shepherds.. let me destroy the argument for those brainwashed backward ppl who claim angels dont come in homes where there are dogs. This is utter nonsense and is not written anywhere infact the loyalty of a dog is mentioned in the Quran and also relates a to incident where the sahibi was asked to take his remaining followers and stay in the cave where they slept while God send wrath on the ppl outside. The dog is mentioned as it stayed with Sahibi in the cave.. Nobody is asking you to kiss or make out with the pet. be it dog. if it licks you wash it off .. its not rocket science. if some human licked me i sure as hell will wash it off.. so we need to relax and educate ourselves and not listen to maulvis who have read the quran without meaning and our completely brain washed.. Sodomizing young boys in maderassa is fine having a pet dog isnt,,,Recommend

  • R.N.Kiani

    Prophets of Allah, Hazarat Yaqoob a.s and some othres were shepherds by profession but did they carry dogs along them or not idont know but shepherds can’t look after thier folks without dogs.. You might have heard about Dog of Ashab e Kahaf cz it has been discussed in the quran. In my society every home carry a dog i am tlaking about some upper villages of Gilgit, v carry them but v also take care of najasat so it depends on us that how v take them with us… I love my dog whole year i so desperatly wait to c him and i like it too much when he runs around my horse…. Dogs know many things about their master i believe… Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Pakistani

    I have a Hungarian kuvasz and i absolutely love it. Stop generalizing pleaseRecommend


    @Faheem..this comment is as realistic as this article..good one!!Recommend

  • bahar gul

    wwhy cant pakistani people keep native dogs as their pets? why do they feel proud of man bred dogs who always have some kind of health problems and disfunctional bodies? Alsatians ahve a hip problem as they are bred by stupid humans who cant be gods. Wake up Pakistanis and be confident with your own original treasures. Also dogs from a cold climate are not suitable for hot weathers so think twice before you jump into the fake fashion competition.Be kind to animals.Recommend

  • Cautious

    When Muslims visit they initially shy away from my Golden Retriever but by the time they leave they are best friends and the first thing they ask about when they call is whether the dog is doing fine. Go figure. Recommend

  • Faheem

    thanks dear! @TENNIS: Recommend