Set against the sun, two indie dogs stood on opposite berths of an Indian Railway coach, staring outside the window of a train halted at a bustling station - This photo was our introduction to Divya. Mom of three rescued furries and a toddler, the published author and journalist, currently deep in parenting mess, uses her social media presence to share stories of her slow travels, encouraging adoption of indie dogs, and showcase her love for all things handmade. We caught up with Divya just weeks before the family made their much awaited move to Paris, on an early winter morning walk around their then home in Saligao, Goa, and chatted about raising a toddler with pets.
Miko Lolo : Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I am Divya Dugar. I am a journalist by profession. I was working with the French National TV as an Indian correspondent, and I have been a documentary producer and a journalist for last 10 years. I wrote a book called ‘Slum Girl Dreaming.’ I love travelling and I love animals. Currently I am very busy parenting my three dogs and a toddler.
Tell us your favourite childhood memory and your earliest memory of travelling.
My favourite childhood memory would be with my grandparents - going on a summer holiday together to Kolkata and eating a lot of sweets and mangoes, spending time at the massive house. Summer in Kolkata is my favourite childhood memory. It’s also my favourite travel memory. We used to take the train ‘Rajdhani’ which had no sleeper coach back then, it was just a chair car, from Delhi to Kolkata. We used to get so tired of sitting but our mom used to put little mattresses on the floor for us to sleep. That is my earliest memory of travelling.
You tend to gravitate towards Goa often. Is it the laid-back and susegad lifestyle there that attracts you?
Yes, we love beautiful houses. We are always looking for houses which are aesthetic and stimulating. As a family we spend a lot of time indoors and because of the pandemic the world is anyway staying at home. So if we have an option to spend so much time indoor the space becomes extremely important. So we are always looking for houses which are not only beautiful but spacious - where we can explore offbeat villages, laidback lifestyle, and the dogs having ample of space to run around, sunbathe. Goa has always been so close to us because this was the first holiday that we took our three dogs to. So it has been a sweet spot for us. Now we have a lot of good friends here.
What does a normal day in your life look like?
Normal day in my life has changed so much in the last two years. Now normal days start at 6:30 am. Marius wakes up and takes everyone for a morning walk. He loves to walk Tigress, our oldest dog. Wetry to have some coconut water. He brings his little bike and sometimes he chases us. We come back and have breakfast, sunbathe and play. Playtime is either chasing him around or watching the chicks and hens at the neighbour's, or he is plays by himself with stones or his car. After feeding the dogs everyone, including us, takes a nap around 11 am. Then we have our lunch. Then, if we're going out, we play a lot at the beach. We usually try to avoid going to cafes with Marius because he is still a toddler, and he loves to explore everything and he doesn’t like to stay stable. We go on a lot of nature walks where he can walk the dogs. I think beach is like a paradise if you are a parent, to let out all of the extra energy of the kid. Dinner is early for Marius, around 6:30 pm, so is it for the dogs. And by maximum 8:30 pm, he is in bed.
How did Tigress, Pari and Marcopolo respond to Marius initially? How is the relationship they share today?
I think Marcopolo knew that Marius was about to come because he was not really surprised. He just sniffed and moved away. Pari was really shocked and she wanted to be around the baby. For two weeks every time Marius cried, she cried too, like a deep wolf cry. It was a chain reaction. Even towards the morning she used to cry, that’s why we had to separate them otherwise no one could sleep! Tigress was indifferent. She was like - "I am the queen". So I don’t think she likes puppies and babies.
But now everything has changed. Marius has become more like a caretaker of theirs. He loves to give them treats, loves to walk them around. He has begun volunteering to bathe them. He follows their schedule - gets their bowls for food, walks them. He keeps watch - if any dog is being naughty or barking at someone, he'll go and says ‘"no, no". It’s great to see Marius growing up with dogs. He is not scared of animals. We want him to understand that he shares the world with other beings, whether they are birds, animals or reptiles. He has to be sensitive towards all of them.
What is the most absurd myth you have heard about raising a child with pets?
So many! When Marius was born so many people told me that my love for dogs will evaporate and the baby will change everything. Then there was 'The dogs will bring bacteria inside the house', 'Once baby comes the dogs will become nuisance for you' - All this we knew was never going to happen. Often the other thing I get to hear is how Marius and Marcopolo share the same bed and that the dog hair will cause asthma. But none of this is true! I think dogs, and pets in general are good for our mental health, inculcating kindness and compassion. They are also good for the immunity. Even if you ingest a few dog hairs, your body will naturally throw it out and it is not a big deal. We have never segregated our beds. We never wanted the dogs to know that something has changed, which developed a healthy relationship between the dogs and Marius. Everyone’s space is safe and intact, everyone’s relation with us stays intact. And they just have another mini-adult to take care of.
Where is home for you?
Home for me is where my three dogs, Olivier and Marius are. I have no sense of home as a place. For me home is people. So now we are in a house in Goa, that’s home. I will move to Jaipur, that’s going to be home. The concept of ‘home’ no more has walls or a physical idea of things for me. My home is my three dogs, Marius and Olivier.
Books or shows? Who’s your favourite fictional character?
I think Harry Potter is one of my favourite fictional characters. I wish one day I was actually in Hogwarts and I had a magic wand, and these three dogs were magical creatures! I cannot wait for Marius to grow up and discover all these fantasy books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. These all are going to be classics for him by the time he grows up.
What are a few tips to keep in mind for while planning travel with pets in India?
One thing that you have to keep in mind is that India is super pet-friendly. People still haven’t figured this out that’s why they don’t really talk about it. When I began travelling there was hardly any information present.
Another tip is, socialise your dogs when they are still just puppies. Some of them might have triggers, work around them. Don’t isolate them or don’t confide them into the house, it will make things worse! Whenever you go out, try to take your dogs out with you. Make it a fun activity. Start small. Take them on small walks.
Travelling by train with your dogs is very convenient in India. India has a wide network of trains, so wherever there is a first class coach, you can hop in with your dog and explore new places. Pets make amazing travel companions. Sometimes even better than human travel companions.
Start early, do your research, find a pet friendly hotel, communicate about all the expectations and possibilities with the hotel before you arrive. All this will help you to have a great time with your dogs.
Divya and Olivier have now moved to Paris with Marius and their fur babies, and she has been sharing all about the dogs' journey from Delhi to Paris on her Instagram. Can't wait to see more of Tigress, Pari and Marcopolo take over Paris!