By Dr. Dynatra Subasinghe
Photos by Blue Paws Trust and Devaka Seneviratne
Somapala (aka Circus Uncle) is well-known for his trained, cross-bred Sri Lankan dogs and their circus acts. Somapala has been training dogs all his life and has never had any formal training on dog training. He loves animals and has learned to obtain not only obedience from his dogs, but taught them to face fire and even walk on tight ropes and jump through fire loops. All these tricks are performed to a signal from his hand or sound from his throat. No spoken commands or punishments are given.
Awe-inspiring circus tricks
Rosy and Laika have been performing on the streets of Colombo and have even been seen in television dramas. They travel to all locations in a cart attached to Somapala’s bicycle. Somapala, 67, does some impressive stunts on his bicycle together with the dog show. This is how he receives his income to support his family. A humble man of few words and a big smile, he loves his animals dearly. Many of the dog lovers who attended the Bouuwa Show last year (an annual show for cross-bred dogs) saw Rosy at her best; jumping through fire, pushing a cart with Laika, her trusted friend, and many more clever tricks that put everyone in awe of her abilities. Who said cross-bred dogs on Sri Lankan streets lack intelligence and cannot be trained? Rosy defied all these misconceptions with her performance with Laika.
Unfortunately, this February, Circus Uncle and his talented friends met with an accident and both Rosy and Laika panicked and ran aimlessly from their cart. To make matters worse, Rosy immediately got hit by another vehicle. Laika was never found, despite an extensive search by the Blue Paws Trust and friends. Somapala rushed Rosy to the Pet Vet Clinic. Rosy was lovingly cared for by the staff of Pet Vet Clinic and BPT funded the costs for treatment, helping her recover from the injuries that left her irreversibly paralyzed on her hind legs. This meant she could not perform again, and resulted in Somapala losing his income. She could not use her hind legs to walk and could not perform the wonderful stunts she used to do. No more leaping through fire and running like the wind. The one fact Somapala and his wife were sure of was that, despite the paralysis, they wanted Rosy to be with them for the rest of her life as she was a part of their family. They refused the option of euthanasia, given to patients in similar situations to relieve pain and suffering. However, Rosy was able to live a pain-free life within a few months and there was no need for that option. Subsequently, with the help of BPT and some generous dog lovers who came forward with funds, Mr. Morris at Pet Vet Clinic made a doggy wheelchair for Rosy. Rosy was mobile again.
Today, she can walk again with the help of the wheelchair that supports her hind legs and is smiling again. Somapala still needed to find the means to sustain his family and the only thing he knew to do was circus stunts. He trained two new dogs. Rosy watched nostalgically as Somapala trained their new friends who were adopted from the streets. She must surely miss her performing days with her pal Laika. For Rosy, Somapala and his family, this was a great tragedy they were able to come through, thanks to all who helped. Somapala and his family have shown us how valuable a relationship they shared with Rosy. Even in sickness as was in health, they care for and love Rosy.
The Bouwwa Show
If you want to see Rosy and the new circus dogs perform, don’t miss the Fifth Annual Bouwwas Show on 30September 2012 at the Sathutu Uyana, Viharamahadevi Park. This is BPT’s annual educational and fun-filled event to commemorate World Rabies Day. It is conducted together with the Colombo Municipal Council and is free to the public. The main objective is to create awareness about rabies, its effects and to promote and create awareness of Sri Lanka’s local breed of dogs, the ‘Bouwwa’, who for many years has had to sit on the sidelines while their pedigreed counterparts took centre stage. The Sri Lankan ‘Bouwwas’ are great pets and companions, easy to have in almost any household, intelligent, trainable, strong and resilient. They belong in a home, not on the street! Every dog has its day and this breed gets their chance to show off their beauty and talent at the Bouwwa Show. Enroll your Bouwwa now or just come along and enjoy the day.