Despite the need to find their own food, water, and shelter — and their exposure to mostly human-made harms like traffic and cruelty — India’s street dogs live autonomous and peaceful lives. In this insightful essay, Krithika Srinivasan challenges us to reconsider the long-held idea that dogs are meant to be human companions, and to rethink how humans can coexist with other beings on the planet.

Too often in the West, dogs are seen through the prism of pedigree, and connected to their owner via collars and leashes. All too often, the realities of how dogs and humans live together in the Global South are overlooked. As a country with a significant street-dog population, India is a good place from which to explore how humans and canines share street life in cooperative ways that move beyond images of free-living dogs as dangerous.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.