Roaming Rumi: A Himalayan Dogumentary

‘Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond’ ~ Rumi

Rumi our special boy

This is our 4th year of running bike tours in the Indian Himalayas and I have to say that my enthusiasm and passion for this region has not waned, if anything I love it more every time. We are always so fortunate to have fantastic groups of cyclists, all of whom share a similar passion for adventure, making the trips so different and interesting. This year however, we were graced with a particularly special person who became a firm friend of the entire team and crept into all of our hearts. This is his story. Rumtse (Rumi) is a himalayan hound and a very special one indeed!

The story begins near Tso Kar a high altitude salt pan around 250km from Leh. One glorious morning we set off from our incredible campsite at 4600m  pedaling toward the Taglang-la pass, the highest on the Manali-Leh highway at 5300m. The cycle started gently, following the moray plains in preparation for the big climb that lay ahead.
Soon after petting and feeding this dear roadside pup, we passed some dhabbas (makeshift roadside stops). It was here I noticed a particularly energetic dog who started to sprint alongside Julia and myself. I felt distressed as the climb was about to start and I really couldn’t imagine how this poor guy would manage running up the 17kms to 5300m. Of course I knew he could, I mean he is a himalayan hound after all, but with no breakfast!? I tossed him my chapatis and cheese that I had saved from breakfast, stashed in my bar bag (doubles up as a dogtreats bag). I tried to ignore the fact that we were loosing him as I saw him eventually disappear out of the corner of my eye…..
But Rumi commits to anything he starts. Here he is escourting Stefan in his final fierce kilometres to the top of the Taglang-la.
Our care free companion just loves running with bikes. I later discovered when walking with him through Leh, that he had run with other cyclists prior to him joining us at Tso Kar. So he had come at least 300km and certainly his starting point could have easily been Manali, as according to local folk  ‘he certainly isn’t  a ladakhi looking dog so he must have come from Manali’,  some 600km from Leh!
I have been joined by dogs on other trips and so have many cyclists.  There is one thing I am sure they will all agree on, is that it leaves one with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The instant companionship and admiration I feel is hard to beat!
Stefan couldn’t have shared a more special moment of reaching the pass summit, with anyone better.
So where did he get his name from? The pretty village on the other side of the pass called Rumtse. Rumi makes a nice abbreviation and is also the name of the famous Persian poet and Sufi mystic of the 13th century. Rumi’s influence and importance is said to have transcended borders and cultural differences. As such, Rumi seemed like a very appropriate name for our friend, in all respects.
Of course it wasn’t all running for Rumi. Even he did tire of trying to keep up with a fleet of cyclists descending at 50 km per hour. This is when I begged and pleaded to our support vehicle just to give him a ride for part of the way, I couldn’t bare to loose him. He had committed to us, so I felt we needed to commit to him. Here he is curled up at Carlos’s feet. He wasn’t at all keen on the car and was ever eager to keep on running. In fact we lost him on the descent to Rumtse village and I thought that was the last we would see of him, but I should have known, this was Rumi. Later that afternoon he found us.
Campsite pup.                                                                                                                    Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself “~ Rumi
Ready to roll and run once more with Janet.
Following the wine-stained valley to Upshi, we then joined the mighty Indus river and followed it all the way to Leh. Rumi ran and took a few rides in the car too.
Rumi boy finding a scrap of shade to shelter in.
another scrap of shade
…and a cooling swim in the Upshi river.
We arrived in Leh, just in time to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Here we are waiting outside the Oriental Guesthouse, with our host family and dog ,Tommy in front of us. Rumi wasn’t too keen on Tommy (understandable!)
Everyone, including abi-le and meme-le (grandmum & dad) were all waiting with baited breathe…
…and in an instant he was there and then he was gone.
Rumi soon started to get used to the city life. A lead was new for him(not keen) and corner cafe’s, he rather enjoyed. In particular he took a fancy to Cafe Jeevan and Gornan, the very kind Sikh owner ,who provided Rumi with many meals. His other favourite hang-out is The Little Cafe. Rumi and owner Dilip have a mutual affection for one another. You are quite likely to find Rumi there right now.
But Rumi is a Himalayan hound and he likes nothing better than to be in his element. We took him on a 3 day hike from Jiangchen to Chilling. He was truly home once more.
“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” ~ Rumi
Our patient and loyal friend would always wait for us
Making friends wherever he goes. Here we picnic with villagers from Rumbak.
Tagi, apricot jam and solcha.
The one and only house at Yuruptse where we stayed for the night.
Ladakhi’s aren’t that keen on dogs as pets, let alone dogs coming into houses. However as per usual Rumi won the heart of Ama-le who had no problem with him spending the night indoors.
Even old meme-le was rather chilled with having a dog in his home. I am quite certain he was the first and probably be the last one!
Peeping Tom: Carlos spied meme-le outside the front of the house, while reciting prayers, using his binocs to spy on Julia some 150m away taking a bucket bath! Cant blame him, there’s not too much happening in Yuruptse.
On top of the 5100m Shingo-la pass. For Rumi it was a breeze.
The view from Nurboo Guesthouse, Upper Changspa.
While we enjoyed more than 2 weeks with our friend, I was beside myself with anxiety about his future. Of course Rumi is a survivor, but we felt responsible and wanted to be as sure as we could about his future. If we left him roaming the streets of Leh, it is almost certain he would eventually get killed by territorial packs of dogs. If they didn’t kill him, the winter would, so many dogs in Leh die each year due to cold and starvation. We (Stefan, Carlos and myself) seriously investigated the option of bringin him home to SA. We spent days researching and eventually found out that we didn’t have enough time. One of the many requirements was that his rabies injection was at least 30 days old. The easier option of finding him a home wasn’t easy at all. Ladakhi’s aren’t dog lovers, but we knew that it would be his only hope. We asked everyone we met for ideas. By this stage Rumi was becoming quite a feature on the streets of Leh, he was noticed and lucky for him he is also very handsome. Eventually we asked our family Guesthouse Nurboo where we always stay after our tour whether they would consider taking him. The Nurboos are a special family and although Rumi was already staying at their house we simply couldn’t presume they would take him, nor did we want them to feel obligated. For them, there was no question, it was as if they knew he was to be theirs.
Rumi’s family – Aba-le (Angchuk), Ama-le  (Laskit)and Dawa of Nurboo Guesthouse.
While worrying about finding homes for Rumste, we  suddenly found we had a few options. I had been asked a few times in the street ‘How much?” However when Rumi introduced us to the very kind Lama Wangchuk Thupstan, we knew he was a serious choice. Wangchuk helped set up the “New Millenium School” 12 years ago which he now over sees. He was captivated by Rumtse and asked us if he could have him, (before  telling him he already had a home). He clearly loved dogs. Here he is with one the school dogs. Wangchuk agreed with me that Rumi was indeed special and could quite possibly be a reincarnation of a Rinpoche. He only differed in that he said that Rumi must have then been, a naughty Rinpoche!
Happy at home
Let sleeping dogs lie.
We still had some unfinished business. Rumi needed his jabs and in the interest of the 1000s of strays, we felt it was only right to have him sterilized.
The more than basic clinic.
But a more than competent and caring vet – Dr Stanzin Regbiz.
Sorry, Rumtse!
Dorje, Kelsang and Dr. Stanzin
This pom-pup needed to be rehydrated.
Back home, Rumi was far from amused. He reacted badly to the anaesthetic and went a bit nuts and incessantly licked his wound which became infected. Fortunately Dawa dad took him back the vet and a few days later he was much better.
Rumi is in kind and caring hands. The morning we left at 5am, he whined knowing that we were going. You taught us so much, special friend of the Himalayas.
                      “Don’t grieve. Everything you lose comes around in another form” ~ Rumi
15 thoughts on “Roaming Rumi: A Himalayan Dogumentary
  • Fantastic post Bridget! you can't be serious about meme-le though!! that is hilarious!!

  • What an enchanting story. I am sure Rumi would have enjoyed walks along the river bank with Impi and Lucky, but he would have hated it when you went back to the Himilayas without him! Now you have an EXTRA excuse to go back next year.

  • avi blau

    loved it bridget. although it is definitely the right thing to do, its ironic that his reward for the trip is beign castrated :) and to think i had considered joining these bike trips... :p avi

  • Neil Ringdahl

    Great story Bridgey - When are you going back to visit Rumi?

  • What a captivating story about a very special dog.

  • Heather Somerville

    Amazing story. Good on you Bridget. Good luck to Rumi in his new home.

  • Charissa

    What a wonderful, heart-warming story! I've fallen in love with Rumi and I haven't even met him :) Thanks Bridget!

  • Janet

    Love this. Thank you for telling it so beautifully

  • Pia Sanchez

    What a dog!! Do you think his family will let him run with you again next time? :)

  • Pat Hoffmann

    Ah. You're gonna make me cry! What a beautiful story.

  • We met Rumi in Leh in Oriental Guesthouse(Theo,Ellen and son Jesper). He was indeed a very special, smart dog. It's good to see you guys found a nice homestay for him.

  • Hannah Burbach

    This is so awesome Bridget! Thanks for sharing such a lovely story :)

  • max

    cute!!! :-) :-)

  • Diggy

    I'm really amazed with you and your story Bridget. You do have a nice heart ," down to the earth ". Hope rumi's well and I get a chance to travel with you someday in life.