Chotu Kumar suckles from the stray dog's teats
A poverty-stricken six-year-old boy has been filmed feeding on milk from the teat of a stray dog in India.
Footage shows Chotu Kumar grabbing at the bitch’s hind legs so he can get a drink. Astonishingly, the animal allows him to.
“Our family is very poor, sometimes I get hungry,” he said.
“The dog doesn’t bite me. I like her and she likes me, she treats me like one of her puppies. I love to play with the dogs, they’re my friends.”
Chotu lives with his mother Shanichari Devi, 37, his grandmother Amiya Devi, 60, and his two brothers Bola, 14, and three-year-old Mahesh in a mud house in Jharkhand, Eastern India.
After his father’s death four years ago the family dropped below the poverty line.
The elder brother was forced to go out to work to earn money for the family but he only brings home under £20 a month (1200 INR) working at a nearby hotel.
Chotu’s mother and grandmother go out to the forest and collect firewood and try to find forest food. But on average their daily meals consist of vegetables and roti, a homemade Indian bread.
Scroll down for a gallery of images of Chotu and his family
Chotu with his mother, grandmother and younger brother
Meanwhile, two years ago Chotu started spending all of his time with a pack of dogs. He didn’t go to school so he didn’t have any friends. The dogs had become his friends.
The family hadn’t eaten solid foods or milk for days.
And one morning Shanichari spotted her son sitting on the floor drinking milk from the dog’s teat.
She said: "While he was playing with the dogs outside the house I saw him drinking the bitch's milk. I was so shocked. I ran over and pulled him away. But ever since whenever he is hungry he has always slipped back. I have let him because I know how hungry he is.
"The dog has always been friendly with him and never attacks him. He often rides on her back and then he jumps off and sucks on her teat along with her pups. The bitch licks him while he feeds just like she does with her own pups."
There were times when the dog sits outside his mud house and barks for him to come out to play.
But when local villagers found out about Chotu and his new friends they began to get angry. They were worried other children were at risk and that there would be a rabies outbreak.
"Villagers kept telling us he’d die of some disease if he carried on drinking it and it’d spread to the other children. But Chotu carried on," Shanichari added.
Eventually villagers reported Chotu to local officials and they stepped in. Chotu was admitted to school where he gets a free lunch and the authorities gave his family a food card, which allowed them to get food aid.
But still, the dog continues to visit Chotu and it has become a habit for him to drink her milk.
Chotu said: "I suck her milk three times a day and it tastes sweet like sugar.
"Many people in the village don't like my friendship with the dogs but I am happy, if she isn’t near my home I go looking for her outside the village. She’s always happy to see me and lets me have some milk."
The spectacle of Chotu feeding from the dog is reminiscent of the legend of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were abandoned by their parents and placed in the river Tiber.
The basket reached the shore and the twins were discovered and suckled by a female wolf, who nursed the boys until they were taken in by a shepherd.