Many of you must have heard the latest catch-phrase, “Adopt, Don’t Shop?” If not, then you might be wondering what it means. Adopt, Don’t Shop is a campaign slogan that a growing number of animal rights proponents are using to promote adopting pets from shelters, rather than buying them from pet stores. Now you must be wondering that I had 2 dogs, both Labradors, one passed away and the other I can’t top raving about, and, I am talking about adopting and not shopping? As oxymoron my title and my current life may sound; I can safely confess that I realised this only after getting my dogs and becoming an animal lover. Today, I take care of some stray dogs, and over a period of time I have realised that no matter the breed, each and every dog has only two things to give, unconditional love and loyalty.
Initially when I was a new dog mom, wasn’t much involved with strays; as funny as it may sound, my involvement with stray dogs has also been accidental. One day, I was driving through my local market and had to suddenly brake as there were puppies on the road. On reaching home, I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and so, the very next day, I went back to the same spot with a packet of milk. I wasn’t even aware how many puppies were there or if they were even being looked after; I just went there to feed them. Now that I think about, my love for strays didn’t exactly start there. When I was living happily with my husband, I would always see a stray dog at a particular hour come near my apartment in search of food. I guess it all began back then; I would feed that dog every evening after realising his pattern.
Post separation, I shifted to a rented house and continued to take care of any and every dog I could. Once, I recollect, I saw a puppy limping at a traffic signal which was at walking distance to my house. I immediately went there and noticed there were not one, but two puppies out of which one was hit by a car. I called an NGO and got the puppy admitted to a hospital. Since I was in continues touch with them, the NGO volunteers informed me that the puppy’s internal organs were inflated and had to undergo a major surgery for the same. I donated some money, and after the puppy recovered, he was adopted by a loving and caring lady. His brother, unfortunately was not so fortunate, and while I would take care of him and give him the vitamins he needed, one day when I went to feed him, he was nowhere to be found and the locals informed me that the puppy passed away suddenly.
A piece of advice for all those of you who want to feed puppies’ milk; dogs genetically are lactose intolerant. So, if you intend to feed them milk, please dilute the milk with water. 1/3rd Milk and 2/3rd Water. When I used to feed the stray puppies in the market, a very old gentleman man there as well would come often to feed them. I was glad to see that there were still people living who cared. Soon it became my routine to feed those puppies on my way to work. From there, my journey began and without even noticing, I started looking after more than 40 stray dogs. Each one I would get neutered, vaccinated, fed, etc. I have even had a million fights with people for feeding them. Some for religious reason, some for spreading dirt, some with the fear of being bitten and some for no reason at all.
Not many people in the world know the realty about stray dogs; majority believe strays are untouchable beasts and carrier of rabies whose only motive in life is to bite them. What they fail to understand is that no creature bites without a reason. They bite only if threatened, or if they have had a bad past experience with humans. If you have hit them, or something that a human has done has scared them, their natural defence mechanism will kick in and they will tend to bite as a reflex action.
The one thing we as humans are the worst at is being human! At times, we are so harsh and cruel that we forget that even strays are living beings who feel pain, anger, sorrow and happiness, just like us! All these strays want is some food, and a little love. It is a pitiful situation for them to run about for food and they don’t even know when and where their next meal will come from. To add up to their misery, the harsh weathers of the country severely affect them. I have lost several dogs and puppies to rains in Mumbai. Last year, one of my stray dogs had 6 puppies right before rains. Let me tell you, rains in Mumbai are pretty heavy. After the first rainfall, I lost all the 6 puppies as the bitch and one more stray dog got stuck in the drainage as they were trying to take shelter from the rains. Another incident that still brings tears to my eyes; I had once gone to feed some puppies in an under construction building. All the puppies came running towards me except two. When I went towards them, they had both passed away hugging each other in their sleep due to the severe cold weather. I have seen many dogs run over by cars, many being poisoned and some even being stoned. The laws in my country are weak and not at all strict against animal cruelty. So, the culprit always walks out free on bail within minutes of being reported. I myself face a lot of issues in my apartment because they do not like dogs and pick up fights for no reason. People have actually threatened me to throw me out of the building because of my dogs’ inspite of laws clearly saying that no apartment complex can ban dogs.
What people don’t understand that Indian strays are not only intelligent, but over the years their survival skills have made them live longer with lesser medical complications. My parents had adopted a stray dog in their apartment building. We called him Caddy. He was such a calm and patient dog. At the same time, he was so alert that in his entire life spam of 16 years that he lived in their building, they didn’t have one single robbery or theft. Even today, every morning when I go down to walk Junior and feed my dogs, they are eagerly waiting for me wagging their tails at the building gate. Not just that, there has been an incident when I was inappropriately approached by a man, but my stray immediately realized the danger and started barking at him, ensuring he left me alone. Love, loyalty and security, this is what every dog gives. No matter the breed or colour. And this I learnt after having Casper and Junior. I have pledged that if ever I get another dog, it will be a stray dog or an abandoned dog or a dog that has been the longest in a shelter or the most undesirable one. Because, every dog is an angel and every dog deserves a home.