(Bihar Times) September is the mating season for dogs and by early December the puppies come in from the streets. Bedraggled , starving, suffering from parvo, pneumonia and distemper, lame from the stones thrown at them, often orphaned, most of them die in the shelter in the first few days of their arrival. On the road , there is almost 90% mortality. In the shelter , it is perhaps 75% which is not much better.
So in December , my sister Ambika decided to try out a new experiment. We would have a puppy adoption mela. From October to February, there are dozens of fairs in Delhi – winter fairs, Christmas carnivals , colony fairs, divali fairs, women’s fairs, chrysanthemum show, rose show, press melas, business women’s fair, diplomatic corps fair, night carnivals… we cajole the organizers to give us a table in as many as we can get and we sell whatever we can cadge from export companies. One of the most successful malls in Delhi , the Select City Walk Mall , has organized a “flea market” every Wednesday since September and we have a weekly stall there. The markets get several thousand visitors every week.
This December, Ambika asked the flea market organizers if she could have a separate place in which she could display puppies for adoption. They agreed. We rounded up the healthiest puppies from the shelter , fattened them up, bathed them , put blue and pink ribbons on them and then informed as many volunteers as we could to come and help. When Ambika arrived with thirty puppies, there were twelve young girls waiting to be volunteers. A pet shop had given us very pretty blue and red puppy beds , someone else gave us coats for the pups and a local vet announced an open offer for free vaccinations and medical checkups for an adopted puppy’s entire lifetime.
Hundreds of people milled around. Children fought with their parents to take a puppy and four children sat on the ground and screamed when their parents said no. Bonds were signed, two hundred and fifty rupees was taken from adopters… it was the most successful part of the flea market. Twenty four pups were adopted. Even people who did not adopt made donations and we came home with Rs 44,000 . Each adopter was given leaflets on how and what to feed them and other information. The Mall organizers were so pleased that they asked us to make it a permanent event. Over the next two weeks a hundred puppies have been adopted. Many puppies have been brought by people who have rescued them from the streets of their colonies, fed and cleaned them and brought them to the market. We have had filmstars like Rahul Dev visiting the stall this week, the press and TV have written about this constantly. The Select Citywalk Mall advertises “ free puppies” in its fliers.
We have had our own share of heartbreak even in this. Of the hundred adopted , ten have been returned : people who decided that the puppy was not pedigreed , or to much trouble to take care of. Five adopted puppies died of parvovirus which was not seen by us when we took them to the market. Dolly , a brown and white puppy with huge melting eyes has been adopted out twice : the first time she was returned because the woman’s mother in law objected. The second time she was taken by a lady for her son who returned her saying that he didn’t want a girl. She has finally found a home again. One puppy that was adopted was returned to us by a woman who said that her boyfriend worked in a call centre and didn’t want to be disturbed as he slept the whole day.
The puppies that have not been adopted this week are brought back to my house and at the moment I have fourteen yelping babies swarming all over , upsetting the 11 adult dogs who live there already. They share the room at night with the blind Labrador and the blind and deaf Great Dane , both of who can’t wait to leave the room in the morning as the urine stained newspapers and hay make it difficult to breathe. My son whose room faces this room is up the whole night because of the yelping. Another “dog” has been employed to make sure the pups are fed every few hours and taken into the garden where they promptly run off in different directions. As I write this piece , three people are out looking for a missing puppy – who will probably be found in my bathroom.
The People for Animals helpline is crowded with calls. Some are from people who want to give away puppies. And some from people who want to adopt. Not a single person has said that they want pedigreed dogs- which is so heartening.
One of the even more amazing effects that this has had is that puppies are being better looked after in my shelter. Till now the staff took it for granted that most would die so they were treated as if they were already ghosts. Now , when they see them being snapped up by more than willing adopters and the media so excited about this initiative, that they are all trying very hard to keep them alive and well. All the other shelters run by different NGOs are giving us their puppies as well.
Thank God for the Select City Walk Mall owner, the animal volunteers , my sister and her bright idea and most of all , the Indians who have decided to be Indian and adopt Indians ! Why don’t you start a similar thing in your town ?
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