I have loved dogs for as long as I have known love. From feeding community dogs to pestering friends to let me meet their pets, I spent my entire childhood surrounded by dogs - some loving, some scary. For a brief period in my life, I tried befriending cats too, but that ended in several trips to the hospital and was, at last, an utter failure. I still love them, just from afar.
I got my first dog when I was 16. Well, dogs, actually. After years of not getting a dog because of living in an apartment, my family was finally moving to a larger house on the ground floor, and there was no way a dog wasn’t going to move in with us! My brother had planned to get a golden retriever, but he fell in love with a female dalmatian puppy at the shop and got her home instead. My mother refused to keep a female dog and asked him to exchange her for a male puppy. So he went back to the store where he hilariously failed to let the female puppy go and brought her back home along with a male dalmatian puppy (you can’t say mom’s wishes weren’t fulfilled). These were Penny and Dollar, and they had two litters, the second of which gave us our third dog Sherry.
For the longest time, I was uninformed about the ills of the breeding industry and backyard breeding. As I grew older and started interacting with animal welfare organisations and workers on social media, the veil slowly lifted, and I decided to never buy or breed a dog. In 2016, a family friend suddenly left his Rottweiler puppy in my father’s care after his parents refused to keep him since they already had 4 dogs at home. After a lot of back and forth, the puppy - named Budhwa by my father - stayed on with my family. Later that year, Penny passed away. I was living in Noida at the time and took all the love I had for her and channelled it into caring for my community dogs. In February 2018, I fostered my first dog Simba, a skinny little puppy suffering from parvo and distemper, who lived with me for three days before he was put down. A month later, Bailey stumbled into my life.
Bailey was born early in February 2018 to one of my community dogs. Anushka (who now runs Asha Foundation and is on Instagram as @pawnushka) had taken a litter of three puppies out of a deep drain that had started filling up due to rains. It was from this litter that I adopted Bailey. It was love at first sight, love at first pee on my clothes, love at first bark, and love over and over again, basically a foster-fail from the start. Isn’t it strange how a potato-sized being can have such a hold over your heart?
So it was decided; it would be Bailey, me and Sidhant, the guy I was dating. Cut to March 2020, Sidhant was now my spouse, and Bailey was living with my parents while I moved and set up our home in Bangalore. We missed her sorely and wanted to bring her here, but the Covid-19 lockdown put the distance between us firmly in place. Around this time, we started hearing of dogs being abandoned by their families over concerns of Covid-19 transmission. We figured if we couldn’t get Bailey to us, we could open our home to foster abandoned dogs. In June 2020, I became an aunt to a dalmatian — Pepper — who was adopted by my brother and sister in law, and in Bangalore, we started looking for dogs in need of foster homes. Little did we know our next dog, ‘June’ would be home a few weeks from then.
CUPA — Second Chance Adoption Centre had posted an adoption appeal for a group of abandoned senior dogs. I reached out to Sanjana Madappa, who was listed as the point of contact and offered to foster one of the dogs. When I learnt that they were looking only for adoptions, I asked Sidhant if he would be okay adopting a senior dog. We discussed the pros and cons, and I set up a visit with Sanjana to start the process of adopting our next dog. It wasn’t smooth — ours being a 2-person household, we were specifically looking for a dog with no separation anxiety. The first dog we brought home started showing all the telltale signs of separation anxiety as soon as we left her alone, even when we were in the house. We immediately reached out to Sanjana, who graciously allowed us to bring her back to the shelter. It turned out that the dog’s foster family hadn’t left her alone at all, never giving her a reason to get anxious and never causing her to exhibit separation anxiety. We then brought home a senior white Labrador called Rukmini, who had been abandoned during the first Covid-19 surge. We named her June and set about gaining her trust and making her feel at home. Her personality blossomed over the next few months, and she accepted us as her family. We recently celebrated her first gotcha day with us.
June travelled with us to my parents’ home last December, and we returned to Bangalore with both our girls in February this year. It has been quite a journey with all of these dogs, including the ones not mentioned here by name. They have taught me so much about resilience and diligence. Living with them, especially seeing their personalities develop and watching them interact with each other has been a revelation! I thought I knew it all with the dalmatians, and Bailey came along and proved me wrong. Then June came along and taught me so much more. The dogs took me from believing my knowledge was enough to thinking, “Let me read up a bit on this” for everything. I have used the knowledge gained over the years to help other dog parents - strangers, friends, and family, including my parents, who now take care of Sherry and Budhwa.
Over the past year, many people I know have brought dogs home. I have counselled several first-time and to-be dog parents on how to prepare for a puppy, home remedies, travel with dogs, spay and neuter, etc. I believe it is now time for me to condense all this information online, where other dog parents can access it too. One of my favourite dog quotes says, “In a perfect world, every dog would have a home, and every home would have a dog.” I hope to help dog parents give their dogs the perfect home through my lessons from a life with dogs.
P.S.: A few days after I finished writing this, I became godmother (dogmother?) to a gorgeous rescued Labrador called Vader. He’s thoroughly a good boy and has come home to my friends who are first-time pet parents. Shelter dogs have so much love to give; always #AdoptDontShop!