Amma Amazing!

By Monami Bhattacharya

“It is true that kindness or apathy is not bound to any man-made social strata or class. It isn’t age-bound either. It is a state of being irrespective of poverty or the riches, youth or old age. And, the more you meet people, strange or familiar, the more this is reaffirmed.”

♦♦♦

During the week, my husband and I lead very busy work lives – with two startups and the daily drudgery. My twin therapies that I indulge in on a daily basis are watering the potted plants and taking a lazy stroll with my dogs – Ma Belle and Leo – the only time that I don’t allow myself any worldly worries. Doesn’t it sound familiar?

Over the weekends, we spend a lot of quality time with each other, friends, extended family, and of course the dogs! And one of our favorite things to do is to lookout for pet-friendly dining options. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how pet-friendly Bangalore eateries are increasingly becoming) During one of those hunts, we came across a hole-in-the-wall place in Indiranagar that sells rolls. The egg rolls are splendid, no doubt, but what actually drew us there more was the “Amma” right next door.

“Amma” is 80 plus and lives alone as her children are married and settled abroad, visiting only once or twice a year. She has been living a solitary life here for decades.

Solitary is the wrong choice of word because it isn’t as true.

There are some 15 odd dogs on her street keeping her company. She takes care of their food daily and medical attention when required, apart from providing companionship, comfort and love on a regular basis., Her own pet dog is a 2-year-old Indian kid that she found whimpering in the gutter outside her compound wall one day. It isn’t easy on most days, but in turn, by her own admission, she has a supply of boundless love and security.

An illustration of Amma with her dogs. Art by Monami

An illustration of Amma with her dogs. Art by Monami

Hers is not an easy task. Being a vegetarian, the dogs are mostly on a curd rice, bread and milk diet, but sometimes she also gives the dogs eggs. Why? She says she understands that they “need” it. When the dogs need medical attention, she has to depend on the sole veterinary ambulance service in the city as she is too old to take them to the vet by herself.  Since Amma has space constraints in her yard, she has no option but to leave them on the road. However, she puts old rags or newspapers outside to comfort them during the cold weather. She laments that she is unable to shelter them from the rain though. (Amma sponsors everything on her own. Another feat in my eyes)

Initially, there were a few complaints by the neighbours about the “mongrels” but the jibes soon stopped once they realized that the same ‘mongrels’ made their lane secure.  Amma says that the odd complaint still trickles in and the dogs get injured by loud bikers who are chased either for food or for ruining the peace in the neighbourhood.  Many worries, yet she still persists..

What makes her even more special is that when she read in the newspapers, a decade ago, that the municipality had decided to cull the strays as the only way of controlling their population, she didn’t waste even a moment in writing to Ms.Maneka Gandhi and asking for her intervention. Hers was one of the many letters that finally put a stop to this shortsighted move.

“Amma” is an inspiration. She inspires us to do what we can, as much as we can, and to take on the world if we must to do right by this species that is unmatched in loyalty, love and joy that they bring us in exchange for a tiny morsel of food.

The way she beams when she tells you one story after another is testimony of that.


A carnival like no other

by Chinthana Gopinath

It was a baking frenzy for the two days leading up to the Carnival that was going to be held at Jaaga I would definitely be taking the Chicken Liver Cookies, a favourite even among the fussiest of my customers, and the soft Honey Oatmeal Cookies, made specially for my toothless, aging customers that hold such a special place in my heart. The Carnival would also be the perfect place to introduce my special new recipe – Sweet Potato Bites. Keeping in mind that it was going to be an all day fare and that there would definitely be a few hungry customers around lunchtime and a few parents too tired to prepare dinner afterwards, I carried along my Mini Meatloaves as well.

I woke up early on the day of the carnival to bake the special Chicken & Carrot Cake that I was making for the unique fundraiser. After baking it to a lovely golden brown, I decorated the cake with fun doggy-themed cookies – a happy looking dog, a fire hydrant, a home, some bones, a couple of stars and hearts – because I consider my customers as stars and I love them so. Yes, I really do! If you had customers like mine, you would too.

The day looked nice & sunny despite the rains of the previous night. The stalls were set up along with a puppy pen that would hold little puppies. My stall was right opposite the puppy pen and their silly games kept me occupied. My customers started trickling in. Sitting pretty in front of my stall, inspecting my basket full of goodies, leaning on my table asking for some of my baked goodies, some asking politely, some demanding and some even begging. My little one, Calvin also came by along with the rest of my family. He sat with his usual dopey, doleful expression making people think that he was up for adoption!! I would like to let you all know that he is very well treated at home, contrary to what his expression said that day.

Anabel wandered about the place much like a socialite would at a Page 3 party. Every 15 minutes, she would plonk herself in front of my stall asking for a baked goodie. When I stopped giving her cookies at her mother’s request, poor Anabel had to resort to begging from the puppies in the puppy pen. Yes, I do get customers of all kinds. She was later found at the Courtyard Cafe at Jaaga begging from random strangers too. Her embarrassed parents do not want their names revealed but would also like to let everybody know that Anabel is well fed at home.

And in case you are wondering what kind of customers I have, let me tell you that my customers are the gourmet dogs of Bangalore. They are as important to me as any human I have met in my life. Calvin might be furry and walk on all fours, but he is still very much a part of my family. Whether it is a pet carnival or a human carnival, I still put the same amount of love into my preparations and I was not alone. I saw that this was the case with pretty much everyone at the Pet Carnival & Puppy Adoption Drive at Jaaga that was held on the 31st of December, 2012.

Debadrita Jadav (Debbie), the star behind the Precious Paws Foundation (PPF) is an extraordinary woman because of her exceptional love for dogs. She works tirelessly to ensure that our desi dogs have a chance at living a life in a home rather than fighting for survival on the streets. She has built a network of people who foster little desi pups, cater to their nutrition & health, teach them to be around people & other dogs, build their confidence and then put them up for adoption. PPF regularly has puppy adoption camps where foster parents bring their little puppies in the hope of finding them that one family that will give them the love & home that they deserve. I find Debbie very inspirational because looking at her makes me feel like one person CAN make a difference, one tiny puppy at a time. We all just need to start somewhere.

It was Debbie’s idea on having an adoption camp that after a session of brainstorming, eventually grew and took shape in the form of a fun, all-day carnival – A day where people could not only come in to adopt little puppies but also where pet parents could come in to have a fun day out with their doggies. The idea slowly started taking on a life of its own. Many of us who are members of the group swung into action. How could we help? How could we contribute to make this a fun day for the doggies? Yes, this was in essence going to remain an adoption camp but the carnival angle would help us generate some additional funds for PPF as well as give us an opportunity to spread awareness about the benefits of adopting versus buying a dog. Soon, posters were designed and shared with much enthusiasm on social platforms like Facebook and we started generating tremendous interest about the Pet Carnival and Adoption Camp.

Swaty Chandel of Wooflicious volunteered to put up a stall selling collars, t-shirts, shampoos & other doggy accessories while I volunteered to put up a Pupcake stall selling homemade doggy treats & cookies. Saarus Nirhali said that she could sell some cool doggy-inspired painted stained glass goodies. Ideas were generated on how to help raise some funds for PPF as Debbie is planning to build a little shelter for fostering puppies. An entry fee of Rs. 50 per doggy & per human would be collected. PPF would sell merchandize to raise funds. Woofilicious would have a lucky dip where one could pay Rs. 50 and stand a chance to win a gift voucher for Rs. 500 to shop online. Rithika Gupta & Siddharth Krish of Huckleberry (a lovely dog-friendly restaurant) would give out a gift voucher for Rs. 500. On behalf of Pupcake I would be baking a  unique, doggy cake. People had to pay Rs. 50 to guess the weight of the cake and the closest guess to the actual weight of the cake would get to take it home.

Several stalls offering interesting off-beat items for pet parents and dog lovers

Several stalls offering interesting off-beat items for pet parents and dog lovers

I arrived on the scene early only to find that there were some prospective adopters that were there even before the puppies arrived, so eager were they to find their perfect little companions. Within a couple of hours, Jaaga was abuzz with activity!!

Puppies playing in the pen watched over by their loving foster parents; Doggies barking loudly with excitement; Humans calling after their dogs to please behave themselves; People recognizing the doggies from Bombat Dawgz even before recognizing the humans; Humans shopping for their doggies… what more could one ask for? Many people, without a doggy in tow, had come by, just like that, to indulge in some puppy love.

There were some young children at the carnival that really warmed my heart.

They had adopted desi dogs and had come by to talk to prospective adopters about the advantages of adopting a desi. They spoke with such conviction and love that a lovely little puppy called Peaches definitely found her forever family that day thanks to these children. A group of girls were even seen making a video of the event and interviewing families that had adopted dogs all in a bid to increase awareness about adopting a dog versus buying one. I wish more parents & schools would make a deliberate effort to sensitize children towards the plight of animals, make them learn that we have to be the voice of those creatures that don’t speak a language that we understand. It is as important to save the tiger in the wild as it is to save a doggy on the street. Living harmoniously with all these creatures make us human, not exterminating them and claiming sole right to this planet.

Tanya, the guardian angel of the dogs who spreads the message of adoption among her friends

Tanya, the guardian angel of the dogs who spreads the message of adoption among her friends

What a day well spent it was!! We all got to interact with many dogs & humans who we knew so far only by name. We got to meet large hearted, dedicated foster parents that loved each of their little puppies to bits. Most important of all, five little puppies found their fur-ever homes. It was truly a bombat first effort by our team at Bombat Dawgz.

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Bombat Dawgz Donation Bins

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The Bombat Dawgz Donation Bins have been set up. Donations can include newspapers, bedsheets, carpets, towels, old utensils, used dog products like collars, bowls, dog shampoos & brushes. Thanks to Rajiv from Urban Ladder for donating the crates and Hamsa from Esthete for resizing them. Where will be if not for friends…


Change a life, one wag-in at a time!

By Shreyas Jayakumar

17th Dec, 2012

She was just a baby. Having entered this world barely a few weeks ago, she was already alone, hungry and scared. Her big, black eyes were like a bottomless pool of pain and fear, with occasional ripples of hope and longing spreading across them. All she wished for was for a meal, a warm bed and a big heart to share. Suddenly she heard footsteps approaching. Apprehensive, she hid, but the voice that called out to her was soothing, the food that was held out to her was tempting and the arms that enveloped her were oh so comforting.  Is this what love felt like?

This is the story of Rackles, a 45-day-old Indian Breed puppy who was rescued from the unforgiving streets of Bangalore. Having gone through a series of foster homes, she is now the darling of a wonderful family who absolutely love her. Rackles was lucky. So were Pickles, Zulu, Betsy, Johnny and Biscuit – saved from a terrible life by ordinary people like you and me, with a will to help. Unfortunately, not every puppy or dog on the street gets to lead a life with such a happy ending.

Photo of Rackles in her new home, chasing bees

For all of us pet parents, the wagging of a tail that greets you when you get back home is the best part of the day. The wagging of a tail of an orphaned/abandoned or stray puppy on the street when you cuddle or feed him can be just as joyful, if not more. It was with this in mind that Bombat Dawgz, an online community of animal lovers came up with the concept of ‘Wag-it-Forward’. The premise is simple: each member does his or her bit towards the welfare of dogs especially during the festival season between Diwali and New Year. No contribution is too little. At a time when giving gifts and sharing in the festivities is almost a ritual, why can’t we focus a portion of this generosity towards our four-legged companions and bring that additional joy into our own lives?

All that one needs to do to ‘Wag-it-Forward’ is to do a simple act of kindness. This can be as easy as dedicating one post per day on your Facebook wall to help find a loving home for a puppy, getting your friends to chip in to sponsor a dog’s medical treatment, buying gifts for your loved ones from an organization that donates a part of its proceeds to animal welfare, spreading awareness on ABC (Animal Birth Control), addressing basic healthcare and nutrition needs of the dogs on your street, saving that leftover slice of bread or bowl of rice to feed the nursing dog outside your apartment, volunteering your time or skills at an animal shelter, providing someone with contact details of NGOs or animal rescue centres that can spay/neuter or treat injured animals, cancelling your plans for a movie just so that you can foster a puppy for a day or giving a new lease of life to a dog by adopting him/her. We have all seen the problems around us but now is the time to do a tiny bit because in this case, a tiny bit goes a long way and makes a huge difference.

Creating awareness on the internet regarding Indian Breeds is easy, but goes a long way. This is a screen shot from Daily Puppy Website that features one puppy a day. Rackles was featured as puppy of the day.

Here is a page out of the CUPA Calendar – a collection of fantastic & exclusive photographs that supports animal welfare. Usher in the new year by Wagging-in

For every act of kindness that you ‘wag-in’ on the website, there are a certain number of points allotted that are then tallied up on a weekly basis to reflect the community’s collective Kindness Quotient (KQ).

Some products from the Poonch Collection – stylish products that support animal welfare. Wag-in in style!

Unlike most initiatives that usually start out strong and then slowly trickle down, Bombat Dawgz’ Wag –it-Forward campaign seems to have gathered momentum with each passing day. Considering that 5000 KQ points was set as the target for this year, it is a reflection of the community’s willingness to go above and beyond that ensured we have already crossed 19,000 KQ points with 2 weeks to spare. No mean feat indeed.

What is absolutely brilliant about this concept is the fact that we are all directly bringing about a change in the life of an innocent animal. With two weeks left to go, there is still time for us to ‘Wag-it-Forward’ and show these wonderful animals that they are not alone.  Even one small act by each of us might help save a life. The world already seems like a much nicer place. Rackles and gang will testify to that. You and I are proof of that. So go on, change a life, one wag-in at a time. And while you are at it, take the time out to hug your pet today.

For details, visit Bombat Dawgz Website and go straight to the ‘Wag-In NOW!’ section to tell us more about your act of kindness.

Zulu getting the much needed medical attention and the love of her foster parents