Shreyas Jayakumar, Ramya Reddy & Ashita Mathew
Photographs : Ramya Reddy, Tiya Joshi(as marked), Varsha Karnik(as marked)
It’s hard to summarize the overwhelming feeling we experienced when our paths crossed with the troubled souls residing at what was once the economically Weaker Section housing complex at Ejipura. What were once secure housing blocks, have now been reduced to dirt to benefit mankind’s greed. A swanky shopping mall is destined to occupy a site that has seen some tragic outcomes as a result of its deracination. Mountains of excavated earth, tons of trash and leftover remnants of the residents’ paltry possessions – the scene was eerily similar to what we see in many disaster movies, but this is exactly what greeted us when we – Ramya, Varsha, Ashita, Tiya and Shreyas – entered the hurriedly-barricaded entrance. Armed with boiled eggs, biscuits, bread and milk, we made our way into the plot, with only one objective in mind – to feed as many of the hungry, displaced dogs (and cats) as we could find.
when every bit matters
That sense of sinking despair had already set in as we were approaching the folks who would lead us to the several dogs that desperately needed to be fed. We were received with a sense of remorse and bitterness (as we had expected). ‘Dogs over people?’, we were asked by many. We had done sufficient homework and knew that the meals for the human population were being tended to, and were also told by our peers not to be bogged down by these very human, outbursts. We went right ahead and started feeding the needy babies – over 80 dogs and puppies that were rendered homeless and abandoned – without any further thoughts affecting what we had set out to do.
Naveen Rolands and his team at Canine Cuisine had already stepped in – at the very beginning of this unfortunate displacement – volunteering to take on the responsibility of feeding the dogs wholesome meals, each day for as long as they could. The generous donations that further came in from the members of Bombat Dawgz, has kept Canine Cuisine’s efforts going strong till date. Anoopa Anand & Meera Pillai were there with timely medical help as was CUPA. CUPA was also taking in some of the younger puppies and injured dogs, besides feeding the dogs inside the premises everyday. But the enormity and scattered nature of the devastation was such that there always more that was needed, and it was imperative that these parched animals get every last bit of what we could give. And so we decided to make this a regular affair, and feed them at least twice a week, as a complementary activity to the existing feeding efforts by Canine Cuisine and CUPA.
Contrary to media reports, the policemen and security guards posted around the site were extremely supportive of our intent to feed the hungry animals. No sooner had we entered, than we were mobbed by over 80 of the friendliest dogs you can ever imagine. Dogs of all shapes, ages and sizes. Some with severe physical deformities and ugly open wounds and all of them most definitely confused, hungry and thirsty and yet, the love they showered on us, a bunch of strangers, was such a wonderful thing. One would expect feeding 80 dogs to be a chaotic experience but what we encountered was far from the truth. Most of the dogs would patiently wait for their turn, their impatience shown only in the furious wagging of their tails. Very quickly we noticed that the dogs had divided themselves into 3 main packs and would pick a fight with a rival pack member if he/she got too close to their territory. To tackle this, we had to divide ourselves into 3 groups so ensure that everyone was fed. It was a bit of trial and error, as one would expect, but an immense learning experience for us that was extremely rewarding too.
Over the next two months, we continued feeding the ‘Eji-dogs’ twice a week. We started carrying a giant canister of water and used some big plastic bowls that Ramya and Ashita had as we realized that the dogs were totally parched. Watching them lap up the cool water was so fulfilling in itself. Ridhima and Sandeep from PAWS the pet store donated around 15 rolls of Butch that ended up being such a special treat to the doggies. We also had a few volunteers help us out by providing us with some much-needed extra sets of hands. We noticed that there were quite a few cats hiding amidst the rubble but they would not let us approach them and instead waited until we moved away to eat the bits of egg and bread that we had left out for them. Just outside the plot, on the footpaths were the temporary tents erected by the displaced residents. These residents had also got their dogs, numbering around 25, out on the footpath and we decided to feed them too.
We were an assorted bunch of people who came together due to our love for animals and our need to help them. Ashita, who was in her last trimester, shares in her own words, how therapeutic the whole thing was. She says, “I was 6.5 months pregnant then, would work from morning till evening at my salon, and then we used to go to meet these fellas in the evening. It was tiring and walking around the rubble hoping not to slip n fall wasn’t easy, but those faces, those happy faces who later started recognizing us from a distance and them coming and greeting us with kisses and jumping around was just too good to not go there again. It became a routine for us girls to go there at least twice a week. This was my little secret – spending time twice a week with these doggies, as nobody would have allowed me to go given my heavily pregnant state. Other than my husband nobody knew these secret visits of mine, to meet these lovely doggies. I continued to meet them, feed them and play with them well into my 8th month.”
It was evident, that in such a short span of time, these dogs had become very dear to us. We would eagerly look forward to visiting Ejipura and playing with the brats and we started noticing the various personalities of the dogs, their peculiar mannerisms, the unique way that they showed their love for us and it was hard not to fall in love with each one of them. Pretty soon, we had even named a few of the dogs that were our favourites. And so below are some of the stars:
* Tommy: This giant-of-a-dog is less than a year old but is the size of an adult Great Dane. A big heart in an even bigger body, Tommy was always the first to greet us as soon as we got out of the auto/car and was the last to leave. One day, Shreyas had to wait for 15 minutes to catch an auto. It was already 7pm but Tommy stood next to her the whole time until she got an auto and then gave her one final lick and trotted off. We recently heard distressing reports that he was stolen in the dead of the night by a few people. We tried to speak to the displaced residents but made no headway. We hope and pray that he is somewhere safe, healthy and happy.
* Mangy boy: who later turned out to be Mangy girl. She was this loving, friendly, 3 month-old puppy with severe mange on her back when we initially met her. Since she was tiny, the bigger dogs were constantly attacking her. After a few weeks of regular food and some topical application of skin cream, she was getting better. When we last saw her, she was limping really badly. Unfortunately when Varsha and Shreyas went to pick her up and drop her at PPF, she was missing and has not been seen since
* Oreo: She has to be the cutest doggy ever. With a black coat and a white sliver of fur between her eyes, she looked like an Oreo cookie. She was being fed by Niranjan, the security guard, and would love to sit on our laps the whole time. She was dropped off at Precious Paws Foundation (PPF) by Varsha and Shreyas and we have just heard the wonderful news by Debbie who runs PPF that Oreo has been adopted.
* German: So- called because of the hint of German Shepherd DNA in her, German was another of those puppies like Mangy and Oreo who really tugged at our heartstrings. It was so much fun to see German running towards us from the far end of the plot as soon as we entered. German was also dropped off at PPF and has now been adopted into a loving home where she shares a big garden with 3 dogs, 2 squirrels and a cat.
* Patch: One of the most handsome fellas we’ve seen. Patch has a white face, save for a brown patch over one eye. Very regal-looking and despite being an obvious senior in pack hierarchy, he is one adorable doggy who was always super-gentle with us.
* One-eye: This is an old boy with one eye that was either gouged out or injured by a rock/firecracker, perhaps when he was young. He used to get driven away by the other healthier dogs and therefore, Shreyas used to always feed him outside the barricades. Somehow he knew that she would always feed him and he would wait outside for his turn.
There are many more dogs that are not named but are still dear to us. To each one of us, these dogs have shown a very different side to themselves and the reasons why we love them so much may also differ. But the fact remains that the Eji dogs have found their place in our hearts forever. The sight of these dogs bounding towards us with happy barks, wagging tails with no expectations, but only to bless us with an abundance of love and wet kisses – despite their suffering – is deeply moving. When will we humans ever learn to give without expecting anything in return? There are many lessons to be learnt from these wonderful creatures.
Ashita sums it up perfectly when she says, “It made me realize how much I love these creatures and that I was willing to take risks and be there and be a part their lives. My husband could see the happiness on my face every time I returned from the slums rather than sitting at home and resting during those heavily pregnant months. People asked me why I am helping the animals when so many humans need help. I said there are angels to help them out…but we are angels for these doggies and we’re doing our part in this universe.” Don’t you all agree?
These are the kind of experiences that reinforce, that which truly matters in the matrix of life – to give and to do so unconditionally. Because what comes back, as is written in the laws of nature, is tenfold – it is pure love that is brutally honest and clear of expectations or judgments of any sort. These creatures are capable of that and much more. We can be certain of that.
Since there has been no clear mention of actionable measures on the authorities’ part regarding relocating the folks of Ejipura colony, expecting them to do something about these poor darlings might be a grim possibility. Some of the dogs have found homes and for the rest…one of best possible solutions, as of now, is for Canine Cuisine to continue to feed them as long as need be. So please consider making a small donation on a continuing basis to Canine Cuisine so their efforts towards this cause won’t be dampened. All the details can be found here :https://www.facebook.com/groups/BombatDawgz/doc/213655648773871/
And for those of you in Bangalore who might be considering a pet, please remember there are so many beautiful, clever, healthy Indian dogs waiting for loving homes, right here in your backyard. We will shortly be adding an album with images of all of these dogs looking for forever homes on Bombat Dawgz. Please stay tuned.