By Ketki Sohal*

Eight years ago, when I was 16 years old, I saw a litter of stray puppies outside my house. There was one puppy that would wait for me every day to come back from school. I called him piddi and he would fall asleep in my arms everyday. One day, I came back from school and found piddi lying on the ground looking extremely sick. We called an ambulance and sent him for treatment but unfortunately he could not make it. From that day, I always had a special place in my heart for strays. Three years ago, I found a litter of puppies near my college. The puppies were skin and bones and there was a dead body of their sibling near them. It made me extremely upset to see their condition and my friend and I took care of the puppies along with the other dogs that lived there, every single day. My college is one and a half hours away from home, so I would travel all the way only to miss my classes, buy food for them from my college canteen, and spend a good amount of time cuddling with all of them. I would walk from the metro station to my college every day even in summers to save money for feeding them. Those 10 dogs made me so much more empathetic towards strays and I started looking after all the dogs around me. Last year, I found a litter near my house, which were treated very cruelly and little kids treated them like toys. I got them all vaccinated but unfortunately they still contracted parvo. I was able to save three of them and get them adopted. I started fostering any puppy near me who was sick or injured, and found homes for them; all of them got adopted into good families. Now, I even attend their birthday parties and gift them cakes!

 I would teach kids in slum areas about taking care of animals, and soon a lot of them grew empathetic towards them; I feel proud of them. The kids started making shelters for dogs, started feeding them, and came running to me every time they saw an injured or sick animal or a bird.

In June last year, I was looking after a litter born to an old mother in a really filthy junkyard. The puppies drank water from gutter. When I got to know that no other litters have ever survived in that area, I made it my goal to look after them and keep them all safe. When I went to vaccinate them one day, I found that one of the puppies was brutally hit by someone with a very sharp object that resulted in a huge maggot wound. The maggots were eating his flesh and he was in excruciating pain only at the age of two months, yet nobody around him cared. I brought the puppy home and named him Chico. I treated Chico by myself at home after consulting with my vet. I nursed him everyday, and he made an amazing recovery. After he recovered, I made adoption appeals for him, dreaming of finding the perfect family for him who would look beyond the prejudice that stray dogs/indies don’t deserve as good families as other breeds. Even after posting a hundred appeals for him, he did not find a good home, despite being an extremely beautiful puppy. Chico taught me a lot, and he will always be special to me. He is extremely smart and loves everyone, even after suffering so much because of a cruel human. A few months ago, I entered him in a ‘Mr Desi Contest’ for fun and he actually won! I wish I could tell him that he is Mr Desi! I now spend a lot of my time studying about dog behaviour to give Chico and my five year old dog, Shiro, the best life I can. Since I am a student and don’t earn, I make dog portraits to raise funds for my own dogs and rescues.

To anyone reading this, stray animals need us. It doesn’t take much to look after them. Please look after as many animals as you can and the most important thing is to get stray dogs sterilized.

A small act of kindness goes a long way; we have the power to save lives!

 *Author is a 24 year old student from Gurugram, who is an ardent animal lover and activist.