Passion for the Pet
Annadhanam has a new connotation for Radhika Kasturirangan. She does not offer free food for people on auspicious days, nor does she celebrate her birthday in an orphanage with the inmates over lunch. Her care and concern is for the canines on the street who rummage the garbage or stand outside an eatery or meat shop waiting with an expectant look for people to throw out leftovers, or for the shopkeepers to fling a piece of an inedible organ from the carcass. Radhika has been feeding street dogs in and around Gandhi Nagar for the past 15 years. Her experiences in this mission are unique, which she shares with Adyar Times. Her love for the street sentinels is incredible; it requires a high degree of passion to drive through the streets during the lockdown period to ensure
How did all this start?
We are a family of dog-lovers. After moving to Gandhi Nagar in 2005, I fed and took care of a stray pup near my house. It started to litter and I had several mouths to feed. Slowly I took up feeding all the street dogs in my area. In 2017, Kousalya Adhinarayanan in Gandhi Nagar showed an interest in joining me. She too was passionate about dogs and we became best friends. We now feed around 100 dogs here.
Did you face flak in the streets initially?
There were a lot of complaints from people who felt that I am creating a lot of unnecessary commotion in the streets and asked me to take all of them to my house. They did not understand that the dogs actually maintain a territorial discipline and stay in their own street. Even if I feed them at my place they will go back eventually. I assured them that I sterilise every dog I feed and also give the required vaccination, do deworming, etc. I am a volunteer at Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary (BMAD), a part of Theosophical Society. They support me for vaccinating and treating the dogs etc.
Has lockdown made any difference to your routine?
Since lockdown, I find it surprising that people are appreciative that the dogs are being fed. (Maybe they understand what hunger is, or they feel that the dogs are better off than us – we had a good laugh).
How do you keep track of all the dogs, details of vaccination, etc?
All of them have names and they respond to calls. We maintain a chart for vaccination. We both dispense the deworming tablets for each dog individually while we feed. I must also mention that my sister in law Meera Jagdish has been helping me with funding for sterilisation of street dogs through the Inner Wheel Club of Madras.
Who spends on food and what is your routine?
Honestly, I do not know how much we spend on them. It varies when we have a sick dog or when it is vaccine time, etc. The food is a mixture of rice, eggs and chicken liver, and one feed a day. I carry the food in a container in my two-wheeler and follow a specific route. I have to make two or three trips from my house to finish feeding them all.
Do you have a naming convention or call them just as you fancy?
It is actually fun. Mostly the name depends on the landmark where we found him. We have Nokia, Titan, a boy called Naturals, Blues for the one found near Blue Dart, Azhagi, the one with pretty eyes, and also how we pet them - Appu or Kutty, etc. Each fellow knows his name and comes rushing when we call them.
Any pet which is more special than the others?
Yes. Keshav came to me when he was 4 months old with a serious condition called (CD) canine distemper, a contagious neural disorder. He could not open his jaws to eat, had lost an eye and could eat and poop in lying down position only. I kept him quarantined in an empty plot and treated him. That’s when Dr. Kripa, a very compassionate vet, gave me moral support, and since then has been a wonderful person, a source of strength in my endeavor.
I also have to mention ‘Boon’, a scrawny puppy who was brought to the shelter from Vellore. He was run over by a vehicle with his upper and lower jaw mangled. His surgery was done at the shelter, and I brought him home to monitor his progress. Now he is such a handsome guy and an amazing survivor.
You must be blessed with a supportive family?
Yes. My husband and my two sons are all dog lovers who support and appreciate my work.
This service would have taught you something Radhika………
Mmm. I have great respect for the mother dogs who tirelessly take care of their pups and then go to find food for themselves. I am partial to Mamma dogs and feed them thrice (broad grin). Also amazing is how they wean them off at the right time and let them fend for themselves. I really enjoy the love, and marvel at the energy with which the dogs greet me every day. My feeding routine is like meditation time for me. I come out of it energised and rejuvenated to face another day in my life.
Radhika Kasturirangan is a resident of Gandhi Nagar and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org