You ask Dr. Anuradha Bele, Veternary Doc. how many human babies she has and within a second she will tell you, two.
You ask her how many ‘Dog babies’ she has had and you will leave her calculating – “let me see, there were two in Hyderabad and then at first 6 in my house in Nagpur, but we are not counting the ones who lived outside my gate but were fed and vaccinated by us; and ohh shucks! There are also the dozen plus who live in my college compound whom we feed everyday – sorry I cannot give you a number!”
She definitely cannot because Anuradha is a compulsive mom to ALL dogs she lays eyes on!
So deep and abiding is this love that it made an Engineer with a highly paying job in Infosys give up that job, give up on Engineering – in which she had a post grad. degree from Pune too – and give the Entrance exams and join Veterinary College along with other freshers just out of 12th.
“Somehow this option had never occurred to me after I passed my 12th. My parents were very keen that I joined Medical College, but I was least interested in being a ‘Human’ Doctor. So I joined Engg. and took up a job in this field.”
Well, that job was necessary too because that’s where she met her husband Ajay Singh/ Shankar!
“I was determined to never marry a North Indian and when I first met Ajay the name I was given was Ajay Shankar. ‘A nice Tamilian whom I can feed rice’ I thought. It was love at first sight and then when I learnt he was a UPite that hardly mattered! I would have married him even if he had been Man from Mars.”
Ajay was Infosys team leader of a software group that was sent to Malaysia on a project. Anu was the only female – that was how their story began…
In two years they were married.
Leo – their first baby
Soon after that they ‘had’ their first (dog) baby – Leo. A beautiful Cocker Spaniel Leo was adopted by a group of youngsters who lived in front of Anu- Ajay’s apartment. They soon saw he was lonely, depressed and often left hungry for long stretch of time. He was left in the veranda for hours and hours, alone. One day Anu just opened the veranda gate and Leo followed her ‘home’. That was that. His ‘owners’ never even came to check on him or take him back. In fact a week later they packed up and left without even saying goodbye to Leo.
Anu then got another cocker spaniel which they bought from a Breeder as company for Leo. Baby Number two.
Meanwhile Ajay left Hyderabad and Infosys and went to Mumbai on another job. Anu stayed on with her two kids. But she was frustrated and unhappy.
“We don’t get married to live separately and spend our lifetimes in front of our respective computers. There is more to life than that.”
Move to Nagpur
So these two took a leap of faith. Without a job in hand or any concrete plan they moved to Nagpur where Anu’s parents lived and the city that was her hometown. They first of all bought an independent house because they had always wanted a place where they could adopt many pets.
By way of a career, the duo went to Singapore to specialize in dog grooming at a one week course they did there. That was when Anu decided that just knowing about dog grooming was not enough, she wanted to be a Vet and know all about dogs and be able to care for them completely.
(But the couple has been running a Pet Grooming Center, probably Nagpur’s first, since then.)
The Dog family grows in leaps and bounds with rescued dogs
Though they began caring for many dogs in their Grooming Center, Anu and Ajay wanted more dogs at home too – they had made provision for it in their large two storeyed house on Seminary Hills.
Here onwards, all their dogs were ‘rescued’ ones though. Like Coffee, a Lab. who was a two months old pet of an old family of Nagpur . Anu noticed that he was forever trying to pee – unsuccessfully. His master said he had been doing that always and ‘it was nothing to worry about’. Not convinced, Anu took him to Dr. Marwah who said he had bladder stones and needed an urgent operation. His owner said he had been sold a ‘defective pup’ and would give him back to the ‘farm’ he had bought it from. Ajay and Anu knew he would be left to die there, so they ‘adopted’ him and had the operation done and nursed him back to health.
Then there was Julie, who was a most beautiful cross breed living as a Street Dog. She kept having litter after litter which was affecting her health – and that of her pups.
A-A (Anu – Ajay) adopted the latest pups and Ajay drove Julie in his car all the way to Banglore where Anu’s sister adopted her. She is neutered now.
“They should and they must neuter street dogs” opines Anu. “It is better all around – for dogs as well as humans.”
She is also of the strong opinion that Indians must keep ‘Indies’ (mongrels) as pups.
“They are better suited physically and temperamentally to Indian conditions. Most pedigreed dogs originate in cold climates and cannot withstand Nagpur’s heat and dust.”
To encourage this idea, at their grooming center a Mongrel gets his first grooming session free!
Anu’s two human babies
It was only after she had passed her Vet degree course that Anu decided to have her own babies.
When her first child, her son Mithwa was born she was a little doubtful about having dogs around him at first so she kept him ‘isolated’ from them for the first 30 days. But then she realized the dogs – six then – were very curious and keen about this ‘new family member’ so she introduced them to each other.
“It was magic. They were so gentle and loving and caring with him. He could do anything he wanted – pull their tails, their ears, sit on them, they did not mind. Less than 2 years later when our daughter Mahua was born the dogs were never kept away. Now Mahua, all of 15 months, is also like a small pup that follows elder bro around everywhere!”
(It is so endearing to listen to Anu talk of her ‘kids’. There is no distinction between dog and human.)
An unusual home and life style
A-A’s house has a unique architecture built around the need of the dogs. There is a ‘tunnel’ from the garden that leads straight into the dining room for the dogs to enter and exit. There are ‘rooms’ for them upstairs.
But we soon realized that the contents of the house are different too.
To begin with – there is no TV!
“We just don’t have the time for it. We have a Software Company also , that keeps Ajay, the Techie, on his toes. I am busy with my grooming center, which is also part of the house now. In the evenings we all go for a walk to my college – Veternary college – the dogs there are waiting for us to feed them. All our kids enjoy these walks. Mithwa can already tell names of all the trees we pass on the road. He is a nature lover and that’s what we want them to enjoy – not cartoons on TV!”
By the way, Anu has had ALL the dogs that live in her college compound neutered.
She spent Rs. 2000/ on each one’s operation and kept them at her home while they were recovering.
Following their example, most families living in their neighborhood have adopted dogs – all street dogs!!!
Manav Seva Nagar, as their society is called should really be renamed ” Shwan ( dog in Sanskrit) Seva Nagar!”
… Sunita Mudliyar ( Associate Editor )