It was a glittering ‘Pet Show’ in the city. Owners were doing the ramp walk on stage with their ‘award winning’ pooches: tiny Lhasa Apsos, pretty Pomeranians and majestic Great Danes when in walked Robbie and Push. A calf with his master – who the calf thought of as his ‘mother’!! Because Pushpendra had been feeding him milk with a bottle ever since his birth, as his mother, a Heifer cow had died in child birth. He fondly named his Robbie and Robbie, a darling of the ‘cow shelter’ he was living in would wait at the gate for Yadav to come and feed him.
No points for guessing who came first at the pet show. Robbie of course!!! He made such a pretty sight with his big innocent eyes and colorful balloons festooned round his neck by the Gaushala volunteers that no dog/ cat stood a chance!
But Robbie is not Pushpendra’s “only child”. Not by a far stretch… many more of Nagpur’s cows and calves, cats and dogs, even a donkey or two would claim that privilege.
Simply put – coming to the aid of injured, starving and malnourished animals is this 20- something years old student’s passion in life. He does set out for college everyday at a fixed time , but what time he reaches, and whether he reaches that day at all or not, depends on who he encounters on the way.
Like last week he met ‘Namkeen’ with his mom and siblings. (He names every animal he treats, they are not to be anonymous creatures any more). Of all the pups Namkeen was seriously malnourished, had skin problems and also got a rectum prolapse. He needed surgery, and post operative care for few days; with help from his friends Yadav arranged all that and in some days a healthy Namkeen was re united with his mother!
Before that it was Bhuro. And before Bhuro, Blacky – the list is endless.
“Some cases I encounter are horrendous. The sight scars you forever.
Last year, some residents of the area informed me about a cow that was looking very bloated and sick just lying motionless by the side of the road.
I went to exmine her with a Veterinary Doctor. We found she was pregnant but the calf inside was already dead.
With great difficulty we carried her to the hospital where during surgery we removed 20 Kgs of plastics from her stomach.
Discarded Maggi packets, milk packets, used tea coffee cups, bags with staple pins on them – we found everything.
Pregnancy must have made her ravenously hungry, and also weak. She was consuming everything she thought even half edible. (People make matters worse by wrapping left over rotis/ food in plastic bags and throwing them).
We could not save her – she died two days after the operation.”
When Pushpendra sets out from his ‘house’ – he lives alone in a rented place in Mankapur, his parents live in Chindwara where his father works for Raymonds – he carries a back pack like any other student. But while their’s contains books and lap tops, his has, apart from books, medicines of all sorts, boiled eggs and biscuits.
With some training from his adopted Vet. sister Anuradha – her story is also worth recounting and we shall do it soon! -Push. knows what drugs to carry. Pain killers, antibiotics, deworming medz, disinfectants, surgical cotton, even injection syringes… he carries it all.
When he sees an injured or ailing animal, he gives it first aid then and there and if necessary also carries it to the Veterinary hospital next to Alankar talkies. And if it is a cow or a calf, from the hospital to the best Cow shelter so it is saved from the rigours of street living.
“There are many people in the city who run illegal, unofficial ‘gothas’ keeping cows and buffaloes – during the day they are all shooed out on the roads to ‘feed themselves’ “. (Feeding milch animals can be a costly affair!) “Cows prefer to sit in the middle of the road because they are dry places and the rush of vehicles plying on both sides ensures there are no flies” Yadav explains. “But that also makes them vulnerable to road accidents.”
Once, when he was feeding a litter of pups on the other side of the road, Pushpendra saw a cow grazing the green foliage that is watered everyday on the ‘islands’ in the middle of the road – her front two legs were up on the divider and hind on the road when a four wheeler collided with her and drove away leaving her badly injured.
Yadav rushed to her aid, injected her with a pain killer, did some first aid to prevent more bleeding and then somehow loaded her onto a cycle riksha and took her to the hospital.
Her leg could not be saved, it had to be amputated.
Ten days later, when she was recovering well, her ‘owner’ turned up to claim her. He said he was even ready to pay her medical expenses – but Yadav and the hospital people had strong suspicion that he would straight away sell her to a butcher. So they sent her to a cow shelter where she is doing well and has even given birth to two calves!
Pushpendra acknowledges that there are many animal lovers in the city who help him – in kind, or even ‘grants’ – but he bemoans the attitude of society at large.
“Why spend so much on feeding people during Ramnavami yatra?” He asks. “So much food is wasted, it is littered on the roads and many grazing animals/ dogs eat it becoming very sick as a result. Why can’t they instead donate food/ money to poor people, orphanages or animal shelters?”
He also bemoans the state of the only NMC run animal shelter which is in Bhandewadi, almost being a part of the garbage dump over there.
“Imagine the amount of flies, fleas and other insects that breed there and attack the animals! The worst place for an animal shelter to be in… there are moves to shift it to the Gorewada area but wonder when it will happen?”
He also regrets that NMC has discontinued the ABC – Animal Birth Control – mission and there are many more stray puppies on the roads.
Many of them die in road mishaps, many perish from Distemper – a dreaded dog disease – and some get Rabies and become a threat to humans too. Though there are NGOs working for Rabies control and doing good work.
Pushpendra himself gets an anti rabies shot every year and takes the mandatory three injections if he suffers from a dog bite.
“It does happen sometime! When dogs are in great pain or feel threatened, they can bite you even when you are trying to help them. I don’t blame them. Most dogs I encounter are very grateful for what I do for them and shower so much love on me, it’s all worth the risk!”
Dogs, they say are man’s best friends.
Sometime a man, a rare man, can return that honour!