How A Few Neighbours Banded Together To Feed, Neuter And Vaccinate Street Dogs During The Lockdown
Updated: May 24
While the coronavirus and the two-month lockdown led to people being distanced from each other and social orders being disrupted, an unlikely friendship brought a bunch of people together in my area.
It all began when A, a dog mom (cuz 'owner' sounds off) who used to feed the stray dogs in the area everyday while I walked my own dogs, had to travel just before the lockdown started. She requested me to take up feeding the dogs for what was to be a week or two at most. Though I'm dog mom to two myself, feeding stray dogs isn't something I've actively done in the past. I took on the task. Everyday I would make an extra portion of food (that I fed my own dogs) for these street dogs, carry my big bowl out on the streets, gather up the dogs - 5 adults, 4 pups - and serve them in the bowls I had been saving from the food orders. Then the lockdown happened, and I knew A's trip would stretch another 3 weeks, as will my dog feeding duties. I realised that with the lockdown, cases like these existed not just in our area but throughout the country where suddenly stray dogs would find themselves left in a lurch, and I made this video appeal to feed the dogs.
So this routine went on every day. Make food, carry it to the dog 'adda', serve it up, collect the bowls, return. Like clockwork. In the process, I started talking with B Aunty, another dog owner in my lane who also used to feed the dogs once in a while. A Whatsapp group was created between A, Me, B Aunty and another dog-loving neighbour to coordinate all the activities around the strays who were eventually named. Slowly we joined forces to feed the dogs together. She would cook the chicken and rice, and I would take care of gathering the dogs, serving them, keeping them apart so they didn't wolf down each others' share, and clean up after. From a solo dog mum, to now having something of a dog service partnership going on, for days, Aunty was the only person I saw and talked with - across our masks - in a socially-distanced world.
During the same time, one of the pups fell sick, and we decided to take her to the vet. Together K & I managed to catch the dog - after trying for 3 days - and U, K And I took her to the nearest vet. Turned out the dog we had caught and were happily helping 'recover' was the wrong one afterall! Aunty in her elation at having caught the dodgy dog had totally forgotten to notice that it was a different pup altogether. Luckily the one that was sick originally turned around on her own while the 'wrong one' had been given a new lease of life at K's house who decided to foster him till he was adopted.
Now Bernie, the pup who was being fostered by K would be a part of the communal dog feeding sessions. My dogs too started participating in the rituals and lingered around on the street while the the dogs feasted. Soon, M, another person from the 'hood joined this group, and we decided to get the adults of the pack neutered. (we couldn't afford to feed more dogs!) These dogs weren't easy to handle, there was always a fear of being bitten, and we only had very short windows in which we could manage to nab them. But nab and take them to the vet for their neutering and vaccinations we did. Starting with Ricka - the shiny black dog who was freshly knocked up, and would've produced another batch of 5-6 pups if not for her timely spaying. Once she recovered, the alpha male - Jimmy - the dashing, not-very-stray-looking leader of the pack was next. We managed to hoodwink him into getting leashed and muzzled, and got him spayed too.
Meanwhile Bunny -- the rabbit-eared progeny of Ricka and Jimmy and one of the 4 puppies-- ended up with a broken leg and it was time to focus on her now. So the chase to catch her began, and finally after 3 days of trying, we managed to "kidnap" her and take her to the vet. She underwent a surgery to have her fracture fixed with stainless steel pins in her scrawny legs, and Aunty took care of her while she convalesced. Just the other night, Larry, another pup managed to get his face mysteriously swollen up, and U & I took her to the vet at 11 in the night, taking no chances with her health or safety.
Through all these adventures and struggles and wins in the last 2 and a half months, the Whatsapp group buzzed with regular updates on which dog ate, didn't, their activities, their vet bills, their much awww-ed photos. Bernie got adopted by a family eventually, and Bunny with the broken leg is recovering well. Not only are10 dogs in our colony now fed everyday, neutered and vaccinated, but their lives are now strangely intertwined with our own. Throughout this difficult period otherwise, I was happy to be a part of a group of the nicest people who went out of their way, took time out from their personal lives and opened their hearts and wallets to a bunch of street dogs. Our care for these dogs was becoming a bit of a community bonding experience and it didn't matter that the other neighbours didn't really support the project!
I don't think I'd ever imagined a day would come that after years of living in my colony, it's the street dogs that'd bring a bunch of strangers together.
I guess your vibe does attract your tribe after all.