An initiative by a group of residents from Srinagar Colony in Saidapet has made sure community dogs in their neck of woods do not suffer gastric rumbles. These dogs are well-feed by a committed team of volunteers.
‘Dog Lovers Srinagar Colony’ was started as a WhatsApp group in the middle of the pandemic when a severely-injured dog had to be rushed to be given first aid. One resident volunteered to drive the dog to the vet, some chipped in with money toward its treatment and many contributed their time.
Since then the core aim of the group has been to ensure the safety and well-being of strays. The group has more than 12 resident volunteers who take turns to feed the dogs, and many others who silently help, each in their own way.
Sixty-one-year-old Rani Radhakrishnan, a resident of South Mada Street is the most familiar face at the Colony. Every evening, around 6.30 p.m., AS Radhakrishnan ferries his wife Rani on their Honda Activa, carrying a bowl of food, to feed around 12 dogs that belong to the street. They feed at two to three spots and repeat the exercise every morning at the Anna University campus.
The couple have had to dig deep into their pockets to carry forward this service for many years and have no plans to give up.
“I need at least 60 kilos of rice a month to feed all the strays, which I buy through a TUCS outlet and some give me in kind,” says Rani, who wakes up at 3 a.m. to turn ‘chef’ for her big army on the streets. The cooked rice is soaked in milk and served in paper plates. Sometimes the preparation is peppered with ghee and dry dog food.
The other volunteer ‘chefs’ take care of the feeding at their own streets. Besides ensuring the canines are well-fed, the residents have also taken up the responsibility of vaccinating and sterilising the canines. Although the number of dogs in the colony has increased since residents started taking a count of them, some canines have lost their lives in freak accidents.
Srinidhi Venugopal, an architect by profession, chipped in by getting reflective collars for all the community dogs; around 24 of them were tagged this way.
She recalls the effort put in by the community when paraplegic Dodo and her daughter Sheera had to be found a home.
“We raised a lot of money first for surgery and then to find them a home with Voice of Stray Dogs in Bangalore where an initial deposit needs to be made,” says Srinidhi, a resident of South Avenue. She says the group is trying to find ways to see how accidents related to strays can be prevented.
The group also maintains a fund — where residents contribute anywhere from ₹ 250 a month – that is used when an emergency arises for the strays.
Feeding of strays is a contentious issue in most neighbourhoods, how do residents tackle this?
Charles Jayaseelan, another volunteer who lives in an apartment, says there are heart-warming stories of change too happening.
“An elderly resident who hated strays being fed has had a change of heart after seeing the bond with a pet dog. Also, when you keep a dog well fed, neutered they do no harm,” says Charles, a banker. He says a lot of people are not part of the group but don’t mind contributing or spending time, which is commendable.