The September sun blazed hard and brutal outside as Mumbaikars sweated under that onslaught. The stunning Gothic Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) office building opposite Azad Maidan in SoBo, yawned widely, its wide mouthed gate swallowing the handful of visitors on Thursday (yesterday) afternoon, grateful to get indoors.
In contrast to the heat outside, the interiors of this building housing Mumbai’s civic headquarters were as cool as kokam sharbat. The majestic sweep of its staircase welcomed one to the Standing Committee Hall on the first floor.
This hall played venue to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Adopt a Dog campaign. Lending a glam name and face to the cause, was actor Raveena Tandon Thadani. Raveena and Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte launched a new PETA campaign called: ‘Puppy Love: Adopt, Don’t Buy!’ where Raveena urged people to adopt homeless dogs from the streets and from shelters.
Just before Raveena or Kunte could enter, the classy committee room was a buzz of activity. Television journalists with their mikes (or boom as it is called in TV journalism parlance) entered, wires snaking all over the floor. Print journalists soon entered, awaiting Raveena. Light banter filled the room as the big wall clock showed 2.30 pm. Soon, Raveena entered the room in cream silky shirt and dark trousers.
She was casual and seemed ready for questions, taking her seat quickly. The cameras made her dig out the actor in her quickly. She preened a little and twirled her hair even as PETA’s Chief Functionary, Poorva Joshipura announced that they would be beginning the event, as Kunte would be joining in a little later. Joshipura called Raveena, “beautiful and talented” and the mandatory floral tribute appeared. Raveena posed with flowers against a painting of the BMC building on the wall, leading one journalist to quip, “Kabzaa Raveena ka, BMC par.”
Raveena began her address by stating, “I have been given a sheet to read out from, but I think I do not need to read from the sheet to tell you what the campaign is all about This campaign is all about: do not shock but adopt. It is making a life, of a life, which means that the dog already has a life on the streets, but how do you make a life for him/her? By adopting the dog.”
Raveena acknowledged that Mumbai and a few other cities are experiencing a crisis in terms of stray dogs but unfortunately, “We want to do something in terms of this crisis but get very involved with our own lives. We hear of the ‘stray dog menace’ as the media likes to call it but do we know that these dogs are brutalized in so many ways? There are so many sadistic people and their vile antics can give you goose bumps. That is why this campaign.”
To prove that she practices what she preaches or her bark is as good as her bite in a manner of speaking, Raveena said that she herself had adopted five dogs, which she keeps at her home and at her farm. “The dogs I adopted were left on a terrace by somebody. Today, they are all my family. See how beautiful this one looks - his eyes are so beautiful,” she said indicating the PETA poster of her with two of her adopted dogs Cuddles and Chhotu.
Raveena also added that people tend to call these dogs pariahs or strays, but, “I say that these dogs are the original Indian dogs. They are better than some of these pedigreed dogs, many of which are unsuited to the Indian climate. People buy them for reasons of status. Many of them are inbred, too, and are not pure. They are not accustomed to our weather and suffer here.”
When asked about the stray dog menace, Raveena stated that, “the stray dogs start hunting in packs when people start feeding them as a group. Often, garbage bags are left opened on streets, then there are scavengers and then, dogs come in looking for food. Attacks become a problem then and we must all ensure that our surroundings are as clean as possible. There are many compassionate individuals, I see them feeding dogs on the streets but they do not know the right way of looking after these animals.” Kunte who had arrived by then, stressed on the sterilization aspect of dogs, praising the adopt-a-dog initiative and stated that it would go a long way in mitigating complaints that the civic body receives about dogs in different areas.
Then, Kunte and Raveena posed with a newly unveiled poster of the advertisement launching the campaign called; ‘Puppy Love: Adopt, Don’t Buy!’ and chaos ensued with photographers rushing to take photographs. Flashbulbs exploded wildly, after which Kunte left the room and the mini-mayhem subsided slowly, as photographers got their shots.
As Raveena exited too, wishing the journalists have, “a good afternoon” one was informed by PETA that, this is not Raveena’s first campaign for PETA. She had previously worn a bloody snake print gown in an ad that pointed out how ‘Wearing Exotic Skins Kills’. One wonders what would have happened if Raveena had entered the BMC building (aiga!) dressed in a bloody snake print gown. Frankly, one would have killed to see that, she would have made hiss-tory.
Adopting a street dog?
What to do
Shirin Merchant, dog trainer, expert and editor of the dog magazine Woof, has a couple of pointers for those who want to adopt a street/stray dog.
>> Before you bring your dog home, figure out where you would like him to the toilet. The minute you get out of the car, take him to your chosen spot so that he can relieve himself.
>> New owners will often feel sorry for a rescued dog and so may initially take time off work to help it settle in, taking it for long walks and spending extra time with the animal. But when they finally go back to work, the dog will get distressed with the abrupt change in routine. Start as you mean to go on and get the dog used to your lifestyle from day one.
>> Ground rules need to be implemented the moment the dog walks through the door. If you don’t want your new pet soiling the sofa, jumping on the kids or stealing food off the table later down the road, then don’t allow these behaviours from the very beginning.
>> A lot of people believe that a dog from a rescue shelter will have been abused, not fed properly, confined in a small space and generally unhappy. So when a family adopts the dog, they feel sorry for the animal and try to make up for his past by allowing the animal to do as it pleases in the first few days. This is a big mistake. Rules should be laid down from day one and maintained kindly, but firmly.
>> All rescue dogs go through a two-week long “honeymoon period.” This is when the dog and owner, very much like the bride and groom, are on their best behaviour. It is only after this period is over that the true colours of the dog (and the bride!) surface. It’s best to let the dog know his place in your home before the honeymoon is over.