Mumbai: Khar cafe has canine cuddle sessions and play groups
We dropped by a new space in Khar that hosts canine cuddle sessions and play groups, and came back in love with the pooches, but sad it isn't open to strays
Isn't love a strange thing? What could have begun as a conversation on a moonlit terrace becomes a part of your everyday life without you realising it. And slowly, the way you express it changes, too. Like when flowers are replaced with post-its reminding your partner to take his lunchbox to work. To state an example, this year, for her birthday, instead of an elaborate surprise, art director and design strategist Sujatha Moraes' husband, Ashutosh Thatte took her to Puppy Cuddles Dog Cafe, a one-stop-shop for dog lovers like the couple, whom we bump into when we are there to review the space.
Around for seven months, the unique cafe has a 1,200-sq ft play area meant for cuddling sessions which tantamount to an hour inside a big room filled with 15 doggies — ranging from huskies, to Labradors and Retrievers — who you can snuggle, pet and play with.
Customers can book an appointment in advance to avail this service, which comes at an easy '250 per hour and a set of rules, that include not lifting up the dogs or feeding them, which need to be followed. Inside the arena, helpers have been employed to take care of the furries, and they engage us, and the seven to eight other customers present, in a fun game of ball.
But the cuddles session, the owner, R Shinde, says, is only a small part. "We are trying to set up a place where people of all ages can come and hang out with our dogs and pups. A lot of people nowadays can't own a dog because of restrictions from their family members or those imposed by the housing societies they live in.
This is an experience for people like them. We also have an outdoor play area where pet parents can get their own dogs to exercise and run around, and a cafe and dog gym that are expected to be up and running by January 2019," he shares.
We enjoy losing to a three-year-old Beagle, Gabbar, in a tug of war, where the only unfortunate bit was that he was tugging the edge of our dress! But later we learn Gabbar, much like Princess, a three-and-a-half-year-old Retriever, and Lola, an extremely affectionate and sleepy two-year-old beagle hooked to sleeping on people's laps, are, at the heart of it, abandoned pets.
Sujatha Moraes and husband
"Most of our dogs, and especially the older ones, were adopted when they were on the verge of being left in the lurch by their owners, either because they were moving to another country or simply because they couldn't take care of them anymore [as is the case with Lola, Gabbar and Princess]," Shinde explains, adding, "Some of them are just staying with us because their owners are out of town."
In a bid to build the place into a holistic concept, Shinde and his team are also looking at incorporating a pet shop, but are taking things slow as caring for the pets takes a lot, which includes feeding them thrice a day (morning, afternoon and night) and taking each of them out for walks four times a day. This is of course over and above the work that goes into their medical needs that comprise regular and emergency veterinarian visits, as well as vaccination rounds for newly admitted pups. Strays, however, are not allowed, which leaves us conflicted — a thoughtful initiative dedicated to finding lost doggos a home, leaves out of its ambit those who need it the most.
The space inside. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
"I think this is a great way to sensitise people to dogs in general and it's a little bittersweet that they don't allow strays. I do get the thought from a business point of view, but I hope that they include strays in the future," Moraes shares, echoing our thoughts.
At 132, Swami Vivekananda Road, Khar West.
Time 11 pm to 8 pm
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