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Gourmet treats for Chennai's street dogs

Gourmet treats for Chennai's street dogs

Anjali Sharma has been feeding Chennai's street dogs leftovers for the past 15 years.

Chennai: Anjali Sharma has been feeding Chennai’s street dogs leftovers for the past 15 years. While that may not surprise you, considering the number of animal lovers Chennai has, the fact that she has a Maruti Omni dedicated for this ‘feeding’ service, sets her apart. She and her van are the reason that nearly a 100 homeless Indian dogs, in different nooks around the upmarket Harrington Road stretch and those that take shelter at the rice mills in Red Hills, get a taste of five star cuisine every single day of the week.

“I’ve been collecting leftovers from The Park hotel at Gemini for close to a decade now, and I also pick up a bucket load of cake shavings and cream from French Loaf at Harrington Road,” she states. Wait a minute, isn’t sugar bad for dogs? “No, they’ve been eating it for years,” she responds, “and good food really helps.

Some of the senior citizens I feed are as old as 18 and 19!” In human years, this is equivalent to the ripe old age of 92. We meet at French Loaf, her starting point on the agenda and out come two tall plastic drums, shoveled to the brim with left over mounds of chocolate cake. She has already visited the Park kitchen, which is evident from the mulitiple steel dabbhas loaded in the rear of her van. “These are left overs from the buffet. So, it could be anything from salad to sushi, meats and even Thai food sometimes,” she explains.

On this particular day, Anjali has spotted a rather pitiable four-legged creature, covered in skin problems from head to paw. Of course, she picks him up and he joins the ride. “It’s time for my rounds now,” she informs us. And the car stops at a fancy looking block of apartments down the street.

The watchmen know her well and smile as she scoops up a few handfuls of cake to put on the pavement outside; one of them goes inside to fetch a friend. It turns out to be shy mongrel with a head injury. She heads to the van to fetch some powder, then giggles, “The last time I saw him, he had injured his privates, and I tried to put some powder there. So now, he’s a little reluctant to meet me.”

Next, we head over to a furniture warehouse, the temporary home of six kittens and then to another pavement where a new dog face greets her. Does she know them all by name? “Almost,” she says and then turns to offer a piece of chicken to a healthy looking dog she calls “Tubby Tail”, who ironically doesn't have one. At one of her regular drop off points, the entrance is locked. So, she skillfully passes the food via a sheet of newspaper under the gate. You see, with a samaritan dog-lover, nobody gets left out.

As we take the trip over to the Red Hills area, where this Delhi-born animal activist resides, she reveals, “I’ve been doing this as a single person for so long because honestly I’ve found it very difficult to find good homes for the pups I find on the street.”

This statement is followed by a fresh dimension of perspective after we finish making three stops at rice mills en route her home. From a distance of some 30 feet away, a thunderous roar of barks and howls seem to be coming from a residence beyond. ‘How many dogs do you have?’ this reporter asks politely.

“Well, I haven't done a headcount, but I would say close to 60,” she states, her tone matter-of-fact. “It is really quite a madhouse. Are you sure you want to come in?”

(Anjali Sharma can be contacted for pet adoptions or animal birth control at 9884065010. You can also visit www.theanimalsocietyofchennai.org for more details)

first published:November 02, 2011, 00:13 IST