BENGALURU: Her love for dogs is all she has in this world. Amee Mendez, a corporate employee, has opened her home up to 43 rescued dogs who are now her only family.
A decade ago, she moved to the city after her parents got divorced and moved abroad, and her grandmother, with whom she lived, passed away.
She always loved dogs but didn’t have the time to raise a pet. A year after she moved to Bengaluru in 2003, she noticed a Pomeranian on her way to work.
“She was sitting outside a house. I asked a nearby paan seller about it and he said that a family had vacated the house and abandoned her. She was surviving on left-over food and meat from a bar on the street,” Amee recalls.
When the dog fell ill in a few days, Amee was compelled to take her in. When her PG owner didn’t allow her to keep the dog, Amee moved to an apartment.
“I could relate to her pain. I was also helpless after my grandmother died. I could see myself in her,” she shares. “I named her Betty. Sadly, she passed away in 2007.”
Later, her friend gifted her a black labrador, Ammu. “She could never see anyone in pain. When I took her out for a walk, Ammu would make sure that I helped beggars. One day, we saw two abandoned dogs and one was stuck in a drain. I called for help and got her out,” Amee says. Ammu passed away in 2011.
Later, she shifted to Sanjaynagar with her four dogs. The office of CUPA was nearby and she would often volunteer for the animal welfare organisation.
Amee adopted a mentally-retarded dog from there. The veterinarian had said that she would only live for a few months as she couldn’t walk.
But Toto, as named by Amee, lived for seven years under her care. She often took in abandoned dogs, especially the pregnant females. She would take care of them and give the puppies up for adoption.
“People usually don’t adopt mothers as they are old. They think only if dogs are adopted early, they would listen to them and love them. It is not true. Older dogs love you just as much,” Amee says.
The number of dogs kept increasing. Many would abandon their pets in front of her house or tie them to her gate. She says, “I started cooking for stray dogs when I was living in Ramamurthy Nagar. I would whip something up before going to work and feed them at night.”
As most house owners were not animal-friendly, she had to shift houses often. In the past year, she has shifted thrice. “People would shout and hold me responsible for every problem they had with the dogs. I would apologise to them and make them go away. Sometimes, it is easier to talk to a dog than humans,” she says.
Amee was forced to leave her residence in Ramamurthy Nagar in 2014 when her neighbours called the police. She recounts the horror: “When I got home from work, all my dogs were outside the house and one of them had died.”
Amee has been living in Horamavu for the past seven months. While her current house owner doesn’t have a problem with the 43 dogs, trouble comes in the form of financial difficulties. She spends close to `60,000 to feed them.
She takes help from other animal lovers as well. A woman she met at an animal forum pays for the dogs’ caretaker. Amee has also started a campaign on Facebook to raise funds for their shelter and vaccination.
“If I earned Rs 1 lakh more, I could take care of 40 more dogs. People should stop complaining about dogs and thinking of killing them. They have the money and the power to take care of them. If each one adopts a stray dog, there would be no problem,” she concludes.