BENGALURU: As a child, stray animals were her best friends. Every time her animal companions went missing from the streets in the vicinity, she would cry for hours. Almost two decades later, a lot has changed in the life of Rekha Prasad. But one thing hasn’t for this IT firm employee: her soft corner for animals. While she had one pet dog to play with as a child, today she is the proud owner of dozens of stray dogs. Cats and birds also find comfort at her home. Realising the need to have an organisation that rescues abandoned animals and those that are illegally bred, she started the Happy Paws Foundation with a group of like-minded animals lovers.
“It is difficult to count my family members now,” quips Rekha, who once even abandoned her Hong Kong trip midway to take care of an injured stray dog. “I was scrolling down my Facebook page to while away time at the hotel room in Hong Kong where I had gone for some personal works. Somehow I stumbled upon the news of an abandoned dog at Dronachalam in Andhra Pradesh. I started feeling distraught at the plight of the canine. I immediately cancelled all my plans there and booked a flight back to India the same day,” she recalls.
After her mother’s death, she was advised by many to abandon the only adopted dog back then. “But I could not leave my best friend alone. Instead, I got a few more friends with paws. Not just dog, but all animals can be great friends to us. We only need to understand them and be compassionate towards their needs. They will shower you with unconditional love,” says Rekha. Last year, when Rekha found it tough to manage both her family and a challenging IT job, she looked for kindred souls to care of the animals and found Rajesh N, Dr Aswin, Rashmi J C and Shrikar Venkatesh who were as compassionate towards animals as her.
While Rajesh and Rashmi are students, Shrikar is a wildlife photographer. Dr Aswin is the in-house vet. Happy Paws Foundation was registered in October 2016. Since then, Rekha and her team have been working relentlessly to ensure welfare of animals, be it pets or strays. All of them strive to rescue and rehabilitate the animals, while educating people on cruelty and abandonment.
Rajesh has been involved in numerous rescue operations. He has also held several awareness programmes for people from all walks of life. Dr Aswin’s invaluable advice during rescues have saved quite a few lives. He treats all the cases with utmost care and even fosters the animals to recovery. Rashmi has a special soft spot for cats and is quite clued in to their behaviour. She is also a proud vegan. Shrikar brings his sharp thinking ability to every little and big activity of the HPF.
The group members have got several dogs suffering from cancer treated. The NGO rescues several abandoned and stray animals and helps them get a permanent home with caring owners. Epileptic or old dogs that have gone deaf and blind with age, blind cats, paralyzed cats and other injured animals; all find the same warmth in the company of these members.
Wanted: A bigger home
Though they have a shelter for animals, they are now mulling a dedicated cat shelter. Members are in talks with old age homes to help senior citizens with specially trained therapy dogs. Happy Paws Foundation depends entirely on public money which comes through donations and fundraiser events. Besides monetary aid, they also collect blankets, towels, medicine and other items for the rescued animals.