CHENNAI: From being honoured with bravery and gallantry awards for their services to losing their lives in encounters while serving the country, there is nothing that these four-legged (sometimes three-legged by the end of their careers) bundle of joys cannot do or haven’t done. But, what happens when they become ‘unfit’ for the job? They are euthanised, revealed an RTI query addressed to the army in 2015. Soon after this, the practice was made illegal, and the dogs were confined to their kennels.
To give them a better after-retirement life, Bengaluru-based Rakesh Shukla, founder, Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) shelter decided to provide a home for the old and ailing canines.
Patriot dogs, as VoSD calls them, have served with the Indian police, the military and para-military forces, tracking insurgents, detecting explosives, and been part of search and rescue operations. Their training starts early, when they are a few months old, and they have a full-working life with rigorous routine and human company till they retire at about eight to 10 years.
“It’s difficult for a dog that has worked for eight to 10 years to stay in a kennel. It makes them vulnerable to age-related ailments including heart diseases and mental trauma,” explains Rakesh.
After hundreds of rescues and becoming the ‘father’ of several strays, Rakesh shares that opening doors to these canines will provide them a life they deserve. “Most of these dogs retire in active units. One can’t expect these soldiers to take retired dogs for walks three times a day — they are active soldiers. But, we can do our bit to take care of them,” he says.
The shelter has been writing to organisations across the country about the #Patriotdog’s campaign and welcomed their first retired dogs — Christy and Chakki, two German Shepherds, from Kerala Police. “They were 10 years old and lived for another two years at the shelter,” he said.
VoSD has 15 service canines and is eager to welcome more. “I’ve been in touch with units like the Central Industrial Security Force, Karnataka and Kerala Police, Railway Police, etc,” he says.
Though there have been no patriot dogs from Tamil Nadu at the shelter so far, 15 stray dogs from the city have been sent to VoSD thanks to Jennifer Jacob-Murali Anand, founder Chennai Adoption Drive (CAD).
“The first of the 10 dogs was a Labrador, who was sterilised and got along with everybody…but, for some reason he didn’t have any takers from the city. And later, there were a batch of blind puppies. It was tough to foster them. They needed critical care…so, they were sent to VoSD as they provide care to dogs that need extra attention,” she says.
Any idea of starting a Chennai chapter for patriot dogs? “We don’t have a shelter to house so many dogs here. Also, it needs strenuous planning to do something like what Rakesh is doing. Maybe, we can hope for such an initiative at Chennai in the future,” she said.
Rakesh plans to build a 10,000 sq ft enclosure specifically for the patriot dogs, which will have obstacle courses to provide a ‘familiar environment’ to the dogs. With operational costs as high as Rs 2000 a month for a dog, VoSD is looking to raise `25 lakh to build the enclosure and also to provide special medical care. “We have reached the 25% mark in our #PatriotDog’s crowdfunding campaign and are hoping for more support to care for these dogs,” he said.
Celebrities like Chris Gayle and Boman Irani are also supporting the campaign.
Visit: ket.to/patriotdogs for details