Dogs are man’s best friends. But for Ranji cricketer Srinivas Anoop Pai and his wife Olivia Sarah Jonas they are more than friends. They are family. Six dachshunds, three pugs and one basset hound form their extended clan. Much like a family, the ten-member dog squad is always ready to greet visitors --initially by barking and later by wagging their tails -- at the Pai’s residence at Sainikpuri in Secunderabad.
Pai’s love story with dogs started during his childhood. Thirty-year-old Pai’s first possession was Baby, a brownish dachshund bitch which he brought with his first salary in 2005. “She littered twice a year. I gifted a few pups but kept the ‘ugly ducklings’. That passion grew over the years and now my life revolves around cricket and the dogs,’’ says a proud Pai.
In 2011, along with his wife another member -- a pug -- was added to their family. And, then two more pugs, followed by a basset hound from Lucknow were added into the “parivar” in the next two years taking the count to 12.
“Fortunately, Olivia is also a dog lover. That proved very lucky for me,’’ shares Pai.
Olivia echoes the sentiments. “A lot of people wonder how we maintain so many dogs. But we never felt them to be a burden. They are our children,’’ she says.
The happy family, however, was rattled by the death of two of their dogs --Pai’s favourites. “Chirut (one of the dogs) used to ride on my Enfield around the colony. Soon after Chirut’s death another dog also died, reducing the family to 10, “ Pai reminiscences. “Now Olivia is the captain of the ‘cricket’ team while I am the 12th man serving drinks,’’ he adds on a lighter note. A promising left-handed batsman, when Pai had ups and downs in his career, he found peace and relaxation with his pets. “I always celebrated my century with a grilled chicken party for the dogs. And on bad days, I relax with them. They are great stress busters,’’ he says.
Handling the dog fights
While the dachshunds are kept in the front room while the pugs roam around the house. But there is a problem here. One of the pugs, Dudley does not get along with basset hound Bailey. “We can’t keep them together. They are bitter enemies and jealous of each other. They fight for love, toys and balls. So we also ensure that they are kept separately. Dudley is the mischievous one who create a ruckus if I dont give him a lot of attention. This makes Bailey jealous. So I have to ensure that he doesn’t feel left out too,’’ says Olivia.
Strangely, during the morning walks, Bailey and Dudley go together but once inside the house they become enemies again.
“Two of the dachshunds are named as Black Ball and White Ball. They are very disciplined. One shout from either of us is enough to silence them,’’ says Olivia.
However, none of the dogs are kept in a kennel or tied. Air-conditioners or coolers keep them cool. Of course the electricity bill burns a hole in their pocket, but the couple don’t seem to mind. “Our electricity bill comes up to `6,000 to 7,000 during summer, but we don’t mind,’’ says Pai.
Olivia says they are very strict about the diet. “W3e ensure that a proper diet is maintained for the dogs. They are fed rice, chicken and pedigree food. We wash the room regularly and ensure that dogs are kept clean. They have a work out with a tennis balls,” explains Olivia.
While the couple is at work they have two caretakers Sravani and Nani to take care of the dogs.
But running a family of 10 dogs is no mean feat and requires a lot of personal sacrifices too. “It gets difficult when they fall ill. We have to be with them. We have sacrificed many tours only because we couldn’t leave the children alone,” says Olivia and adds that it is for this reason that she doesn’t even visit her mother in Dehradun.