In Pics: One Man is Giving Retired, Old Dogs a New Lease of Life

Diffuse bombs, save lives and serve till you grow old and sick – that could sum up the life of a soldier dog enrolled in the country’s many Special Forces. Trained in skills like explosive detection, tracking down insurgents or terrorists and mounting massive search-and-rescue operations, these dogs are picked at the young age of two months and serve the country gloriously for the next 8-10 years.

But as ironic as practices go, these creatures were euthanised at the end of their service; till 2015, that is. As the judiciary has stepped in to put a stop to this tragic practice, a new problem has set in. Nobody wants to adopt an old, non-cuddly dog, no matter how heroic their lives may have been.

Rakesh Shukla at the sanctuary he built. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

Treating Senior Dogs With Respect

Now, the Voice of Stray Dogs (VOSD) and the man lovingly dubbed ‘The Dogfather of India’, Rakesh Shukla, has stepped in. The Bangalore-based software engineer who runs the world’s largest citywide dog rescue since four years, has taken on the challenge to find a hundred such ‘Patriot Dogs’ a home in his sanctuary.

The Bangalore-based software engineer has been running the world’s largest citywide dog rescue since four years. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

With a massive crowdfunding campaign that hopes to raise 25 lakh rupees in a month’s time for this noble cause, VOSD knows the huge responsibility it has just accepted. With the money raised, it will be building a 10,000 sq. ft. enclosure only for the canine heroes, ensure daily lifelong care with joint medication, renal, liver and cardiac support and create an exercise area for the active ones so that they don’t miss their working lives.

The sanctuary, that has helped treat over 7,000 dogs, carried out over 2,00,000 medical treatments – and is already home to about 750 abandoned dogs.

It is no stranger to the predicament of an old, unwanted dog.

The sanctuary is already home to about 750 abandoned dogs. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

Rakesh Shukla, Founder, VOSDWe have always had a steady stream of senior dogs coming to the sanctuary – from old street dogs that require lifelong medication to abandoned pet dogs whose owners find it difficult to take care of an older dog once the fun of having a young pet wears off. The retired military dogs actually belong to the same category. So when we were approached to take in dogs from, say, the Kerala Police, we agreed. It’s only when we saw the condition these guys come in that we realised we had to do something more about it.

“It’s only when we saw the condition these guys come in that we realised we had to do something more about it,” says Shukla. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

How the Name Came About

The work started with calling these dogs #PatriotDogs, a title they deserved.

They are special dogs. They have served our country as soldiers – that’s more than most of us do. So we wanted a name that gave them that respect that’s due to a soldier who has served brilliantly, and is retiring with full honours.

The Railway Police Force, Karnataka Police, Kerala Police, CISF and the Army, BSF and CRPF among others have since been approached, as the VOSD feels confident of providing the space, manpower and medical facilities required to keep these dogs for life.

Chakki and Christy – two German Shepherds over 10 years of age and suffering from osteoarthritis and nerve injury – retired as sniffer dogs in Kerala Police. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

Some of these heroes have already checked in. Chakki and Christy – two German Shepherds over 10 years of age and suffering from osteoarthritis and nerve injury – retired as sniffer dogs in Kerala Police and were due to be euthanised – but came to VOSD instead. Similarly, 11-year-old arthritic Labrador Sandhya and 11-year-old Doberman Maya who has a growth on her back (both sniffer dogs with Kerala Police), were to be put to sleep, but made it alive to VOSD.

Sandhya from Mangalore Police. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

Also in are 10-year-old Labrador Arjun who served the Karnataka Police, 10-year-old Labrador Shaurya from Bangalore who is suffering from Sarcoma and 10-month-old Labrador Ankur, who was in training but got discharged due to an enlarged heart.

Maya from Mangalore Police. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

Prasad Bidapa, fashion guru and friend of VOSDMost do not realise the vast amount of dogs in service to the Army, the Police, bomb squads, security teams and patrol squads. Where do these dogs go when they age? To Rakesh, because his is a life devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of our canine friends and his empathy and devotion know no bounds. I feel we must support this initiative of his.

The Life Ahead

Badminton player Ashwini Ponnappa at VOSD. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

The VOSD Sanctuary in Doddballapur is a place where each dog has a name and is free within their enclosures in a 3.5 acre area. Each enclosure has a covered as well as an open area, lined with trees. The enclosures have heaters during the winter, and individual water bodies for the dogs to jump into and cool off, in summer. There’s also a 1/4 acre artificial lake created for the dogs dubbed ‘the swimming pool’. The whole place is lit on UPS throughout the night, and all medical facilities and supplies are in-house.

It is a no-kill shelter and no dog has ever been put down due to lack of space, high costs or behavioural issues.

Sandhya from Mangalore Police. (Photo Courtesy: Voice of Stray Dogs)

Says actor Boman Irani – one among many celebrity supporters of VOSD:

I’ve always been a dog lover, and I think this cause is extremely important. These #PatriotDogs serve our country all their lives, and deserve a happy retirement.

(Runa Mukherjee Parikh has written on women, culture, social issues, education and animals, with The Times of India, India Today and IBN Live. When not hounding for stories, she can be found petting dogs, watching sitcoms or travelling. A big believer in ‘animals come before humans’, she is currently struggling to make sense of her Bengali-Gujarati lifestyle in Ahmedabad.)