A peek at an exotic doggy destination

A peek at an exotic doggy destination – The Kahala Hotel & Resorts, Hawaii

Picture a luxurious resort set on a secluded beach, packed with all that is required for a perfect holiday with loved ones. When we say loved ones, we mean all – family as well as sweet canine. The Kahala Hotel & Resorts in Hawaii has become a hot destination for bigwigs and their pets. Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Cameroon Diaz have also spent a holiday at this exotic resort. And these stars keep coming back…with their darling pooches of course.

Vacation is a time to relax and enjoy, more so in the laps of the nature. The ‘Pampered Paws’ programme at the luxurious oceanfront Kahala Hotel & Resort, Hawaii, welcomes all paw-friends, treating them to the best of luxury and care. As Tim Lee, resort manager – The Kahala Hotel & Resort, puts it,

“Being a dog lover, I know how important a dog is to a family. It makes good sense for The Kahala to recognize the importance of this by showing our valued guests that we are a pet friendly hotel and welcome them and their dogs.” The grandeur and splendour of the resort adds to the experience, making it all the more memorable! The lush tropical gardens and the private lagoon with resident dolphins are the added attractions at the show. This legendary hideaway resort in Honululu’s plush Kohala district is a favourite with international royalty and celebrities.

Let’s see what does this pet-friendly hotel offers to our beloved pooches. The hotel staff greets all guests by their name, including the paw guest. Each one is welcomed with a flower lei and escorted to their room, loaded with all dog amenities. The pooches simply love the homemade and personalized peanut butter dog biscuits made by the hotel’s executive chef Wayne Hirbayashi. The guests don’t have to worry about carrying their pooch’s feeding bowl as there’s a custom-made dog bowl in Kahala blue and gold for them. And to give them a luxurious good-night sleep, there’s a custom designed dog bed. And what’s more, all these facilities are available for just $150 US, which is a non-refundable pet fee for cleaning the room after departure.

No wonder then that this resort has become a perfect choice for many pet lovers. “In the last month alone, we had about a dozen dogs check in to the hotel. Some people fly on private jets, some are local islanders who love to spend a weekend in our resort, along with their beloved dog. While, we have others who plan their trip a year ahead and complete all the necessary animal quarantine requirements. Our resort is quite popular with many celebrities who continue to return time and time again. Elizabeth Taylor and Cameroon Diaz are regular visitors to this resort,” told Lee.

So how do not-so-pet-friendly visitors at the resort react to paw guests? “To be perfectly honest, we have had ZERO complaints. In fact, our guests love to interact with dogs when they come around. The dogs also seem to love the attention they receive,” came a quick reply from Lee.

As fast as the wag of a tail, Hawaiian language becomes second nature to the pampered pet. The Kahala Hotel & Resort sets the canine standard of learning excellence for the pooch, making it one of the most pet-friendly luxury resorts in the world. Each guest gets a language guide so that they can work with the dog to learn commands in a new language – Hawaiian!

It’s a total fun n’ frolic experience at the Kahala. “Our guests are very happy with the Pampered Paws programme and love to enjoy holidays with their pets at Kahala,” Lee added. Totally mesmerising!

For more information, visit www.kahalaresort.com

Spun with love…

Whenever you brush your furry angel, you get a brush full of soft and beautiful fur and you don’t have the heart to throw it out. Your mind often thinks, “I wish I could spun it into something…” Well, the good news is yes, you can!

Take a look at the pictures of clothes on this page. You might think, “What’s big about it?” Now, if we say that these clothes are made from canine fur, would you believe it? I hope not, but it is true. These clothes have been lovingly woven at VIP Fibers Inc, US, using fur from our precious pets, who will remain yours FURever.

Too precious to throw away…

Like so many other pet owners, Victoria I Pettigrew, the brain behind VIP Fibers, couldn’t bear to throw away the tuffs of fluff removed from her Chows brush after grooming. As she puts it, “It was so soft, so light and the colour was unsurpassed by any other natural fiber I had ever seen. Watching me clean out the brush and gently storing away the massive amounts of fur, my husband asked me what I was doing. I explained that it was simply too precious to throw away and that some day I was going to learn to spin it into yarn. The next day my husband went out on his lunch hour and bought me my first wheel. Thirty minutes behind the wheel, I was hooked on spinning!”

Knitting keepsakes…

“After purchasing our first two alpacas, I started spinning for local alpaca ranchers and VIP Fibers Inc was born. But, it wasn’t until my 16-year-old Lhasa Apso, Karly, passed away in 2001 and I spun her fur and knitted it into a small neck scarf that I decided to focus on pet fiber. Having a part of Karly with me always was so comforting that it occurred to me others may benefit from such a service,” tells Victoria.

Weaving the love…

VIP Fibers’ sole objective is to provide a safe and humane treasured keepsake from your Very Important Pet. “Whether we create the keepsake yarn for you, or the entire project, either is ensured to be a life-long remembrance of a very special love, the one you share with your pet. The warmth of their love is transformed into precious memento. Each and every Fur-Ever skein and keepsake is unique and the clients are overwhelmed with it,” tells Victoria.

As Downers Grove, one of the clients, puts it, “Nikita was a larger than life dog and my children used him as a pillow, and he graciously welcomed them. After he died, my kids were sad. I just can’t wait to see their faces when each of them will receive a soft remembrance (pillows) of their beautiful friend of 13 years. As for the gorgeous throw, there simply are no words. I don’t have words to thank you for the great memories we will continue to have of our dog.”

Spreading love…

“We are in our seventh year of business and we double our client base every year from the prior one. Each year we see more and more ‘repeat customers. In 2006, we spun over 700 pet keepsakes and anticipate to double the figure this year,” tells Victoria proudly.

For more info, visit www.vipfibers.com

Dogs @ Fun

Camp gone to the dogs…Tails up!

Atail-wagging good time is what we canines have at ‘Camp gone to the dogs’ (www.campgonetothedogs.com) in Vermont (US). Big or small – we’re all loved. We learn new things and surprise our parents with our natural abilities. The instructors at the camp are nationally and internationally known trainers, who guide us with kindness, fairness and love, using things we love – treats, toys, play and petting. The camp was started by Honey Loring in 1990 and since then, it has been loved equally by us and our parents. I (Zeta, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog) also had an opportunity to attend this lively camp in September 2005 with my parents and my brother Zorro. When we got to the camp, I was thrilled to see a lot of people and more than 140 dogs (of almost 35 breeds) from all across the country. And you know what, there was one dog from Hawaii as well. To tell you a secret, I even met a really handsome dog from Vermont named Shelby and we had fun playing together.

I learnt new activities after attending the Purely Positive Recall and Small Dog Agility Classes. I learned to run through the tunnel and chute, go over the A frame, through the tyre and do the Dog Walk. I had lots of fun with Jump Chute, which is a sequence of jumps to go over. My favourite was zooming through the tunnel. I went to frisbee classes and had fun chasing it.

The best class was lure coursing, where you chase a white plastic bag around a huge field. Earlier I thought that I would never bark or get excited just because a plastic bag was moving across a field. As I got closer to the field, I could see the bag and I took off like a shot and started dragging Mom to the field. When it was my turn, I ran the entire course without stopping and caught the bag at the end. Perhaps this was the activity I enjoyed most.

Zorro also had lots of fun attending agility, tricks, and fun games. He even went to Obedience Class to prepare for the Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International Tests. He passed both tests and is going to visit people at nursing homes and hospitals. Mom and I did Freestyle dancing together and I learned how to spin in two directions and weave through her legs. What was really fun was Arts & Crafts. Zorro and I got to paint Pawtraits that turned out really cool. Mom is getting them framed for Dad’s office! We even went to a Dog Massage seminar and that was really good as Mom learned massage techniques. I loved agility so much that I now attend classes every Monday night. What is even better is that our backyard now has a tunnel, chute, tyre and jumps for me to play.

Tails up ! Woof Woof ! for pooch camping as it takes bonding to greater heights.

Friends for Ever-Geeta Sheshamani

We all live our lives accordingly, but there are a few people who make the biggest difference to mankind and humanity in their one life, which is a far-fetched thought for most of us. Geeta Sheshamani of Friendicoes – SECA, Society for Eradication of Cruelty to Animals is one such person, who has devoted herself completely to animal welfare. In tête-à-tête with D&P, we found myriad facets of her – a responsible citizen, a devoted university reader, a caring and loving pet parent (11 dogs and 26 cats), and above all a hard-core animal welfare activist – a real woman of substance, indeed.

Crystal Rogers needs no introduction to compassionate animal lovers world over, and for Geeta Sheshamani, she is the role model. As she fondly recalls her first meeting with ‘Ms Rogers’ as a school child, “I went to Crystal’s shelter to give away a feral cat. And I saw Crystal coming out with a monkey on one shoulder and kitten on the other and I thought I want to be like her, exactly like her.” And lassie’s spontaneous thought turned into an unswerving belief with in a next few years.

Geeta completed her studies and went abroad for PhD. But her love for animals won over the worldly pleasures and she found the deepest solace by serving those, who cannot serve themselves. She came back and formed a kindness club for animals. In 1979, her dreams and efforts were substantiated in a wonderful form, when Friendicoes – SECA, Society for Eradication of Cruelty to Animals came into existence.

Friendicoes SECA began with in the tiny premises 17 sq ft in the heart of Delhi, in a shopping complex – a bare shop with a curtain for its fourth wall, and no electricity or water. “Within the first week of our starting a clinic-cum-shelter, we had 27 dogs and 12 cats, who were either abandoned or were hit on roads and rescued by us. Undoubtedly, we were catering to a deep community need for people continued to come to us to help the strays, who did not have a place to be safe in. Today, we have four large rooms in a row, two operation theatres, and we have covered a corridor with fly proof mesh and fibreglass so that we have more space for kennels. Over 150 dogs and cats are currently being accommodated, treated, cared for and then rehabilitated,” Geeta proudly explained.

What started as a humble beginning has now gained good grounds. Today they also have a separate shelter for bigger animals at Gurgaon, near Delhi, where sick, injured or rescued animals are well fed and treated and a sister organization-SOS Wildlife. Freindicoes also runs a collaborative programme with Brooke Hospital for Animals and run two mobile clinics for equine welfare.

But, Geeta feels that they still have a long way to go. Even today she remembers all the hardships and challenges that she faced initially. It’s only her grit and deepest faith in almighty- Sai Baba that has always kept her going, come what may. According to her, the biggest challenge for her volunteers, team members and herself is to win the respect from the society. As she elaborates, “It’s not only me, but all those who were and are working here, were being mocked, for having no other job, so that they have to pick dog shit. And initially for 8 years, I myself did all the cleaning, swamping and washing, just to win some respect.”

In a poor country like India, where hunger is a big problem, she faced and is still facing the criticism for feeding milk, bread and biscuits to animals. According to her, hunger is a natural need for every living being and says, “It’s wonderful thought to feed poor people, but the money I am stretching my hands is the money we spend on luxuries. Give up one little luxury and blessings will be all yours.”

The last 28 years with Friendicoes is a journey, where she has gone through all the ups and downs, sometimes it’s bright and shiny, sometimes not. But her continuous honest efforts have made a big difference to the Indian animal welfare movement besides providing a firm foundation to her dream – Friendicoes. Before concluding, Geeta wants to give a message to all D&P readers to shower unconditional love, care and affection to all the animals – our friend for life.

Let’s make a better world for animals

Ranbaxy is the one brand name in India that needs no introduction. Over the years, the company has diverged in to various health care sectors. Armed with new identity and forces, Vetnex (RFCL), is on a fast track to revolutionize the animal health care industry. Sushil Mehta, MD RFCL, and Dr Maneesh Kumar Gupta, General Manager, Vetnex (Livestock and canine business), RFCL in tête-à-tête with D&P shared some of their invaluable insights.

 

Ranbaxy, the most trusted name in Indian pharmaceutical sector had ventured into animal health care segment way back in 1984 and it didn’t take much time for their team of professionals to tap this unexplored potential business segment. Ranbaxy’s former allied business comprising of Fine Chemicals, Animal Healthcare and Diagnostics, has restructured itself under a new identity, RFCL Limited following its acquisition by ICICI Venture Fund in 2005-06. ICICI Venture, a subsidiary of ICICI Bank, the largest private sector financial services group in India, is one of the oldest and most experienced private equity firms in India, with a proven track record of being associated with some of the leading life sciences brands in India.

RFCL is a USD 34-million Indian company comprising of four major business segments, which include Vetnex-Animal Health, Diagnova- In vitro Diagnostics, Rankem-Scientific Laboratory Solutions and NeoSynth-Custom Synthesis Business. Combined together, they offer products and services to a range of industries including the dairy segment, companion animal treatment and poultry; in vitro diagnostic facilities in clinical labs, hospitals, nursing homes; and laboratory chemicals and consumables for pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, R&D laboratories, etc.

Vetnex, an animal health SBU of RFCL Limited is all set to offer next generation veterinary solutions for livestock, poultry and companion animals. Currently ranked amongst the top 5 veterinary pharmaceutical companies in India with an over 200-strong dedicated marketing and sales force, Vetnex is evolving into a complete solutions provider in prevention, treatment and productivity enhancement.

Vetnex’s pet business has exclusive and dedicated team of professionals working extensively to reach more than 1500 pet practitioners and channel members across the country. Vetnex has carved its niche in companion animal segment and some of its products like Cisaflux – an anti-tick shampoo, Verol Syrup – a pet feed supplement, Plozin – a complete and safe dewormer and Spectrazole – an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal cream & lotion, have already won the trust of veterinarians and pet lovers, over the years.

Expressing his delight over the way pet business has built its image over the years in the industry, Dr. Maneesh said, “We are a research driven organization where we seamlessly integrate customer’s expectations with a vision to provide quality products and services. Our brands are being trusted and recommended by the vets all across the country. Our endeavour will be to bring latest products in treatment of companion animals to the pet practitioners of India. Another step in this direction is the launch of our new product SULPHOBEN, an anti-itch skin cleanser for dogs. It’s a totally new formulation which has been launched for the first time in India. Initial reports from the market are very encouraging and we look forward to a very good support from the veterinarians in the coming months.”

RFCL today stands committed with its values for brighter future and Vetnex, the wholly dedicated animal health arm of RFCL further consolidates its stand.

Sushil further strengthened Dr. Maneesh’s reasoning, and said, “If growth is considered, pet business is the fastest growing amongst all the animal health divisions. We see a growth of 20 percent in the pet business.”

The journey from Ranbaxy to a separate entity was quite challenging for the team, but they came out as proud winners. “It was challenging because we were disassociating from a company of lineage of Ranbaxy, at the same time we were quite excited because we were all set to get our own identity. Also the comfort of having ICICI Venture Capital Fund as our promoters was a big confidence builder for our team,” explained Sushil.

For Vetnex, it’s the customers who are of prime importance and it’s their goal to deliver best to them, no matter what, while nurturing relationships with them. “We are very particular to have win-win relationships with customers, end consumers, business partners and associates. Our principles and values are also equally important to us on our mission to success – Mission 2010, which is to attain a leadership position in Indian animal health industry by bringing next generation solutions and services to the customers in treatment, prevention and productivity enhancement,” Sushil said, while sharing his professional ethics.

On asking about their expansion plans, Sushil proudly expressed, “We will have our own manufacturing facility in Haridwar, which will have about 65% vet formulations. The new facility will be as per WHO standards l, thus we will be able to produce global standard products for international market as well.”

“We have the advantage of having a young team of professionals, our team overall average age is 28-30 years. We have ISO 9001:2000 certified manufacturing facilities, global quality products, wide distribution reach and efficient logistics. With our 20 CFAs and 500 distributors, our products are available to the end consumers across the country. And since we have envisaged the growth of 40-50 percent, so we have no time to relax,” Sushil concluded.

Let’s Have some more fun

Having a great time with our lovely pooches, in the lap of nature, away from the city’s hustle-bustle, chasing birds, basking in serenity, enjoying tranquility, while doing all the oh-not-for-me fun activities is a dream for most of us. As they say, ‘dreams do come true’, and Crazy K9 camping lends wings to dreams of all poochie lovers. It’s an experience to remember, while reliving and reviving all the fun moments again is not a bad option either.

Rocking & rolling

It was the third trek of Crazy K9 Camper’s at Japalouppe farms, Talegoan. And the enthusiasm was booming high with every passing moment, 18 participating dogs and 46 people including the seven dogs of the farm of Rohan More. Camp organizer, Jazz ensured that all arrangements for his friends were met to the best of the K9 world could ever provide.

Splashing the fun

The camp got on a wild and wet note within minutes of all gathering at the venue when the Labs jumped into the mini pond and tried to cool themselves off before the party began. After a hearty breakfast it was time for some more aqua fun since our next destination was the ‘Thugav waterfall’. It was a spine chilling experience for all the participants, as we were heading to a pictorial place with the fast gush of the crystal clear waterfall. Plunging in water and splashing it all over was a great fun. All the campers joined the gang, Labs, Mastiffs, Dalmatians…even the Pugs and Beagles made a beautiful concourse. Buddy and Bruno were the brave heroes, little hesitant at first but could not resist the temptation as their toys reached the water surface. They decided to join in as well. There was a lot of fun noises and enjoying chaos as the doggies decided to play in until their heart content.

Razzmatazzzz…

The excitement and thrill had gripped all the fun loving souls and when we returned to start our afternoon activities, the results were again the same, pure fun and frolic. It started with ‘Passing the Parcel’, what made the common game a real special gag were the hilarious punishments. For the second round of games, we played ‘Wacky Wag’ where we all are asked to give reasons as to why our dogs is better than our spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. The answers got as honest as it could be, varying from “My dog is far handsome than my husband” to “My doggy never comments on my driving.”

Getting together…

Unlimited fun and enjoyment grappled all the participants and by sunset, the doggies were already grooving for the big birthday bash of Troy – the Lab. The party saw some great dressing sense from the paw world with bright sweaters and colorful b’day caps. It was great to see two highly energetic Dalmatians performing to their master’s order perfectly. The venue had some amazing dine and wine. The music were all canine favorites as we saw them dancing till late hours.

Adrenaline rush

On the next day, it was a trek to Lohagad, which was 40 kms away from the campsite. It was a wonderful sunny day. The initial walk was rocky and rough but for regular doggy trekkers, it was challenging and exciting. However, some doggies were tired with heavy dancing, the previous night and sunny weather and returned back to base. But Troy, Coco, Bhavani, Panchali and Jazz made it to the top and saw some wonderful scenic and pleasing views. They also witnessed the Visapur Fort. Lohagad is one of the well-maintained forts with a beautiful Pavna Lake and Vishapur Fort and flat hill ranges on its sides.

Hmm…yummy

Afterwards, we stopped to gorge on a typical Maharashtrian lunch of ‘Bhakri’, ‘Pithla’ and hot and spicy ‘Thecha’ but what we all failed to realise was that walking back with full tummies was a bad idea indeed. But finally we all managed to reach back late afternoon. Everyone quickly jumped into their cars as we all were too tired to even walk a single step ahead.

Sayonara…we’ll meet again

The time really flies off, as two days of camping seems to get over in a flick. They gave totally unforgettable memories for all the rocking campers, both two – as well as four-legged high-spirited creatures. It was two days of complete bliss and bonding time for all the friends. Everyone left with great impassion to meet soon at the next camp. Jazz has started the preparations already. All doggies had complete relaxing sessions. This camping was sheer joy for the dogs who were thrilled to see and smell new sights and sounds. Jazz assures that all pets had a wonderful experience!  Pet camp is an exciting new alternative to traditional pet fun, so WOOF! WOOF! to camp-dog-world.

Who is a help dog?

A friend in need is a friend indeed and it aptly applies to our canine friends. You would be amazed to know what they can do for the disabled. They can retrieve a snack or medicine from the refrigerator and even pull a wheel chair for short distances. Dogs trained for such activities are help dogs, who help the less privileged humans in leading a normal life. One wonders what our canines can do for a person who is disabled. Well, a service dog can do many tasks, depending on the person’s disability. Service dogs enhance independence for people with disabilities. They do this by reducing reliance on other people to perform tasks that they have difficulty performing themselves. A dog guide is the eye for his blind handler, taking the handler around obstacles. A hearing dog alerts the handler to sounds, a seizure alert/response dog responds when the handler has a seizure, and a Mobility assist dog (also called a service dog), is the arms and legs for a disabled person. A psychiatric service dog keeps a person with a psychiatric disorder calm.

HADI

Hyderabad based Help & Assistance Dogs India (HADI) is an organisation which provides such help dogs in India. This non-profit organisation is a unit of Commando Kennels, involved in training dogs in various aspects since 1986. In 2004, HADI donated two service dogs to mentally challenged children in Hyderabad. HADI is also involved in creating awareness about the use of help dogs. HADI trains and certifies trainers in diverse aspects of dog training. They conduct short-term 6-week capsule courses to facilitate this. HADI is planning to donate 6 service dogs to the challenged in 2005.They also plan to dedicate 6 earthquake search and rescue dogs to the nation, with ‘mission ready’ teams available for call-out on a 24-hour basis.

Who is a help dog?

A help dog is any guide dog trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They not only provide a specific service to their handlers, but also greatly enhance their lives with a new sense of freedom and independence. The various types of help dogs are assistance dogs and search and rescue dogs.

Assistance dogs: These help dogs not only provide a specific service to their handlers, but also greatly enhance their lives with a new sense of freedom and independence. Assistance dogs can further be divided into the following types, though newer and more varied skills and combinations of skills are being developed depending on the disabilities of the person:

  • Guide dogs for the blind and the visually impaired.
  • Hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Service dogs for the people with physical disabilities other than those related to vision or hearing.
  • Seizure response/alert dogs are placed to work with an individual who has epilepsy or other seizure disorders. The dog is trained to perform a task that benefits the recipient by alerting him/her to or by responding appropriately to seizure episodes.
  • Social/therapy dogs are permanently placed in a home or care giving facility to provide therapeutic benefits.

Search and rescue dogs: The use of canines for search and rescue is not new. Specially trained dogs have been used across the world for decades. These dogs have been successful in searching for victims trapped in rubble created by earthquakes or explosions, Alzheimer patients who have wandered away, children who have become lost, victims of boating accidents, or evidence in criminal cases. A search & rescue team performs the following functions:

  • Earthquakes – Dog/handler teams are specially trained to locate victims of earthquake.
  • Wilderness – Dog/handler teams are specially trained to locate victims who are lost such as hunters, hikers, children, campers, the elderly, or mentally disabled.
  • Water Searching – Water search dogs can work from the shore or from a boat and will alert to scent rising from a submerged body.
  • Tracking/trailing – These specially trained dogs are particularly useful when a last known location has been established for the victim.
  • Evidence?-?These dog/handler teams assist law enforcement in locating evidence such as shell casing, guns, knives, etc.
  • Cadaver – Cadaver dogs are specially trained to locate and indicate buried bodies or body parts.
  • Disaster Training – Disaster trained dogs bark and dig at the location of the victim hidden beneath rubble from earthquakes, explosions, tornadoes, mudslides, floods, etc.
  • Avalanche?- They are specially trained to help locate individuals who have been buried under snow during an avalanche.

What can a help dog do?

HADI tailor-trains each of their dogs to meet the specific needs of their future partner. Regardless of the physical assistance tasks a help dog may perform for their partner, perhaps the most important benefit of all is simply the love and companionship the dogs provide their partners.

These dogs can also provide physical assistance tasks such as:

  • Retrieving dropped items from the floor.
  • Standing and bracing to assist an individual who has fallen to the floor.
  • Turning light switches on and off.
  • Retrieving the telephone, remote control, and other items by name.
  • Providing counterbalance support as a person walks or climbs stairs.
  • Helping a person to dress and undress.
  • Assisting individuals in rolling over in bed.
  • Opening and closing doors, cabinets, and drawers.
  • Retrieving a snack and/or medication from a refrigerator.
  • Helping pull a wheelchair for short distances.


How are they trained and placed:

Doctor Dog: animals welfare through people welfare

Animal Asia of Hong Kong is an organisation working for the welfare of dogs across Asia. They believe that dogs, our age-old best friends, can provide a great starting point to ‘promote animal welfare through people welfare’ and give a much needed voice to all animals. The Dr. Dog programme has been started with one such vision.

It only takes one to start making a difference…

Twelve years ago, faced with repeated and heart-breaking scenes of cruelty and neglect across Asia, one very remarkable lady made a brave decision to start changing attitudes towards animals and share with others the special bond she had with her dog. Jill Robinson MBE (the founder of Animals Asia), was quite literally laughed at when she suggested taking her dog Max into hospitals to cheer up patients. Hospital adminis-trators were incredulous about even considering taking a ‘dirty dog’ into a clean and sterile environment. But one hospital gave her a chance and attitudes were to change with just one visit…

Max was granted one hour in the garden of the Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital and a small, but willing paraplegic boy was wheeled out to meet him. Surrounded by cynical press and nervous nurses, Jill waited with baited breath as Max gently rose up and placed his giant golden paws on the bedside of the boy and was greeted with a radiant smile! It was a smile that was to secure the start of Dr. Dog programme and its subsequent place deep within the heart of the Hong Kong community.

Following in the healing paw prints of Max, Dr. Dog grew quite literally in leaps and bounds!

Today, the innovative animal therapy programme sees a team of enthusiastic volunteers and over 300 ‘canine consultants’ visiting hospitals, schools, homes for the young and elderly, orphanages and disabled centres spreading warmth and love to patients in need in not less than six countries across Asia – and all the time watched over with enthusiasm and endorsement from a growing number of medical professionals.

In an important new role as animal therapists, dogs are once again proving their loyalty and diversity by providing patients with a much-needed best friend. A friend who won’t judge them for the way they look or their illness but accepts them regardless of age, race, class or disability. The dedicated Dr. Dog give patients the feeling that they are most special, providing a unique source of support and increasing self-confidence with a positive outlook.

The success of Dr. Dog is not just about the ‘feel good factor’ – animal therapy is scientifically proven to work! Numerous studies in America, Europe and Australia have shown that pet owners have a lower reactivity to mental stress, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and a greatly reduced risk of heart disease than non-pet owners do. Physical, occupational and speech therapy programmes repeatedly find that companion animals help motivate patients to exercise and improve their verbal and coordination skills, as well as enhancing general mobility and social interaction. Simple exercises such as throwing a ball, brushing a coat or taking a new friend for a walk can bring meaning to life.

Dr. Dog has changed the lives of many people across Asia

From an autistic child who refused to open his heart and talk, to an elderly man with senile dementia, awakened from their silence by a visit from Dr. Dog: An excited cry of “DOG!” was the first word spoken by both patients. A call from a dying cancer patient for a last visit from Dr. Dog shows just how much the visits come to mean. Dr. Dog was unable to cure her illness, but gently granted a last wish from a dear friend. At a very basic level, they help to alleviate the tide of loneliness and sense of isolation felt by so many individuals in care. The programme’s impact is perhaps most striking in old people’s homes where the residents look forward to the visits with much excitement and anticipation, greeting the dogs like long lost friends! Residents save their breakfast ‘dim sum’ as a special treat for their favourite visitors and requests for the dogs to stay overnight are frequent – one elderly lady even asked if she could keep Max in her room forever!

Aside from regular visits, Dr. Dog also pioneers a variety of functions to share the unconditional love and warmth that dogs bring to society. The annual Dr. Dog Devotion Awards pay tribute to outstanding dogs in the Hong Kong community who have given their courage, comfort and in some cases their lives for people in need. The awards honour dogs as our friends and helpers, giving well-deserved credit for their unwavering loyalty and dedication. One special award winner last year was blind Dr. Ocha, a favourite visitor with children at the Ebenezer School for the visually impaired – she is an inspiration to the patients, bravely encouraging them to face their disability and a special friend who shares their hopes and fears.

An annual “Walk for Harmony” sees over 600 dogs join together with able-bodied and disabled members of the general public to promote a message of love for all animals in the Country Park. Each Christmas sees Dr. Dogs and their dedicated volunteers dressed up for “Santa Paws” visits, spreading festive cheer and sharing presents among hospital patients, the elderly and orphans, whilst Chinese new year is another very special time and sees Dr. Dogs distributing lucky ‘Lai See’ to bring patients good fortune for the coming year.

Animals Asia’s Dr. Dogs become professors!

Animals Asia’s Dr. Dogs have also recently taken on a brand new role as ‘Professors’ to teach local primary children about the importance of companion animals; compassion for all living creatures; safety around dogs and responsible pet care. The initial pilot programme sees over 300 children in Hong Kong taking part in 4 specially designed “Professor Paws” lessons, which aim to develop their English language skills and confidence, whilst encouraging them to make a difference as “Pet Cadets” and give a voice to dogs and other animals. The feedback so far has been incredibly positive – many of the children have never even touched a dog, but by the end of their first lesson they’re begging to have dogs at school all the time!

Friends… or food

“Friends…or Food?” umbrella campaign was inspired by Eddie – a dog who was destined for the dinner table. One morning, on an investigation to an animal market in China, the Animal Asia team found over 500 dogs being unloaded from trucks. Tossed like bags of rice from as high as fifteen feet, cage after cage of dogs were sent crashing to the floor – a tangle of broken limbs and desperate brown eyes awaiting their unthinkable fate. Amidst this sea of misery, they found Eddie – squeezed into a tiny wire cage with three other terrified dogs. Eddie was waiting to be slaughtered and gently licked the hand of anyone who reached in to give him a few seconds of comfort. Feeling utterly helpless they made the decision to rescue Eddie and bring him back to Hong Kong, where he is now working as a proud ambassador of the Dr. Dog programme.

Through pioneering ‘hands-on’ programmes like Dr. Dog that show first hand the love and friendship that dogs can give, Animals Asia continues to work tirelessly to bring about change and restore respect for animals. The Friends or Food campaign, an intensive public education programme in China is now underway which sees ex-market dog Eddie starring in his own VCD entitled “Dr. Eddie: Friend…or Food?” In this 16-minute video, Eddie tells the story of his rescue through his own eyes and asks the viewer to reconsider their attitudes towards dogs.

The success of the Dr. Dog programme spreading warmth and love across Asia is testament to the changing attitudes towards animals:

Dr. Dog was launched in Chengdu, China in November 2004 to an incredible reception. The programme made headline news with abandoned street dog, little Dali leading a new team of Chinese canine ambassadors, who were enthusiastically welcomed by local doctors and nurses into their medical team!

Through the healing power of animal therapy and thanks to the dedicated Dr. Dogs and volunteers, people are at last recognising animals as our companions, our helpers and our best friends.

For more info about Dr. Dog, Friends or Food and the work of Animals Asia, please visit www.animalsasia.org. To find out more about Animals Asia’s Dr. Dog partners in India, please contact: CUPA, Bangalore (cupablr@vsnl.net); Blue Cross, Chennai (bci@bluecross.org.in); Animal Help Foundation, Ahmedabad (bijoyshivram@ hotmail.com) and People for Animals, Ludhiana (jeevdaya04 @yahoo.co.in)

Kool K9 Camping

Weekend getaways, picnics, relaxation outings are commonplace in our human circles. If humans need it, ever thought of something similar for our canine counterparts? Dog trainer Pooja Sathe comes up with a vacation scheme for those beloved members of our family, who deserve nothing but the best!!! Crazy K9 Camper’s Dog Camp held at YMCA Camp Lakeside at Nilshi in July this year was an event with a difference. It was a camp attended by over 12 dogs and their families, where the sole goal was enjoyment for the four-legged darlings. It was a two-day action packed schedule, chalked out well in advance.

The camp was organised solo by Pooja Sathe, an avid animal lover, especially dogs. A dog trainer by profession, she has been involved in organising such novel events for the dogs and other animals over the past two years. This camp was also organised keeping in mind the need for the K9 members to have their share of relaxation and change of atmosphere. “If people die to go out of town for small outings, why shouldn’t the canines too have their share of it,” she says.

The YMCA Camp Lakeside proved to be an excellent location for the camp, since it was not too far from Mumbai (about 150 kms) and yet far enough to keep those involved in it, away from the hustle bustle of the city life. It also had enough space for the dogs to be left free and contained enough to not let them go away too far.

It was heartening to see the dogs off leash for almost all of the two days, which seemed to provide them with the much needed relaxation and freedom. They had the full freedom to discover and explore the wilderness, which is their natural habitation. There was a unanimous feeling of happiness amongst all present to see the pets having so much fun.

Spice of life

To spice up the camp, Pooja organised various interesting events, the most enjoyable being the ‘Dog Recipe’. The pet owners had to team up and cook up delicious recipes like dog biscuits, ice cream with fresh fruits etc. The aim of the event was “Cooking for your Pet”, and if the pet did not eat it, one was automatically disqualified.

Then there was also an excursion to the lakeside, which presented one of the most amazing scenes of nature. The owners stayed on the lakeside while the pets enjoyed a nice and cool swim in the lake. It was absolutely enthralling to see the pets playing and splashing in water. They seemed to be enjoying the cooling experience, away from Mumbai mania.

Special traits

All the 12 dogs present at the camp displayed very special character traits and two days were more than enough for everyone to find that out.

  • Jini, a female German Shepherd had a bad time wooing off two males – Cocoa, a chocolate Labrador and Tommy, a mix breed. They were absolutely smitten with her and tried to woo her for all the time they were there.
  • Then there were the two female Dalmatians – Pygmy and Pixie. Both were real powerhouses of energy and had feet like quicksilver. They also possessed immaculate discipline when it came to following master’s orders.
  • The two female Labradors, Bhavani and Hidimba, were the laid-back kinds and very peace loving indeed. However, all that went for a toss when they got into the lake.
  • The most impressive name belonged to a young six month old fawn Labrador. The name Troy created in the mind an immediate sense of power and control, which was enough to attract anyone to him.
  • Jazz, who was Pooja’s male Labrador, was the most energetic and also the most voracious eater of the lot. He would never sit still for more than a few seconds. Needless to say, Jazz had a really jazzzy time at the camp!
  • But the best dog of the troupe was undoubtedly “Julie”, a female Cocker Spaniel who was almost like “lightning in flesh”. She was so agile and energetic all the time that it left the other canines hunting for her, but in vain. She kept everyone busy all the time.

Trekking tour

The most adventurous event, however, was the trekking programme arranged for the pets and their owners. It was some sight to see a caravan of dogs, their owners and their vehicles marching on to Camp-18, a hill well known for the cloud cover during the monsoon days. The owners parked their cars at the base of the hill and the trek began. It took almost over an hour to scale up the hill and come back down. (Even here the dogs were kept off leash almost all the time. One could easily see the animal instincts inside them come out and show off in all their colours.) The trek was an easy one and it gave the dogs a chance to indulge in an activity that they must have never experienced.

From the hill, the campers were taken to a waterfall, which proved to be the most enjoyable part of the camp. The dogs literally had a ball of a time in the waterfall. It was great pleasure to see the dogs frolicking around in the waters like crazy creatures.

Sports session

There was even a sports session held on the basketball court where everybody brought out their footballs, basketballs, rings and other accessories and had an hour of running around and playing. Each dog received a goodie bag besides the loads of happy memories attached to the last two days of the camp.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and it was sad to see such a rocking camp finally dispersing. However, there couldn’t have been a better platform than this to start out such dog camps. The four-legged troupe we had, deserved great accolades too, since they all gelled together amazingly. And even though the camp ended, the whole experience and feel of it all, is still fresh in everyone’s minds, including the canines and their owners, even today.

For more info on YMCA Camp Lakeside Nilshi, visit: www.ymcabombay.com/cs.htm

Leela Parulekar: Lady & the tramps

The residence of Leela Parulekar is better known as a big bungalow with dogs all around. Her love and compassion for animals is simply beyond words. Dogs and Pups had a chat with Leela at her home in Pune.

Entering the gates of Jeev Raksha, one is greeted by multitude of wagging tails and playful barks. There are dogs, cows, birds, donkeys, etc, each giving you an inquisitive look as to who has entered their premise. There are dogs of all age groups – pups, adolescents, besides many injured and old ones. A look at them reflects the life they must have lived before they entered this haven, now they know they will be loved and cared for. They are all over the place– some can be seen strolling, some sitting comfortably on a chair or a charpoy under the tree. One can see the canine cheer!Leela Parulekar, better known as ‘kuttewali bai’ (the lady with dogs), loved dogs from her early childhood. Her love, which started as a child, is still continuing and the numbers are gradually increasing, with each passing day. She believes in loving all animals and says that people should learn to live in harmony and peace with them and also respect them. Her shelter Jeev Raksha takes care of those who are unwanted and uncared for. Leela tends to each one with heart-felt concern, doing her best to heal the wounds both physically as well as emotionally.Inspite of her job as a director of a Marathi newspaper Sakaal, Leela manages her work of tending to the needs and caring for all the pets. She is the daughter of the famous Dr NB Parulekar, founder-editor of Sakaal, from whom she has inherited her journalistic capabilities. She completed her schooling from St. Mary’s while she pursued her graduation from Wadia College. She has a masters in French literature and has studied at Columbia University, New York. She even worked with New York Times and the Paris-based Le Monde. But, her love and compassion for animals changed her life forever and brought her back to Pune.
Everyday at Jeev Raksha is intense, full of little tragedies and challenges. Special care and attention is given to pups and kittens as well as those who are injured or are quite old. Each and every nook and corner of the bungalow is dedicated to animals. You can find dogs everywhere – on the bed, in the kitchen, even in the bathroom! One can see some of the dogs sprawled over her bedroom. “My house has literally gone to the dogs. They are my children and my life is complete because of them,” said Leela with a twinkle in her eyes.
The moment to catch is when Leela steps out – it is a sight to behold! Do you remember the story of the pied piper, who was followed by rats? The same is the case here, the difference being that instead of rats, Leela is followed by a stream of dogs of all breeds and sizes. Particularly admiring is a beautiful once-abandoned Great Dane, who follows her everywhere, even if she has to go to the bathroom. Like a shadow, he follows her every footstep, without letting her go out from his sight. Equally possessive is a lil Dachshund, whom Leela amusingly calls her boy-friend. Even while chatting with us, her boyfriend didn’t move. He sat on the table beside her. Then, there are others like DJ, Kalu, etc and all love her dearly.
Leela remembers her pets with fondness. She particularly remembers Chimpu Brown, when she had to go out of town for some work and her mother was ill. She asked Chimpu to take care of her mother. Everybody was surprised to see that he did not move from her mother’s bedside for a fortnight, until Leela came back home. “I was simply touched with this gesture,” told Leela.
Leela is at times deterred by some of the callers who wish to abandon their dogs due to some illness, old age or other behavioral problems. She feels that if they can cope up with other family members having similar problems, then why can’t they keep and take care of their pets. Aren’t they responsible enough?
Jeev Raksha also puts up their dogs for adoption. “But we are very careful about giving our dogs away. We do a proper follow up and ensure that he is going into good hands. If still, we find that the dog is not properly cared, we bring our pet right back,” she added.
Her love and compassion for animals is deeply appreciated by all. Venu Menon Animal Allies Foundation conferred her with Venu Menon Animal Allies Award 2002 for her outstanding contribution to animal welfare.
Though she has a dedicated team of 15-20 people who work along with her, she still tries to devote most of her time to her animals. Her team looks at her with pride and shares her vision. Her only limitation is the finances as she has a shoe-string budget. “I am happy, if I can feed them well. I don’t think about tomorrow,” told Leela. But, she always welcomes the little donations and help she gets from some of the volunteers from time to time. The help is either in the form of food, old clothes (for sleeping and tying wounds), newspapers (for sleeping) and medicines. Everyday they use 25-30 kg of newspapers.
Leela advocates that we should love animals and teach our children to do the same. “Childhood is the right time to make children imbibe these values because it is then that they are more open to ideas. A dog can change your life. He will reward you with his boundless gratitude,” told Leela.