A social worker, a politician and an avid animal lover… Meet Priya Dutt, who is owned by her pet dogs Prince and Mauzer. In a tête-à-tête with Gauri Keskar, another enthusiastic dog lover, Priya shares some happy moments.
One dog lover always recognises the other. There are these tell-tale signs, like for instance-constantly trying to steer conversations to dog related topics, slowly but surely talking about their own dog, referring to their dogs as their babies, and the list goes on and on. It’s a sort of kinship between us, dog people. We immediately ‘sniff ‘ each other out. That’s exactly how I remember Priya Dutt, the first time I met her. Me and my partner Urmila run TailWaggers, a pet salon for dogs in Mumbai. Five years ago, Priya had got her baby, Prince, an adorable Golden Retriever, to the salon for the first time. She wanted to get an oil-massage done for him and basically wanted him to have a good time getting pampered. We got talking, and then came the tell-tale signs I wrote about earlier-she didn’t want to leave him alone even for a single minute, she was constantly petting him, talking to him, and he of course had eyes only for her. It was clearly obvious that the two of them shared a really special bond.
Priya Dutt needs no introduction, daughter of the dynamic late Sunil Dutt, she herself has recently entered politics and currently is a Member of Parliament. She has been known to be actively involved in social work and began working alongside with her father almost ten years ago. She is also one of the trustees of the One Tree Foundation, started by her husband Owen and his partner, and has also played a part in initiating The Tiger Team Foundation focusing on our national animal which is highly endangered, the tiger.
With so many milestones to achieve and so much to do how does she find time to spend with Prince? To that, she replies, “Prince came into my life quite by chance, eight years ago, when he was just a tiny little ball of fur. I had agreed to baby sit him for my brother. At that time, I was going through a very confusing and difficult time both career-wise and personally and the arrival of Prince completely changed my life. He almost helped heal me and to me he is like an angel and my closest and most unconditional friend. So, no matter what I do, he will always be an integral part of my life.” Prince has been her companion through all her highs and lows, through her marriage, her father’s untimely death, the beginning of her political career, the birth of her son Siddharth and so on. She says, “The first time Prince and my husband Owen met, Prince just sniffed him around and wasn’t too interested but one fine day, I guess, he realized how special Owen is to me and he completely accepted him as a part of the family. Not only that, Owen and Prince now share a great relationship which is completely independent off me.”
So how did she introduce Prince and Siddharth to each other and to that she says it was absolutely natural and simple. Prince instantly knew Siddharth was family and he just came up to him and licked his feet and the two of them now stay together with absolutely no problems. Prince checks on Siddharth two to three times a day and makes sure he is doing ok. When I asked her whether she was apprehensive about Siddharth, being just a baby, and Prince staying together, she replies in the negative and says that children grow up better with pet animals around. “ It teaches them to co-exist and develop tolerance and respect towards other species from an early age.”
She and Owen have recently got a Siberian Husky called Mauzer. So how has Mauzer adjusted with all of them. To that, Priya says, “Mauzer and Prince are very different. Prince is very calm and Mauzer on the other hand is quite a handful. He is very playful and hyper but also extremely affectionate in his own way. Every time I come home, he wants to beat Prince at greeting me. So often there is quite a commotion. Initially it took all of us some time in getting adjusted to him but now every one has learnt to happily co-exist with each other.”
So has she always had pets… “I had a Pomeranian called Kalu when I was growing up and I was very attached to him. It completely broke my heart when he passed away and after that, I wasn’t allowed to keep dogs for a long time. Prince came into my life after a gap of ten years which is also why he is so precious to me.”
She also adds that she thinks it is very important that people think very clearly before taking a decision on getting a pet home, since along with its up sides, it is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly.
As Priya happily poses for a picture with Prince, I remember the time, a few months ago, when she had opened her heart and home to a very sick and old, three-legged abandoned dog called Jackie. She had asked me to come along with her to the veterinarian to get him treated. He was very weak and could barely stand. She was constantly petting him and saying soothing things to him. She took him home and after a few weeks when he finally passed away, she was inconsolable. And all this was during the time she herself was six months pregnant. Having compassion for fellow creatures is the greatest gift one can have. With more people and politicians like her, this world would certainly be a better place!