In cities, seeing dogs curled up in corners, scurrying through bushes in the rain, and hiding under cars in the cold is a routine sight. Knowing that vehicles frequently run over stray dogs has always bothered me. I’m a pet parent, after all. Unable to stand this anymore, I sought to change their address from “street” to “home”.
Being a mountaineer, life has been all about travelling and rigorous training for me. I became the oldest woman to scale the Everest last year. This year, I gave myself a break and pledged to scale the challenge of helping stray dogs. It was time to build them their own houses.
In 2015, my beloved Cocker Spaniel died of tick fever. I was devastated. After she passed away, I spent six months going to shelters, feeding every dog I saw on the street, and even putting up make-shift tarpaulin tents for them. I felt helpless when I saw it was not the airtight solution I had hoped for. Something more permanent was needed.
My son helped me design the first dog house. We painted it green, to represent the environment. He has painted a figure of the dogs on each of their houses too! These were built as twin houses, which could keep two or even three dogs if need be. But I had to raise funds to build all four houses. So I began making and selling mango pickle. And I intend to do the same in winter—when carrots, turnip, and cauliflower are in season. When I began, I didn’t expect support, but some people have come forward with donations for building two houses.
The decision to actually make these home for my stray dogs came right after my journey to the summit of Mount Everest. I had chosen a vegan lifestyle. And every single day since, I have felt more and more compassionate towards animals living on the streets. The other day, I saw a cow giving birth to a calf, in front of my eyes. It moved me enough to do something I had never done before: help the mother and baby and head to the nearest gaushala.
Every day I look at all these dogs and think: “They are the most loving creatures on the street, who need love, a place to stay, and medical care.” I love all of them. All over India there are so many like them without shelters, and without a voice. I want to be that voice.
Recently the Punjab and Haryana high court recently declared dogs as Legal Persons. And while everything looks good on paper, the declaration has to be put into practice. Well, I have my goals set.
By December 31 this year, I intend to make 25 houses to protect 50 dogs throughout Delhi’s bitter winter.