On Monday morning last week, Aditya Natarajan, a gaming consultant who feeds the stray dogs of Worli Seaface, got a call that he has received many times before. The caller said Laddu was waiting at the finish line of the Maharashtra Police International Marathon.
The Prabhadevi resident rushed to Gateway of India. As he pushed his way through the crowd, he found the white and brown dog surrounded by a group of runners, some patting his head, others offering him biscuits. He was even wearing a participation medal.
Robinson Saju, a process developer working in the automobile industry, who, along with fellow runner Rahul Chauhan, waited with Laddu at the finish line for over an hour, said, “We participated in the 21-km category of the marathon. This dog joined us at Worli Seaface. He did not bother anyone, he was just running with us. He must have easily covered around 11 km. At the finish line, we spotted his name tag which had Aditya’s number, so Rahul called him and we waited till he came to pick up the dog. We kept giving him food so he doesn’t run away because he was getting scared of the noise and the crowd.”
The canine was seen crossing the finish line amid cheers in a video released by the Facebook page of Maharashtra Police International Marathon. “I gave Laddu my participation medal because I was amazed by what he did. He didn’t stop once! He deserves a medal too,” said Saju.
This is not Laddu’s first sprint. Last month, Aditya had sent out an anxious SOS through his Instagram handle that one of the stray dogs he feeds had not been seen in his territory since he ran off with participants during the Mumbai Marathon as they passed Seaface.
It had been six days since Laddu was seen last, so Aditya reached out to influencers like Scherezade Shroff Talwar, Ayesha Billimoria, Sahil Shah and Mishti, who shared posters of the missing canine. Minutes later, his social media was flooded with photographs of countless participants with Laddu running in the background. One said the dog had been spotted near Breach Candy Hospital, another sent him a photo of Laddu with a runner couple near CST station.
Within hours, Mumbaikars from all walks of life were sharing missing posters of Laddu, and scouring parts of South Mumbai.
Laddu was even seen in the official video of the marathon released by the Tata Group, keeping up with runners on Peddar Road.
Despite the sightings, days passed and Aditya could not get hold of Laddu. He then reached out to the Marine Drive group of dog feeders and rescuers, who put out an SOS.
Six days later, Laddu was found, at his usual spot. Since then, he has become a canine celebrity.“When I found Laddu, I couldn’t believe my eyes. So many people responded to my posts. It was heartening to see people care so much,” said Aditya.
Aditya found Laddu at Seaface around Diwali last year, after which he started feeding him regularly.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines