On a February afternoon in Delhi, Kannan Animal Welfare (KAW), a dog rescue organisation based in Indirapuram, near Delhi, had received a call. Workers at a nearby post office found out that one of the strays they fed, a puppy named Chitti, was hit by a car.
Chitti is one of the 5 lakh native dogs (strays) in the national capital. Without homes, nutrition or names, they often live on garbage. Many are run over by cars or drown in monsoon floods. Eight out of 10 will die during the first year of their lives, says an estimate by KAW.
But this was not Chitti’s fate. She was transported to a veterinary doctor, where she was operated upon. This was her first time at a vet’s, and she clung to the comfort of those rescuing her. After the surgery, Chitti recovered at a KAW shelter, and later was sent to the KAW sanctuary, where 70 other dogs like her awaited adoption.
Chitti is the protagonist of a short film, 7000 Miles Home, made by Virginia-based dog rescue organisation Operation Paws for Homes (OPH), which was premiered recently in the US.
While Chitti was fighting injury, Irene Skricki, a volunteer from OPH had boarded a flight from Washington DC to New Delhi to bring some supplies to KAW, as part of a two-year-old partnership with KAW. OPH works with several international partners to raise awareness about dogs in need.
Along with the supplies, Skricki had also brought a video camera to record the footage of her journey, and that’s how the film happened. She says, “OPH had already made a short film about its work transporting dogs from the southern part of the US to adopters in the Washington DC region. That film, 600 Miles Home, came out several years ago and was very popular. Our founder, Jen Dodge, thought we could make a companion film about the Indian dog work.”
OPH held a small premiere for the film last month, and also uploaded it on their website and on YouTube. Chitti walked the red carpet at the American premiere, along with her friends Kuku and Polka. On her journey back to the US, Skricki also transported three dogs from KAW, Bundi, Kuku and Polka, and all three of them found homes in no time. On the red carpet, three of them walked and rolled and played, along with several other Indian dogs.
Vandana Anchalia, founder and managing trustee, KAW Foundation says, “We take super critical cases that have been turned down by other shelters or recommended for euthanasia. It takes a lot more time to heal them. Once they are healed, we rehome them with the help of several partner organisations around the world, such as Rescue without Borders (New Jersey), TLC Canine Rescue (Minnesota), Street Dog Hero (Oregon) and Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue (Alberta, Canada).” In three years of its existence, Anchalia says KAW has rescued 500 dogs, including many special-needs dogs that other shelters have refused.
“While there are individuals who care for native dogs in India, most people don’t understand them and prefer to have pure-breeds as pets. Westerners, on the other hand, are quite fascinated by their beautiful features, intelligence, agility, immunity and have begun to think of them as great pets,” she says.
“KAW has sent about 45 dogs across the ocean, to Canada and the UK, primarily to the US,” adds Jagriti KA, its trustee and head of funding. “Of them, a few were tripods, one blind dog and a cat with no front limbs,” she says.
But, Anchalia adds, besides such stray efforts, the cause of native breeds must be championed in India. “If more and more people in India adopt strays, they can talk about native dogs from their first-hand experience, which will help find them adopters within the country.”
When Chitti was ready, OPH flew her to America as well. In June this year, four months after she was found languishing on the streets of Delhi, she found a forever home in the US and now lives in a huge house just outside Washington DC.