Gabbar, Basanti, Jai, Veeru and Dhanno, come ‘home’ for lunch every day after their long stroll around south Delhi’s PVR Anupam in Saket. No matter how delicious is the lunch offered to them by shoppers and movie goers in the area, they prefer to come back to their ‘amma’ — a 75-year-old woman who lives in a shanty in the area - for their daily portion of meat and rice.
Pratima Devi has been petting around 350 stray dogs like them for over 45 years now. As one enters Anupam complex’s parking area, a pack of dogs are found guarding a small hut. The number keeps increasing as one gets nearer.
On entering the hut, Devi is found surrounded by dogs from all possible corners.
Those who do not find space around her, squeeze themselves below her bed, chairs, around the kitchen wares, or just on the limited space on the floor.
“These street dogs are like my own children. I bring them home and take care of dogs who have been abandoned by owners or have met with road accidents. In this day and age where humans cannot be trusted I find love with these animals,” said Devi, petting Rinky — the latest pup in the pack, who was brought home after her mother was killed in a road accident near the Race Course metro station.
Interestingly, all of these have been named. The oldest among the group are Julie, Suzie, Hardayal and Golu. Julie also has a pet name, ‘Moti’, because she is the laziest, and has become so fat, that she drags herself out after several pushes.
The entire practice started when Devi had arrived in Delhi. “I had a small tea stall here and I used to feed biscuits to all the stray dogs in the area. Every day they would line up outside my shop to have their biscuits,” she recalled.
Though her old age does not allow her to work and it becomes difficult to pay for the expenses of the food and treatment of her dogs, Devi makes no compromises in fulfilling their needs. Every day she buys 12 kgs of rice and five kgs of meat for their lunch and 25 loaves of bread and 10 litres of milk for their breakfast.
For dinner the pack eats light with a bowl each of Pedigree dog food, soaked in milk.
“I have been lucky that God somehow provides for food for each of them. Someone or the other from the neighbourhood donates packets of food for the dogs,” she said.