For 10 years, she was everybody’s best friend, bringing everlasting smiles and a healing touch to thousands who needed it the most. But for the last couple days, glum faces and heavy hearts have accompanied the steady stream of visitors to a therapy centre in Marol.
Angel, the first and oldest therapy dog in Mumbai, died on Monday at the office of Animal Angels Foundation.
Rohini Fernandes, who started the animal-assisted therapy centre with partner Radhika Nair in 2004, said the Foundation’s social media page has been flooded with messages expressing of condolence and fond memories of the golden retriever.
“I bought Angel from a breeder in Chennai when she was two months old. The moment I laid eyes on her, I could sense that she was calm, had a good temperament and was a happy dog,” said Fernandes, a clinical psychologist.
Angel worked extensively with schools, rehab centres, orphanages and senior citizen homes, where she comforted disturbed souls. She helped children and adults with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, boosting their self-esteem and improving their social behaviour.
Hiranandani resident Hajra Nizamuddin choked up as she recalled how Angel became her 13-year-old son’s first friend. Ikram was battling speech and emotional problems when he met Angel in 2007. He has since opened up to society, said his mother.
According to Fernandes, every birthday of Angel – September 1 - was a grand affair. “There was always someone who would bring a cake, gifts or greeting cards. Many of our patients would visit with their families,” she said.
Binaifer Jasia, director of Manav Foundation that helps adults struggling with mental illnesses, said, “Dogs used in animal-assisted therapies are all happy dogs. But Angel was special. Her presence was comforting. She made the therapy work.”