These days everyone wants to have pets. I have seen a lot of people carrying pugs, chihuahua, and even a snow dog once in my locality. A lot of these dogs are definitely not meant for our Indian climate and environment. Some of them put AC’s in their house specially for their pets, but I really doubt how much will an artificial environment help, a pet lead a healthy life.
In the midst of all these craziness of show off of pets. There is a young lady, who has adopted an Indie Dog and brought up as her own child. You may have seen her videos on Facebook, heard her at different open mic sessions. A Dentist turned Social Activisit, Dr. Ishmeet Nagpal.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have worked in the social sector since 2012. My work involves child rights, feminism, women’s health, advocacy for LGBTQIA rights, and creating curriculums and training modules in these contexts. I quit my full time job this year due to a chronic illness. Now I work from home. I write for various websites and run my poetry platform called All Aboard which focuses on women, trans and non binary poets. I’ve been married for 2 years and I have a pet dog Mira who has just completed one year with us on September 8. My spouse travels 10-15 days a month for his work as a stand up comedian. I stay at home most of the time.
Can you introduce Mira to us
Mira is an Indie dog we found as a puppy on a street in Mira Road (hence her name). She had been separated from her siblings by her mother and she was not feeding Mira.
We took her to the vet who told us she had multiple health problems including jaundice and intestinal worms. We cared for her day and night for 2 months to get her healthy. She just quickly became our family, it was like having a child. Wherever I take her, everyone tells me she has the sweetest temperament of any dog they have ever seen. She loves everyone she meets and showers them with kisses.
When did you think it was the right time to adopt a pet?
Dogs especially need some room to move about depending on their size. Mumbai apartments can seem very cramped to dogs. Luckily we have a lot of space in our house and since Mira was not allowed to go out for many months because of her health, I would play with her inside and have her run and walk to get her exercise. When you know you have a good space for a dog to live in and at least one person in the family is available to spend a lot of time at home, it can help you take care of your dog better. There’s no right time, you just know when you’re ready. Dogs cannot be left alone for long hours so that is a consideration.
What preparations does a family need to make before adopting or buying a pet like a cat or a dog
When you welcome a pet into your family you need to baby-proof your house. Pigeon netting on the windows, an area where they can be secure in their space (or a crate), knowing how to prepare their food, selecting a vet who is nearby and who you can afford. Vaccinations and sterilisation can also cost a lot so be sure to understand from the vet what costs will appear in the future. Adoption services usually do a house check too, to check for cleanliness, safety, etc. And finally, you need to be in touch with a dog behaviourist or trainer. You need to train your pets very early so that they know where the limits for various things are set.
For example Mira is trained to never enter the kitchen, she knows where to go in case she has to pee urgently, she knows when it’s time for her food, so instilling that discipline with lots of positive reinforcement is a must when training your pet.
I would like to add that I’m a proponent of “Adopt don’t shop”. Indian dogs and cats are well suited to the climate, have the best temperament, and so many of them are in need of homes. They love you unconditionally, so you should do the same for them.Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal
Has Mira bought any major change in your life?
Mira has changed our lives forever. The house is full of love and positive energy. When we return from somewhere tired out, her welcome is all we need to forget about our grievances. I live with disability and I am often on bed rest and in pain. She knows exactly where it hurts and will try to cuddle up to that spot giving me her body heat and healing energy.
My days are brighter, I get to enjoy the fresh air when I take her for walks, I get to feel proud of her when people compliment how sweet she is. It’s the little things that make you smile 50 times more in a day than you normally would.
What is the difference between adopting a stray /Indian dog and getting a poodle or a pug ?
A dog is a dog. All dogs deserve our love and all of them love us much more than we deserve. The demand for exotic breeds can and does encourage unethical practices like backyard breeding where female dogs are exploited and kept in the worst conditions, inbreeding can cause a horde of health issues that can lead to the dogs being in pain and having shorter life span. Meanwhile Indian dogs are termed “street dogs” and they live in deplorable conditions. Societies even harass people who try to feed strays. In extreme cases the strays are beaten or killed. If you want to help Indie dogs, you can feed them, help neuter them, adopt abandoned puppies or puppies in dangerous sites, adopt abandoned/hurt/older street dogs who are put up for adoption by various rescue services. Trust me, Indie dogs are the sweetest, gentlest dogs ever, who give you the least trouble at home.
Sometimes we have guest who do not like pets. How do you handle such situation.
Since Mira has an energetic personality it can be overwhelming for someone who is scared of or doesn’t feel comfortable with dogs. If the guest is at home for a short time then Mira stays in my room for a while. If they have come to stay longer then they are first introduced to Mira slowly with Mira on her leash. Slowly they get comfortable with her and then I let Mira off her leash.
If you’re a person who wants me to shut my dog inside for hours, then you’re not welcome in my house. We can meet outside. If you’re coming to stay here, you need to be respectful of our furry resident because it’s her house permanently while you are coming here temporarily.
A lot of people get pets either as a fashion or just for their children to play. This is the latest trend. How can we stop this?
This makes me really sad. Once a dog lives as a pet, it’s emotionally and physically such a difficult task for them to survive on a street. I see so many pets abandoned intentionally and it breaks my heart. People need to understand that having a pet is like having a baby. If you’re not ready to stick by them no matter what, then don’t get them home. If your child wants to play, there are pet sitting places that allow them to spend time with dogs. As for fashion, people who are insensitive will stay that way. It becomes the society’s job to call them out. Maybe shaming them will work since all they care about is their image.
How can children be sensitized with respect to pets and other animals.
Children are very natural with animals I think. Our niece is literally like Pied Piper the way animals follow her around. Mira is always trying to get into her lap, she howls with joy whenever she sees her (I have never seen Mira get so happy to see anyone else). Children learn from us by watching how we behave. My niece tries to notice how I caress Mira and copies it. Similarly if we see adults around us being kind to animals, children will learn automatically by watching.
Who takes care of Mira when you both travel?
There’s a pet sitting service just down the road from our house. It was actually the first place we brought Mira late at night when we found her. They have vets associated with them and a pet store too. At any given time there are 3-4 dogs staying there being looked after by 24 hour in-house staff. We can video call Mira’s caretaker anytime we like and see how she’s doing (she’s usually running around with the smallest puppies). We try not to leave her for more than couple of days.
Has Mira travelled out of Mumbai?
Not yet! But I do want to take her on a holiday sometime next year. I want her to explore new places and see the world more.
What is the procedure to adopt a dog?
Mira was actually spotted by my niece. She was like a skeleton at that time and we rushed her to the vet so it just happened. There are NGOs and rescue agencies like World For All who hold adoption drives. In some cases, there are house checks. You need a valid ID proof, residence proof, assurance that you will vaccinate and sterilise the animal. I have no idea about “buying” though. I’m not in favour of it.
What are the basic vaccination or formalities like license required.
Your vet provides you vaccination certificates once they are completed. You need these for registering with BMC that provides the pet licence. The procedure is quite simple, the forms are available online.