The author visits the CUPA centre, which offers elderly dogs a measure of comfort in their twilight years

Actor Johnny Depp once remarked “The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” And as I sit at the CUPA’s geriatric centre for dogs with a golden retriever curled at my feet, a German Shepherd’s warm nose on my lap and a black Labrador licking my neck, I cannot help but agree with him. You cannot understand love unless you have been loved by a dog—the unconditional giving of the self is almost second nature to them.

“That’s Sita,” says Santosh Rajashekar, trustee CUPA pointing to the golden retriever. “She was rescued from breeders and had cancer. We had to remove her tumours,” he says pointing to the scars on her underbelly. Sita, in response, turns on her back and looks expectantly at us. I reach down and scratch her tummy while she leans back, her eyes closed in enjoyment and then proceeds to lick my hand.

Located on the outskirts of the city at Mylappanahalli, Yelahanka, the centre which was started in June 2013, houses 30 such gentle, loving souls. Many are abandoned pets; some are rescue and cruelty cases. “Most of them are seven years or above. At seven, life is only just beginning for us. For dogs, though, it is considered slipping into the zone of so-called “Old Age”. Pets age much faster than people do – dog’s age about five to seven years for every human year and so health problems can also progress five to seven times faster,” says Santosh.

They may be in their twilight years and battling organ failure, immunity disorders, a decline in physical and mental abilities and injuries but they are looked after very well.

“Age-related diseases may not be preventable, early detection and intervention is the key to successful management. The first thing we do when we pick up a dog is send them for a medical and blood test. Often they have external problems like maggots, mange, scabies and we give them required treatment for that. Their vaccination schedules are then planned and a diet suggested based on their blood test,” he adds.

The best thing about this centre is the absolute freedom awarded to all its inhabitants. Located amidst a eucalyptus grove, adjoining a corn and marigold flower farm the acre large plot is tranquil, spacious and calm and the dogs are left to roam freely all day. Some choose to careen madly through it with a speed that can put a younger dog to shame while others choose a quiet corner to snuggle up in. There is also another covered room in which they can seek shelter from the elements. Not to forget the main office—it’s a free for all and the dogs saunter in from time to time just to say hello.

“That’s Neeru our warden,” laughs Santosh patting a beautiful German Shepherd who sits regally beside him. “She was pushed out of a moving car and had tick fever, cataract and a haemoglobin level of 1.02 when we found her. Now she follows me everywhere and bosses around all the other dogs.”

With access to freshly cooked food twice a day, lots of fresh air and open space, weekly visits from the vet, trustees and volunteers and three resident caretakers, the dogs seem very content. “Older dogs have slower metabolisms and therefore have an increasing intolerance to heat and cold. These issues, plus frequent abandoning of older dogs, were strong reasons for CUPA to start an exclusive geriatric centre which would house healthy but elderly dogs basically needing a serene, tranquil place for rest, recuperation and love,” says Santosh.