Actor and model Anuja Iyer went from having neutral feelings about animals to being their passionate supporter in a very short span of time. Today, she’s a regular visitor and spokesperson at adoption drives by Blue Cross and Chennai Adoption Drive (CAD) and has personally rescued and re-homed many orphaned puppies.

It began four years ago, when she was walking her pet dog and found an injured mongrel lying on the platform with a bleeding leg. “He looked just like a deer,” says Anuja who reveals that he was a victim of a hit-and-run accident, and that a lady who ran an ironing stand on the pavement had wrapped his paw in a makeshift cloth bandage in an attempt to give him pain relief. Anuja quickly got him veterinary care. “He went from walking on three legs to sprinting like a deer,” she says, of her decision to name him Bambi. “The transformation was beautiful.” Bambi was soon adopted into a home that Anuja refers to as a palace. “He went from living on the streets to ruling that home,” she laughs.

She holds up Bambi’s case as an example of how a pet must be treated, and reminds owners that pets should be cared for till the end as members of the family, and that they must not be habitually tied or forgotten after the initial excitement of adoption wears off.

She is delighted that more people are opening their hearts and homes to Indian dogs such as Bambi and believes all breeds deserve affection, irrespective of whether they’re pedigree or Indian. “Animals in any form give the same amount of love,” she says. “But there’s a fascination for anything foreign, be it perfumes or clothes — it’s so ingrained! Dogs love you irrespective of your status and wealth. When they have five senses and are capable of knowing that, we should understand it better, as we have a sixth sense.”