Sanjuktha Mohanlal makes the famished, flea-ridden pets she rescues unrecognisably beautiful. Sriya Narayanan reports

Sanjuktha Mohanlal loves a good ‘before-after’ story, especially when the animals she rescues become unrecognisable from their former selves.

Two months ago, Chica was a nameless, homeless dog who was trying unsuccessfully to navigate the traffic in Mandaveli. The 6-year-old Terrier-cross dog was a whisker away from being run over by a large car when Sanjuktha’s husband Mohanlal darted to her rescue. Sanjuktha inferred from the confused dog’s lack of road sense that she was most likely an abandoned pet.

“She was covered from head to toe in scabies and had lost most of her fur”, she recalls. “She was malnourished, the fur she still had left was matted, and a neglected ingrown nail had begun to pierce her paw. She was so hungry that she was in a daze”.

After Chica gobbled the food that was offered to her, she retreated under a sofa in fear. Sanjuktha drew the timid dog out of her shell by taking her for walks and showering her with the affection she craved. She finds the trend of pets being dumped on the streets distressing. “It’s because of an initial fascination, followed by boredom and abandonment”, she says, adding that pedigree dogs like Chica are sometimes cast off by breeders who’ve exploited them for years. She observes that some breeders promote heavy-coated breeds such as Siberian Huskies and St Bernards that are ill-equipped to manage Chennai’s harsh climate. “It’s an act of cruelty”, she says, imploring people not to encourage the dog trade.

“Adoption is the best option. If you want a pedigree, adopt an abandoned pedigree”, she says. Sanjuktha adopted her first pet in the monsoon of 2009 when a pup crept in between the bars of her gate because he was so thin. Named Jackie, he’s now the leader of the pack in her household along with three other rescued dogs.

She speaks from her experience with Chica when she says it’s a rewarding experience to watch a pet regain faith in people. Chica blossomed from an under-confident pooch into a regal house guest.

Her lush snow white fur coat returned and along with it came a sunny disposition. “She licks the telephone receiver and wants to join in my conversations”, laughs Sanjuktha. When Chica barked to alert them about a stranger at the door, they knew that the transformation was complete.

Sanjuktha now awaits the bittersweet moment when she finds an adoptive home for her. “She has a big appetite, likes car rides and gets along with other dogs, cats and kids”, she says. “And she doesn’t demand too much – just a little bit of time… and love”.

To adopt Chica (at no cost), call 9444710063. Vaccination records will be provided during adoption.

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