Gopi calls 30 community dogs his extended family and looks out for them. VIPASHA SINHA reports
For the past 14 years, the rattle of G. Gopi’s blue Bajaj Chetak has served as an invitation to a feast for those whom he calls his extended family. Every night at 10, Gopi, a mechanic by profession, stuffs his scooter with three boxes of chicken rice to feed almost 30 stray dogs of Syful Mulk Road, Pudupet Market, Harris Road, South Koovam Road and the surrounding areas. It all started when he casually fed mongrels in his locality and slowly the others came too. The next day he saw the same dogs waiting outside his house for more food. “I thought why just feed the ones that live close by. I took my scooter and went around the area and fed a mongrel whenever I saw one. These dogs had invited more friends next night. Since then it has become a routine,” says Gopi, a resident of Syful Mulk Street, where he also has his repair shop.
He says he never misses a day without feeding them. “However heavily it rains, I wear a raincoat and make sure I have fed them all,” says Gopi.
“Once when I came back from Sabrimala after a couple of weeks, some of the mongrels cornered me as if questioning me where I had gone without telling them. I asked my wife to cook and immediately fed them. I noticed that a dog was missing and I rushed out to look for him. A neighbour informed me that he saw the dog outside a hotel he worked near Pudupet Market. I ran to find him and it was a happy reunion,” says Gopi, who realised that he was responsible for this family too.
Looking at Gopi’s good work, his friend Kutty, the owner of Om Shakti, who runs an abattoir in the same area decided to give him the left-over chicken.
Whenever anyone of them falls sick or hurt themselves, Gopi brings them to his shop and nurses them till they are fine. If the injury is bad, he takes them to Blue Cross and gets them treated. And, if any of them go missing he doesn’t rest till he finds them.
“Sometimes, Blue Cross picks these dogs for sterilization. When I don’t find them in the usual spots, I go to the centre and identify them. Often, they are not dropped at the place they were picked from, so I search for them and bring them back home,” says Gopi, for whom the trouble is worth the love and affection.
Such is his compassion that if anyone misbehaves with his babies he gets into a fight. “I have got into numerous fights after people hurt my dogs. A construction worker hit one of them with an iron rod and I gave him a piece of my mind. Everyone knows that they can’t get away if they do anything to the dogs,” says Gopi.
“There are seven dogs living on my street and they provide so much safety. Neighbours realised the importance of their presence only when someone tried to steal scrap material from the area and the barked hysterically and alerted the residents.”
Gopi, whose family comprises his wife, son and daughter-in-law, learnt to be compassionate towards animals from his dad. They had an Alsatian for 14 years, which passed away recently. The family goes to Marina beach every Sunday to feed biscuits to the mongrels there. “I have other two wheelers, but it doesn’t feel the same if I take them out for the night feeding. I think the dogs can hear the sound of it from far away and they come to the same place every night. Nothing makes me happier then seeing all of my friends waiting for me eagerly.”