Achala Paani runs an organisation for abandoned puppies. She tells SHILPA SEBASTIAN R. that as a society we need to be more responsible
She is passionate about street dogs, abandoned and orphaned puppies. Her loyalties are with the Indian breed. "They are so cute, healthy and the most affectionate," says the young Achala Paani, who founded the NGO Let's Live Together.
A small portion of her home, a tiny room is packed with adorable doggie pictures in various sizes. Written on a huge poster with a cute puppy, are these lines: : "Don't kill me, take me home." Twenty-five year old Achala started working for the cause of animals when she was 15. "One day when I was coming back home I found a sick puppy. I picked her up and brought her home. My mother, a homeopath and an Ayurvedic practitioner, treated her. When she recovered, we found her a loving home," recalls Achala.
Soon this became a norm; Achala picked up pups off the street and her mother would treat them. Her parents encouraged her. She would pick up random pups and her mother would treat them and together they would find them homes.
Achala who now has three mongrels at home feels, "They are best suited for our climate. When you want a dog for a pet, why look only at pure-bred ones? I see that people are compassionate and love to have pets. But at the end of the day they end up buying thoroughbred ones. If everyone picks up a stray puppy, there would be no street dogs left. "
It is a matter of social status to have pedigree dogs, which is the only reason why people do not adopt street dogs, says Achala. "People are hesitant to adopt mongrels as keeping pedigreed dogs is considered a status symbol. This is wrong thinking. Having a pet is all about responsibility. People are enthusiastic in the beginning and they later abandon them, even if they are pure-bred!" she observes.
This graphic designer, who graduated from the Chitrakala Parishath (CKP) even played angel to one of the dogs on her college campus. "We had two dogs on CKP campus. One met with an accident and was paralysed. I brought her home and nursed her. After seven months, she was fine and is now back on the campus," smiles Achala.
"During course work, we were asked to choose a topic for our projects and I chose adoption. I have retained the logo I created for my project for Let's Live Together."
Running the organisation is not easy. As of now it is a one-man army. But Achala does have volunteers. "We pick up puppies, bathe them, vaccinate them and make them ready for adoption. They are extremely healthy and don't shed much hair. They make good guard dogs."
To sustain her NGO, Achala started designing desktop calendars, mugs, T-shirts and bags sporting the logo of the organisation with her pictures of animals. She designed her 2009 calendar with images of community dogs in slum areas. "These people are so simple and love their pets. You will find three or four families taking care of one dog," she says as she shows some warm pictures. The 2010 calendar has pictures of 55 puppies that Achala picked up and found homes for. She also designs greeting cards.
"The money I make goes towards the well-being of homeless puppies. This year animal lovers from Chennai, Pune and Mumbai have come forward to help me sell my products."
To sustain herself, Achala takes care of her family business of metal crafts and antiques. "Let's Live Together is more like a platform and works as a helpline and puppy adoption centre. I help people who pick up puppies. The rate of abandoned puppies are really high. I wish more people would come forward to foster puppies till we are able to find them a home," she says.
Achala has many people willing to adopt puppy, but, "they bang the phone once they know that they are Indian. Also, since I run an NGO, they think I am supposed to clear the streets of all the stray dogs! There is so much sarcasm and anger in them. They don't want a dog sleeping in front of their gate! We tend to forget that we have to share our planet with every living creature. " she says, sadly. Achala can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 9986413916.