“Kunju had a severe spinal injury when she first came home after the car accident. We had taken her to the hospital, but the doctors said that the chances of her walking again were very slim. To our surprise, in a span of 3 months, she started walking and playing with the others,” says Pradeep Payyoor. Kunju is one among the thousands of stray dogs that Pradeep has rescued and sheltered at his home over 20 years! Pradeep, 35, has set aside three rooms of his home just to shelter stray animals, those who have met with accidents or have been abandoned due to their disabilities.
The compassionate man has received special veterinary training which helps him to ensure that his “guests” are nursed back to health. These furry friends are then sheltered until prospective owners are found for each one of them.
From Being Stray Animals to Becoming Family Members
Hailing from Guruvayoor, Thrissur, Pradeep has loved animals his entire life and has had dogs and cats as pets since his childhood.
“As children, when my cousins and I used to pretend that we were in the forest. We would pretend that the dogs were the elephants and the cats would be tigers. My pets have been a significant part of my life and we always considered them as family,” explains Pradeep.
Kindness seems to run in Pradeep’s family as his father, Umasen, was the first to begin sheltering stray dogs in 2001. At that time, his home was a shelter to 15 dogs.
“Any animal that would come by our house would be treated with a lot of respect and honour. We saw them as our own and never had the heart to close our doors on them. Even after my father passed away in 2010, I continued to provide shelter for them. Currently, I have around 43 pets at home,” says Pradeep.
Pradeep, who works as a full-time supplier for a washing powder company based in Coimbatore, gets up early at 4.30 am to take his furry friends out for a walk while his mother Sumalya, 64, helps him out by preparing food for them.
“We don’t have enough space to walk 43 pets, so I try to make the walks as early as possible before there are any pedestrians on the road. I also make time for their grooming, mostly in the morning,” he adds.
Pradeep works closely in association with People For Animal Welfare Services (PAWS), Thrissur, and had also received the membership of the Animal Welfare Board in 2016.
“Ever since I have involved myself in this service, I started assisting veterinarian friends I had who have graduated from the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, Thrissur. In the past 20 years, I have learned so much from them that now I am able to identify instantly some of the problems that my pets face. My veterinarian friends have helped me a great deal over the years, especially when it comes to surgery for my pets,” Pradeep recalls.
A Life Set Aside For Furry Friends
So what about the expense that comes along with sheltering these many animals? Pradeep says that since they’re part of his family, he doesn’t see it as a burden but moreover as his duty.
He has bought a mini- taxi, exclusively to transport injured animals in special cages which cost upto Rs. 6,000. Besides this, Pradeep also sets aside around Rs 20,000 exclusively for their food.
When it comes to the adoption procedures, Pradeep is very meticulous. Only after receiving ID card copies and running a complete background check of the prospective parents will the pets be handed over.
“I also collect their numbers and ask them to send pictures of the dogs and cats over WhatsApp to check up on their well being,” he explains.
On average, Pradeep receives atleast 2-3 calls per week from people across Kerala who come across dogs and cats that have been injured in accidents or have been abandoned in the gutters or empty roads.
“Most of the time, we are able to rescue these dogs and help them regain their strength but when they don’t make it, it’s truly heartbreaking. Like ‘Jabbarkutty’ who had to go through a 3-hour long surgery after an accident in Kozhikode. I brought him home after that but sadly, he passed away 35 days later. He was a brave guy and had won our hearts in such a short span of time but we had to let go of him,” Pradeep says.
“A lot of people ask me why can’t I just send these dogs to an NGO and why I spend so much money on them. Well, when family comes knocking on your doorstep, you can’t just send them away, can you?” he says.
With the world in a lockdown, our four-legged friends in the streets are struggling to find food and water in this scorching summer. With not even leftovers from restaurants to rely on, strays are fighting for survival. It’s upto us to extend a comforting pat on their heads in these trying times and show them that humanity has not abandoned them.
Help Pradeep in his efforts to rescue stray and injured animals. Make donations to the following bank account:
Pradeep P U
Account No: 45582200013931
IFSC code: SYNB0004558
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)