Divya Kapoor Gurwara had two rules to be followed in her household – no walking into the house with dirty soccer shoes and no bringing in any stray animals. While the first rule was followed to the ‘t’, one fine day in 2012 she walked into her house and found her son Dhruv Gurwara playing with a 30-day-old beagle.
Speaking to The Better India, Divya says, “It wasn’t that I disliked strays but I was just neutral towards their being. I never actively sought out a dog or cat to pet them. I never had any feelings towards them. However, with my son bringing home a beagle everything changed.” Seeing the tiny little beagle, Divya’s first reaction was not anger but sadness at the dog being separated from his mother.
“There was an instant change in my attitude and I went from not caring to becoming a super caring pet parent worried about every little move that the beagle made. Has he been fed, is he cold, does he need some medication – the list of worries was just endless,” she says. The beagle was named ‘Astro’, and he went on to stay with Gurwara’s for years.
But it was this tiny dog’s influence that led Divya to start Kitchen for Paws — an initiative that feeds over 650 stray dogs every day.
‘Astro changed my life’
“It wasn’t that I had not encountered dogs earlier, but having Astro at home seemed to change my perspective on dogs completely. A few days after Astro came into our lives I had to travel to Mumbai. Even though I was physically there, all my thoughts were on the little fellow back home. He fell sick when I was there and I came rushing back to Delhi,” she says.
In a matter of 10 days, Divya found that her life underwent a complete shift.
“I started noticing more strays around me and suddenly felt a very deep connection with them as well. It was around this time that we also started feeding the strays just outside our building complex in Gurgaon,” she says.
Asked what brought about this change, she simply says, “For the first time I looked at the eyes of a dog and what I saw pulled me in. Suddenly, there was no reason for me to stay away from them.”
She continues, “With Astro I found so much unconditional love – he was able to read me and understand my emotions so beautifully. I was drawn to him and he was the reason why my attitude towards other voiceless beings changed so drastically.”
From not welcoming dogs into my home to having at least two of them at home at any given point, Divya has come a long way since 2012. “The best part is how everyone else in my household was so welcoming of the dogs at home. It was this joint enthusiasm that I shared with my sons that led to me starting Kitchen for Paws,” she says.
Kitchen for Paws
In 2012, Divya founded an organisation called Kitchen for Paws, which took on the responsibility of feeding the stray dogs in and around Delhi/NCR. “It started small and we started by feeding about six stray dogs just outside my building in Gurgaon. I would always have some dog food packets in the car. Driving to work or meetings, I would drop off the food where I found a pack of strays.”
From the six dogs outside her building the number increased to 15 and Divya says before the year ended she found herself feeding close to 100 dogs in the vicinity. This initiative started from Divya’s house, where the food for the dogs would be cooked but soon—with the number of dogs being fed increasing—she had to find another space and also hire a driver to help her out.
On an average, 120 kg of rice is cooked each day for the dogs.
“Today, we cover a distance of 130 km and have feeding spots in six different locations across Delhi/NCR where we feed more than 650 dogs each day,” she says.
“Even in terms of the feed, we alternate between rice, turmeric, chicken scrap and dog food. This is to ensure that on days when I am unable to get the rice made, the dogs are able to eat the dog food as well,” she says.
Even though Divya has managed to do this over the last nine years, she says that it has not been easy at all. “There are not many people who come forward to help when it comes to animal welfare work. I have had so many people pat my back and say good things about my work, but they almost never shell out money or help for the work,” she says. This has not deterred Divya from continuing her work. She seems to always find a way to get the resources needed to feed the strays.
Divya spends close to Rs 5 lakh a month on food alone. She says, “Sometimes I wonder how I manage to do this. There are months I have no funds to pay the vendors and request for an extension. So far, I have managed to pull through and hope that I find a streamlined way of getting funds for what I am doing.”
In conclusion, she says, “Sometimes I wish I had more hands and legs, I could do so much more and help so many more voiceless animals.”
If you would like to reach out to Divya and offer support of any kind, you can connect with her via her Instagram page here or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)