Their day starts with cooking. Proceeds to their full-time jobs in multinational companies. And ends after midnight. What’s special? Well, it’s after midnight that they go out to feed the 120 street dogs for whom they cooked in the morning. Meet Anil Prasad and Bismi Anil, a couple whose love for dogs is not just inspiring, it is even helping people in the Whitefield area of Bangalore live in harmony with strays.
It’s after midnight in Whitefield. About 120 dogs are up and alert. They are looking forward to two very special visitors. They know it’s time. Like every night, their guests will soon arrive. A man and a woman, who come with an exciting treat for each one of them. Every single day!
And here they are. Anil Prasad and Bismi Anil – an amazing couple, out on an exceptional mission. They reach at around the same time each day, driving a car that is stacked with lots of food, enough to feed many stray dogs in Whitefield, in and around their apartment complex.
With hearts full of compassion and vessels full of food, they are greeted by the stray dogs like pets greet their owners.
Anil and Bismi, both 40-years-old, have taken up the responsibility of creating a unique environment for dogs and the residents of Whitefield so they can co-exist in peace. They do this in various ways, the most important of which is a feeding program for dogs. And they do it along with managing their full-time day jobs in multinational companies.
“It all started with one dog. Around six years back, there came a stray dog with a dislocated hip to the lane where we live. It was very lean and used to drag itself on the road. We felt that it wouldn’t survive. At that time, our pet dog had a habit of wasting a lot of food. So we started giving some food to this dog as well,” remembers Anil.
With proper food, and the required medical care, the dog started to gain strength. Today, it is hale and hearty and continues to enjoy lovely meals provided by this couple.
But Anil and Bismi did not just stop there. When others dogs from the locality began to join the first one, knowing that food is being provided, they began feeding them too.
“We slowly realised that this was making a lot of difference; both to the health of these dogs and the environment in the community as well. We saw that the welfare of the community animals benefits the community as a whole. So we continued,” says Anil.
Ask him what are these benefits that motivated them to continue, and he explains – “Basically, the biggest issue with stray dogs in a community is their aggression towards pedestrians, small children, people on vehicles, etc. If that is controlled, the residents and the dogs can coexist without any disturbances. And to control it we need to do three things — sterilise them to control the population, make sure they are all vaccinated, and try to educate the residents of the community about how to live with the dogs in harmony.”
Hence, what started as a casual feeding activity for one dog turned into an overall welfare program for 120 dogs.
Over the last three years, the couple has ensured that most stray dogs living in various societies, apartment complexes and communities in Whitefield are neutered, vaccinated and well-fed.
Since feeding and medication were now taken care of, they started talking to people to make them more aware about how well-fed and sterilised dogs won’t be a menace for the society if the residents give them a chance to live without fear.
“All the 120 dogs that we are feeding today are more like pet dogs. When they have medical issues and we take them to the vet, even the doctors are unable to believe that they are street dogs. They are so well behaved and tame now – they don’t bite and only know how to love. Such awareness among animals can be created by making sure that all their needs are met,” narrates the proud dog lover.Partner Story#MGChangemakers - Episode 2: THE 21-YEAR JOURNEY OF CHANGE | Driving India Into Future
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The feeding of the dogs takes place at a few fixed locations that the couple has identified within a distance of 10 km from their apartment.
“Dogs don’t travel long distances. They have a 200-300m radius and they are mostly found there. That is their territory. So all those places have the same dogs each day,” says Anil. They have even trained the dogs to respond to a special whistle — they come running when they hear it.
Every morning, at around 6:30 am, they cook a biryani like dish for their street friends. For this, they use about 15 kg rice and 6-7 kg meat waste, which is obtained from the local meat vendors (it includes chicken waste, mutton fat, leftover bones, etc.). Then the two leave for their respective day jobs. In the evening, they put the food in service vessels and go out at around 12:30 at night to feed the dogs. “Dogs can be aggressive when they are being fed. So if pedestrians are watching them while they eat, it can be dangerous. If someone approaches them they can attack. That is why we chose this time when it is peaceful and they won’t be interrupted,” says Anil.
The food is served in biodegradable plates. By the time the dogs finish their meal, the plates are soaked and ready to dissolve.
Another benefit of feeding the dogs is that the couple gets a chance to go close to them and observe if any of them is facing any medical issues. According to Anil, dogs get very aggressive when they are injured or suffering. A skin or ear infection, or any injury somewhere, can make them aggressive and they can bite people.
“We know them so well that it is easy for us to notice if a dog is not well. It is also very easy for us to recognize if a dog is not eating properly. If some dog is eating less that it usually does, we understand that it has a problem. Then we give the required medical attention.”
Anil and Bismi sponsor the whole program themselves. The amount needed to take care of the dogs comes to around Rs. 30,000 per month.
Half of this goes for the food, and the other half for medical treatment of the dogs. Some of their friends contribute with a few kilograms of rice sometimes. They also get a lot of emotional support from friends and animal lovers across the city.
But their journey has not been a very easy one. Whenever they start working in a new community or society, they face a lot of opposition from the residents who don’t want the dogs to get accustomed to getting food inside their locality. The couple has even been threatened at times. But the two are determined to continue, no matter what.
And the results are visible now. “There is a society near our place. When we went there to begin the program the residents said that they want to get rid of all the dogs, even kill them if required. We sat with them and tried to understand their point of view and realised that they were concerned because the dogs were creating a lot of disturbance in the area. They were biting people, throwing them off their bikes, stealing shoes, etc. Then we took over. Today, the people of the same community want to adopt strays as pets,” says a beaming Anil, who wants to set up a shelter for injured dogs in the future.
Anil and Bismi have shown that it takes no more than a lot of love and some grains of rice to win over the affection of man’s best friend. And that people who are afraid of dogs can learn, with patience and education, how to co-exist with them in harmony.
You can contact the couple by writing to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.