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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, January 10: Bhavna Pant would be concerned to see Jasmine, a female dog, looking at her but not responding. Sitting at a petrol pump across the  road with a roaring vehicular traffic around her, Jasmine would always spot Bhavna even from a long distance and instantly  rush towards her when she would be still walking from her flat to  give feed to strays at Dwarka locality in Delhi.

But things looked different for days as she found Jasmine staring at her direction but not  getting up, least of all rushing to her. On a closer look, the dog looked  dazed and  with eyes wide open and expression less but otherwise seemed normal physically. She was only three months old when Bhawna found her abandoned in from of a housing society.

She took the dog to a veterinary doctor, who diagnosed that the animal was suffering from canine distemper disease and also  identified her to be from the family of ‘Italian hound’. The canine distemper disease is known to be contagious, which attacks the brain nerves. Jasmine had lost sight, hearing and her voice too !. The unbelievable bond between Bhavna and Jasmine, from now onwards, continued and grew deeper.

“Jasmine would smell me easily and it was a miracle that she could still survive around the mad traffic of  Najafgarh road 201 making worse with the constant footfalls of office goers and open manholes accentuating the overall survival challenge…”, said Bhavna who was determined to make the twilight days of Jasmine safe and peaceful.

Jasmine was put at a vacant  plot full of long thorny bushes where she would spend her next two months until she died. A hospital stands at the plot where Jasmine spent her final journey under Bhavna’s care and compassion.

In the last two months, she developed a  silent  “connect” that would leave a lasting memory to the woman, who for the last  four-decades has been caring for the stray dogs, cats, injured birds and other animals. “The love of animals has been humbling experience..one feels  enriched and modest about the self…they teach you a lot”, said Bhavna.

When she checked into her Dwarka flat 2001, she  came across hostile people in the neighbourhood who would throw tantrums at the sights of dogs. “One woman in my presence threw up, claiming that the dog had bitten her, which was a false claim. After a few days, I found that the dog had been killed and his body thrown away. I lodged an complaint against the accused,” she  recalled of her memory of dealing with stray dogs in Dwarka.

But over the years, the people in the neighbourhood saw her caring for the stray dogs, rescuing orphaned kitten, and treating the ailing animals. Now, the people in the neighbourhood are empathetic to stray dogs and few of  feed them, while calling her when they see any animal in distress. ” Life is much humane around with many others also joining in ..and the strays being looked with ” friendly eyes..”

Bhavna fell in love with animals when she was six years old in Jaipur where her father was a university professor.
“I found a puppy and brought  her home and  named her  ‘Baby’ . When she grew up  and herself  had babies she invited dislike from one of my uncles who lived with my family.

The uncle made three attempts to dump  ‘Baby’ far off places but each time she would “reach home even before the the uncle came home and would be  there to greet him lovingly wagging her take at the gate along with us. !!”.

Those days as  a kid I along with my sisters and friends would go for  sliding from the numerous sand mound around (today’s Jawaharnagar) with ‘Baby’ always following us”. One of the days  she strayed and some dogs killed her. “That is a painful memory,” she  recalled.

Stray animals became part of daily life of Bhavna at her university campus  house in Jaipur in the early 1980s. It  was  full of dogs and cats, with her father and sister helping her in taking care of the animals including a pig, an injured donkey and stray cows.

Bhavna  began working with animals from Jaipur, associating with an NGO – ‘Help-in-Suffering’ run by Christiene Rogers, Daya and his Australian wife.

She carried her love for the animals to Delhi, but she found people hostile to animals in Vasant Kunj, which further steeled her resolve to take care of the animals, which would in the years to come would make her even call the police and file complaints. Some yielded results and created awareness and contributed to the  Animal Birth Control programme on the ground.

“In the last 22 years in Dwarka, I have seen positive changes in the outlook of the people. Now, they also feed the stray dogs and cats. In my area I have got all the stray dogs neutered and spayed  ” she said. Bhava has rescued a number of orphaned kittens and reached out to the people for their adoption through social media.

“It gives me great  satisfaction that the adopted kittens find their homes and  taken care of by their new families and parents ,” said Bhava who during  the trying Covid times  had seven new born kittens at her Dwarka flat who after three months were “happily settled” in their  homes around NCR Delhi. She, however, made a point that it has become fashionable for the people to keep cross-bred dogs as pets, who by nature are meant to be hunter dogs. Bhavna  promotes care for the Indian breeds of dogs.

“Some breeds of dogs have been made into (status) symbols, and they should not have been permitted in the first place to keep them as pets. For instance, Rottweiler, Dogo Argentino and pitbull dogs are not meant to be kept as pets in flats, for they are hunters by nature,” she  said. Lastly, she goes on to say that ” compassion for all flora and fauna would, perhaps, make make world a better place to live in..”.

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