Monday, January 15, 2018

Aren’t I Lucky ..?

The true story of an Indie therapy dog                       

I was so tired of living on the street, eating from dustbins and looking for scraps of food thrown out here and there. And of course, being attacked by other dogs who were much stronger than me; I was nothing but a bag of bones , as the saying goes. My stomach hurt with emptiness, and I had lost most of my hair. Mange, as I later  discovered.  People would avoid me with disgust on their faces – and many of them tried to hit me or drive me away,  when all I wanted was a morsel of food and a little love. Every day was a new source of misery for me. Once, when I was sleeping under a car, it started moving before I realized, and ran over my leg. Oh, the pain! And no one to comfort or help me. “ Dirty creature. Shoo! Get out” people would shout.  “Get away from us. You  don’t belong here, baldy!”  the other dogs would snarl. I didn’t belong here? Then where DID I belong?  I used to hang out, lonely and sad, further down the road. I was SO tired of life, and living on the street…….

And then one day the miracle happened!
As I was creeping along, staying close to the wall for safety and shelter, a white car drew  up near me. Out came two ladies with bowls of food and water in their hands! I half started to run, and then I saw their kind faces and heard their gentle voices. I was a little nervous. But I was also hungry. I ate until I could eat no more, and then they said “See you tomorrow”. Hope springs eternal in the doggy breast! Please come! My eyes pleaded, Please come. I learned afterwards that these ladies had seen me at night some weeks ago. For some reason, they said, they were haunted by the sight of me, alone, mangy and starving. And they spent weeks looking for me. However, our paths never crossed.

But when they had nearly given up – they saw me!! And my life changed forever. And so, they would come to my street corner every day, and my tummy was full at last, and I grew to love them, and I’m sure they loved me.
Then one morning,  I was in for a surprise.  Another lady picked me up  and took me to the hospital for treatment.  My humans  were distraught when they found me missing again – but the watchman of a nearby building told them what had happened, and they located this lady who said she’d bring me back once my mange was cured.

A few weeks later, I was much better. My hair had grown again, strong and healthy, and the kind lady put me back on the street.  I was scared. I didn’t want to leave the hospital.  Had my two human friends forgotten me by now? Would it be hunger and loneliness again for me?  My heart sank.  And then… I saw a white car nosing its way around the corner and….I jumped up, wagging my joy! And the car stopped near me and there they were, calling me to come and eat…

And that very moment, they told me they didn’t want to lose me again, and put me in the car and became my human family.

 My life had turned a new page:  I was living in a house…. “ Oh my beautiful dog …You are looking much better!”   (Beautiful? Ok, I’d accept that! The whole world is beginning to look beautiful!)). I had everything I wanted, including new sisters  to play with, who did not growl and fight with me. Life was good, and I did everything I could to show my family how grateful I was to them and how much I loved them.

As I grew more and more secure in my new home, my personality started to blossom, and …. yes, I have to admit it, I started becoming a little naughty. That happens when you’re happy, right? I love all my sisters, but my BFF is definitely Sunshine. She’s only a year younger than me, whereas all the others are oldies of 10 and 11. The trouble is, she’s so tiny, she comes only halfway up my leg! We love to play, but my family is always scared that I will hurt her, since I’m so much bigger. ME? Hurt HER? Let me tell you, if anyone hurts anyone, it’s likely to be the other way round.  She’s got quite a temper, my BFF, and when we play, and I irritate her, she pounces on me and screams at me in her shrill, screechy voice – and that petrifies me! I dash off and hide behind something until she calms down. And I don’t really like it when everyone laughs at me – but, what’s a dog to do? There are times when I’d really love to pick her up by the scruff of the neck and shake some sense into her! But at the end of the day, we cuddle up together, and all our fights are forgotten!

Therapy dog Lucky with team Animal Angels
The first monsoon after I was adopted, I was horrified to see one of my Mamas advancing towards me with an awful blue, plastic thing “Look, Lucky, your raincoat!” she cooed. Raincoat?!!! No self respecting street dog would be seen dead in a raincoat!!! We love the feel of the rain on our fur – it makes us feel clean and fresh again! But I suppose this is the downside of being a house dog. The ghastly blue thing was put on me, and fastened with all kinds of strings and cords. And when it was done, all  the humans in the house kept oohing and aahing and saying how lovely it looked. They didn’t see my sisters rolling on the floor with laughter! I looked and felt like a fool! I racked my brains to work out some way of getting out of this humiliating situation. And then I got it! I just wouldn’t pee and poop outside as long as that dreadful blue thing was on me! I’d hold it in, and I’d burst if I had to! Oh, it was tough! But it worked! The disgusting raincoat was put away for ever, and now I go for my walks in the rain under the protection of a huge umbrella!!  Victory is sweet!

After 6 years of love and joy, a new chapter  of my life began. My family  contacted the Animal Angels Foundation, where  therapy dogs help  so many people, children and adults, who are physically or mentally challenged, or sometimes just shy or insecure and need a little love and a happy wag of the tail.  Much to my delight, I was chosen as a therapy dog, as I had a calm, gentle temperament, and before I knew it, I was an Animal Angel under training.     

My first day “on the job” was awesome! I went with  Aditi, my co-therapist, and my family,  to a school with a big playground. On the lawns, I met a group of mentally challenged children – and they were so interested in me! They crowded around, wanting to meet and touch me. A few even took me for a short walk on the lead! Some of them were scared of me, but I wagged my tail and gave them a big smile (Of course dogs can smile!) to tell them “I love you! I’m not going to hurt you!” And slowly they understood that I was their friend.

Therapy dog Lucky in a session with hearing impaired children
Next, we went indoors and I met another group of hearing impaired children. They used sign language to speak, which is something I hadn’t seen before! They sat in a semi circle and I went from one to the other, and they wrote their names on my back! It tickled and I smiled even more, and wagged my tail. This was so much fun! And how they all patted and fussed over me! I’m looking forward to meeting them again.

A few days ago, we went to a playschool, where the children were tiny!! But they all called me by my name, and fed me biscuits (Yummy!!!). They made greeting cards with my picture on them, and showed them to me, and I was so proud to see those pictures of myself! 


There are so many other people, who just need a chance at being loved unconditionally and being accepted for who they are. Just like I got my chance at unconditional love, I believe, God has given me this life to spread that love, hope and happiness around me.

Therapy dog Lucky with kindergarten children

It’s fun to be a therapy dog! I love having children petting me (Gently please)!  They are so happy to be with us, because they know we are happy to see them. Sometimes, it’s a little scary when a group of kids come rushing up, but when this happened to me, I went and stood next to my therapist Aditi, who understood what was happening  and diverted the kids. We have to trust and depend on each other. And I know she’s always there for me.

I’m new to this. So I do make mistakes. But a quick lick at my therapist’s hand and I get immediate reassurance in some way. She senses when I feel tired, and asks one of the volunteers to give me water or take me for a short stroll to relax. Everything is a new adventure for me. So I go on my way, with my tail a-wagging.

Life is so good now! As I go to sleep at night, I can hear the laughter of the children as they learn my name, Lucky. I AM Lucky. This is my reality now. I live with my family who loves me, in a home, with my sisters. I have a job that I love, and ….Slowly I  drift off  to sleep with a smile on my face  ….. and the knowledge that I will never again be alone.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Everyone needs a little Sunshin at the Airport!

As narrated to Goldie by Comfort Dog SUNSHINE

Did you know that humans can fly? Surprised? Yes, even I was amazed when I heard my human colleagues talk about stress and anxiety people experience when they fly! I have lived 4 years of my life surrounded by all types of humans but I have never seen anyone fly. I thought maybe my colleagues have gone crazy. I perked up my ears and started listening more carefully. After an hour or so of eves dropping and following them around the house I concluded that my humans are not crazy! They were talking about a new project at the at humans can fly? Surprised? Yes, even I was amazed when I heard my human colleagues talk about stress and anxiety people experience when they fly! I have lived 4 years of my life surrounded by all types of humans but I have never seen anyone fly. I thought maybe my colleagues have gone crazy. I perked up my ears and started listening more carefully. After an hour or so of eves dropping and following them around the house I concluded that my humans are not crazy! They were talking about a new project at the airport!

Have you ever been to an airport? It’s a very busy place, just like a bus stand or railway station but much bigger. Airplanes are nothing like normal vehicles. Airplanes fly in the air, far above the roads and cities, up above the clouds. Humans fly in these things from one place to another. This flying business can get very stressful for some humans. There are many travelers who fly 3-4 times a week or more. There are many who have never seen an airport and have never set a foot inside an airplane. They get very nervous and anxious when it’s their first experience of flying. Some are afraid of flying and it can be a very dreadful experience for them. Some humans come here from different countries; some are leaving here to visit other countries. They have to leave their families and friends at home sometimes. They become homesick. I can totally understand there situations. Ones my human parents had to keep me with a pet sitter for a few days. I completely freaked out at first. I could not stop missing them. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I didn’t even feel like playing fetch and that’s the most favorite game of mine. So Yea, I can understands how humans must feel. There is stress and anxiety, nervousness, tiredness, helplessness, exhaustion and all those not-so-healthy emotions.

This is where I enter the scene. You must be thinking what can a dog do about it? Well, I am not just any dog; I am a trained therapy dog. I help humans relieve stress by comforting them. Petting, hugging or playing with me can calm your nerves, decrease blood pressure and give a sense of happiness and well-being. That’s all a stressed out and anxious passenger needs; a wagging tail and warm hug from a therapy dog.

Pepe, Pearl and I just started working on airport as Comforting Angels along with our human therapists. We were mentored by our senior most Therapy dog Goldie, who showed us how to make people smile by wagging our tails. She also taught us how to sense if something is bothering them. Pepe being senior to me in age as well as experience, shared her wisdom with me and Pearl. And I am sure she will guide me on the airport job too. Pearl is new kid on the block. She is young and mischievous. But she has all the qualities of a good therapy dog. Today was our first day at the airport and what a day it was! So many new experiences in just one day! After a nice drive and a few minutes of waiting in the queue we finally got our entry passes and headed for the lobby. We were waiting to be allowed to enter the airport. I was observing my surroundings. It was a crowded place. There were so many cars and trolleys and bags and humans. Everyone was in hurry to go somewhere. I noticed that people were looking at us with all sort of different emotions; interest, curiosity, affection and even fear. Some wanted to approach us but they were hesitant. Kids were looking at us with fascination. Some were smiling and some were scared. There were all sorts of reactions from passengers. Pearl and I looked at Pepe for guidance. She was calm and at ease. So we decided to follow her lead.

I was about to sit down on the floor when I felt flow of cold air on my face. The doors opened and they let us inside. I had to stop a moment to take in everything. Few pairs of eyes turned towards us. Those eyes followed us as we walked forward. We found a nice place to sit and relax for a bit. Our human partners Aakash and Malvika gave us some water and let us sniff around. Now that we were comfortable we were ready to comfort others. 

I started walking around with my partner Malvika. I saw a child pulling his mother and pointing at us. I knew that he wanted to pet me. His mother picked him up and walked towards us. She asked if I was police dog. Malvika explained to her that I was a therapy dog named Sunshine and I work at the airport as Comforting Angel. The lady asked if it was okay for the boy to pet me. I wagged my tail and walked slowly towards the boy. I nudged him with my nose and encouraged him to touch my fur. He smiled and started petting me. He
played with me for a few minutes. His mother was telling Malvika that their family was going on vacation and had left their pet dog with the boy’s grandparents. He was missing his dog. Because I looked just like his dog he wanted to play with me. The boy and his mother went back smiling. I felt so wonderful.

Malvika and I roamed around for a while, meeting new people. We met an old couple whose flight got delayed, a businessman who had been flying for 20 hours straight, a lady who was flying alone with a toddler and a two year old and a college student who missed his flight. I knew that I couldn’t change their situation but I tried my best to create a distraction from their worries and comfort them to the best of my abilities. I gave them an extra dose of energy and enthusiasm that they needed to deal with their problems.

Malvika and I met with the rest of our team for lunch. I was so eager to listen to their stories. Pepe and Pearl also had a few interesting things to share. They met a family with 2-3 kids. The kids wanted to meet Pearl and Pepe but the elders were so busy finding direction to gate no. 83 that they rushed passed Pearl and Pepe without even a single glance. Pearl was complaining about it to Pepe who explained to her that this will happen. Some humans are fond of dogs and others not that much. Some cannot have enough of us and some will not even look at us but that’s okay. We will try to comfort everyone who wishes to play with us or pet us or just sit with us. She is so wise! Poor Pearly, she wants everyone to play with her. She is just a kid of 1 and a half. She’ll learn all these things soon.

We were so busy on the first day itself that we didn’t realise it was time to go home already. We started walking towards the exit. We met so many new people. Some of them came to say goodbye on our way out. It was a fun day. We got inside the car. I looked at Aakash and Malvika. They were tired just like us. But I can tell from their faces that they were very proud of us. I nudged Malvika’s arm. She smiled and scratched under my ear. Pearl was already snoring. Pepe was slouching on the armrest. I sat by the window, enjoying the cool breeze and woofed into the night.

Therapy dog Sunshine is a working therapy dog with Animal Angels. She, along with three other therapy dogs are India's first therapy dogs to work at an International Airport in India to comfort passengers.

Animal Angels Therapy Center, partnered with Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport on creating Asia's first ever Comfort Dog program 'CSIA Comforting Angels' for the Mumbai Airport. The program, which was launched in Sep 2015 went on to be a big hit among the passengers, making Therapy dogs Goldie, Pepe, Sunshine and Pearl, household names and at the same time creating more awareness about the fabulous work of Animal Angels Therapy dogs in India.

You can visit our official Fb page - CSIAComfortingAngels or log on to our website, to know more about the program.

Blog wirtten by Aditi Bodas.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

And Oscar goes to.....School!

Today is Monday, a warm sunny day. I woke up as usual, roamed around in the garden, chased Mr. Tommy from next door, teased Dom, wrestled with him, went for a walk, and ate my food. I was just chilling on the porch when I saw human mom, Shalaka, packing my work bag. TODAY IS MY FIRST DAY OF WORK after a long vacation. I seem to have forgotten about it up until now. I am going to sit in the car first and then I’ll tell you all about it

I am Oscar and I am a therapy dog working with Animal Angels Foundation. My specialty is assisting my co-therapist when we work in schools with young kids. This year I was assigned to a primary school where different children with different needs come and I get to work with a few special ones who are very unique. They all love me very much. Not that I am bragging, but I am very famous with the kids. Initially they were a little reluctant but who wouldn’t?! It’s not very common thing to have a dog inside the classroom. After a few sessions, the kids and I got to know each other and now they are very comfortable around me. I can’t wait to meet them. I am so excited I can’t stop wagging my tail.
Here we are! It’s a nice place. They even have a play ground. Look at the grass, so green and soft. If I were not a professional I would just run and roll in the grass! Let’s go meet the teachers first. Hellooo ladies, how are you?! Oh, new teacher!  Why is she scared? Never seen a therapy dog before? It’s okay. I am very gentle. I’ll sit here nicely and let her pet me. She seems to like me. It’s a good start. I can’t wait to meet the children. Here they are! Helloo kids..? Do you remember me? Oh yes..I remember you! What do you want to do today? You want to brush me? Great!! I could really use some nice grooming. Ohh..someone is pulling my tail. What’s happening? Who is this little guy? I have never seen him before. Let me say ‘Hi’. He looks scared. He started shouting. I look at my partner. She seems calm and composed. She is smiling. This may not be a bad thing then. I better give this kid some time to know me better.

 I completely forgot to mention my partner. Meet Aditi, she is counsellor and an animal assisted therapist and we have been working  together with Animal Angels Foundation for over two years now. I know exactly what is going on in her mind and I bet she knows what goes on in my mind too. She knows exactly what I need. It may be bowl of water, a treat, a pat on my back, a short walk, my favourite toy or a reassuring smile. She just knows. My partner guides me when we work with children who cry, shout or are sometimes rough. I help her by motivating a child, if a he seems distracted. That’s why we are so good together.  We are co-therapists. Some kids here need more attention as they understand the world a bit differently than the others. They may not always be able to express themselves normally. But that’s where I come in. They find it easier to connect with me. When they work with me they are more focused, they are willing to do new tasks. The most important thing is they enjoy doing even the most difficult task when I am with them.
I remember a girl who could not talk like other children. In fact she never uttered a word despite all the efforts from her teacher and speech therapist. Then we started working with her. She was very shy, very low on self confidence. She didn’t show much of an interest in me. But my partner and I never gave up on her. After a few sessions she started petting me voluntarily. She started showing interest in playing with me and grooming me. One day she insisted on taking me for a walk. I was all ready to get up and start walking. But my partner asked her to call me first. That was my cue. I was not supposed to walk unless she calls me. We tried it a lot of times. Initially she would call with hand signal. Then she started making noises with hand signal. And one day she actually said “come”. A girl who never said a word was actually calling me to go for a walk with her. 

She knows when I am stressed out and need some time for myself. Why do you look so surprised? Being a therapy dog is not as easy as it looks. It can be stressful sometimes. It’s not all tail wagging and fetching ball. It takes a lot of understanding on my part. Let me tell you, I had to undergo a year of training before I started working on field.
But it’s easier when you have a partner who knows you. Work is never serious with her. We make it fun for each other. She also gets stressed sometimes. But I know exactly what to do when she is down. I have a trick. I go near her and nudge her with my nose, rub my head against her forearm and that makes her smile.
Look! Someone’s got the ball. Throw the ball, throw the ball. I’ll fetch it for you! Woof! Why isn’t she throwing the ball? I think she likes it. Yea! I know right! It smells amazing and feels amazing too. Take your time. I’ll wait till you are done appreciating my precious toy. Whoaa..she throws like a pro! Here, take it and throw one more time.
I’ll get back to work now guys. I don’t want to be distracted while working. I’ll be back after the session.

Today was so much fun! I love this job! I can’t wait to go home and tell everything to Dom! By the way Dom is my younger brother.  He is a Rottweiler and he is huge. He is very gentle though. I think he has what it takes to be therapy dog. I bet mom will agree!
I smell my car. Is it time to go already? I wish I could stay but my mom is here. Gotta go! Woof woof!

P. S: We lost Oscar, our therapy partner a few months back. His parent Shalaka Mundada and our entire team was proud to work with him. He was special in every way and brought smiles where ever he went. His legacy in continued by his daughter, Therapy Dog Pearl, who also works with Animal Angels.
Write up by Aditi Bodas

To know more about my work and my team, log on to

Aren’t I Lucky ..?

The true story of an Indie therapy dog                         I was so tired of living on the street, eating from dustbins and lo...