Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Naughty Enough For 50 kidsNaughty

One of my friend Naughty turned 3 years old this 25th of December. Naughty - What a name! As pups we all are naughty, but with a name like that, you get a license to be Naughty all your life.

Contrary to his name, Naughty is an example of understanding and compassion. For 50 HIV-infected children who have been distanced from society or orphaned at a young age, he is a strong anchor.But he is no psychologist or counselor. Naughty, a Labrador mix is a trained therapy dog specially deputed at Manavya, a home for destitute and orphaned HIV infected children at Bhugaon on the outskirts of Pune.

Naughty was from the litter of Pune's first therapy dog - Sophie. She was a very loving and energetic Labrador. Naughty was the naughtiest of all pups and that's how Minal named him. All the pups found homes except for Naughty. Minal then decided to train him as a therapy dog for an orphanage. This was not just any orphanage. This was a place called Manavya where kids who were HIV +ve and who were abandoned by their families got a home. I have lived through the feeling of abandonment and know how terrible it feels. Especially when you need support and care. These kids had to grow up in a secluded place away from city, since society did not accept them. Though these kids got the needed medical and educational support, what they required was acceptance - unconditional acceptance.
Naughty went there as a therapy dog for about 50 such children. The kids were so excited with the prospect of having a dog of their own that they made teams with in themselves and decided on who will bathe his, how will feed him and who will take him for a walk. It was such a pleasant change for them, they finally had some one to call their own. They would all want to play with him at once. And true to his name, Naughty would run all around not letting any one catch him. He would sit in their classrooms (though he was not allowed in there). When their teacher would scold them, Naughty would hide under the table and the children would try to save him.

The biggest change he brought about was in the adolescent kids. They needed a companion with whom they could talk, complain about their supervisors, share their pain etc. Naughty was all that for them. A 16 year old boy who was very shy, would talk to Naughty and share his feelings. He also learned to train him and found self confidence. A young girl got very attached to Naughty. She was known to be cranky and attention seeking. She was also in a difficult age and the supervisors found her rebellious. She was then made in charge of handling Naughty. She was also taught how to give him commands, how to take him for a walk etc. Her whole world started revolving around Naughty. She found an outlet to her emotions and to her energy. Naughty was her constant companion with whom she could be herself. Later on Naughty had to be taken off the Therapy dog program due to administrative reasons. He was later adopted by Reena Ginwala and her daughters. Naughty now stays with them and is renamed Ziggy. The children from Manavya were heart broken when Naughty was taken away from them, but even today they wish him Happy Birthday every year. Naughty touched the lives of these children and showed us all a way to be 'positive' in life.

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