Thursday, December 13, 2012

Its a four !!!

I heard Minal reading a few lines out of a book she had found interesting - " The Human Half of Dog Training" by Rise Van Fleet. " Dogs live with people. Dogs depend on people. Like it or not, for the overwhelming majority of dogs, this is the reality. Some people train their dogs to live comfortably in the human world; others simply expect dogs to figure out on their own." She told me how people sometime go wrong in establishing good communication with their pets, even if their intentions are good. She told me how lucky I was to have such a loving and understanding family. An ideal pet-owner relation is the one where there is good communication - both ways. I may just whine or bark, wag my tail or lower my eye and my human mom or my best friend Minal understands me. I do the same for them. I have met people who wonder, who are surprised at the level of understanding between us. But when you know how to communicate, it does not matter if there is one dog of four dogs in the family.

Minal told me of one such family in Pune, our own extended family of Animal Angels team which boasts of two senior therapy dogs and two in the making. It is one of those families with more dogs than human!! I am talking about the Chaterjee Family from Pune who have three Golden Retrievers and one Labrador. Here is what the head dog  Kiara had to say about her family when i asked her about how they all get along together. She talks about the joys of motherhood and how being a good pet and a good therapy dog are possible along with having fun!

One Golden Retriever is a lot of fun. Two a bonus indeed. Not for the Chatterjee family though. They have three Golden Retrievers (Kiara the mom, Houdini aka Lea the daughter and Thele aka Skipper the son) and one Labrador (retired therapy dog Krunk), all of whom are therapy dogs! Straining at their leashes, (for various reasons), this trio takes Sudhindra Nath Chatterjee for a long walk every morning. “Houdini is looking forward to catching other dogs unawares, Thele is interested in people and I am simply waiting for the walk to end,” sighs their mother Kiara as she flops down next to Krunk the Labrador, a retired therapy dog.
Back from playing ball, Kiara watches them let their hair down and says quite proudly that most of her babies-now over a year old- and scattered across the state are on their way to becoming therapy dogs. “Houdini and Thele are lucky since they have uncle Krunk and me to learn from. Pepe, who has taken over from Goldie is my pup too. Houdini has joined the Animal Angels clan and Thele is set to follow suit,” she wags.
Hoping to inspire others, Kiara, a veteran therapy dog herself tells us what it takes to be super mom, therapy canine and perfect pet.
From right, Kiara, Thele, Pepe Minal and Houdini 

Four of you must run riot at home: The kids by and large leave Krunk alone, choosing me to spar with instead coz they know he is old. At times, we get scolded sweetly by Rakhi, especially when Houdini and Thele dig up the lawn and eat up the plants, but it’s too much fun to resist. We all like our early morning walks and then the time we play ball. The rest of the morning is to sleep and to recoup. Lunch in the afternoon is another highpoint of the day. Krunk insists on eating first and often needs to be hand fed. Thele and Houdini always eat together from one bowl – a childhood habit I guess. I am the proverbial vacuum cleaner, I eat last and clean out all leftovers. 

What does Krunk think of all the mischief around him? The word that springs to my mind when I see Krunk’s interaction with them is “avuncular”. He watches them joust with each other, with a tolerant “kids will be kids” look on his face. They, on the other hand, make time for him, nuzzling up to him, licking his face, etc. So many mornings, I have gotten up to find Thele cuddled up next to Krunk. There is some male bonding happening there! To your question of favourite, I do think he favours Houdini though it is Thele who spends more time with Krunk. 

The Gang!

How are Houdini and Thele as kids and now as working dogs: Despite Houdini’s rambunctious nature, she seems to have taken to her role as a therapy dog very well. The videos show that she has been happy to interact with the autistic child undergoing therapy with her. Overall, she acts far more mature there than she does at home. Thele on the other hand, has not yet jumped into the hurly-burly of therapy dog life and generally spends most of his time looking and acting extremely chilled out at home!
I am like a big lady at home and outside as well. Being generally happy and mature works well for becoming a good therapy dog as Minal tells me. I have been talking to Houdini – when I can get her to lie beside me- and to Thele about this. They have my name and Krunk’s to live upto!

Houdini at work with Minal at the Animal Angels Therapy Center

What is the scene like, When you have visitors : The larger question is how the guests will react to us - four large dogs is a bit overwhelming especially when we have a very in-your-face attitude (literally!) Whenever anyone visits, Houdini is the lead dog, barking her head off. Standing with her front paws on the main door grill, she puts anybody who doesn’t know her off. Thele takes after me and generally doesn’t bark. Krunk, is hard of hearing and when he realizes Houdini is barking, he generally barks his head off without a clue why he is! We are locked up in a bedroom if the guests are scared of dogs, though loveable we are. Sometimes we bark our heads off in protest, but Rakhi comes and tails between our legs, we have to listen. 

Seeing us all together it is difficult to picture us as docile therapy dogs!
What do all of you dislike the most? It would be bath times for Thele and Houdini who turn up their noses and would like to roll in the mud instead. Krunk and I enjoy bath time. All of us dislike being segregated or incarcerated in a room. The humans think we dislike being separated from them, which is true. A day or two is ok but more than that has us worrying. Not a day goes by when we do not discuss something about them when they go on vacation. 

What are you scared of? For Thele and Houdini, anything unknown is scary. To some extent they take after me. I am petrified of crackers and cower under the table with teeth chattering like castanets all the while. But now with Minal working with us, she has taught us to deal with new sights, sounds and touch. And that has made us more calm and apt to handle strange sounds and touch.

What qualities make you all a cut above the rest and great therapy dogs? It has to be our temperament, our loving and gregarious nature, energy levels and our enjoyment of interacting with everybody.

Therapy dog Kiara with her owner Rakhi Chaterjee at a special  program for pediatric Cancer Patients at Ruby Hall Cancer Center, Pune.
Did you want the pups to be therapy dogs as well? Well, yes. I know they can bring joy or sunshine in people’s lives. With me and Scott as parents, its in there genes. 

Do you feel the pressure at work? We do sometimes. But mostly, since we can gauge the changes in reactions and actions of the child or the adult we interact with, we know what is likely to happen next. Besides, genetically we are meant for therapy and so quite look forward to our sessions! To see humans recovering automatically puts a woof on our lips and a spring in our steps.
Whats your advice to pups who are thinking about therapy as a career? Jump right into it. Seeing the humans happy is the most satisfying thing for us dogs. Just encourage them every step of the way.
See you at work!

Blog inputs: Uma Karve and, Sudindra Nath and Rakhi Chaterjee, Minal Kavishwar

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spark the Rise - Vote for Animal Angels

Spark the rise

Animal Angels Foundation is participating in the “Spark The Rise” competition, which offers substantial financial aid to projects that win the monthly voting contest. We request you to cast your vote for our project. This will go a great distance in helping us spread joy happiness and comfort with the help of our four footed therapists.

Animal Angels Foundation is a registered non-profit organization, India 's only one working to promote the benefits of Human Animal Interaction. Animals are since a long time known for their unconditional companionship and healing qualities. Our team of pet owners, volunteers, therapists and trained therapy dogs reach out to those in distress and provide them comfort.

Since the past nine years the Animal Angels teams have been spreading joy and laughter to more than 10, 000 individuals, over 50 special schools, hospitals, institutes. 

To vote:
  1. You can log on to and vote for "Animal Angels Foundation - Animals for Human Wellness" under the social entrepreneurship category
  2. SMS your voteKey in - MHRISEP07200    SMS to 54646 
  3. Via Missed Call - Call +912261850368 with your mobile number* to vote. A confirmation SMS will be sent to you after your call.

Cast a vote, spread the word, be an Angel!!

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Mom I want to be a therapy dog when I grow up! - Pepe interviewing her idol Goldie

As the first face and mascot of Animal Angels I will be passing the baton on to Pepe, one of gorgeous young and promising therapy dogs in training. A one year old golden retriever, she is born to therapy dogs blond mom Kiara and dad Scotty. As Pepe starts to walk in my shoes, she has so many questions running through her head. She shoots some off to me and I try and answer them patiently. Excerpts:

You are my hero Goldie. How long have you been a therapy dog?
It will be seven years in March 2013! I began training with Minal when I was two month old. It seems like such a long time ago, but I remember it like yesterday when she first took me to the special child and taught me how to work with him.

Me and little Pepe

What is the training process like? How long does it go on?
Depending on how quick you are to learn, the training takes approximately a year if you start as a pup. As a puppy you have to learn to enjoy being with new people, in new places, being petting by strangers, playing gently without hurting people etc. You also learn about obedience and communication. It’s not as tough as it sounds. It only means you should learn to talk and understand your handler. Coz many times when you are actually working with a patient, you don’t have time for the commands and signals. It just takes a look for me to understand what my handlers –Aakash or Minal- want and for them to understand what I want. It is this communication and understanding that is key to being a successful therapy dog.  

After that you start your training on field. You learn about children who are different in the way they talk, walk, look and understand and you learn to be compassionate with all. You meet people who are sad or sick and you learn to cheer them up. You may not get all of it at first but you should learn to rely on your senses to help.

Any particular incident from your work that has stuck with you?
I remember when I was still in training, I had accompanied my hero, therapy dog Kutty, to a programme where we met people who had survived or lost their loved ones in a train blast. The scenario was very new for me. Till then I had mostly worked with children. Kutty went into the room first, calm, confident, greeting everyone with a tail wag, letting everyone pet her at their own pace.  When I entered, the room it felt so emotionally charged up, it seemed like people had been crying. I was nervous, didn’t know how to react. Plus I had never been with so many people. But I followed Kutty’s and Minal’s lead. I learned that even though the people were sad and grieving, they were very happy to see us. Our wagging tails gave them a reason to smile. I learned to relax, to understand that our touch and our wags were helping heal their sorrow. That really made me a therapy dog.

Do you think I can become a very good therapy dog? What qualities do I have that suit it?
I can tell, you are already on the path, that’s why Minal and Aakash have already started taking you for visits. You are gentle, obedient and patient. You are learning to observe the humans around you and to respond to their emotions. Most of the times, humans don’t even realize what emotion they are going through. It is our role to make them realize it and help them through it. All these qualities are a must because as therapy dogs, we work with children and adults who are ill or hurt or sad. Just being there quietly, letting them pet us or read to us and wagging our tails makes a world of difference to these humans.

Pepe in training

Don’t you feel like running with the children? Barking in delight and jumping when the child reacts as you want him/her to?
When you see people in trouble, doesn’t your heart just melt? Mine does. I know I have to wait and be patient when a child takes forever to try and pick up a ball or trying to show me something. I recognize the trouble some kids have in reading which I don’t criticize. I also know when adults and children have been hurt and I know it is my job to pep them all up, to build confidence, to show love and to make them care about themselves.  So yes, I do feel like whooping in joy when the treat comes to me from the scared little hesitant hands and I do so want to encourage and lick some children who have shown remarkable progress but I know it can scare them and that would be a disaster. So I let them take the lead and follow them happily.  That’s what training teaches you.

We do feel like jumping and barking sometimes. It’s not what many people think that therapy dogs can’t have fun, that they are not allowed to jump, bark, beg and misbehave. We can be spoilt and pampered pets who roll in the mud or jump in excitement when we see our loved ones. It’s just that we know the difference in being rough with our owners and being gentle with the patients. We are professionals and can switch our roles from being a pet to being a thera-pet.

Is working with children different from working with adults?
Not very much except that adults listen lesser than children. Often, adults take longer to unwind as compared to children. The good bit here is that neither can pretend to be somebody or something else with us. If they are sad they let it show as they d when they are happy. Our job is always to pep them up. 

What is your secret to success?
Like I said, it is all about getting into the mood.  At home or at work, it is very important to put everything that’s in your head aside and to just stay calm.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love to meet children and to see the smiles on their faces when I just wag my tail. I love to see them squeal in excitement when I catch a ball in mid air. And these are children who may not get a chance to smile or play like other normal children. I feel that my presence makes their life better.
It’s tough to say what I enjoy most....but it would be the fact that like everybody at home has a job, I have many: I guard my home and love the people there as well as take care of so many others across Mumbai! 

What do you do to relax?
I like a good massage and brushing from my mom, Meenu Srivastav. I also like to sleep in my balcony among the plants, watching pigeons. 

Does exercise and eating a healthy diet help?
You must eat healthy and exercise regularly for your mind and body. I have a healthy amount of protein in my diet along with fruits and vegetables. I love to eat coconut and pomegranate, carrots, cucumber and apples along with a good meal made by Meenu Srivastava. I go for walks in the morning with my mom or dad. Walking and running together with your owner is the best exercise. It helps both to remain fit. We also go on the hill for a small trek sometimes.

Can I also recruit? What qualities should I look for in my friends so that I know they are capable of joining Animal Angels?
Of course you can and in fact Pepe you must. We need more angels to spread the cheer!
We need dogs who are:
  • Confident
  • Friendly
  • Obedient
  • Not scared of strangers or new places
  • Non-aggressive
  • And most importantly CUTE! (naa, just kidding)
You can be of any breed, any size and any age (above one year) as long as you are confidant, compassionate and obedient.

What message would you give out to budding therapy dogs like me?
Keep spreading the love, one wag at a time.

Written by Uma Karve (with inputs from Minal Kavishwar, Meena Srivastav and Aakash Lonkar)To know more about animal assisted therapy log on to

Monday, June 11, 2012

Love is all they need

It was my last session. We had almost finished our short pilot program at a center for children who have been on the wrong side of the law. The children were told that I would be meeting them for the last time and they could share what ever they wanted. The children were so overwhelmed by the thought that I would not be coming to meet them next Saturday, that they just wanted to hug me and sit besides me. They said that I gave them a reason to be good again. Many others who came to so call 'correct' them would just scold them and expect them to be 'normal' or 'well behaved'. But with me they could be their own selves, with out pretending that they were tough and could face any danger of living on the streets or that there really is a thrill in stealing. With me they were able to get in touch with the child with in them again, the innocent child who just wants love and attention. For me and my team; therapy dog Coco, his handler Atul, my handler Aakash and volunteer Bansari this was a very touching moment. We were able to reach out and touch the hearts of these children in just 10 visits. They were probably waiting for some one to see them as children who were lost and in need of love, rather than being labeled as'delinquents'

At a different time in Bangalore, our therapy dog Simba was comforting those who were really old. Those who could not remember their name - those who would look forward for a visit from their family who would never visit. Simba give them a reason to talk, a reason to feel good about themselves and to see that they were still capable of being loved. The ones who would not even look at a new person or move from their bed, would come up to Simba and say ' lets play ball'! What made them get up from their beds? What made them take an effort to talk, remember, socialize, move, play? It is just the dog or the unconditional acceptance that the dog showed. 'I love you for who you are, just the way you are'

Another such place where our Therapy dogs visit is a 'label free' zone. Where children with any kind of ability / different ability can come and play. Its a place called Bal Kalyan Sanstha. A recreational center in Pune for children with special needs. Fully equipped with a sensory garden, a low vision center, textured walls with painting and braille and a special swimming pool. Therapy dog Rex and his team of therapy animals like rabbits, fish and gees at the center give the children an equal chance to play and be loved. Children on wheelchairs and crutches throw the ball to Rex and run with him. Children who cannot see, hug him and feel the same love that Rex has for other 'normal kids' Children who cannot hear or talk can communicate with Rex because they do not need words to express their feelings to Rex.

Being a therapy dog, I understand that these children just want a chance to be love for who they really are. Is it so difficult for all of us, to just see them for the wonderful beings that they are and not label them as 'disabled'? Think about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reading Buddies

 Hey, its summer time again and it mean its time for one of my favorite activities; reading stories with children. What! you don't believe it? dogs can't read? They can't understand what is read out to them? hmmmm may be. But we dogs are excellent listeners. YES! We are completely attentive when a child is reading out to us. We  provide them with such unconditional acceptance that they are not afraid of making mistakes. Even if they make mistakes, we don't laugh at them or criticize them. When they read with us, they can just be themselves....

This is the theme of our program 'Tails of Joy - an Animal Assisted Reading program'. We have been conducting these programs in various schools, libraries and bookstores across many cities in India. My fellow therapy dogs who specialize in helping children to read / learn are called as Reading Buddies. They work with school counselors and special educators or story tellers to help children gain confidence or overcome fear of reading.
My bark (blog) today is about such amazing Reading Buddies who have been helping children read.
Listen, learn

Reading buddy Oscar
Every time a child points to something in the book, Oscar a three and a half year old reading buddy makes it a point to see what it is. Trained to show an interest in what is being read, the bubbly Golden Retriever works in Mumbai for Animal Angels Foundation by visiting schools and libraries. Owner Tanushree Banerji says, “When I had heard about animal assisted therapy, I jumped at the chance. Oscar was just four months old when he started his training. His breed and the fact that he is extremely social helped in training and in his work.” This dedicated reading buddy is a delight to read to.
Lady Misty in a session
As is Misty, the happy Laby(Labrador). While most of her kind would love to play with kids, Misty’s training means that she would rather let children read and learn while she encourages them by listening attentively. Owner Ira Hulikavi smiles, “She is very ladylike in her ways. No unnecessary jumping around, no barking for fun and definitely no monkey business.” This white six year old Labrador who sports a brown patch on her back has been enjoying her time with kids at Crossword, Pune, for the last four years. Says Ira, “After training with Animal Angels, Misty happily followed all the rules. She lets children fall all over her without so much as a whimper. She just waits, watches and listens. If she really likes some kids, she licks their cheeks – which is her highest degree of affection.” Her strength lies is in the fact that Misty is calm and quiet even otherwise and she adores children. In fact that is a big plus for all reading/therapy dogs. Their temperament should be such that they like and react only positively people and children.
Coco is another fantastic assist and therapy dog. Says owner Meghna Loke, “Apart from being a great companion and assist dog for me (Meghna has back trouble which Coco has managed to ease considerably – she wrote about it in the last blog), he is almost natural when it comes to understand children.” So, Coco the Mumbai based Labrador gives children, despite all the attention they give him and the noise he works in, a good time. “His training with Goldie and Animal Angels has worked very well. So well in fact, that his therapy sessions with special children, delinquent and in his reading sessions leave everyone smiling,” grins Meghna.

Hard work
A file photo of Krunk at British Library
To be a reading dog is not easy work as Rakhi Chatterjee,  tells us. Her dog, Krunk, the 11 year old, really big Labrador was a reading buddy with Animal Angels, Pune for three years. Says Rakhi, “We took him for sessions to the British Council Library, Crossword, Vidya Valley School and to Jungle Book, Aundh. It was amazing to see children just open up easily and read a while lot to him.” On his part, Krunk was excellent. He hung on to every word that every kid read, let them pet him and slobber him with affection and generally had a blast.Now one of our senior most therapy dog, he enjoys a quiet time away from work with his mate Kiara's pups.
'I can rear too!' Pepsi posing with a book
Pepsi, a loving black Lab has been working with school counselors since the past three years at Pune, Kalmadi school where she helps children overcome their reading and learning issues. The sessions with Pepsi are so much fun that children forget that they have any problems or that are learning. They enjoy it and overcome their learning differences. She has the right temperament to be a reading buddy. Calm, docile, attentive and ready to be in one place till the child is reading. Her driver drops her off at the school twice a week where she works along with our volunteer and the school counselor. But for Pepsi its just a day at work.
Tanushree adds, “Some children are scared and others more than ready to read. After the initial hesitation, once somebody starts reading sitting next to Oscar then things fall into place. He doesn’t get distracted but he’s not always looking at the child’s face. If the kid points at something, Oscar’s attention is there.” 
Trick and treat
Krunks affection with books began when he was a puppy. Rakhi remembers, “My son Anirban would read with his head on Krunk’s stomach and when he did his homework, Krunk’s head would be in his lap. Since then, he has been around books, so in a library, he was quite at home. Being well trained was a big help as well.”  The tough part was getting him away from the session. “Kids wouldn’t let him go!”
In a break between sessions, Tanushree gets Oscar to perform some tricks. “Back home, we spend some time revising all the commands and the tricks. Not that he needs revision, it is only to ensure he does well whenever the session is,” she explains.
Cocker Spaniel Gazzo ideal for small kids
Size no bar
Its not just big dogs like me who make good reading buddies. We have dogs of various sizes and breeds. Like Yoda, our reading buddy from Bangalore. He is a naughty little pup, but when it comes to being with children, he sits patiently in their laps while they read. He visits the Hippocampus Library in Bangalore where children read out to him. Jeanie from Pune is another Pug, who visited the British Library last year with her buddy Gazzo, a Cocker Spaniel. Both of them were a big hit with kids. Small dogs have an advantage over us. They can sit in a kid's lap while they read.
Yoda, the tiny reading buddy
Its time to go!
The dogs are all equally excited about every session and owners ensure they reach some time before the session so that they are comfortable at the venue. Ira smiles, “She wags her tail crazily when she sees me packing her bag of treats. She always knows it’s time to get into an auto rickshaw and head to Crossword to listen to a good story. So she goes sniffing every inch of the place and settles down only after that. “Should she want a visit to the powder room, the young lady who normally lies down through the reading is at sit position and starts panting.” Then Ira knows Misty has needs time out.
You can read a story to Oscar and Coco in Mumbai:
28th April - Crossword, Nirmal Lifestyle, Mulund
Time: to
29th April - Crossword, Kemps Corner
Time: 11.30 to 12.30 

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Blog inputs by Uma Karve and Minal Kavishwar

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Being a dog is not easy. Our senses are much more heightened then you humans. We can not only smell and hear more than you, we can also sense things that human experience. We can sense changes in your emotions, changes in your body, changes in you moods...sometimes much before you can experience it. This ability makes it possible for us to help our humans by sensing any kind of trouble or danger to their mind or body. I have known cats who can sense head ache in their human and make them feel better by licking them. I can also sense tension in my human and make her feel better better by hugging and licking her. But one of my buddy, a Labrador named Coco is a master when is comes to sensing pain and healing it. He is our Therapy Dog from Mumbai team of Animal Angels Foundation and besides doing great work for children in need, he has also been of tremendous help to his human, Meghna. Meghna and Coco are now inseparable, he is not just her baby, but a very important to her health as well. Here is Coco's very inspiring story....

"Hi to all doggies, dog lovers and not so much dog lover....

My name is Coco and I'm here to share a few moments from my life....though I'm only 3 years old but I thought it would be great to bark (blog) like my other doggy friends who have shared their stories.

I was just 2 months old when I first met Atul and yes I remember it was 6-1-2009. Among my many siblings Atul choose me, well I could say we had a bond an unbreakable sort of connection, though Atul later came to know that I was the only one who among my many sibling, came from my mothers womb leg out.

Well I made my journey and though it was a long ride from Pune to Mumbai it felt all love and warm, because I was so small and scared but all the while I kept my head under Atul's one hand while he drove us both with the other to our way back home. When we reached there, I was received by Meghna and she was the one who called me 'Coco', well I liked the name. Once in, I was all into exploration, by that very night I knew I was home.

Coco with Meghna

Few months passed by and I kept Meghna on toes as being naughty I would love to take garlic, or socks or napkins and run and make her chase me, though I wanted her to play with me, I wondered why would she mostly lie down all day long and not play as much as I wanted her to.
Then one fine day I met Aakash, he came to see me, at first I thought it was some sort of a school that Atul wanted me to go and learn but it was so much fun. I was being trained to be a Therapy dog with Animal Angels Foundation. I didn't know what it meant, but Aakash was very patient and gentle in teaching me all the new things. Among the many basic commands like sit and stay he actually trained me to be a bit more patient, a bit more gentle and adding to the natural flare that all dogs posses that is to 'LOVE', I was now a therapy dog, well that is what they addressed me.

I remember I was six months old and I went with Atul and Meghna along with other volunteers of Animal Angels Foundation to a school for children who were a little different from the other children i had seen. It was amazing, there were almost 40 kids and oh! boy I loved it. They would come and pet me, I would lie down and they would keep their head on my stomach and sleep, they would tell me poems and laugh and giggle. There were some who were scared of me but I knew I was too charming for them too withhold back, some of them would start shouting but since Aakash had taught me to be more gentle and patient and not jump in time they too came and petted me. Then I went to that same school a couple of times and met kids on a personal small group session, I knew I could be all naughty and run around in the house but here I was all ears to what those kids wanted to share and I could see that there were many shy kids but they too opened up and had something to share, they would touch my ears, tail, face and I would let them do and they would be so happy. I came to know later that they were called special kids, but if you would ask me I really don't know what is meant by special kids, it's just that I felt they were more open to receive my Love and I too was happy to be with them.

Coco with Aakash

As time went by I grew and had a better understanding, I could sense that though I wanted to be the center of everything in my house and make sure that Atul and Meghna played with me all day long, I could sense that Meghna was in pain. I could never see that, I wanted her to be fine and to play with me more but I knew I had to be patient. When we all three would go for walks Atul and I would be on a faster pace and she would be walking behind, I would stop and wait till she joined us, I didn't mind walking slow as I wanted to be with her. Though she would call me her 'Babishhhh', one of my many nicknames, I knew I could be her baby all the time but I had to help her out of this pain.

Atul has always been my alpha but with Meghna I shared some beautiful moments; once she was in too much pain and Atul was out working, I couldn't see when she broke in tears, I went and licked her tears that maybe she would feel good, she smiled and said ok Coco don't worry I'm fine, but I just couldn't let go and I kept checking her eyes for 45minutes or so until I was convinced she was fine. Once it was 5 in the evening and Meghna had to take me for my walk but I knew she is in too much pain, I didn't cry and pushed her, I was just sitting by her side, when Atul came from office in the night she told Atul to take me out, but I just couldn't leave her as I knew I can still hold on even if I had not done my business but I wanted to be sure she is fine. Till the time elevator came I kept checking on her through the door...many a times I've seen Atul helping her to walk from one room to the other and I would just keep circling her and stand on my two feet lick her to make her fine.I even come to know if her pain is goona shoot up as I can sense it in her left leg, I start licking her leg so that my love can make her pain go away as I don't like to see her lying down for days or months, but having me around I can see that the time she now spends on the bed is getting lesser as she now knows that when I warn her by licking her left leg she needs to slow down.

I would see her sketching and painting, I guess she likes to do that,I would just keep watching her, I like to see her this way, I would never step on her paper or colors, and though I know she at times gets her pain episode, she has me and I've been with her even when she was on a wheelchair and then it would be that we would walk for 5mins and I would wrap up my business and slowly those 5mins would again be stretched to 20mins of walk to at times 30mins. It doesn't matter if I walk 5mins or 20 mins as long as I can see her getting back on her toes. And yes I mentioned earlier I came out of my mothers womb leg out so I have always been very curious and love to run and explore and the days when I know Meghna is not in so bad pain I let my naughty side out and run around and make her chase me.

I have even accompanied Meghna to Kala Ghoda, the annual art festival in Mumbai, where she show cased her art work, I know it was not easy for her to travel but she said having me around she could 'DO IT' follow her dream that she couldn't do so for 9 years of chronic back pain and even when Meghna commands me to sit and stay I do that while she is talking with a viewer about her work. She has been showcasing her work since last 2years and I am by her side and I love it in spite of this art fair being so crowded, like thousands of people visit, I patiently wait and let them come and pet me, I greet them and there are many who may have their initial dog fear but I let them be and they feel relaxed and shoot pics with me and leave. There were many people whom I had met last year and they recognized me, they said we know you Coco and I had even overheard someone telling Meghna that there are more pictures of me on FB then artwork and people actually come again and again to pet me and I love it.

Coco at Kala Ghoda with Meghna and Atul

I would love if Meghna again has a show next time and all I would do is keep motivating her and even if she would be bedridden I will Lick her and Love her so much making her push her boundaries that she and I would be doing Many more shows in the future.

As of now Meghna has told me we will be going to a remand home for juvenile kids and work with animal angel foundation and I'm all eager to do so, for I had heard somewhere that God couldn't be everywhere and so He made us dog's and poured all that ' UNCONDITIONAL LOVE' in us for isn't GOD spelled back becomes DOG.

So ciao to all and till we meet again keep licking, wagging, and loving....

To know more about me and my team's work, log on to our website

Inputs by Meghna Loke, Uma Karve and Minal Kavishwar

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Join us at Animal Angels Foundation

Me and my human Tanya Srivastav

I joined the Animal Angels gang about 8 years ago. I was a pup back then and didn't understand much. But this is the single most important thing that has not only changed my life but has also defined my life. My human family loves me, but they also know that this love can help someone else heal. Together we spread the love through wags and licks. It doesn't matter if you are a dog, a cat, a bird, a horse, or a fish, we all have the same quality of understanding human emotions (a bit more than humans themselves).

So join us in our mission to spread the love and healing power of us pets with those in need.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Gentle Giant

Hello All,

This year in June, Animal Angels will be completing 9 years of providing love and comfort to people in need through us animals. I am proud to be a part of this team, and honored to be a four footed therapist. Our team has many more of these four footed therapists like me. I would like you to meet them. So now on I will also be posting 'barks' (human equivalent to blog) by my fellow therapy dogs about their experiences. This 'bark' is by Therapy dog Rex, a handsome Golden Retriever from our team in Pune. Now seven years old, he started working as a therapy dog when he was two and half. He is simply awesome and has touched the lives of many special children giving them a reason to smile.

"I remember the day about four years ago that Minal came home and watched me play, walk and listen to my family. She visited a couple of times and finally said I was the one! Ok, I figured I had cracked some test. But what? My canine senses were on high alert.

They took me to her class. Nice place I thought – lots of green and so many children! From the Golden Retriever family, I am naturally inclined to be able to understand and appreciate special needs. So I realized when I saw the children that I was there for a reason. I was there to make them feel better.

Not a doctor or a psychologist, I had to just let them be themselves around me. Leave them to do everything they want to do to me. Often I feel like saying ouch, don’t pull my hair and your head on my stomach is kinda heavy. But I don’t because this is where they gain in confidence. Most kids look at me and just keep looking with wonder. Methinks it is because I am so big and still so gentle.

As a therapy dog, I was taught not to jump and run through special children. Differently abled, some can’t walk properly, some can’t talk properly, autistic children, spastic children, I can work with all. Patience which I refuse to exhibit at home comes naturally to me here. So if I have to wait for the child to let the treat out of his hands I wait quietly, not barking not jumping and taking it out of his hands. When somebody wants to hold my leash and take me for a walk, I walk at their pace, if I have to lie down on the grass with others, I like that too. My work profile is impressive. I have been working at a center called Bal Kalyan Sanstha in Pune since 2007, which is a recreation center for the disabled. Its where children get to focus on things other than their disabilities. I have also worked at Orchid school, where normal and special children are taught together. Another center I used to visit was Sindhu vidhya Bhavan where I learned to work with children on crutches and wheelchairs. I really helped me grow and understand people more.

I remember an autistic child that i worked with. On the first day that he came, he was jumping all over, running from wall to wall, making wired sounds and not paying attention to anyone. Over a period of time I had understood that these children find it difficult to relate to anything, but find it easy to connect with us dogs. So I gave him time. He would hesitate to come near me, but would look at me from the corner of his eye. Slowly he started taking interest in me, would come and touch me, give me an occasional treat. But he was still not able to focus and would run around a lot. I noticed that if he was not paying attention to the therapist and I went and nudged him or if he just touched my fur, he would get back his focus and be much more attentive. After many months of working with him, he slowly started calling me out, trying to make friends with me, learning to write on my fur, sleeping on me relaxed him. At time he would just hug me and sit. This was the only time that we would be focused and calm. I guess my presence gave him the freedom to do what he wanted. As we both could not talk, we bonded on a different level altogether.

All this is not quite my boisterous routine.

If you see me at home, you will see a mischievous, rowdy seven and a half year old brat who hates following instructions of any kind. Tell me its time to go to school and I leave that bit of me aside. Instinctively I am all calm and gentle. You know the best part is that it is not so much like work. They give me treats, they pet me and at every single visit they give me lots and lots of love. What more could I ask for?

Over time, I have been enjoying my time at class so much that I never want to stop. I hope to initiate that naughty Cloey into it! Maybe I will take her along to class and let her see what my work is all about. She is interested I know with the hundred questions she barks at me when I come back home.

Here's a pic of me and my human bro Rishi Iyengar. My human family has made me what I am today and I thank them for understanding this potential in me and making me a therapy dog. It truly fulfills the purpose of my life"

-Therapy dog Rex

(Contributed by Uma Karve. e-

To know more about me and my other co-therapists, do visit our website Also visit our facbook page

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