Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bravehearts - Felicitating the Working Dogs.


11 years! Seems like a long time doesn’t it? For me, more than 10 years of service as a Therapy dog has made this time seem to fly by. It sure has been a memorable journey. 

Me (leftmost), Pepe, Sunshine and Coco
Along this journey, I have been a a friend for some, who would whisper their secrets with confidence in my ears,  and an angel for others, where I  would help them back to their feet while they fought a war they thought they were losing. A journey that has not been easy, but has always been fun. A venture that I have dedicated my heart and soul to, and always put my 200% in. These past 11 years have taught me so much about myself, my doggy friends and apprentices, my humans, and those whom I help. Sometimes I look at the new pups who train with me to be therapy dogs, how they stare at me in wonder as I endure the pain of children rolling over me or sit next to a person for hours without complaining. I wonder at these times if I was one of these novices once. Well, as you can see, I have grown since then.

Therapy Dog Sunshine with her medal and goodie bag

A few weeks back, these past 11 years of hard work and perseverance, of giving love, care and support, got recognized!! Me and my fellow working Therapy dogs were awarded  nice, shiny medal by the Bombay Veterinary college. They had organized an event called 'Bravehearts' where they felicitated other working dogs like my therapy dog team.  There we met other Braveheart dogs like, the NSG (National Srcutiry Guard) Dogs, the CISF (The Central Industrial Security Force) Dogs who patrol and guard the airport, the Bomb Squad dogs, who sniff out nasty explosives and keep us safe! They had always inspired me as the awesome bomb squads and routine baggage checkers at airports and I would go green with envy when Minal read articles about their great work to me and I often pledged to become one of the best therapy dogs there is. All these dogs doing such wonderful jobs were recognized for their worth. Usually its the humans who get the recognition, but it was good to see the efforts of these working dogs being recognized. Thanks to Bombay Veterinary College for that.

Manali congratulating Sunshine
The event was memorable!! I was so happy to see the proud faces of my team. Therapy dog Pepe, Sunshine and Coco were also being felicitated and they were accompanied by their humans.  After me, Therapy dog Pepe has worked the most. She has been working on varied projects, from working with children with special needs to the latest Comfort Dog project at the Mumbai International Airport. Coco, another experienced therapy dog has worked on the pioneering pilot project of providing Animal Therapy at the David Sassoon Juvenile Delinquent Center, besides being the pillar of strength and joy of life to his parents Atul and Meghna Loke. Sunshine, the youngest but the most promising therapy dog has worked since a very young age with her parent and therapist Manali Randive on individual counseling cases. Currently she is winning hearts as a Comfort dog on the Mumbai International Airport.   

The Team
At the event, my handler Aakash, Sunshine's human Manali, Coco's parents Meghna and Atul Loke, my co-therapists Gayatri, Jai, Sneha and Bansari were all present. They were all elated and what can I say, I was certainly on cloud nine! The only people I missed were my parents Meena Srivastav, my human brother Sanket and sister Tanya and most importantly I missed Minal who raised me to be a therapy dog. And of course, I have had my mentors, foremost amongst them being Kutty, the first therapist dog of India, my inspiration. But I know that their love is always there with me.

The Team
Now the time has come for me to step back from work. The Comfort Dogs project at the airport has been a great experience and has taught me a lot. But as my age proceeds, I would like to focus more on sharing my knowledge with my junior, in-training therapy pups, who look up to me for guidance. It has been a beautiful journey and the invaluable prize at this stage has made it even more exquisite than before. 

Inputs by Niharika Ravi

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