Animal welfare activist Rohit Iyer is exasperated. The 23-year-old volunteer at Blue Cross of India's Chennai shelter observes a steep increase in the number of people abandoning their loyal friends without remorse or hesitation. “People often think that dogs lamenting about their owners happens only in movies, but I know that they really do,” says Rohit who helps rehabilitate these dogs in the hope of finding them new homes.
“Many do not eat for a very long time,” he says, adding that some depressed dogs actually have to be force-fed. “There's one Spitz who was abandoned two weeks ago. Every time someone walks into the shelter, she goes up to them and stares at them. She follows them from the reception to the gate and keeps hoping someone will pick her up.”
He recalls an instance where a terrified Rajapalayam dog was left tied to a tree with such a short leash that he nearly strangulated himself while cowering in fear of the noisy traffic. In yet another instance of appalling cruelty, a family abandoned their two-year-old mongrel in peak hour traffic. By the time volunteers rushed to his rescue, the mongrel had darted in front of an unsuspecting van driver's vehicle and was crushed to death on the spot.
Rohit often finds himself persuading people not to forsake their aged dogs when they need their owners the most. “Someone called me to say their dog was 15 and had failing eyesight, and asked if the shelter could take him,” he reports. “I asked him: would you abandon your children, or your parents?”
The common victims of this phenomenon are dogs above age 10. “People want the dog to be the same throughout its life,” he says of the trend. “But a 15-year-old dog is like a 90-year-old person. They try hard for your sake not to soil the place or cause you any inconvenience.” Rohit's own rescued dog lived up to the ripe age of 20 and he believes that one must not adopt an animal unless they are ready for this long-term commitment to love and care for them.
“A dog that is used to a home will never fare well anywhere else,” he says, appealing to people not to betray their best friends. In the meantime, he watches these forsaken friends wait patiently and eagerly for a sign that they will be loved again.