BANGALORE, INDIA – A skinny brown dog, not more than 7 or 8 months old, stands patiently outside a small food stall. He looks longingly at the plates of the people who are eating their quick morning breakfast.
When it’s obvious no one will be offering him any scraps after a few more minutes of waiting, he moves on to the nearby community trash can and continues his search.
Bangalore, a populous city in southern India, is known as the Silicon Valley of India for its information technology sector. Yet countless strays roam its streets.
Achala Paani has been working with homeless dogs for more than 12 years. She says she was in college when she found a stray dog with health problems that inspired her to do more.
The tall and soft-spoken dog lover with big eyes quit her job at the time to take the dog, Babe, in. She cared for Babe for seven months until the stray dog recovered.
She says that Babe’s recovery moved her and made her realize that she could do anything she set her mind to.
“I believe in miracles,” she says with conviction.
After graduating from college, she started Let’s Live Together, a nongovernmental organization and animal adoption center for abandoned dogs, in 2009.
A member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, she says that some people feel sad when they see homeless dogs but do not know how to help. So her organization offers them a platform to rescue, foster or adopt the dogs.
Wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt, Paani says that her organization screens potential adopters strictly to ensure that the dogs will be happy and safe in their new homes. She has also trained two more volunteers who check in on the dogs’ well-being in their foster or adoptive homes.
If the foster or adoptive parents can't afford to spay or neuter the dogs, her organization helps them to do so. She says that it is the responsibility of the entire community – not just the government – to spay and neuter street dogs.
Paani’s passion for her work is evident when she talks. It also shows in the tattoo at the base of her left thumb of her organization’s symbol: a human footprint along with two tiny dog paws. She designs and sells merchandise with the logo such as clothing, bags and calendars to generate funds for her organization.
Paani has received numerous awards for her work in this field. She has coordinated the adoption of about 360 homeless dogs and the fostering of some 1,000 dogs. Paani fosters them as well, once taking 12 dogs into her home at the same time.
“It completes me,” she says compassionately.
India’s large stray dog population draws complaints from citizens that they bark, bite and carry rabies. In response to these complaints, the government is promoting birth control instead of culling, or killing, the stray dogs. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to spay and neuter dogs