As soon as Rajesh Shukla’s car pulls up at the gate of his three and a half acre farm near Bengaluru, a volley of loud, excited barks from 735 dogs greets him. BBC’s Geeta Pandey recounts the story of the software engineer who fathered 735 dogs.
Ecstatic, the dogs jump around him and wag their tails as Rajesh showers them with love and affection – a pat on the head, gently scratching behind another’s ears while taking one into his arms.
Like most of us caught in the rut of our run-of-the-mill lives, getting a job and earning money with little attention to anything else – Rajesh worked in Delhi and in the US before starting his own company with his wife in Bangalore, 10 years ago. He had everything money could buy and yet, felt that there was something essential missing.
He tells BBC,
“Life was all about buying big cars and expensive watches and living a fancy life. I had travelled and seen the world many times over, but then I was not happy.”
Caring for these dogs who depend on him now, Rajesh is more than happy. The dogs in the farm are an assortment of strays and expensive pedigreed dogs who outgrew their value and got dumped.
Some of the dogs were abandoned by their owners due to their ailments and would have died on the streets, had Rajesh not picked them up and brought them back to his farm. Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Beagles, Dachshunds, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards and a pug are to be found among the dogs. Lately, Rajesh has brought home 22 pedigreed dogs whose owner, a city businessman had been shot dead by criminals.
“I’m the last stop for these dogs. They are no longer cute and cuddly. Many are sick and no longer wanted,”
says the 45 year old good samaritan.
Rajesh is an example of the change dogs can bring about in lives with their warm love and simplicity. When Kavya, a timid and frightened 45-day old Golden Retriever puppy met him in June 2009, he couldn’t help but love her with all his being.
“When we got home, she went and hid in a corner. I got down to her level on the floor and I was calling out to her. She was looking at me, she was scared, but I could see she wanted to trust me.And that’s when the moment happened – it was a physical feeling, my hair was tingling, I could feel a warm glow. And I’ve never needed to ask myself that question – ‘why am I here?’ – again after that.”
He brought in Lucky three months later when he found her wet and miserable in the rain.
He kept bringing in homeless and ill dogs home until he finally bought a farm in Doddballapur town. All his furry friends now live in the farm and there’s plenty of open space for them to run around and swim in ponds.
There are sick dogs who are in need of daily medical attention. The farm has 10 people including trained veterinary assistants caring for the dogs. The canines are fed 200 kg of chicken and rice everyday.
Upkeep for the dogs is expensive, costing him around 45,000 to 50,000 rupees daily out of which 93% is paid by him.
While several animal activists have demanded to be allowed into the farm while others have claimed that so many dogs are a source of disturbance, Shukla remains unperturbed.
“I’ve made a pact with my dogs. We will part only when one of us kicks the bucket.”
Looks like there still are some Godsends among mortals today.