Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Mumbai: Leaving garment business to look after pets

He believes the care he has given the animals over the last 20 years has been returned.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
December 17, 2016 2:54:37 am
mumbai man takes care of dogs, garment business to taking care of dogs, mumbai dog lover, mumbai news, indian express Ajay Patil

For two decades, he has been going on walks with the dogs, them often sprinting away playfully and him searching for them through bushes all night. For just as long, he remembers stray animals being brought in the middle of the night after road accidents. Yet almost two decades ago, Ajay Patil was in a comfortable garments business, earning over Rs 15,000 a month, when he left all that in the late nineties to earn Rs 35 per month as a ward boy at the Bombay Veterinary Hospital. But, he says, “Working to care for animals is all worth it,” as he strolls through the leafy, 22-acre-wide premises of the hospital before his night shift at the dog ward, named Tata Steel after its donor, begins.

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He is scrutinising medical documents of 34 dogs to ensure if any dog requires medical attention. “Animals can’t speak for themselves. We need to observe them, see if they are drinking water or require medical attention,” says Patil. From 11 pm until 7 am the next morning, Patil single-handedly manages all these dogs. There are 200 staffers in the hospital but at night, the strength shrinks to 15 ward boys. There are days when hospital admission at night increases, and he gets no time to sit.

Patil leaves from Diva, a northern suburb outside Mumbai, at 9.30 pm and travels for over an hour to reach Parel. His first task at night is to clean the ward, read medical documents, fill water for each dog, check if anyone has vomited or not eaten and then the inform doctor about each case.

“If the doctor thinks a dog requires surgery, I have to carry it to the operation table,” he says. Winters are lighter, with less night admissions and so, he takes several dogs on walks, and plays with them if time permits.

The charitable Parel hospital caters to cattle, dogs, cats, horses and even birds for treatment. According to Lt Col J C Khanna, superintendent of the hospital, cases of night admissions are highest during monsoons and summers, with frequency increasing from five to 15 admissions during this period. “Road accidents are more in monsoons and dehydration cases peak during summer. A lot of people come at night to drop off these animals,” he said.

What three or four men may do during the day, Patil is supposed to do at night. There are no dog walkers, so if a pet dog wants to relieve, Patil has to walk it out. If a dog is in a playful mood and refuses to sleep, he obliges and opens the cage. “There have been so many cases of them sprinting away. Sometimes, I spend hours searching for them in this huge campus,” he smiles.

He misses Dolly, a pet dog, who he looked after in medical intensive care unit for a month-and-a-half every night. “I would call her name and she would obey me. She was easy to handle,” he says. Throughout the night, Patil says he maintains absolute silence. Even a slight noise wakes these dogs up. “If one barks, they all bark,” he says.

With 20 years’ experience, Patil has been bitten several times, and has even learnt in assisting deliveries. There are also difficult nights. When an emergency case comes, be it a cat or a dog, he feels the belly to understand if the baby is alive and then tries to pull the baby out by hand. “In some cases, we may have to operate. Then we assist the doctor,” he says. There have been instances when he has held bleeding animals, wetting his clothes, just to give them comfort.

“These are patients of surgery. Anything happens to them and I am responsible,” he says.

When dawn cracks, Patil’s job is to update the next ward boy about critical animals. Though he says he likes to linger longer. His family loves animals too. At his Diva flat, there are love birds, fishes and a turtle with which his 14-year-old child plays.

He believes the care he has given the animals over the last 20 years has been returned. He has fallen twice from local trains in separate accidents in the last few years, but survived both mishaps. “I think it is because I cared for so many animals. Their love has returned.”

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