A sacred being arrives


*DSC00077little ganesha one 2017


By Sharon St Joan


The 500 year old peepal tree, majestic, lifts its branches into the sunlight. In front of it stands a stone Ganesha which has been there even longer, for around a thousand years, extending his blessings of profound peace to all. This is a special place near the buildings of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation. The land of the Foundation was originally the ancestral home of the family of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, the Foundation’s Honorary Director. She recalls that when she was a child, much of the area was covered in trees with jackals scurrying through the brush and deer browsing among the leaves. Now, among the buildings built in the past few decades, trees still stand tall offering shade and tranquility, though sadly some fell during the recent severe cyclone, Vardah, which blew through in December.


*DSC00079ChinnyBhairava 5 2017



As the site of regular pujas, ceremonies to express devotion to the Gods, the air of this special place becomes filled with incense and ancient songs to Ganesha, who grants prosperity and knowledge, and who has the power to overcome all obstacles.


One day in 2006, when Dr. Chinny Krishna, who founded, with his parents, the well-known animal organization, Blue Cross of India, and who is the husband of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, had come to this site to spend a few quiet moments with Ganesha, he spotted a small brown form, barely visible, concealed in the brush off to one side.


With a lifelong understanding of street dogs – he and Blue Cross have rescued many, many thousands — he knew that a subtle approach was required with a frightened dog. Dr. Krishna sat down on the stone steps. Quietly, he called to a staff person and asked him to bring a little milk in a bowl and a leash. Leashes are always handy because rescuing dogs is a common event. Placing the bowl beside him on the step, Dr. Krishna waited. After half an hour or so, the brown form emerged from the bushes, gently approached the milk, and the thirsty dog began to drink. Within a few minutes, Dr. Krishna was able to slip the leash over the dog’s head. He did not touch the dog or try to pet him, and when he stood up, the small brown dog went with him. He put the dog into his car, into the back, and gave him a few moments to settle down while he went to have a bite of breakfast, then he drove him to Blue Cross to be neutered.


All street dogs rescued by Blue Cross are spayed or neutered if this has not already been done, along with many thousands of dogs on the streets of Madras, as part of Blue Cross of India’s ABC program. Blue Cross of India runs the world’s first and longest continuously operating spay/neuter program that began in 1964.


Giving the little dog time to recover from his surgery, Dr. Krishna picked him up a few days later from Blue Cross. He set him down by the gate of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, and walked away, giving the dog the chance to return to where he had come from. Generally, street dogs live in a neighborhood which is their home, where they know the other dogs who are their friends, and where one or two kind people will feed them and keep an eye on them. In this way they lead a stable life and may live for many years.


TNR (trap/neuter/ vaccinate/return) for dogs, not just for cats (as in the U.S.), is the accepted best practice way to relate to community dogs in most countries in the world. A shelter system, as is found in the U.S. and other developed countries does not work, and, for many reasons, wherever it has been tried in developing countries, putting street dogs in shelters creates an inhumane, over-crowded situation. TNR is the best and only workable solution for the many millions of street dogs in India. All animal welfare organizations in India are no-kill, and it would not occur to any of them to kill homeless animals. Also, it would be illegal to do so.


By evening, the small brown dog had shown no signs of going away and had found his way back into the center of the compound among the trees and the buildings. The next morning Dr. Krishna put him once again out by the gate. And by evening, he had wandered back. Clearly, he had no attention of leaving such a calm, welcoming place.


Soon given the name of Bhairava, or Bhairu for short, he joined the twelve to twenty rescued street dogs who, at any one time, are part of the family of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna. They go where they wish, inside or out, are much-loved and cared for, and they are safe within the gates of the large, walled compound, which contains the buildings of the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.


Now perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old, Bhairava has a touch of arthritis, but otherwise he is fine. Appropriately, a natural white mark on the fur of his forehead resembles the sign that devout Hindus wear as a mark of devotion. Bhairava is the form of Lord Shiva who wanders the world as a homeless outcaste, always accompanied by his faithful dog. When reminded that, since the little dog Bhairava appeared, as if dropped from heaven, in the middle of the centuries-old site of worship of the peepal tree and the little stone Ganesha, he must certainly be a sacred dog, Dr. Krishna, replied, “Yes, of course, all dogs are sacred.”



INDIA: APOWA reaches remote flooded areas



A scared yellow dog being held by Mr. Magata, a community volunteer, waits for treatment at the camp set up by APOWA  disaster response team.
A scared yellow dog being held by Mr. Magata, a community volunteer, waits for treatment at the camp set up by the APOWA disaster response team.


By Rashmi Ranjan,  



Conditions are improving gradually in cyclone- and flood-affected districts of coastal Odisha. But the situation in many places of Ganjam district remains grim. The catastrophe has been called the worst in living memory for Odisha. Our disaster response team is still on the scene and, as the roads are being cleared, is now able to reach remote areas to care for the animals.


As well as direct feeding of animals, we have also handed over food to village authorities and community groups so they can continue to feed stray hungry animals in their villages until the situation returns to normal.  We are making good progress, but there is still so much to do.


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Dr. Laxman Behera and Dr Panigrahi treat a sick calf at Bhagirathpur village in the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district.


October 29, 2013:


We conducted relief work in the worst affected villages of Niakanthapur, giving relief to 55 animals. We are thankful to the local Sarpanch for providing a country boat so we could get around.


Mr. Sukumar Parida, one of our disaster response team members, feeding puppies in Bhagirathpur village in the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district. We have been taking special care of the babies.
Mr. Sukumar Parida, one of our disaster response team members, feeding puppies in Bhagirathpur village in the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district. We have been taking special care of the babies.


October 30, 2013:


Today we visited Dandisahi village, which was still marooned by surrounding floodwaters.  Our rescue team moved from door to door.  We fed and treated 51 animals and gave out leaflets about the importance of hygiene in preventing disease outbreaks.



October 31, 2013:


We covered the area around Bhagirathpur village in the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district. Our team worked together with a vet team from Chhatrapur block and a WTI (Wildlife Trust of India)/IFAW team to feed and treat 54 animals.



Floodwaters stand between villages. Our team traveled in a small boat to reach suffering animals.
Floodwaters stand between villages. Our team traveled in a small boat to reach suffering animals.


November 1, 2013:


It was another long working day for APOWA’S disaster rescue team. We gave food and treatment to 127 animals in Mahanadapur village of the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district. We are grateful for the help of our amazing volunteers, who responded quickly on the first day of the disaster and who are still working alongside us.


November 2, 2013:


Today we remained at Mahanadpur village, continuing relief work for a second day  Our team reached 140 animals with food and medical treatment. The footprint of the devastation is huge. Now the situation is slowly improving, and it is possible to reach many remote villages which were previously cut off  without any access.


November 3, 2013:


Our team is hard at work in the devastated areas of Ganjam and Kendrapara district. We treated 77 surviving animals in Biripur village, including dogs, cats, cows, and bulls.


November 4, 2013:


We visited Manikpatana village in the Aul block, which was hit by the cyclone and then by floods. We gave food and vet care to the animals and showed the villagers how to use the medicines, explaining the dosages that need to be administered, so we could leave supplies with them for the long-term care of the animals. Our team, headed by Dr Laxman Behera, treated 61 animals.



Flooding near Shantipada village.

Flooding near Shantipada village.


November 5, 2013:


We conducted relief work in Shantipada village. Our team treated 62 animals including dogs, cows, and bulls.


November 6, 2013:


Our disaster response team of volunteers, vet techs, and veterinarians, all working together, doing rounds of the streets of Sidhabali village, checked, treated, and gave food to 53 animals.


Our volunteers are loading lifesaving feed and medicines. APOWA’s team has been busy caring for animals since the cyclone and floods devastated coastal Odisha.
Our volunteers are loading lifesaving feed and medicines. APOWA’s team has been busy caring for animals since the cyclone and floods devastated coastal Odisha.


November 7, 2013:


Our team spent the whole day providing vet care to injured or sick cows, bulls, buffaloes, dogs, cats, and other animals in Jagannathpur village. People were happy to see us and eagerly brought injured and sick animals to our treatment camp. Several village people volunteered to help and worked alongside our team to treat stray dogs, bulls, and cats in their village. 58 animals were treated today.


From Cats to Dogs to Stray Bulls…


Ever since cyclone Phailin devastated 18 coastal districts of Odisha on October 12, 2013, APOWA’s disaster response team has been helping afflicted animals, victims of the cyclone and the terrible floods that followed. Thousands of animals are silent victims of this catastrophe. Even now, our rescue team is continuing to help make life better for the animals including dogs, cats, bulls, cows, goats, sheep, and donkeys. We educate villagers about disease-prevention measures and post-disaster care, and hand out leaflets in the local language. We are committed to the well being of these suffering animals and will continue our cyclone and flood relief work until the situation improves.




We would like to thank Help Animals India, HSI-India, WTI/IFAW, Harmony Fund, and Singhvi Charitable Trust for their support in this hour of need to provide relief and rescue efforts to the animal victims of the cyclone and floods. Local community volunteers are stepping forward as part of this response.


We are grateful to all who have shown concern for the animals, and we are confident that their compassion will help the affected villages move forward — not only in the wake of this particular effort, but that this will lay the groundwork for an increased sensitivity to animal welfare throughout the community in the days and months ahead.


Thanks and kind regards,

Rashmi Ranjan,

On behalf of the APOWA Team,

Odisha, India





India, Chennai: Bailing out Moksha, Mukti, and all their friends, Part Two

Mukti looking for a treat, the lab number can be seen in her ear
Mukti looking for a treat, the lab number can be seen in her ear

This is Part Two, to read Part One first, click here.

While the marathon of talks was ongoing, Blue Cross was taking steps to get ready to receive the puppies.  Laboratory-bred puppies would have no immunity to real-world conditions, so great care must be taken not to expose them to any germs commonly carried by dogs.  For this reason, they couldn’t be kept on the grounds of a shelter, neither at Blue Cross nor at PFA Chennai. Even transportation for them would have to be in sanitized vehicles.

Blue Cross runs a 24 hour a day regular ambulance service for injured street dogs, with nearly a dozen ambulances on hand.  They took the two largest ambulances out of service for two weeks to fumigate them, disinfect them, and scrub them from top to toe.  Then they repainted the insides of the ambulances.  No germ was left alive.

At 4pm on Friday, Dawn Williams, representative of Blue Cross, went to the Quarantine Station, with papers in hand – the letter from ADVINUS, plus the notification from the Ministry of Environment and Forests authorizing the puppies to be handed over to the AWBI.

This was still not enough, however.  He was informed that since Customs had sent the puppies to the Quarantine Station, only Customs could get them released.

Dr. Krishna called the Chief Customs Officer for the whole of India, who was in a meeting in Delhi.  By 7pm, he had given his okay, and by 8pm, Dawn Williams was back at the Quarantine Station with the additional papers.  Everything seemed fine then, except that it was after dark, and it would be best to come back in the morning.

The indefatigable Dawn Williams returned at 8 am the next morning, which was Saturday, with the two ambulances to get the puppies. At 9:45 am, someone showed up, but nothing further happened, and at noon, he was still waiting.

At one pm, the Quarantine Officer appeared, and announced that he would need permission from the Minister of Agriculture to release the puppies.

Dr. Krishna made another round of 100 phone calls, trying to reach someone —  anyone who could do something. At last, in desperation, he called Mr. Doulat Jain, a former Vice Chairman of the AWBI.  An industrialist who is still a member of the AWBI, he was kind enough to contact the Agriculture Minister of India, who then instructed that the puppies be released.  By then, it was 5 pm on Saturday afternoon.

At 7pm, the puppies were at long last turned over to Dawn Williams. 25 of the puppies were immediately given to Dr. Shiranee Periera of People for Animals, Chennai, who adopted all of them out, on the spot, to pre-screened families. This took place just outside the doors of the Quarantine Office.

The other 45, under the auspices of Blue Cross, were loaded into the immaculate ambulances and made their way to the home of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna.

At 7:30 pm, the puppies arrived on a comfortably cool South India January evening, where they were kept in an enclosed garden that had been carefully cleaned and disinfected, outside one of the compound buildings.

Soon 100 people, buzzing with excitement converged on the scene, all anxious to get a glimpse of the puppies. There were forty-five pre-screened, qualified families. All had to have a family vet, and had to commit to getting their adopted puppies vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

Between 7:30 and 10pm that evening 28 puppies were adopted.  No adoption fees were charged, but about half the families gave donations to Blue Cross.

The following night, Sunday, the 17 remaining puppies found homes. It was a happy occasion for both people and puppies.

Despite the joy of this truly happy event, Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna noted that some of the 45 puppies could not bark.  They seemed to have been debarked.  Also, they were not normal size and seemed to have been bred intentionally to be dwarf beagles.

Moksha, Mukti, and all the others, have large numbers tattooed in their ears.  The numbers are an 8, followed by 6 digits.  Even if one assumes that the 8 is a batch number, that still means that the number of beagle puppies bred in the lab they came from is in the six figures.

The beagle pups were six months old by this time. They all, of course, needed housetraining.  Despite having been kept caged the entire time, Dr. Chinny Krishna says that every dog was “so friendly.”  These 70 innocent beagle puppies will now be blessed with a chance to have long, happy lives, and Moksha and Mukti can play with Ruffles.

Following the great love and care she was given, Mukti’s spinal problem vanished, as if it had never been.

This was a bright spot in a lengthy battle. The struggle continues in the long fight to arrive at a moment when all animals everywhere in the world are free from the threat of being used in laboratories.

To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here.  

Photo: Sharon St Joan