When Sarita Prabhu was assigned an overseas project by the office last year, it held great promise for her career. She had just one concern. Prabhu had to locate a safe haven for her 13-year-old german shepherd, Freddy, given the indefinite period that she was travelling for. After a few enquiries at kennels around Mumbai, she realised that no one was willing to take him in, given that he was an old dog.
Prabhu’s concerns were put to rest when she connected with Priya Poduval, who runs Tyson and Co old-age home for pets. In the next few days, Prabhu sat carefree on her flight, as Freddy hit the road to Pune alongside Poduval to meet his new buddies at the shelter.
In 2016, a family approached Poduval with their 14-year-old labrador. They didn’t know what to do with him since they were moving abroad. Over time, she came across folks who lived in buildings without lifts. For them it was quite tough to carry their pets down twice a day. "There were other couples who themselves had aged and were now unable to take care of their pets,” elaborates Poduval.
She has come across families who genuinely really love their dogs but are unable to look after them for some reason. That’s when she realised the need for such a service.
While most kennels are open to keeping pets for a few days to even months, these old-age homes welcome them for extended periods of time, and in certain cases, for the rest of their life. Poduval started a boarding and day-care facility around 12 years ago. When it came to the old-age home though, she decided to create a separate 5,000 square feet space in Manjri near Pune, which specifically catered to the needs of her older guests. Currently there are 11 residents, while the facility can house upto 30.
“These dogs are really old, between 10 and 17 years of age. They don’t want a hyper, younger one troubling them, so it didn’t make sense to keep them with the rest," she adds. Some of the dogs at the home are blind and another one is paraplegic. So the centre has been created in a way that they don’t have to climb up and down, and have enough room to roam where they want.
“It’s not like a kennel where they are locked up. They have their freedom, a very new experience for an apartment dog. It’s a nice home with a family, like how there are vrudhashrams amidst nature for humans,” she adds.
Poduval is blessed with staff, which has had the experience of handling senior dogs. It was one of the challenges that Vandana V Kaushish faced when she conceptualised Happy Pets House in Greater Noida a couple of years ago.
“I wanted to let these old dogs spend some good time in the last few years of their life. We eventually found a bungalow for the facility, but I had to locate trained staff and vets because these dogs need more attention than the younger ones,” Kaushish says.
Since the time they set up the facility in December, Kaushish has received around 20 calls, though she doesn’t intend on having more than 10 dogs to ensure that they receive quality care. She then called on each pet parent for an interview to understand if these were genuine cases.
Linda Hawke, who has been in the pet industry since 2002, also ensures that she meets every owner before taking their pets in at Petz House, which she started in October as an extension of her business.
“The interaction is important because we are not there for people to give away their pets. This is for people who are unable to manage them. What we can do is maintain the pet at their cost. So these basic checks need to be in place,” Hawke says. “We also ensure that we look into their medication, hygiene and diet, besides their exercise chart before they come stay with us,” she adds.
The fee for such services vary, depending on the size of the dog to its health, and can range from anywhere between ₹6,000 and ₹15,000 per month. Besides the boarding and meals, it also includes regular checkups, blood tests, vaccination, deworming and grooming , and the cost of supplements when a dog needs it. Owners are encouraged to drop in to meet their pets when possible or are hooked up through video chat to ensure that they remain connected. She also runs a ‘Sponsor a Pet’ programme, where someone can pay for the treatment and care of a stray dog that has been picked up from the streets.
Over the years, Poduval has seen a few of the dogs flourish under her team’s care, some even getting back to good health under their observation. A blind pug and another one who came in after him are soulmates; a German shepherd who suffered thyroid-related ailments and lost his coat is slowly growing it back thanks to the nourishing oil massages.
In fact, just last week, Freddy celebrated his 13th birthday with his canine mates, a delightful evening that ended with their faces stuffed with vanilla icecream.
“The owner had tears in her eyes to see he’s leading such a royal life. I feel really blessed to be able to take care of these oldies,” Poduval says.