Straight out from a Gerald Durrell story book is Poojitha, a 23 year old Vizagite who loves animals, and they love her back. Yo! Vizag catches up with her. Born and brought up in a household with dogs, her love for the furry friends began very early. ‘My first pet was a German Shepherd gifted to me by my grandfather when I was 10 years old.’ With that and a Pug as pets during her growing years, she still remembers when they passed away. ‘I was unwell when the Pug came into my life. He taught me how to share my pocket money, my food, everything. He made me the happiest. But when he died of food poisoning, I realized how little was available in form of care for animals.’ Poojitha then began to rescue animals, soon realizing how all kinds of animals needed love and affection.
Today, Poojitha has to her kitty of good karma, the acts of rescuing eagles, hawks, squirrels, iguana, cats and even snakes. 23 stray dogs and 2 stray cats come by often. She loves horses, monkeys and wild cats. And she has many pets. ‘I have four dogs, four birds and a few other caged birds too’ she counts off her fingers. The dogs include a Lhasa Apso called Alvin, a Pug called Bruno, a Labrador called Teddy and Jude who is a Beagle. The birds include a Sun conure, Jenday conure, African grey and a parrot. Her face lights up at the question about their characteristic traits. ‘My African grey parrot Rheo follows me to every room, and even whistles when I’m having a bath’ she laughs. ‘Alvin loves his walks while Bruno and Jude love their long naps.’ And how does her family take to this love affair? ‘My father is extremely supportive. My younger brother who’s one and a half loves to feed the birds and my mother says that I’m influencing him’ she adds smilingly.
Being a student of Civil Engineering from Gayatri, we wonder as to how she gathered the expertise for rescue and animal rehab, but as it turns out, where there’s will there’s always a way. ‘I would Google talk to experts’ she shares, adding that she also took help from specialists at the Visakhapatnam zoo. Over time she has picked up expertise and gives medication before weather changes too. She visits a vet every month and depends on a doctor either in Hyderabad or Vijayawada to help her with the birds, as such expertise is not still available here. She also turns to books, follows feeding schedules and maintains hygiene.
The way she deals with her varied pets differs too. ‘I did keep a pet chameleon for a while, without caging him because he’d dislike that and it would be tough to feed him insects every day.’ Keeping pets has its downside too, and it’s tough to cope with loss. ‘One of the birds I rescued used to call me by name. I’d never clipped their wings, but one day, that bird was following me and he hit the door and died’. From then on, Poojitha took the tough stance of clipping wings, so they can fly short distances only. ‘And because the feathers grow every six months, no permanent damage is done’ she shares.
Poojitha takes the complete responsibility of her pets. She feeds them, bathes them and takes them for long walks. When she’s out of town it’s either her friends or her father who looks after them. And she ensures that she’ll be back home in three days. ‘I don’t travel much, except for an annual break to Tirupati.’ She has also worked with VSPCA, is a member of the Blue Cross and plans to start an NGO soon. ‘Rescuing and rehabilitating an animal gives me satisfaction and happiness at the end of the day.’ Her story is an amazing one, a distinctive example of how far love can propel you. It may not be easy to forego pocket money, precious time, resources and a major part of your soul in an act such as this, but when you are steeped in love as much as Poojitha is, even as a single individual you can make tremendous difference.
Tips for pet care
Loving your pets is easy, taking good care of them is necessary. Here are some quick tips to provide them with a happy home.
- Walk them twice a day, clean their paws once they are back from the outdoors.
- Brush your dog daily to avoid smelling and shedding of their coat.
- Take your dog to the vet once a month for regular check-ups.
- Spray or neuter your dog to control aggression.
- Kittens need a lot of care, take them to a vet as often as you can, until they are 7 months old.
- Get your cats’ teeth professionally cleaned.
- Feed them limited food as obesity in cats is common.
- Getting a microchip implant in cats makes it easier to know where they are.
- Let your birds out of the cage to fly, by establishing boundaries.
- Ensure that all electric devices in your house are switched off when you let them fly.
- Clean their cage regularly, always put water in their cage for drinking and bathing.
- Don’t have too many birds in a single cage, as they will fight.