Mrs Padmavathy (70) and Mr Narasimmamoorthy's (80) day starts at 5 a.m. every day. They are busy arranging food for their 173 four-legged wards. The entire living room is taken over by animals waiting to be fed. The week-old kittens get priority because they require nursing every few hours. A small syringe puts the milk in the kittens' mouth and they go back to sleep in their basket. A whiny pup with velvety black fur keeps circling the living room looking for Padmavathy. A kitten with a fractured leg is sitting on the couch awaiting its turn.
For the last 20 years, this has been the time table at the Animal Welfare and Protection Trust (AWPT), Chennai. AWPT runs a hospital with the help of three doctors just as passionate about caring for the animals. They rescue abandoned puppies, kittens, injured dogs and make sure that they are taken care of. At present, they have 85 dogs, 42 puppies, 11 new born kittens and 35 adult cats.
Circumstances forced them to mortgage their only asset – their home.
At present, AWPT functions out of a small house aptly named 'Sanctuary', in Santosapuram, Chennai. The highways project expansion came calling in 2013, and their building and veterinary clinic on the Velachery Tambaram road was taken over for road expansion, with no alternative site or compensation offered. Due to the expenses of the animals, this new location also had to be mortgaged. With only a small pension and a mounting loan, Padmavathy's biggest fear is what will happen to the animals should their home be taken from them. “It’s not our home any more - it is the home of all these animals. Where will they go?” echoed her husband. “We can always move to a smaller flat, and our neighbours would also prefer that I suppose, but what will the animals do,” said Narasimmamoorthy, as he thought of the often-hostile environment animals faced.
In the face of difficulties, this couple never loses hopes
The stress of debt and the fear of losing 'Sanctuary' only strengthens their determination to protect the animals. Narasimmamoorthy says, “Stray cows somehow manage to get food. It’s the stray dogs that suffer the most. Cats also suffer because some believe that they are unlucky. We only have our domestic maid to help us, but Padma and I will continue to care for these beautiful creatures until we die.”
He continues, “I spend almost all my pension on food. Every second day, someone brings a rescued pet and we can’t bring ourselves to turn them away. We need cages to care for the animals, and some support to buy them food. Ever since we lost our old building, we’ve been struggling. But a community of kind-hearted people help us out sometimes.”
Battling personal difficulties
The couple is not without their share of personal woes. Padmavathy was injured in a van accident four years ago, completely dislocating her jaw. Every time she speaks, she is forced to hold her lower jaw in place. But both of them have taken it in their stride, prioritising the animals' needs over the expenses of an operation. "This prevents her from indulging in very long conversations; she loves to chat,” Narasimmamoorthy informs with a smile.
Narasimmamoorthy, aged 80, also had a mild heart attack this March, which has not slowed him down. “If not for the animals, I would have become unfit and useless a long time ago; I owe these animals my purpose,” he added.
How can you help?
The couple mortgaged their house to continue caring for the animals. Today, their monthly expenses have shot up to Rs 60,000. Funds from the Animal Welfare Board have dried up and the number of animals skyrocketed. Today, they have a debt of over Rs 25 lakhs. Padmavathy needs a surgery to fix her jaw, and some of the mortgage installments have been defaulted. But these concerns do not even come in their list of urgent needs as long as AWPT can continue to function. Your contribution will help these wonderful godparents of 173 homeless abandoned animals.
Click here to support this couple to save their 173 kids.