Each of us in the country is aware of the pandemic catastrophe. The sudden lockdown and the struggle of one and another, while the people tried to make ends meet, Rumela Mitra and S.K. Basit, the cofounders of Furrfolks, were concerned about the hungry neglected and ignored strays. In conversation with Desiwoof, they shared their experience of feeding the homeless dogs and cats during the dire situation; they also spoke about rescuing animals and their future plans for Furrfolks to help create a better world for the innocent pooches out there.
Roles of a rescuer
Rumela, a busy animal lover and a rescuer speaking of her initial days, shared, “I was blessed to be born in a household that loved having cats around, I was taught to care and empathize with them as a little girl, that very emotion drove me to dream of having a shelter for strays. I was motivated to help them have a better life.” Rumela expressed her concern by pointing out that we all are so involved and busy in our day-to-day lives that people choose to ignore or turn a blind eye even when they sight an injured or a hungry animal. On this note, she shared her story of becoming a full-time rescuer. “I knew I wanted to help create better lives for animals on the street. But, I wasn’t aware of how to do it, neither did I have the knowledge or understanding of it. Being certain of my purpose, I started small by attending to the local strays in my vicinity, treating them, feeding them, and eventually, with the guidance of my seniors and my own experiences, I figured it out. My partner and I now have a team of 95+ members spread across Kolkata taking care of multiple operations.”
Furrfolks during the pandemic
Even if Furrfolks operated since 2017, the challenging times of the pandemic accelerated our functioning. An array of services were to be attended to. The immediate shut down resulted in a situation where animals had no place to find food. The petty shops were shut, restaurants didn’t function, or throw out a bite either. Hospitals and veterinary clinics that were supposed to be functional were of no help either. Strays that needed medical help were abandoned and suffering, which is when Furrfolks as a team decided to work towards feeding and nursing strays. It was difficult to gather funds, even the purchase of raw materials for cooking such large amounts of food was a hefty amount to accumulate. Our Volunteers pitched in, even a minimum donation of Rs 100 was a bigger gift. We managed to feed about 350 dogs per day. Our volunteers spread out across Kolkata and did their best to attend to as many strays as possible. By the end of it, we were happy to have achieved our goal by feeding and taking care of our four-legged friends.
We now continue to feed in our vicinity and are currently working towards building a community to establish a shelter and purchase an ambulance to rescue animals.
Rescuing a paralysed stray or an accidental victim
Speaking of rescuing animals, Rumela says, “Fostering a stray isn’t as difficult as it might seem. One needs just a day or two of patience and love to see how gracefully these creatures recover. Animals infected with maggots or are injured due to an accident could be rescued and helped with minimum care and medicine.” Adding to it, she says, “People think it is a long, tedious process, but frankly, it’s just a matter of a couple of days and care. Speaking of paralyzed cases, I have two paralyzed rescued cats at home; their hind legs don’t function. However, it doesn’t affect their playful nature at all. Such patients are subjected to the necessary treatment required.” “In most accidental situations, the strays might have been hurt or would have fractured a part or two; we don’t expect every person to take care of them. But it is human to be responsible in such cases and to reach out to the nearest foster care or vet to help them recover. We at Furrfolks are trying to distribute as many reflectors to avoid such accidents.”
Rumela also expressed her disdain about the animal protection laws, as animal cruelty is subjected to a small punishment fee of Rs 50 even today.
Reaching out and volunteering
Talking about funding and the initiative, Basit and Rumela speak about the challenges of meeting the day to day expenses of medications, treatments, and food. Also, the lack of awareness and empathy among the people towards the stray. Collecting a regular fund to sustain their project is one of the important challenges they face. Speaking about Desi woof’s initiative, Rumela says it is a very interesting and helpful initiative, with one platform to gather and help raise funds to help organizations achieve their motto of a better world for the pooches is amazing.
Basit also shared his plans to reach out to a larger audience to create awareness about the cause. “We have been planning to work with schools to inculcate the necessary awareness among children from a very young age. We also look forward to conducting awareness driven webinars to spread the knowledge and save the strays.” Adding to that, he says, “People prefer petting a breed dog rather than adopting a stray because they find them to be less presentable. But, I hope to change this mindset by showing them that if one loves and takes care of a stray properly, even a stray is equally presentable. In fact, they are a better fit as a pet as they are immune to many diseases and so wouldn’t be easily ill.” His passion for fostering and spreading love seeks no bounds as he plans to take Furrfolks beyond Kolkata, to be able to help raise as many strays he can across the country.
Empathy is the key
Signing off, both of them hoped to make their dream of having shelter and an ambulance by 2021. They also urged volunteers to join them so they could come together as teamwork towards a better tomorrow. Dropping off a message, they said, “The least we could ask for is for people to at least share the remains of your homecooked food, rather than throwing it away. We have immense gratitude towards the ones who share a bite of theirs to the hungry, homeless four-legged friends.”
If you, too, are an animal lover or someone who wants to make a contribution to help Furrfolks achieve their dream, start with feeding a few strays around your home. Feel free to make your bit of donation or join the team here.