Remember Keanu Reeves’ face from that viral video where he plays with a pack of super adorable puppies? That’s most probably exactly how my face was when a friend’s message took me to the Instagram page Dogs of Madras. While Keanu had four (maybe five) puppies around him, in front of me were over 1,000 dogs and puppies (all virtually, of course). Each of them had adorable names, a backstory and were looking for happy homes. And thanks to the good Samaritans of Chennai, almost all of them are adopted. Dogs of Madras is run by 21-year-old Mahanya Vanidas and features rescued dogs and puppies in and around Chennai, who are up for adoption. While Mahanya started out three years ago, by resharing the adoption posts that would come up in the Facebook group ‘The Pound’, she says that now she gets adoption requests “all the time”. Through this handle, Mahanya actively promotes the adoption of Indian breed dogs and campaigns against illegal ‘backyard’ breeding.
Mahanya admits that the initial idea was to have a page that mimicked Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. “I wanted to take photographs of adorable dogs in Chennai and put them up with witty captions,” she says. That was around the time when she joined a few adoption groups on Facebook. She also attended a few adoption drives. “That was when I realised that not a lot of young people were active on these Facebook groups. Generation Z tends to use Instagram more than Facebook. So, I thought of bridging that group and started resharing the requests on Instagram. They immediately got a lot of attention. The page started growing and we started getting a lot of adoption requests,” she says. Mahanya receives an average of two adoption requests every day. Her job mostly involves connecting potential adoptors and rescuers.
Mahanya does not have a dog
Naturally, when one is an ardent dog lover and runs a page exclusively for dogs, it is almost impossible for them to not hold themselves back from wanting to adopt most of these pawdorable beings. But sadly, Mahanya’s house has a strict ‘no pet rule’. “I wanted to adopt all of these dogs. But I can’t do that,” says a disappointed Mahanya. But she says that the day she moves out, she will probably have an army of dogs. Of all the pups she’s wanted to adopt, she distinctly remembers Hero. “I had never seen a puppy that adorable. He was very colourful, cute and fluffy. I guess most people agreed with me. I had to close that adoption post in just ten minutes. Within that time, it had amassed around 1,000 likes and 200 shares,” she says.
Mahanya names these dogs quite carefully, in a way that they strike a chord with their potential parents. There was a set of triplets — Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup (Protagonists of The Powerpuff Girls), a clingy Charles Boyle (from NBC’s Brooklyn 99) and Savitri aka Savvy (from Pataal Lok). “I mostly name them based on what I am watching right then. Some of them are named after nuts and alcoholic drinks,” she laughs. The page’s followers would often see posts and stories asking breeders to stay away and others to adopt and not buy dogs, especially Indian breeds. She explains why. “Most dogs that are up for purchase in pet shops are unethically bred. Here, the mother dog is made to breed repeatedly. This is abusive. In most of the cases, these puppies are unhealthy and die early. This is specifically why I advice people to adopt. Also, no one breeds Indian dogs,” she says.
Mahanya has a lot of stories to tell about dogs. Of the thousands that she knows, she chooses to tell me a tear-jerker. The protagonists are a mother dog, whom she called ‘Mumma’, and her seven puppies. “Every day, my friends and I would feed them. Mumma must have been through a lot in the past. But slowly, we earned her trust. It is such a beautiful feeling to have a dog trust you. Sadly, we couldn’t get her pups adopted. One by one, they started dying, owing to accidents and fever. Finally, it was just Mumma and one puppy. And one day, they disappeared,” she recalls. “Someone must have relocated them. I pray that wherever they are, they stay happy,” she says.
Edex and The New Indian Express have been curating the 40 Under Forty list since 2017. We featured collections of impactful grassroots teachers in 2017, innovative start-ups in 2018 and environmental impact-makers in 2019. All the people selected have been chosen after a careful process of editorial selection and nomination. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org