Barely a month after the death of her German Shepherd, companion and daughter Jiah that a forlorn New Delhi-based Neelam Singh, Editor and Content Strategy Head with a media group, saw a pair of beautiful eyes looking at her. She was reluctant to hold that black furball in her hands. "Jiah left me in May 2015. It was just one month, and I was trying to live with her memories. All of a sudden, that furball jumped up and started licking my face. Maybe she was able to see the hidden tears in my eyes. I touched her, and she settled comfortably in my lap," Singh recounts.
She was in two minds. The guy kept asking her if she wanted to adopt a puppy. "I was silent. He again checked, 'Do you want a male dog?' Suddenly the furball in my lap looked at me. Her eyes were so intense. She started wagging her tail. 'Can I adopt her?' I murmured," reminisces Singh, who brought her furball home in June 2015 and named her bundle of joy, Ana. "She gradually accommodated herself as per my office timings. There were several occasions when I wanted to spend time with her, but my work kept me away from home. Fortunately, the lockdown happened, and it allowed me to spend maximum time with Ana. She fights with me, plays with me, throws her tantrums and sleeps with me like a small puppy. I listen to her, and she listens to me. Yes, animals do talk if you listen to them," says Singh.
Like her, the lockdown came as a boon to many pet parents, who got to spend more time with their furry buddies; others who brought home a pet; and passionate entrepreneurs who had their share of highs and lows catering to the soaring demands for pet foods, grooming services, pet boarding, etc. during these challenging times.
Gurugram-based Himali Makker, a marketing professional and passionate parent to four dogs, started her entrepreneurial journey with the launch of Woofs-n-Wags, a pet store, in 2017. On her entrepreneurial journey, she says, “When I had my first dog, as a new pet parent, I was constantly lost in the maze of pet stores, vets and Internet. There was a plethora of food products, accessories and toys. Yet, I struggled to find the right advice and product for my pet. I could empathise with the other pet parents and decided to do something about it.” Today, Woofs-n-Wags has a strong online presence and launched its first franchise store in New Delhi in 2020. It stocks quality food, accessories, clothing, toy and other products. Woofs-n-Wags also offers complete grooming service at the store as well as on-call at home, across NCR. Makker plans to scale up her operations across NCR and take the brand national in the coming months. "The lockdown forced by the pandemic has resulted in a surge in the adoption of pets and a subsequent increase in demand for quality pet products. The trend is bound to continue," she says.
Home away from home
Ditto is the story of Mumbai-based Sarvmeet Oberoi, founder of Petfelix Dog Boarding, who wanted to do something on his own after spending more than a decade in the corporate sector. "I have always been passionate about pets, and there seemed to a good business case for setting up a good boarding facility in Mumbai, where the infrastructure and quality of facilities had not kept pace with the needs of the fast-growing pet population. I am supported by my wife, Harleen Marwah Oberoi, in running certain aspects of the business. We have a six-member team at the facility for taking care of operations along with me," says Oberoi. The business for Petfelix Dog Boarding has been impacted over the last 12 months as a large part of it is dependent on people travelling and leaving their dogs behind with them. "There was recovery around the festive period, but now the second wave has had a negative impact. We have, however, been able to be of service to many households where building/homes have been sealed. These dogs have come to us for stays. We are glad we have been able to service these people and these dogs in these challenging times," he says.
In March 2021, Practo launched a one-of-its-kind service 24x7 online veterinary consultations for pets’ healthcare needs. The service aims to help pet owners get medical help for their furry friends from the comfort of their homes. They can easily talk to veterinarians regarding concerns that do not require a physical examination or warrant an emergency visit to the clinic.
Commenting on the new initiative, Siddhartha Nihalani, VP - Product, Practo, said, “Our foray into virtual veterinary care aligns with our larger vision of improving access to quality healthcare. With many people taking care of pets for the first time during the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, and several others anxious about visiting a clinic amid this pandemic, we want to enable them with a convenient yet reliable solution.”
Online veterinary consultations become even more convenient once the work from home situation ends, as pet parents can consult online whenever they have concerns without skipping work. This includes getting a second opinion for certain procedures, obtaining treatment or diet recommendations, asking follow-up questions, and seeking advice on behavioural issues—all in real-time and without exposing themselves to any risk. Dr Daisy Rani, a veterinarian from Chennai with 25 years of experience, said, “Helping people take care of their pets is the best part of being a veterinarian. Being able to do that conveniently for pet parents, especially during a pandemic like this, is a rewarding experience. I am glad that a company like Practo is going the extra mile for the well-being of pets by adding veterinary services as a part of its telemedicine platform.”
Talking about pet therapy, Dr Kedar Tilwe, Consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital Mulund & Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, says, "Tending to a pet can have a relaxing effect. It produces touch comfort, increases empathy and understanding, and has a calming effect on the individual. The place of pet therapy in managing mental health conditions is currently only adjunctive to other conventional and mainstay interventions. However, its role in helping persons with mental illness in the form of improving social interactions, enhancing empathy and having a calming effect is encouraging."
So if you are planning to welcome that dog or cat into your lives, adopt, don't shop. It is an initiative to rescue and foster orphaned animals in safe spaces and just the pawfect way to be a pet parent.