Come summer and I start getting phone calls and letters from desperate animal owners of the city. We are going on holiday, they say. Is there anywhere where we can leave our dogs or cats?
Some people, when they find no one ready to look after the animals, even throw their dogs out on to the street rather than forsake their holiday. Some look the animal up and it starves and howls itself to death if it not rescued by agitated neighbours.
Are you looking for a way to work with animals
at home and earn a living too? Why not start a dog boarding-house. We in the Sanjay Gandhi hospital do that very rarely because we are frightened of their catching some infection from our sick inmates. Friendicoes has very little space but do the best they can. Only one lady, Mrs. Bir, in Delhi has made dog kennels at home on a tiny handkerchief-sized lawn and she is booked for months in advance.
You don't need much room to start a kennel. A small lawn could have say three-five kennels built on it. The lawn must be fenced off from the house and the gate. Look into a dog book to see the specifications of the ideal kennel. Make sure the kennels are spaced apart so that the dogs cannot fight with each other. If you have about 1500 yards of space you can easily build twenty or more kennels.
Once that is done you can either advertise or leave your name with a couple of vets so that they can send people on.
You can charge a basic minimum daily rate with food extra.
However the enterprise is not just a matter of setting up the kennels. You will have to provide cooking facilities. Each dog owner will give his menu. Some will include beef-which is mostly not cooked in the kitchen- amongst other recipes. Your family might object to the kitchen being taken up with dog food. So you will have to make arrangements for food before you even advertise. Then you will have to work out an approximate cost chart as to how much each meal will cost you with milk, rice, chappatis, bread, vegetables and meat and work out who is going to buy the raw material from the market daily. You will have to walk the dogs twice a day so you will have to work with a professional handler in the beginning before you are confident enough to touch other people's animals. Buy collars and long leashes so that you can walk them. You will have to work closely with a vet by weekly visits to see that there is nothing with the animals in your care.
Have charts made out for each dog that have to be filled in by the owners - apart from the name and age, the name, address and telephone number of the vet that the animal is used to, his diet, what he doesn't like in the form of human behaviour (Some don't like being petted, for instance-others object to green shoes) what his normal daily routine is. Also an emergency number of someone familiar with the dog in case he reacts so badly to the kennel that he has to be taken away.
Your family will have to very patient with the enterprise. The animals will howl at night, try to break their leashes. The odd one will get loose and drive everyone into a panic in case he runs away. Your social life will be curtailed -your garden will be out of bounds for everyone. But then you have to give up something for anything you do. If you have a patch of land just outside the city but within easy distance it is best to start it as a professional enterprise. I worked out the costing when I wanted to start a boarding house: at thirty dogs on twenty rupees a day plus food, after overheads like a cooler for the dogs etc, you earn about Rs 15,000 a month and provide an essential urban service.
A young girl I know, who is very keen on animals, has created an unusual job for herself. She does not have the space for kennels. Instead, she takes a contract from owners that are leaving their dogs at home. She visits the dogs three times a week, sees what they are being fed, brushes them, walks them, de-ticks them, takes them to the vet if necessary, and gives them a bath if necessary. She charges per visit. She started three months ago and is already finding it difficult to cope with the orders.
If anyone is interested, I would be happy to send them the designs for the kennels.