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Mumbai teenager uses art to raise awareness about the well-being of stray dogs

Updated on: 21 August,2023 05:51 PM IST  |  Mumbai
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Adhya Soni is dedicated to ensuring the welfare of dogs in Mumbai through her mission. Ahead of International Dog Day, spoke to the Mumbai teen to learn more about her initiatives 'Pawfull' and 'Aparigraha' 

Mumbai teenager uses art to raise awareness about the well-being of stray dogs

Adhya Soni started 'Pawfull' and 'Aparigraha' to help promote the well-being of dogs and pet parents too. Photo Courtesy: Adhya Soni

Mumbai teenager Adhya Soni's profound love for dogs surpasses every other aspect of her life. It comes from her mother Sonia Soni, who Adhya says, has always had dogs as pets while she was growing up. So, imagine their heartache when younger Soni saw a female dog hurt in her housing society in the city after a car ran over her. The Mumbaikar was distraught, to say the least. She narrates, “Back in school after the pandemic, a distressing call reached my mother, informing her that Rani had been hit by a vehicle and had taken refuge in a nearby gutter. The call came because I had been the one to care for her before the pandemic. Although they were prepared to cover her medical expenses due to the accident, our only wish was to reunite with her. Our efforts to rescue her were met with substantial blood loss, and despite my mother's valiant attempts, we tragically couldn't save Rani.” 

Every year, the world observes International Dog Day on August 26 to celebrate canines. Unfortunately, even as there are people who absolutely love them, there are others whose only intent is to harm them, and Rani was at the receiving end of this as it only got worse, says Adhya, who breaks down into tears as we speak to her. 

“When we got the body, it was wrapped in a cloth, and when we asked them what they do with bodies of dogs, they said they just put it away," she narrates through tears, "So, I asked my mother if we could cremate her. We then paid for her cremation and bid her farewell, the way you do to a family member. That has been an inspiration for me to do a lot of work.” 

"When we received her lifeless body, it was shrouded in a cloth. When we inquired about their protocol for handling dog remains, they casually mentioned disposing of them," she recalls, her voice tinged with sorrow. "In tears, I turned to my mother and asked if we could perform a cremation for her. We took charge of the cremation costs and bade her a farewell akin to saying goodbye to a cherished family member. This experience has spurred me to embark on a journey of meaningful work." 

In the wake of this heartrending incident and deeply touched by the circumstances, Adhya resolved to launch Pawfull—an endeavour aimed at tending to dogs' welfare by using proceeds from her hand-painted dog-themed art pieces sold within the city. "Pawfull stands as a tribute to Rani and a personal commitment I forged, ensuring that no other creature's remains would be left to decay among refuse." 

With an enduring passion for art since her early years, Adhya has channeled her creative talents to aid canines in need. By offering a set of five prints at Rs 250, she has successfully contributed to NGOs dedicated to rescuing and caring for dogs within the city throughout the past year. Beginning with a single creation, she has now amassed an impressive portfolio of over 997 artworks. 

Adhya Soni's passion for art gave her the opportunity to pursue her love for animals. Photo Courtesy: Adhya Soni

Starting Aparigraha 
Now, Adhya is taking her love for dogs a step further. She explains, “My mother is a dog lover and has gone through the pain of losing three dogs in her life.” It is this very feeling of losing a pet that led her to start 'Aparigraha', a pet grief counselling project, that can help pet parents deal with the loss of their pets. Currently, they have three grief counsellors situated in Mumbai, Indore and Delhi, who are helping Indians come to terms with the loss of their pets. “The reason why I started Aparigraha is because I felt my mother could never come out of the grief of losing her pets. Today, if I feel so much about Rani, she has much more pain to handle. She has also undergone counselling,” shares the Class 12 student of the Aditya Birla World Academy in Mumbai, which has wholeheartedly supported her in her endeavour to help dogs. 

Fortunately, the family welcomed Buster, their pet dog, into their lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic. True to his name, he has proven to be a source of solace for the entire family, offering relief during their period of grieving for Rani. Adhya reflects, "He serves as a guiding light in my life, exemplifying that love is inherently boundless and doesn't hinge on external factors. I believe there's no one as overjoyed to see me as he is, at any hour. Buster imparts lessons in empathy, nurturing, generosity, and reminds me that affection transcends language barriers." 

It is this very nature of Buster that reminds them about the importance of safeguarding dogs within our society, considering the harm they encounter from various quarters. "If you meet a street dog, they are harmless till you don't provoke them. Just as humans typically have reasons for their actions, animals also exhibit violence due to specific reasons. Not everyone needs to be a pet owner, but everyone can provide animals with a habitat to exist," she shares.

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