Twenty-seven-year-old Eureka Apta married the love of his life, Joanna Wang (twenty-six) on September 25, 2020 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, in a simple wedding ceremony. Like most newlyweds, the two had planned a grand celebration, the only difference being, the guests weren’t family or friends; they were dogs, recused and strays.
Soon after solemnising their marriage, the couple set out to feed canines, a drive, tirelessly planned by Purabi Patra, founder, Animal Welfare Trust Ekamra (AWTE). The duo fed over 500 on the day. “We will remember that day forever, for more reasons than one. We couldn’t have celebrated any better,” says the couple over a telephonic conversation.
Flashback to March 2020. The largest democracy in the world went under lockdown owing to the spread of the Coronavirus. As people stayed indoors (coupled with rumours surrounding pets being carriers of the virus), strays were at the risk of starvation. Dog parents and animal lovers, Apta and Wang pledged to make a difference. “Every day since the lockdown began, we prepared simple meals such as rice and chicken at home, and fed strays in our localities. It was evident that they were struggling,” says Apta, a dog parent to a three-year-old rescued Labrador and a nine-year-old, German Shepard.
Around the same time, as the duo, along with those around them adjusted to the #NewNormal, their friend rescued a street dog who had met with an accident. The trio helped get it treated at the hospital, and then approached AWTE to provide shelter to the canine. Having witnessed the sheer love and care animals receive at the trust, Apta and Wang instantly knew their next step.
First, they donated a certain amount to the shelter and arranged for some vaccines. Post that, they mutually decided that dogs are going to be a crucial part of the most important day of their lives. “Can we ever shy away from how selfless these creatures are? Don’t they teach us a new life lesson every day, despite being unable to speak?” questions Wang.
In the near future, Apta, who specialises in documentary filmmaking, wants to make one on dogs and various shelters in the country, in a bid to create awareness. The couple has also tied up with schools to educate children on the importance of kindness towards animals. “We, as a society, don’t have the culture of treating strays with care. In fact, it’s baffling that books today don’t teach young ones how to tend to practical situations when it comes to animals. For instance, how to attend to a wounded animal, what numbers to call on to report an abuser or to call for an ambulance, and implications of gestures, among other things,” Apta states.
Wang believes social media has opened a channel for conversation, but we, as a nation, still have a long way to go. “Look at how we treat cows, an animal that has long been given holy status. Yes, the matter comes to light on news channels and digital platforms, but how far are they changing the scenario?” she signs off.