Dogs among the heroes of the Mumbai attacks
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2009:
MUMBAI, India–Among the most popular heroes of the
three-day terrorist rampage through Mumbai that started on November
26, 2008 are the street dog Sheru, the sniffer dog Jessica, and
the therapy dogs Goldie and Onet.
At least 170 people were killed and 230 were wounded by 10
heavily armed men believed to be Pakistanis, who are believed to
have hijacked a boat to reach Mumbai, killing the crew. On arrival,
they shot up the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, the Taj
Mahal and Oberoi-Trident hotels, a Jewish outreach center, and a
restaurant, and left bombs in two taxi cabs.
Sheru was among the first victims. “Sheru was a stray dog
hit by an errant bullet,” recounted Washington Post Foreign Service
correspondent Emily Wax. “Plump, easygoing and almost 10 years
old–a senior citizen in dog years–Sheru often slept near the pastry
case of the Re-Fresh restaurant, a popular eatery in Chatrapati
Shivaji Terminus. Com-muters would feed him leftover fried veggie
puffs or sips of milk, workers said.”
Elaborated Mumbai blogger Harish Iyer to the Times of India,
“Sheru kept barking at the terrorist Azmal after he opened fire at
CST. All the other dogs ran away, but Sheru stood his ground until
he was killed.”
But Sheru was not killed. He was rescued by newspaper
photographer Shripat Naik, 28. “I was clicking photographs when I
saw the dog, bloody, dazed and looking so horribly afraid and
traumatized,” Naik told Wax. “My dog died a year ago. My heart
went out to this poor quivering animal.”
Naik rushed Sheru to the Bai Sakarbai Dinshah animal
hospital, on the central Mumbai campus of the Bombay SPCA. “The
bullet luckily cleared Sheru’s shoulder and didn’t puncture his heart
or lungs. It was like a small miracle,” said hospital manager
Yuvraj R. Kaginkar. The hospital staff gave Sheru his name, which
in Hindu means “Lion Heart.”
Summarized Wax, “The survival of the aging Sheru has become
an uplifting and soothing symbol of Mumbai’s recovery to many of the
city’s anxious and angry citizens.”
Agreed retired Indian army veterinarian J.C. Khanna, who is
now the Bai Sakarbai Dinshah hospital chief surgeon, “Some may ask
why a dog is saved when so many human lives were lost. But saving
all creatures big and small shows the love and affection for all life
that Mumbai has shown again and again. Sheru’s life stands for
something, for all of us getting back on our feet.”
The terrorists met the sniffer dog Jessica and her handler at
the back entrance to the Taj Mahal Hotel, fatally shooting both.
Two other police dogs were killed in the ensuing siege, and
received funerals attended by police and firefighters, reported
Raymond Thibodeaux for VOA News.
Goldie, a golden retriever, and Okret, a St. Bernard,
became involved after the shooting stopped. Both are therapy dogs
trained by Minal Kavishwar of the Animal Angels Foundation, the
first Indian animal therapy program certified by the Delta Society.
Based in Renton, Washington, the Delta Society has promoted
animal therapy worldwide since 1977. The Animal Angels Foundation
previously helped victims of train bombings in Mumbai that on July
11, 2006 killed 229 people and wounded more than 700.
While dogs worked to help humans, In Defence of
Animals/India looked for opportunities to help the pigeons who lost
their homes as the Taj Mahal hotel burned.
Founded independently, In Defence of Animals/India is now
affiliated with the U.S. organization In Defense of Animals.
“As the night [of November 26] progressed and bombs and
grenades exploded, it was distressing to see the pigeons fluttering
against the flames in TV coverage,” e-mailed IDA/India founder
Goodicia Vaidya. “For nearly three days we could only watch their
distress. However, on the 29th, when the last terrorist was
killed, the ‘all clear’ was given, so a volunteer and I took the
opportunity to drive down. Before setting out, we contacted Mr.
Vora of Paras Hardware, who is a trustee of the Dadar Kabutar-khana,
a place designated for feeding pigeons, who on hearing our mission,
very generously gave us a 50-kilo sack of grain. When we reached the
heavily guarded destination, we were not allowed to park,” but
finally found a parking space some distance away. Carrying as much
grain as they could, they were initially excluded from the immediate
vicinity of the Taj, “but when we showed them the grain, they
allowed us entry,” Vaidya said.
“We received such a welcome from those hungry pigeons! They
flew onto our heads, shoulders, and the bag of grain. We then
picked up the ones who were sick and injured –one had his neck
feathers singed–and took them to the Bombay SPCA,” Vaidya added.
IDA/India fed the pigeons again the next day. While feeding
pigeons in public places is usually discouraged to avoid encouraging
large flocks to congregate, weary troops avidly participated in the
feeding, and in providing water for the pigeons, perhaps relieving
some post-traumatic stress.
Bombay SPCA chief surgeon J.C. Khanna told Thibideaux that at
least 25 pigeons were killed at the Taj, and dozens more were
injured by explosions and smoke. A wounded fruit bat was also
recovered at the scene.