On April 13, Arjun began feeding a pack of dogs near his home and soon decided to find more hungry dogs and feed them. Biscuits were chosen as they were affordable and readily available.
Changanacherry native Arjun Gopi’s inclination for Left politics made him volunteer at the community kitchen like many others in his locality. He was tasked with collecting cooked meals from the centre and distributing them at the doorsteps of those troubled by the lockdown. However, the first-year BCom student noticed something that most others in his company missed – the pleading eyes of the skinny canines who roam around at a distance.
Since then, Arjun has been travelling over 20 kilometres every night to feed over a hundred stray dogs with a travel bag full of biscuit packets. He has not taken a single night’s break yet till date.
“I was never a big animal lover,” said Arjun. “I never cared to feed the strays before. But when I got involved with the community kitchen, I noticed the dogs hanging about in anticipation as we were delivering the parcels. They had become all skin and bones.
“One afternoon, I found a pup, whom I used to see regularly, lying dead on the roadside. It was neither hit by any vehicle nor attacked as it didn’t have any visible injuries. It was easy to conclude that starvation had killed the poor thing. This proved the trigger,” he said.
On April 13, Arjun began feeding a pack of dogs near his home and soon decided to find more hungry dogs and feed them. Biscuits were chosen as they were affordable and readily available despite the lockdown.
“Biscuits are filling. There is a difference between feeding a creature for the sake of it and filling its tummy. A hungry dog can eat up to two packets at times. There were times I have fed them more than 140 packets,” he said.
A student with no regular income, Arjun dipped into the sums he had saved from the pre-coronavirus days when he used to work part-time as a gym trainer. Once his noble act was noticed, the DYFI pitched in to share the financial burden, the 24-year-old said.
“It is not fair to burden the organisation since we are doing a lot of other services. But from the beginning, the party’s monetary support has been crucial,” said the youngster, who shells out approximately Rs 1,400 every night to keep his mission going.
On March 27, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had asked people to feed stray animals and temple monkeys as hunger can make animals violent at times. Arjun said he learnt this from experience as he has seen the animals turning ferocious when he goes to distribute meals from the community kitchens. He feeds the same animals later in the day by travelling long distances on his two-wheeler.
“Though they are scattered during day time, dogs roam in packs during the night. From my home in Kurichy, I will go to Chingavanam railway station first and then to Manippuzha and Kodimatha (neighbouring places in Kottayam district) before stopping at the Kottayam KSRTC bus station. Since I know of groups who routinely feed dogs inside the town, I take a detour and go towards Kollad-Kaduvakulam area before heading back,” Arjun said explaining his four-hour-long nightly routine.
Learning a lesson from the death of the pup, Arjun recently started to provide shelter to baby dogs. He is now keeping the pups safe until his friends come forward to adopt them. “I clean them using bug sprays and keep them warm for a few days. Many people come forward to take them home,” he said.