It was an event like no other: 75 spoilt-rotten canines. 75 proud owners. One question: how did you meet your dog? The annual Blue Cross Dog Show saw some of the best rescue stories come to life in front of an excited audience of 300 at C.P. Arts Centre on Sunday, February 19, in Chennai. The Indian animal welfare situation is at a crucial point in history – now, more than ever, people are choosing to adopt their companion animals from the streets and animal shelters. Powerful grassroots movements are mushrooming across the country, appealing to people to boycott breeders and pet stores.
The Blue Cross Dog Show has the primary goal of reinforcing the adage: ‘adopt, don’t shop’ and uses real-life fairytale endings (such as the ones showcased at the event) as an example to society at large.
All participating canines were awarded ‘Proud to be Indian’ medals, as part of the Blue Cross’ mission to encourage adopting local breeds that can handle India’s tropical climate. Additionally, there were several prize categories that were determinedly quirky and unique – the dog that kisses the owner most in sixty seconds, the dog with the rarest spots, the dog with the waggiest tail. Unlike other dog shows that force dogs to ‘perform’ unnatural tricks, go through races and obstacle courses, the Blue Cross Dog Show insisted that the dogs and owners merely needed to show up and be themselves – and of course, tell their story.
The audience hooted and cheered loudly when they heard phrases like ‘from the slum’ or ‘picked up from a railway track’, knowing that those erstwhile street puppies wouldn’t have stood a chance had it not been for the large-hearted folk who picked them up and made them members of the family. All the dogs were true survivors – some had been victims of hit-and-run accidents when their rescuers found them and adopted them, others had been nursed back to normalcy after suffering severe health problems or starvation. The one thing they all had in common was that their scars were a thing of the past. Today, their coats glisten with health, their excited tongues are on overdrive and their eyes shine with mischief – the naughtiest dog award winner looked on with a sly grin as his owner described how he ripped through an expensive computer cable during his chew stage. “I spent a lot of money on that mishap, but it was worth it and I love him”, said the owner, ruffling the pooch’s furry forehead affectionately. It was a moment that summed up the true bond between man and dog – one that cannot be shaken by a troublesome teething period and one that doesn’t depend on superficial labels such as pedigree or parentage.
A photo-shopped dog (with bits and pieces from multiple dog breeds) graced the Dog Show poster as a mascot for the concept. In accordance with the rules, every dog that participated was a non-pedigree one – and was either of native origin or of mixed-breed parentage. Top news media including the Times of India, The Hindu, New Indian Express, NDTV and Tamil news media such as Puthiya Thalaimurai, Dina Thanthi and others lapped up the stories and dedicated space or time to the show in their papers or television channels. It was a proud moment for these rescuers whose acts of kindness were highlighted for the world to see. As for the organizers and volunteers at Blue Cross of India, it was a moment of affirmation – the Blue Cross Dog Show isn’t just about handing out trophies to a handful of good Samaritans – it’s about creating a microcosm of what we want the world to be someday: a compassionate and generous place where every homeless dog finds a safe haven for life.