WHEN LISE ORREN ADOPTED her first dog, Connor, from an animal shelter near Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, she had no idea of his desi roots. “It was love at first sight,” she told me via email. “He crawled right into our laps and we knew then he would be coming home with us.” Only after Orren chose Connor did Barbara Gard, the founder of the shelter, tell her that the dog, like all of those at her refuge, was Indian. Connor was only 12 weeks old and had been rescued from the streets of Delhi by Dr Premlata Choudhary and her husband, Dr SK Choudhary, seven weeks earlier.
Connor was not the first stray the veterinarians had rescued. “It started with a kitten,” Premlata told me on a recent afternoon in the cramped waiting room of the veterinary clinic that she and her husband run in the Anand Niketan neighbourhood of south Delhi. As she recounted the kitten’s story, whimpering dogs waiting for care clawed at the room’s glass doors, which we had closed in an attempt to achieve silence.
In 2000, after the Choudharys moved to Delhi from Haryana—where they are from, and had studied—Premlata found a small kitten struggling alone on the streets. She took it to her clinic (which was then in South Extension), vaccinated and neutered it, and christened it Swami. An American tourist who happened to walk past the clinic saw Swami in the window and fell head over heels in love. She offered to take the kitten back with her to New Jersey. “After that, the hope came,” said Premlata, who had long aspired to provide adequate care for all of India’s street animals. “Yes, this can happen.”