By Haziq Qadri @Haziq_qadri
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Videographer / Director: Shams Qari
Producer: Haziq Qadri, Nick Johnson
Editor: Marcus Cooper
The ‘dog lady of New Delhi', Pratima Devi, is a rag picker and has chosen to dedicate her life to stray dogs.
Pratima lives in a tarp-covered shed with her 120 dogs and sells scraps to feed them, despite barely being able to feed herself.
However, the 65-year-old claims to be happier with her beloved hounds than with humans, after she left her husband after they had a troubled marriage.
She said: "I feel happy to live with them. When I was with my husband, I wasn’t happy. I used to work all day and run the house. My husband didn’t work.”
Pratima has three grown-up children who still live in her native village, but she refuses to go back there.
She said: “My son calls me all the time and tells me that he will take me to the village with him. But I don’t listen to him, I want to do good for the dogs.”
Pratima spends her days feeding and nursing the dogs when they’re injured.
She said: “These dogs are like my own children. I bring them home and take care of them. Some of them have been abandoned by owners or have been in road accidents. They are alive with me.”
Everyday Pratima buys 12 kgs of rice and five kgs of meat for their lunch. She feeds them with 10 litres of milk for their breakfast.
Vivek, a young man from a neighbouring village, helps Pratima care for the strays.
Vivek said: “In the morning we get up at 6am and feed the dogs milk. At around 12pm we give them food with milk and at around 11pm we give them dinner.
“I love dogs, that’s why I try to be with them most of the time and help them and care for them."
Pratima set up a small tea stall, where she would feed biscuits to the local stray dogs. Overtime, she began to look after two of the dogs, who began to breed.
Devastatingly, her stall was destroyed and she was unable to feed herself, let alone her precious dogs.
She said: “For four days I ate nothing and didn’t give anything to them also.”
More concerned for her dogs welfare, than her own, Pratima would scavenge for scraps of meat in the garbage to feed them.
The rag picker is now running her tea stall again and her pack of dogs are more important to her than ever.
Now, Pratima’s main concern is who is going to look after her dogs when she is no longer able to.
She said: “People back off when they see a dog, I want a good human to take care of them after my death.
“I don’t know whether there will be anyone after me taking care of them. The way I feed them, take care of them, after me who will take care of them, no one can take that place.”
She added: “If I am not with the dogs at night, they won’t sleep without me. They won’t eat anything without me. Taking care of dogs is my religion.”