Street dog art: the ‘it’ style to gather support for puppy love

Poonchh – Aarohi Singh’s new art collection is hip, bold and wonderfully woofy! She is hoping that dogs on bags and cushion covers help create more conversation and awareness about a cause that has created equal amount of support and controversy in Bangalore – stray dog welfare.

The stray dog, scrawny and matted, with a clipped ear sometimes, bits of fur nipped from his coat, is a permanent fixture on the streets in our cities. He looks both ways before crossing, knows who his friends are, and has regular spots to escape the harsh sun. A second-class citizen of sorts, the stray is mostly ignored; unless of course there is a mishap that happens like it does every once in a while, and gets the attention of everyone from NGOs to government officials. There is some noise post the incident, a few hasty measures put in place; but after a bit, everyone goes back to their lives.

“Don’t be indifferent anymore,” says Aarohi Singh, an artist who has created a collection of contemporary looking fashion and home accessories to reflect the spirit of this often overlooked ubiquitous street dog. She’s hoping her recent work will shed light on the issues faced by these community creatures. Singh was inspired by a friend’s commitment to take puppies off the street, nurture them and bring them to good health. The friend, Rakesh Shukla, has a pressure group called The Voice of Stray Dogs, which originally started off by turning a truck into a mobile animal hospital. Singh believes her creative work can inspire the average person to realize the small role they can play in ensuring animal welfare.

The collection features sofa pillows and tote bags decorated with quirkily printed contrast silhouettes of dogs against bright backgrounds. Bold colours, according to her, stand for a bold statement. “I want the cause talked about,” Singh says firmly. “I want people to come there [to the exhibition] for three reasons: one is, if you don’t feel enough for the stray dog to want to write out a cheque, then don’t. You get a nice iPad case or a tote bag or whatever you want. Secondly, when you’re carrying a bag, a funky, happy-coloured bag, and someone stops to say, ‘Hello, why do you have dogs on your bag?’, I’m hoping it gets people to start talking about why dogs on bags. And the third thing is: I want as many people as possible to understand the stray dog and why he behaves the way he does.”

Singh speaks vehemently and at length about the cruelties bestowed upon stray dogs and the ignorance that results in most of us harbouring an attitude of apathy. She explains that the stereotype of the stray dog as aggressive or dangerous is false, an image perpetuated by the media. Shukla of took it upon himself in his early days of working on this cause to personally investigate dog bite cases and prove that children reported in the papers to have been attacked by strays had not in fact suffered injuries. Singh also explains the improper and inhumane process by which animal welfare agencies carry out birth control procedures on dogs.

By law, agencies are required to pick up a dog, tag it as coming from a particular location, take it to the shelter for spaying or neutering, keep it for two days and return it to its pickup neighbourhood. What reality shows, however, is starkly different. According to Singh, a majority of dogs are treated mercilessly – caught with metal rods and metal lassos that cause the dogs to bleed, captured in nets and then placed in cages lacking solid bottoms, left there for upto 24 hours sometimes, wounded and without food or water. There are cases in which the surgery takes place without anesthesia, with the dog’s mouth bound by a rope. And, Singh says, “Some agencies superglue the dog back after that! I’m serious.”

She wonders how someone can blame a helpless animal in this situation for lashing out. “When you leave a dog in an alien territory that has gone through days of sheer trauma at the hands of a human being and expect that it’s not going to hurt the next hand that touches it, you’re living in dreamland.”

The Poonchh collection, debuting on February 10 at Bangalore’s 100-Ft Boutique and Restaurant in Indiranagar, is designed to draw awareness to these brutalities. The exhibit will last for three days, and in addition to totes, clutches, wallet-cum-key-pouches, laptop cases, iPad cases, iPhone cases, and cushion covers, canvas paintings and black-and-white dog sketches will also be for sale. Almost every piece is available for under Rs 2500 excluding the paintings, which are priced at Rs.5000. Fifty percent of all the profits will go to the welfare of stray dogs.

Visit Aarohi Singh’s exhibition to learn more about the cause of stray animals, support organisations working on it, and pick up a hip new puppy love tote!

Aarohi’s exhibition is on from Feb 10th, 2012 to Feb 13th 2012 at the 100-ft boutique restaurant, Indiranagar, Bangalore.

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