More about the Bridging Rainbows Foundation

History and birth of Bridging Rainbows Foundation

Before establishing the Bridging Rainbows Foundation, a section 8 non-profit organization in late September 2023, the Directors, Mrs. Hansa Roy and Dr. Kuhu Roy recognized their love and affinity for the countless souls roaming the streets of Baroda. Since 2005, the founders have worked to create change for the health and safety for strays and humans together in Baroda, in the Western state of Gujarat, India; the ultimate goal is to change how Indian society views the human-animal relationship through providing support, opportunity, and education. Through combing known locations where strays would live, trusting relationships were developed through active feeding, showing love and affection, and providing medical care. These acts of service resulted in hundred percent sterilization and rabies-free zones in high stray locations. Even after their sterilization, the dogs were looked after for their entire lifetime to ensure they are fed, provided with medical care to treat minor and major ailments and injuries under the guidance of private veterinary professionals, and comforted as they transition to the other world.

The work with the strays provided an appreciation and insight into animal behaviour and pack dynamics in close proximity. Each stray had a story of survival, hope, happiness, and challenge. All of the dogs, close to three thousand over the years, were named to honour their compelling heroic story and represent their unique characteristics and personality. Many of the strays found their way into the home of those who cared for them on the streets; senior stray dogs, rescued dogs, dogs with special needs (blind, amputee dogs, hospice dogs, handicapped dogs), orphan pups, and road-hit victims found their place as companion animals and were always welcomed by the resident dogs into the home. Caring for senior, hospice, and terminally ill adopted dogs also comes with an awareness that they would leave sooner than others. While with life comes death, it is difficult to mentally prepare for the frequency of loss in doing this work. As a natural corollary, in their passing there is profound grief which is as strongly felt as one would in the case of a human companion.

The past eighteen years have been a soul-rewarding journey. However, an attempt to give stray dogs a good quality of life came with unsurmountable challenges. This work is a high-stress and emotionally-charged journey. While the scientifically proven Animal Birth Control Programme to humanely control the stray dog population and eradicate rabies is in place, based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the spay and neuter initiative continues to be under supported and undervalued across India. While the law promotes compassion and protection of animals, sadly, there is unawareness and a meagre penalty attached, which leaves stray dogs and all the compassionate people who care for them vulnerable to harm. Ignorance about stray dogs, hostile opinionated news clips by certain sections of the media, and biased research reports aimed at spreading cynophobia against stray dogs are major contributors to animal cruelty. Strays are blamed for dog bites without looking into the provocation angle, or differentiation from attacks by pets living in homes, and reports of rabies deaths without definitive statistics and inflated numbers are marred by conflicts of interest.

Butter, their first companion animal at home, was a very magnanimous soul. She opened her home to other needy dogs who could not survive on the roads. She sniffed the clothes of her caregivers every day upon their return that smelled of countless like her who did not have the privilege of being homed, she always wagged her tail with gratitude in her eyes. When her caregivers faced resistance, social boycott, and public defamation for their selfless service to the stray population, returning home to Butter brought peace and sanity. Butter’s presence was therapeutic as has been established by biological anthropologists that domesticated dogs have acute sensory perception, she understood the daily struggle without anyone having to utter a single word to her. Butter could sense the negativity her caregivers were surrounded with, especially when she stepped out daily for her walks. Butter, who had so much love to give, could not understand the looks of disdain and acts of malice from others. She also lost her canine friends on the streets to cruelty; a once overly friendly dog became skeptical of anyone coming her way. The experience modulated her perception of humans. She transformed to become a guard dog. She restricted her goodness only to the very close friends and family she knew would not harm her and her humans. Had it not been for Butter, her caregivers could not have survived an attempt of physical assault; the rescued became the rescuer.

Butter came into the lives of her caregivers as a small pup; one of three stray pups who were cared for on the streets. It was after a car accident that she found her way into their home. She was special not because she was the first constant companion animal who came into the home from the streets, but also because she was a pillar of strength and resilience. Butter looked after the emotional well-being of her caregivers and was a part of their struggle through thick and thin. The psychological as well as physiological benefits of interactions with companion animals are well known. Butter was there, standing rock solid with them, giving them the strength to sail through difficult situations and feelings. Butter, in the span of her lifetime, taught her caregivers how to divert their grief to do more good, and engage in more compassion, which retrospectively, resulted in the foundation of Bridging Rainbows initiative.

On the second of November, 2019, Butter died due to medical negligence. Butter, who had given her caregivers thirteen years and two months of her love and life had died in the most nightmarish manner. Her eventual death, unable to open her eyes after a surgery was met with feelings of guilt, anger, loneliness, frustration, a sense of disillusionment, and sheer hopelessness consumed her humans. Despite this loss, her caregivers continued to serve the stray dogs on the roads and the rescued dogs who were in their home because of the special responsibility this bond and work engenders.

The tragic loss of Butter and the struggle thereafter to cope with came with the realization that there was nothing in place for the grieving parents of companion animals, let alone a support group in India. There was a need to provide moral support to the grieving parents of the companion animals as there was no system in place. When the needs of the animal lovers, rescuers, volunteers and grieving parents of the companion animals would be met, they would be in a better shape to take of themselves and help more animals in need, and not let the compassion die in them. Butter’s death had a new dimension added to it, to do something for others like who had nowhere to go. The bond with Butter and other homed and un-homed animal companions is an emotional investment nurtured with mutual unconditional love and that cannot die with their death. There had to be a sacred place to celebrate the timeless human-animal bond.

To memorialize Butter, for her larger than life purpose, the force of resilience and compassion she was, came into existence Bridging Rainbows initiative, a first of its kind initiative from India for the grieving parents of companion animals. Bridging rainbows was born on the fifteenth of August 2021, on what would have been Butter’s 15th birthday, as a felt need to celebrate the legacy of Butter, who taught about living with compassion, no matter what.

More than 300 stray dogs are fed one nutritious meal a day in a clean bowl, are provided with medical care and needs, and are given the love and dignity they deserve by the founders of Bridging Rainbows Foundation, and in turn, provide support to those who are impacted by the death/loss of their pets and other stray animals which they care for.

They have worked tirelessly as a two-women army, pumping their emotions, efforts, time, and their own money for eighteen years under the most challenging of circumstances. They hope and want other kind souls to join hands to continue making a difference, but in an even much bigger way. They believe, those who are profoundly bonded to their companion animals, have a lot of goodness to offer to the world to make a difference. Human and animal welfare cannot be viewed separately, rather they are intricately tied together. With the inception of Bridging Rainbows Foundation, they wish to create a human chain of goodness aimed at man-animal harmony.

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