What it is to be the Voice of 800 furry babies
“People might be able to count maybe 2 or 3 people who really truly love them, I have 800 of them” – Rakesh Shukla
As humans, we are always set on a quest to find our purpose in life and for most, it becomes synonymous to how successful they are. Rakesh Shukla had it all. The cars, the houses, a successful company and yet, he wasn’t content, until he adopted his first dog Kavya. And everything he had worked for all his life finally had a meaning.”Growing up was hard for me. I left home when I was 18, slept on railway platforms with the trust that I will create something big. I worked like a maniac and started my company TWB. I was the mad techie running a 100-crore company. When Kavya came, something inside me changed. From rescuing 2 more puppies in my area to 10, and to now over 800 rescues, the journey has been incredible.”
Creating VOSD was just the most organic thing for Rakesh to do. He realized the condition of the stray dogs in the society, how they are abused, euthanized or abandoned for the strangest reason. For him, it was purgatory to create a place where these dogs are not neglected unlike a lot of shelter homes in the city. VOSD (Voice of Stray Dogs) is today a sanctuary that host over 800 dogs, a couple of beautiful horses who are free, protected and taken care of. But things weren’t rosy for too long. ”Soon I realized that there were too many people who couldn’t stand what I was doing. There were FIRs filed against me for violating the modesty of a woman I never met, who I quote said “Shut down VOSD and I will take the case back” I went to the police station for the first time in my life to come clean for something I never did. My name flashed in the front page of the newspapers, I lost all my clients and my riches in a span of 3 months, drowning in debt. I was standing there all alone after selling everything I ever owned. But then I looked at my babies. Dogs who have seen the worst, with their paws chopped, with their organs failing and vision impaired but who never gave up on life. Who fought past all of it. So I worked on building everything once again. I had done this once already, I can do this a million times to keep my babies safe. No goon, no politician and no god can stop me from keeping them safe. If I have to build 20feet high walls with electric fences with a guard on the watchtower with a gun and a pistol in my glove box, I will do it. And I did.”
But Rakesh’s vision for these beautiful animals isn’t limited to just his sanctuary. Today he rescues animals in need all over the country. His vision is to be able to provide good quality, affordable food and medicine for not just his four-legged babies. ”Almost everything I make today goes in taking care of them. I have systems and software that can track every dog I have rescued to what treatment they were last given. VOSD is no more just a shelter. We are a self-sustaining trust that provides quality products for animals at reasonable prices and will soon be able to give medications for the animals as well. We are working on building the biggest 24hour hospital for animals with the best of facilities. The goal is to make medicine and good health accessible for people and not for their money. To give every living being the fair chance to live.”
"My babies are my world. When I had no money, I had no friends, when I was all alone and on my own, I had them. They were always there waiting for me. Dogs don’t have any self-pity and they showed me how to build everything back from scratch. The day we stop valuing success with the balance in our bank account and probably start looking at how that balance made a difference in this world and made you feel fulfilled, that is the real success. And my kids are my life and they make me a better person every day."
With his head held high, Rakesh is set on a mission and will never back down.