Meet The Man And His Furry Friends Who’ve Been Helping People Heal

Animesh Katiyar: The man who brought therapy dogs to India

Meet This Man And His Furry Friend Who’s Been Helping People Heal

Are you feeling lonely? Feeling depressed or generally feeling low or unwell? Maybe you should catch up with these four legged furry friends, they will cheer you up and brighten your day and make you look at life from a whole new perspective.

Three special Golden Retrievers; Effy, Hatchi and Oreo have been helping people fight depression and loneliness. You must have even bumped into them at the Mumbai airport making weary and stressed travellers go awww or cheering them up when their flights are delayed, cancelled or they’ve had to pay for their extra baggage! They are always ready for warm hugs too!

These therapy dogs have been changing lives for the better
These therapy dogs have been changing lives for the better

Effy, Hatchi and Oreo are part of the Fur Ball Story, an initiative that was started by lawyer turned animal lover Animesh Katiyar. They have three more other dogs in Delhi who have been trained in animal therapy. Fur Ball Story started with three dogs on December 2016, and now they have six trained therapy dogs; three in Mumbai and three in Delhi. Fur Ball Story is a venture through which they train therapy dogs, they send them for de-stressing sessions to companies, hospitals, NGOs, schools, private residences etc.

How it all started is an interesting story that Animesh, the man behind this initiative narrates to us, “I am a lawyer by profession, when I was in the 5th year of college, my college adopted two labrador puppies. With time I started noticing changes in the students and the faculty there. While the dogs were there in the campus, we would want to be in college more, spend time with the dogs, people would want to come to college. Some of those who usually bunked college also started coming to college because they could spend time and play with the dogs. I then tried to use this method in the national cultural fest in college of which I was the head. We needed volunteers so what I did was I took these puppies and kept them in the office we were working out of. What then happened was that a lot of them volunteered to help with the work just so they could be with the dogs. I realised it was a good way to motivate people to work. The dogs also take our attention out of unnecessary things that bring negative energy, I noticed people always had that constant smile on their faces while spending time with dogs. When I saw all of that I started to research about puppy therapy on the net. It turned out there was nothing as such on puppy therapy but there was something called pet therapy. I found a research done by the Harvard University, it was a scientifically proven research. Animalistic therapy was focused to working with autistic children and people with special needs, etc. while animalistic activities was more of a casual thing to keep one’s mind off work. I realised that there was no specialised dogs or any animal in India that is trained and certified even though people claimed they had therapy dogs. In India there was no authority to certify or test a therapy dogs. I got my dogs trained through Varun Anand who is one of the best trainers in India and has trained and studied from Hong Kong. My dogs are certified by the Hong Kong Therapy Dog Association.”

Actress Aditi Rao Hydari has her fan moment at the airport
Actress Aditi Rao Hydari has her fan moment at the airport

Fur Ball Story is expanding and they now have two centers in Delhi NCR and besides that they do a lot of other things related to dogs. They even have a training school in Sainik Farms in Delhi, where they have courses that last either 15 days, 1 month or 3 months depending on what people want to do. “This course is for those people who want to learn how to train dogs, learn behaviour modification of dogs, etc. We have an animal cafe, a swimming pool for dogs and creche for dogs. We also train dogs for different purposes, service dogs, a dog that can detect both low and high blood sugar, narcotic dogs, dogs that can detect RDX. When people come to the cafe, they see my dogs and want to get their dogs trained too so we help them with that too,” adds Animesh.

Speaking about how the therapy dogs were introduced at the airport Animesh tells us, “After the 9/11 attacks in the US people were very scared to travel and some of them would have anxiety attacks, panic attacks before travelling. The airport authorities were discussing about what could calm people down before travel and that’s the time the Harvard research came out, so as an experiment we were asked to get our dogs to the airport. They had chalked out seven animals but dogs topped the list.”

Sharing some quiet moments with a furry friend is the best thing to do
Sharing some quiet moments with a furry friend is the best thing to do

Effy, Hatchi and Oreo are there at the Mumbai airport from Thursday to Sunday from 6pm to midnight, the rest of the days they just chill at the apartment that Animesh has rented especially for them. “The airport approached us to get our therapy dogs to the airport. Mumbai airport is the only airport in India to have therapy dogs,” informs Animesh.

Fur Ball Story also helps people who want to give their dogs up for adoption through their Facebook and Instagram pages. Animesh adds, “What we have noticed is that nobody abandons a pedigree dog unless it’s old or grows big in size and they can’t handle them in the house. Which is sad because instead of training them, they abandon them.”

Why should humans have all the fun?
Why should humans have all the fun? A dog chilling at the Fur Ball Story swimming pool for dogs

Animesh who studied law has taken this up as a full time career. “I do some consulting work as a lawyer, but that’s about it. This is what I do full time now.” Animesh has no regrets about not pursuing his career in law, even though initially his family was not happy with his decision but now they have accepted it once they’ve seen how well he is doing and how happy he is. “What I am doing is not just satisfying but lucrative too. I plan to venture into products like clothes, etc. and other products for dogs, we also plan to open a boarding chain for dogs across India at least a 100 to 110 centers.”

Stress levels are only increasing by the day and this stress can sometimes lead to depression. These dogs can help you fight stress, depression and bad health too. Spending time with these cute furry animals can do you a whole lot of good. Here’s wishing Animesh and his team all the best!