Nandani Gallage’s overcrowded shelter | Daily News

Nandani Gallage’s overcrowded shelter

Not many people would notice an ageing widow who lives on her own in a decrepit house outside of the city, and looks after about 17 dogs every day.

Her name is Nandani Gallage, and she lives in Piliyandala, in Wewala.

“I started with four street dogs near my house back when my husband was still alive. Word got around that a woman was taking care of stray dogs. I guess people thought I’d take care of their puppies, because as the months dragged on the number kept on rising.”

Problems tend to multiply in more ways than one, she said: there was one dog she’d taken into her care that apparently gave birth to 10 pups.

Her house isn’t in the best condition today. As you enter it you come across the inevitable stench, and dogs running and sleeping everywhere. “They haven’t left a single chair or mattress intact,” she beams. “Things would have been much better if my husband was with me, but he died years ago, and financing all this became a big problem.”

Initially she hadn’t thought of how to fund her shelter, and she even had to borrow from neighbours: “I remember getting Rs. 4,000, but that was some time back. I don’t borrow money anymore, not because they won’t lend me but because I can’t bring myself to ask for more.” She has a daughter who sends her what she can, but that isn’t enough.

What strikes one about Nandani is that she’s sincerely devoted to her dogs. More than once it had been suggested to her that she’d do better if she was to hand them over to NGOs or shelters that have the bucks to spend on them, and she had refused. “I’ve been with these dogs for more than two years now. It’s hard, I know, and you may think I’m mad, but I just can’t bear the thought of parting with them,” she explains. Friends have come and gone and she has received a number of calls from people who’ve promised to help her out, but in two cases out of three they’ve come to nothing.

She’s no stranger to tragedy. Her husband had once lent some Rs. 2 million to a colleague of his, which he had used to go to Naples. The colleague hadn’t returned the money (even when her husband was ill and in need of medical attention towards the end of his life), and when, after her husband’s death, Nandani had asked him for the money, he had agreed to pay about Rs. 7,000 a month. “He hasn’t paid a cent to this day,” she tells me, adding that she’s given up hope on that count now.

Nandani would need food for the dogs, or money to buy food, but some would suggest that she shouldn’t just take on dogs who are dumped by her doorstep. After all, one of the most common reasons for the stray dog problem in Sri Lanka is that people keep dumping them in public places. People like Nandani have good intentions, and they aren’t hard to come by, but all too often they’re preyed on by those who want to dump their problems on someone else’s backyard – or in Nandani’s case, front yard.

Her biggest challenge, hence, would be to build a self-sustaining model which meets her needs and those of her canine friends, but then that begs the question: how? Ask people about a workable solution and they’ll give you the same answer: “Give the dogs away.” That’s not something she’s willing to agree to, of course. The only plausible solution would then have to be charity.

Nandani clearly has survived on charity, but this intriguing lady who lives alone and largely fends for herself and these dogs needs more. Much, much more.

Words aren’t enough to explain what she does every day – it’s a marvel, at one level, for a woman of her position to sacrifice so much for street dogs – but at the end of the day, all guesses are that helping her is the best way we can acknowledge what she’s doing. She refuses to call her house a ‘dog shelter’ – she prefers not to label what she’s doing – but if it were a shelter, it certainly is overcrowded today. And she’s not grumbling.

If you’d like to help Nandani and her dogs, her daughter can be contacted on 0760621868

You can also deposit whatever amount you wish to at the following bank accounts

Bank of Ceylon Piliyandala 3130521 (H. N. C. Gallage)

Bank of Ceylon Piliyandala 71216420 (E. K. Gallage)