(Shallu Jindal with her Shih…)

Vijaya Rathore

If happiness is a warm puppy, then this is one big high net-worth happy family. Out here, a birthday surprise could be a dense-coat Siberian husky, a Valentine’s Day gift an apple-head Chihuahua, or as the granddaughter of a top realty tycoon willed it recently, a pair of Shiba Inu dogs imported from Japan — the price tag, a cool Rs 21 lakh — which was her present to her boyfriend, himself from another top Delhi-based business family. She got the idea from the Richard Gerestarrer Hachiko — a drama based on the true story of a college professor’s bond with an abandoned dog he decides to take home.

Yet, there’s a whole bunch of dyedin-the-wool dog-lovers who don’t need to take inspiration from the silver screen. Like Louise Fernandes Khurshid, wife of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, whose house in Lutyens’ Delhi is home to a variety of animals, including turkeys, bantams, rabbits, Persian cats, cows and, of course, dogs.

“When we are happy we buy a pet, when we are sad we buy a pet,” says Louise, trying to control the army of canines keen to catch her attention. The couple has over 30 pedigree dogs, including a mountain dog Gaddi and other breeds such as Apso, Pekingese, Chihuahua and Dachshund at their Delhi residence, and more at their home in Farrukhabad — Khurshid’s constituency.

“I mostly pick up my pets from shops in Delhi or wherever I travel or adopt the abandoned ones. Many of them are also gifted by friends,” she adds. Politician and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu’s Newfoundland named Bozo breathed his last about a week ago, but he lost no time in ordering another dog of the same breed from Thailand, which will be delivered to him shortly. A couple of days ago, he bought a Havanese Puppy imported from Finland, the latest addition to the family of eight exotic male dogs, including mountain dog Caucasian Ovcharka and a Shih Tzu, at his homes in Amritsar, Patiala and Delhi.

“I have loved dogs since childhood and my whole family loves them, especially my wife,” says Sidhu. “We get regular orders from top businessmen, politicians and celebrities from across India for importing dogs. These are exotic breeds, many of which can cost a few lakh rupees,” says Harsh Tegha, director, Tegha Kennel in Delhi. This week, his boys will deliver a Rs 2-lakh Japanese Akita to a senior executive of the tech firm IBM.

“We have a regular customer in Mumbai, the grandson of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is crazy about dogs,” says Tegha, adding, “The family has numerous breeds, including Chow Chow, Saint Bernard, Neapolitan Mastiff and French Mastiff.” According to Tegha, any professional breeders, though limited in number, are breeding dogs in India, which are sold for half the price of an imported dog.

“But knowledgeable people prefer imported ones,” says Tegha. Mumbai-based Gaurav Assomull, director, Intergen Energy, has a Chinese Chow Chow that he imported from Thailand a year ago. Gaurav, who spent over Rs 1 lakh to import the dog, feels that since it has an aggressive temperament, it is important to train him well.

“I not only get a personal trainer twice a week for Rio but also send him to a dog school nearby where he socialises with other pets and does fun things such as swimming and playing with the rest,” he adds. In Lutyens’ Delhi, Kuchipudi dancer Shallu Jindal, wife of businessman and Union minister Naveen Jindal, recently brought home a black pug.

“I love my pets and spend a lot of time with them. I personally supervise their meals,” says Jindal, who also has a Beagle and a Shih Tzu. One of the pets travels with her within India. Textile firm JCT Mills’ MD Sameer Thapar owns eight pedigree dogs including a Siberian husky, a Chow Chow and a Rottweiler and Bullmastiff mix breed, and plans to get a Tibetan Mastiff soon. Mount Shivalik Breweries Managing Director Sanjeev Bali is the proud owner of 12 dogs, including German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Rottweilers and Saint Bernards.

“I prefer to spend as much time with my dogs as possible and keep them in large farmhouses in Delhi and Jaipur so they get large spaces,” says Bali, adding, “All of them have been gifted to me and I do the same to my friends.” For Raghavpat Singhania, special executive of JK Cement, his Beagles are like stress-busters after a long day at work. DLF’s Rajiv Singh has three stray dogs at his home in Delhi.

The family has also set up a trust that operates CGS Hospital, a veterinary facility, in Gurgaon. Leela Hotels’ Amruda Nair and family rescued a Neo Mastiff about six months ago and also adopted a Yorkie. Nair works closely with Thane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and helps the hospital find people interested in adopting rescued stray animals.

Former Tata group chairman Ratan Tata has two German Shepherds at home, but he has ensured that even stray dogs have free access to Tata Group’s headquarters, the Bombay House, located at Homi Mody Street in Mumbai. According to reports, post-retirement, the ardent dog-lover plans to set up a veterinary hospital of international standards in Mumbai.

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