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Only pedigree therapy at Fur Ball Story: Because indie dogs 'bite'

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 4 April 2017, 21:15 IST
The Three Musketeers (instagram.com/furballstory)

If you've spent time on any social media platform in the past week, you've probably encountered Fur Ball Story – a Delhi-based startup that can bring therapy dogs to your home or office.

If called, the dogs pay a visit with their handlers, and depending on the amount of stress-busting one requires, there are packages on offer. While the dogs are capable of entertaining and acting generally cute, they are trained to make one feel better. Call it doggy therapy, if you may.

The premise is great, especially given the startup's objective, as mentioned on their official website. Their three-point agenda includes encouraging adoption “by involving indie dogs and abandoned pets in our furry army”, increasing work productivity through “our unique method of pet assisted interventions”, and controlling animal abuse by increasing “sensitivity towards animals”.

Misplaced media attention

True to their objective, Fur Ball Story's Facebook and Instagram pages sport adorable pictures of their three therapy dogs – a golden retriever, a labrador puppy, and a shih tzu – and stories of indies up for adoption.

The therapy dogs are housed in a 3BHK with their human friends, have a separate handlers for all their needs, and are “trained by an internationally certified trainer”.

The comfort of the dogs is paramount, co-founder Srishti Sharma tells Catch. “We cater to not more than 10 people [in the residential package]. Well, if it's more than 10, our dogs start getting a little [fidgety]. We need to give more time to them, to relax as well.”

“In a corporate session where the hours are longer, if the dog wants to sleep, he will automatically sleep. At that time, nobody is allowed to go near the dog,” she adds.

“Therapy training is food motivated. The dog is rewarded every time he sits calm and plays with somebody. After that, we give the dogs a treat,” Sharma explains.

However, the dogs are popular and get many queries for reasons beyond strict therapy.

“We have been getting queries for birthday parties. It just involves playing with them, sitting with them, cuddling with them. So the dogs enjoy that. Other than that there's nothing that's harmful to the dogs,” says Sharma.

Perhaps that explains the dial-a-dog tone most media outfits have taken to describe them, making the dogs out to be commodities to be enjoyed.

“When we get featured in articles, they don't send it to us for vetting. Like BuzzFeed mentioned we deliver puppies, we don't do that,” she says, adding, “We're keeping a tab on all comments and clarifying doubts.”

The dogs, no matter how cute and fluffy they seem, are beings just like us who need constant attention. And this, the startup claims they ensure.

According to animal communicator and canine behaviorist Aaron Dsilva, therapy dogs “can be kept there at best 3 hours or so. After they start wondering, 'What am I doing here?' 'How long am I going to be here?'

“There should be a space for the dog. A bed, AC, cross ventilation. The dog should be taken on walks, food must be given,” he adds.

Therapy not for all

While Fur Ball Story's Three Musketeers stay busy with their serious jobs as doggy therapists, they aren't the only dogs the startup deals with.

But there appears to be a clear line of segregation in what they call their “furry army”: pedigrees for therapy and indies for security.

“When it comes to therapy dogs there are only certain breeds that can become therapy dogs. And these breeds are actually the ones that enjoy interacting with a large number of people,” Sharma professes.

“A pedigree dog can become a therapy dog but there are only certain breeds. When it comes to stray dogs or Indian breeds, they can be turned into security dogs,” she adds.

This, of course, is far from the truth. As Dsilva tells Catch, “Indie dogs can definitely be used as therapy dogs. Any dog, as long as it doesn't get temperamental when you touch it, can be used as a therapy dog with proper training.”

Dsilva further talks of his own experience of having worked with an indie therapy dog. “I have a dog I work with. She's a 13-year-old [indie] dog. People come and pet her, and she goes into offices, and she's a lovely therapy dog,” he says.

'If you want me to take indie dogs to people, then indie dogs can very much bite.'

However, the co-founder of the therapy dog startup begs to differ. Insisting that indie breeds “have a sense of possessiveness for their area” Srishti Sharma says they aren't suited for therapy.

On being asked how she encourages people to adopt indie dogs when the face of their company is purely pedigree, she has no answer beyond claiming indie dogs can bite.

“If you want me to take indie dogs to people, then indie dogs can very much bite. They are prone to that sort of thing, which is why they're apt for security,” she says.

Surely some more research and empathy is in order for Fur Ball Story. Because while we're certain their three pedigree dogs are wonderful and perfectly trained, a little inclusivity wouldn't bite.

First published: 4 April 2017, 20:59 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.