Dr. Chinny Krishna

Puppies saved from a storm drain

In December of 1959, just outside the gate of a house, two very small puppies (later named Shaggy and Grimmy – after Grimaldi) were in a tight spot. Water from a storm was rushing into a storm drain where the two puppies, about three weeks old were clinging to branches and bits of rubbish as the water rushed through. A teenager, Chinny Krishna, who was 14, was holding onto his father so that he didn’t slip, as his father leaned way over, at some risk to his own life, to rescue the puppies. His dad managed to pull them out of the drain, and they brought them into the house.

Chinny’s mother wiped them dry and bottle fed them baby formula. They stayed and lived to be around 14 or 15. His mother, sometimes with his sister Viji’s help, did all the work of looking after their animals.

The rescue of the puppies from the storm drain was, in some ways, the beginning point of Blue Cross of India – now known throughout India and internationally, as the earliest, the largest, and the most effective of the modern-day animal shelters in India.

Today the name Blue Cross of India is more or less synonymous with animal welfare in India. Known throughout India, Blue Cross is based in Chennai, where it officially began in 1964.

Founded by Captain Sundaram, Usha Sundaram, and their son, the young Chinny Krishna (now Dr. Chinny Krishna, Chairman Emeritus of Blue Cross), over the past sixty years, the organization has grown from small beginnings to a huge animal welfare group that spays/neuters and vaccinates against rabies 10,000 animals each year, while sending out its ambulances on rescue missions all over the city of Chennai to save injured animals on the street, running an excellent veterinary service for the public, taking in street animals in distress – dogs, cats, cows, and others and finding loving homes for them – just to touch on a few of their primary activities. The leadership of Blue Cross has been instrumental in ensuring that India has some of the most enlightened animal welfare laws in the world.

In the future, we will write much more about all the current work of Blue Cross, but here for the moment, are just a few stories about the beginning days of Blue Cross – one of the most beloved animal organizations in India. These are told from the perspective of Dr. Krishna, who was then the young Chinny Krishna.

Though his dad was a highly effective voice for animals and one of the first of the modern animal advocates, it was Chinny’s mother, Usha Sundaram, who spent endless hours from early morning until late at night feeding and caring for the first rescued animals. She was also – amazingly – the first woman pilot in India and flew alongside her husband (who was a pilot who often flew various dignitaries) on flights when he served as the pilot for Prime Minister Nehru. With her duties to care for the animals at home, she did not fly a lot, but was sometimes indispensable to help with flying the Prime Minister or his guests.

Rescuing animals – big and small

Another of the early rescues was a small brown Indian squirrel, one of those with three stripes down his back, as a baby, had fallen from a tree, so they brought him in and took care of him. The squirrel became quite fond of Chinny’s dad and liked to rest in his necktie. He used to run around freely in a room. After a while, they began taking the squirrel out to try to get it wild, which eventually succeeded. After five or six months, he spent most of his time outside and then moved out back into the trees, where he lived his life in freedom. Now, of course, care of wildlife is well regulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, but in those days kind people simply did their best to help.

A great idea

By 1959, the future Blue Cross already had quite a few animals and had some volunteers coming in to help.

Mr. D. Devasigamoli who was the vice president of the SPCA, was a frequent visitor to their house. He was a former football (soccer) player and was the national president of the football society of Madras.

One evening, early in 1960, he dropped by their house and they began to talk about what more could be done to help animals. The SPCA at the time was not as actively engaged as it might have been with animal rescue, and they felt that something more was needed to help animals. They formed an organization which, for the first couple of years, was called the Animal Aid Association. After that, they called it Blue Cross.

Soon, his dad had converted his car into an ambulance. One of the early animals that they rescued was a small calf.

Dawn Williams, Resident Manager of Blue Cross with a calf

A bull finds a home

The delivery men who delivered milk to people’s houses used to bring along an actual cow with them. At each house the man would milk the cow, then leave the milk in a container. When Chinny was 15, someone called their family to say that a small male calf had been abandoned, probably by one of the milkmen. Chinny went on his bicycle to check. In a neighborhood of fairly large single houses, there was a young calf, about three weeks old, lying down outside one of the homes.

Chinny cycled back home, reported this to his parents, and his mom and dad drove back in the car to pick up the calf. The calf was not looking good and was very dehydrated. A veterinarian friend of theirs, Dr. Narahari came by to attend to the calf and treated him – after which he perked up quite a bit. In their house there was a big bathing room with a boiler, about fifteen feet by fifteen feet. The calf spent most of his time there until he got bigger and graduated to going outside to roam in the yard and the garden. They didn’t give him a name because, by now they were realizing that it wasn’t good to become too attached to each animal. Some of them they were able to find homes for. Two years later they found a good home for the bull with a family who had a large house on an acre of land in an area of Madras called Adyar.

Check back for future stories about Blue Cross and the kind and compassionate animal welfare practices in India.

Photos:

First photo: Sharon St Joan
Second photo: Blue Cross of India
Third Photo: Blue Cross of India
Fourth photo: Sharon St Joan

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