“There is nothing nobler than to serve animals.”
A dog (or a cat, we love all our little cuties alike!) is a arguably a man’s best friend. These family-friendly four-legged lights of our lives are incredible creatures that can reduce stress, play, encourage exercise, and ease feelings of loneliness. But what happens when there is disconnect with our beloved pets when we, as owners, don’t understand their behaviour and what they’re trying to communicate with us? In comes Divya Sanbhwani.
As the air fills with the sweet aroma of Kashmiri Kahwa, we are taken in by Divya’s story of becoming a Canine Behaviourist, and the Co-Founder of All Ears For Animals.
“There is nothing nobler than to serve animals, to understand them and listen to what they want, and not what we want from them. I wanted to create a dent in the universe, a domino effect that means my actions can make a difference.”
“Wondering why I call myself the Co-Founder? Well, my partner in all of this was my cat Scarlett. She’s the reason I’m sitting here, because she taught me what it means to listen to animals. Your pets are mirrors to your personality – they show you what they see. When your pet is upset or acting out, instead of punishing or scolding them, we need to understand the reason behind their behaviour and partner with them.”
With a background in media and journalism, working as a graphic designer at a popular magazine, Divya felt she had the perfect job and the perfect life. Her love for animals ran deep, and her work desk was adorned with clippings and miniatures of pups. However, she knew something was amiss. Wanting to make a difference in the world while trying to find her true calling, she decided she wanted to make a career revolving around animals.
With a spring in her step and renewed zeal, Divya began looking up possible career options, and settled on becoming a dog trainer a chance. After looking up a bunch of professional courses on training, she reached out to the pioneer of dog training in India with the hopes of learning the tricks of the trade from the best. With her head (and notebook) full of questions, she headed over. What she was met with was quite the welcome.
“Just as she opened the door, her golden retriever, Maya jumped onto me and I fell over! The first thing I saw when I regained my senses was the trainer laughing at me. She told me if I couldn’t handle her Retriever, how was I going to handle a Saint Bernard? That’s when I knew, I was not ready to be a trainer yet.”
Asked if this experience deterred her from following her dreams and she’s quick to correct us. “Not at all!” She started working at Animals Matter To Me, Malad, a shelter for the abandoned, abused and strays..
“Trust me, I didn’t know anything”
She recounts the story of a sweet rottweiler called Muthuswamy who was suffering from kidney stones, and her only task of the day was feed him biscuits. “Patanjali, because that was the only thing he ate”. This is where she learnt the basics of dog training, right cleaning their cages to becoming a paravet and assisting in surgeries.
Talking about the reason behind starting All Ears, she says "Scarlett is the reason behind my entire journey. She was brought to us at AMTM, covered in pink Holi colours. I was fretting about how to even design the adoption poster – cats are already difficult to adopt out, who would want a pink cat? I told them I’d take her, and my family was just about tolerant of the idea. But I had no idea how much she would change my life.”
Once she started All Ears, she knew she had to make it work. She still continued designing on the side, but she decided she would quit that the day All Ears would give her the same income. “And it happened in 3 months! I believed that the universe sent me signs that this was really my chosen path.”
“We bring such amazing creatures home to make their life better, and then put them behind 4 walls – how does that make sense?”
She opened a playschool for dogs, where people drop their pets off every day with backpacks and snacks. “You don’t send your dog because you’re at work, you send them regardless. Socialising with their own kind, making friends, that is their life. Playing with other dogs without distractions like tunnels, slides, obstacle courses, it helps them bond. We even keep report cards and PTA meetings so parents can understand how their dogs benefit from socialising. This isn’t a daycare, this is their own life outside of you.”
Taking it a step ahead, she also organizes getaways and trips for pets and their parents! “You go to work in the morning, come back at night tired, and your pet wonders where is his time to enjoy life with you. We bring such amazing creatures home to make their life better, and then put them behind 4 walls – how does that make sense? These trips help engage their senses, and helps you better understand what they like – hiking, swimming, running – and then provide them with what they need to live the best life they deserve.”
Lastly, before we forget work and start trying to get her pup Zoe’s attention, what’s the inspiration for All Ears? “Well, Zoe, my pup, and of course, my co-founder Scarlett!”