Why the Tatas are a dog’s best friend

When the $100 billion Tata Group began renovating Bombay House, its global headquarters, last year, the canines that had made it their home were temporarily inconvenienced. For about nine months, they shuttled between offices and hid in corners, dodging the workers.

But now, the lords and ladies of Bombay House are not only back at their favourite haunt, they even have a room of their own. The refurbished headquarters boasts of a spanking new kennel on the ground floor, with toys, mattresses, and a plush resting area for the strays, besides food and water. Abodh Aras, CEO of Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD), was as delighted with the kennel as its intended occupants. “There is plenty of ventilation and lighting, and lots of hiding places,” he said. Street dogs have been an integral part of Bombay House for several decades now. Eight at last count, Sheeba (the oldest), Goa (because he hails from there), Munni, Julie, Chotu and Sweety (the sweethearts), Jackal (a big chap) and Simba (naughty) are among the strays that consider the 94-year-old building their home.

The dogs are belted but not chained, and have a free run. Many hold that they are the real inhabitants of Bombay House, since the employees leave in the evening and the security staff keep changing from shift to shift.

Stuff of legend

Old timers and retired employees say street dogs have had free access to the building since JRD Tata’s time. But their domicile at Bombay House was properly institutionalised by Ratan Naval Tata (RNT) when he became chairman of Tata Sons in 1991.

There are several urban legends about RNT and his canine companions. While it is rumoured that the strays get their food from the Taj Mahal Palace’s kitchen, an ex-employee shares tales of special food arriving from overseas for RNT and his office dogs. “The dogs are as entitled as any other employee. They had a vet on call, a budget for their upkeep and regular medical check-ups, and were habituated to sleeping on mats,” said another ex-employee. “They have perfect elevator etiquette too,” said a staffer.

But the best story is the one that has, in one version, a Japanese client, and in others, a senior Tata official, terrified at the sight of so many dogs. In all versions of the story, though, the security staff stayed true to RNT’s instructions – of keeping the dogs safe and secure at all times.

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