By Katie Walsh
Raghu Vadali isn’t always easy to find at Rural Dog Rescue adoption events. If the dog he’s volunteered to monitor is a little shy or scared by the noises of the busy street, he might be sitting with the pup in a quiet alcove down the block, helping it to feel more secure. Instead of merely serving as a tether for a dog on the sidewalk outside of Howl to the Chief, he might have taken it on a brisk run several streets away.
But no matter where he is, there’s one thing that’s for certain: The dogs love him.
Vadali is demure, however, when asked about his connection to the dogs.
“I think the moment one dog is comfortable with you, the other dogs want to see what’s up,” he said. “It’s just like a monkey-see-monkey-do thing. I don’t think it’s anything special with me, per se.”
On that point, RDR’s staff and other volunteers might disagree. Vadali is known for his even-keeled demeanor and calm approach to the pups, something he says has largely been shaped by a deep love and respect for all animals.
“I’m quite passionate about animal welfare – I’m vegan for this reason,” he said. “I do animal activism stuff even for other animals, be it farmed or caged, or pigs and chickens and cows and so on.”
It’s this passion, as well as a busy work and social life that can’t necessarily accommodate a pet at the moment, that drove him to seek out a regular volunteering opportunity. He said that in February 2016, he reached out to several organizations, but Rural Dog Rescue caught his eye because it was a small and volunteer-run.
“I thought it was a fun way to both do good and kind of help me get my fix,” Vadali said.
He has been volunteering at Rural Dog Rescue’s adoption events on nearly every Saturday ever since.
At the events, Vadali said that the first thing he does when he is handed a dog is to take it for a run around the block, as fast as the pooch wants to go. It’s part of a process of developing trust with the pup.
“I’m just there for them – I don’t try to be a friend,” Vadali said. “There’s no active ‘let’s be friends’ part of it. It’s like, you know, when you’re comfortable, we can be friends. And if you don’t – if you’re not the kind who wants to be friends, then that’s OK, too. So I try to be at peace with what the animal wants as well. This is not about me.”
In that vein, Vadali has risen to the challenge for the dogs in his care. In particular, he remembers one Saturday where he was tasked with giving a bath to a pit bull who had just pooped “in a very messy way.” It was a chore that was an entirely new experience for him because his parents never allowed him to have pets growing up.
“But then, even though it was obvious the pit bull didn’t like being in the bath – he looked at me like he was being betrayed – but nonetheless he trusted me,” Vadali said. “He could really attack me if he wanted to, but he didn’t. It just felt cool that I was able to gain an animal’s trust even though obviously there’s no straightforward means of communication.”
Vadali intends to keep volunteering for Rural Dog Rescue as long as his circumstances allow. Though he didn’t grow up with animals, Vadali is looking forward to the day his living situation changes and he can adopt a dog – or four.
“I want to have my own running gang,” he said.
But more than that, Vadali just wants to show kindness to RDR’s dogs, many of whom have been plucked from shelters where their euthanization was imminent.
“I just want to show, whether they like me or not, that they’re worthy of attention,” Vadali said. “That whatever else happens, you know, we’re going to have a good time for two hours.”