Pratima Devi, a 65-year-old ragpicker from New Delhi, India, has dedicated the last three decades of her life to caring for stray dogs. Rummaging through trash and running a small tea stall barely allows her to support herself, but she’ll gladly skip a meal or two to feed the hundreds of dogs she looks after on a daily basis.
The “Dog Lady of Delhi”, ad Pratima has come to be known in India, never had an easy life. Born into a poor family, she got married to a man 10 years her senior when she was only 7 years old, and had her first child at age 14. Her marriage was not a happy one, as her husband would often come home drunk and beat her, and both she and her mother suffered at the hand of her in-laws. Her husband didn’t have a job, so she had to work all day and take care of the house to make sure they had food on the table.
When he was 5 years old, the oldest of her three children went to New Delhi to work, and when living with her abusive husband became too much to bare, Pratima followed him to start a new life. There, she started working as a domestic helper in the house of a popular model-turned-actor, and later set up her own tea stall, in the Saket neighborhood of Delhi. It was here that she met her best friends, stray dogs.