This Couple's Maternity Shoot With Their Dogs Is A Powerful Response To The Criticism They Received

When Aditya Raheja and Sanjana Madappa were expecting their first child, they were told that they would have to give up their dogs. Fortunately, they refused relinquish their beloved canines and chose to show it in an awesome way: The couple held a maternity shoot with their dogs. The adorable photos, featuring mom and dad-to-be along with their five happy pooches, were a perfect way to demonstrate that these animals are part of the family — and that they won’t be abandoned just because a new (human!) pup is joining the fray.

Animal lover Sanjana Madappa works with an animal welfare organization in Bangalore, India, called “CUPA” (“Compassion Unlimited Plus Action”). As part of her work, she sees a lot of dogs abandoned. “I see their pain, the trauma they go through, it's heartbreaking,” she tells Bustle. In the course of her work, she and Raheja have taken a number of dogs into their home.

In a Facebook post, Madappa explains, “[O]ne of the most common reasons I hear for giving up a pet is ‘I'm pregnant.’” When she became pregnant with her first child, she got the same advice, especially when her pregnancy proved to be a difficult one. She writes, “I was told by family, friends and even my doctor to get rid of my dogs, that my baby came first. I was told the same things that all those people who have given up pets tell me.” Madappa refused. “I could never do that to any of my four legged kids,” she tells Bustle. “And I don't believe in giving away one family member just to bring in another.”

Madappa had a very challenging pregnancy, and she was deemed to be at high risk for pre-term delivery. However, Madappa says that, rather than being a hindrance or a danger, her dogs are the reason she “got through [her] pregnancy with [her] sanity intact.” “My dogs instinctively knew what I needed,” she recalls. “They were a constant source of quiet comfort and support to me, especially when things were rough. They never left my side through the whole pregnancy.”

Madappa and Raheja decided to do a maternity photo shoot that included their four-legged family members and tapped photographer Bhargavi Naveen of GoLucky Diaires Photography to create the images. “The idea of this photo shoot was to promote the concept of not abandoning your dogs when you get a newborn family member,” Naveen tells Bustle. “It was very challenging as this was my first time to photo shoot with pets. And we are extremely happy that this has reached a wider audience.”

The shoot included fun group shots of the couple’s human/canine family, as well as more intimate portraits of Madappa snuggled up to her dogs.

A week after the photo shoot, Madappa and Raheja welcomed their new son, Ayan, and the dogs seem to have adopted him as their new brother. “The dogs are amazing with my son,” Madappa says. “Just like they knew what to do and what not to with me, they know with my son. My youngest pup sleeps right next to my son’s cradle all the time while another always runs in to check up if he starts crying too much.” She emphasizes that her dogs are mostly Rottweilers and Mastiffs. Though these breeds are often stereotyped as dangerous, her dogs are anything but. They are, she says, “extra careful and gentle” with her baby.

Research suggests that pets may have a significant effect on childhood development, impacting children in a number of positive ways. One recent study even showed that children are often more attached to their pets than to their human siblings. Baby Ayan, with his pack of furry brothers and sisters, has a lot of fun and canine love to look forward to.