Mario’s dogs

If you’re familiar with Mario Miranda’s cartoons and illustrations, you’re likely to know that he had a thing for dogs, which make an appearance in many of his works. My personal favourite is this one, which hangs above our bedroom door as a sort of ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here’ warning.

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I recently came across this tribute of Mario’s to a beloved dog, a rescue named (what else?) Tommy. Thought I’d post it here. It’s a little long, but worth a read if you like dogs.

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When Hero came home

Rummaging through the dogs’ papers for something, we came across this letter, which I thought I’d post about. It’s something that accompanied Hero when he came to us more than 11 years ago.

Our introduction to Hero was through an email forward, about a litter of puppies that a girl was trying to find homes for. I tried locating the email, but my Yahoo mailbox has nothing from earlier than 10 years ago. I wish I had saved it – I can’t even recall the girl’s name any more. All that I remember is that she lived in Gurgaon, but came to NOIDA, where we lived, to deliver the little fellow.

When she handed Hero over to us, he had a little red ribbon around his neck, with a small bell on it. That stayed on him through the first few weeks, so we would always know where he was. Any time the bell fell silent, it usually meant we better check on what he was up to.

Along with the little puppy, she handed over this very sweet letter, written as though by him. Here’s a scan of the letter:

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Besides other things about him, it said, “I will be very happy to be a part of your family. I am the naughtiest of my lot. I am very vocal about my feelings and want a lot of attention from humans. I tend to get a bit whiny especially when hungry.” In some ways, Hero’s still the same, in others, completely different. But we are certainly very happy that he’s part of our family.

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Hero as a puppy…

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…and now, 11 years later.

Homes, sweet homes

As a member of several groups on Facebook devoted to animal welfare and adoption, I have a clear picture of how difficult it is to find homes for strays. In the very large majority of cases, the person who carries out a rescue either ends up keeping the animal for life – even when they already have a large menagerie already in their care – or the unfortunate animal soon lands back on the street or in a shelter.

Given this general awareness, our personal experience has been astonishingly different. Twice earlier, in the past three or four years, we have chanced upon puppies on the street, clearly separated from their mothers / packs, and helpless and defenceless as a result. On both occasions, we have taken them in with a lot of trepidation (and the feeling in the back of our minds that here’s yet another one for our ever-burgeoning household) but in each case have managed to find homes for them.

With Googly (pix of her here), who spent a month with us, it was through an indefatigable Dutchwoman named Fionna Prins who takes care of a multitude of animals herself, and has successfully homed many of them. Bijli’s story was quite something else (written about her twice on this blog, here and here).

Now, it’s happened a third time! One night, a little over a month ago, we kept intermittently hearing the sound of a puppy crying somewhere around our house. Every time it would whine, our threesome would respond with a barrage of barking, and it would shut up. So Anjali and I went out, and located it in an empty plot across from ours. The plot is densely overgrown, and at a lower height from the road that runs in front of our house. The puppy had either jumped in, or had been dropped there, and was unable to make it back out because of the height, which is why it was crying.

I reached down and it waited for me to pick it up, stock still. Thankfully, it didn’t run away in fright. We would never have been able to go after it in the overgrowth at night. Once I had it in my arms, Anjali recognised it as one she had seen a few days ago, negotiating a different road on the other side of our house, so it had been roaming the neighbourhood for a few days. A quick examination revealed that the puppy was female, probably about three months old, emaciated and petrified. A mark around her neck indicated that she had at some point of time had a rope tied rather tightly around it. The likely scenario was that some kids had probably taken her away from her litter and pulled her around on a rope for a while, then – perhaps at being told off by their parents, or having got bored of the plaything – dumped her. This is, sadly, quite a commonplace occurrence.

A bit nonplussed about what to do with her, we finally took her in with us and set her up in the bedroom where my mother stays when she’s with us. It was vacant at the time, Ma being with my brother Abhijit in Hyderabad. When she’s here, that’s the one part of the house that’s off-limit to the dogs, so they rarely venture that way. Also, it has what we have been calling an air-lock system – a door to the passage to the room, and a door to the room itself. With both doors closed, the puppy was effectively sealed off from the rest of the house, and our other dogs were clueless about her presence.

For the next few days, we would lock them into our bedroom before we took the foundling out for a romp in the grounds, which we did once every four hours or so. Then we would secure her behind her double-level protection, and let our guys out. They would rush madly around the house and the yard, aware that some foreign canine presence had been around, but couldn’t for the life of them figure out where it was ensconced. That she didn’t make a sound – at least for the first few days – also helped in the subterfuge.

Not only was she completely quiet, the first day or two she was petrified of us – literally so. When we would enter the room, she would stand in front of us frozen in place, her head down, her tail curled between her legs. But soon, she had started greeting our arrival with tail wags and then little licks. Soon she had a name – Chikoo. The hectic and hopeful / desperate business of finding her a home started from day one itself.

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Chikoo on Day 1 with Anjali

Given their reactions, we had to keep the policy of sequestration in place. With our house help on her annual month-long leave, the situation was very difficult. Our attempts at finding a home for her went through several start-stop stints, but didn’t result in any positive outcomes.

Despite being aware of the high mortality rate of puppies in shelters, eventually we felt we had no choice but to put her in one while we continued looking for a home. Our hopes were not very high. And then, astonishingly, within two days of having deposited her at the PAWS shelter in Panjim, we learnt that someone was keen to have her.

The breakthrough came because of the efforts of our friend Sanchita Banerjee Rodrigues. She and her husband Anil are an astonishing couple – dogs just walk up to the door of their first-floor flat, are let in and make themselves at home. As Sanchita says, it’s like they talk to each other and tell them – go up there, you’ll be in good hands. The Rodrigueses (there’s also a grown-up son named Jatan) currently have four dogs that have come into their lives this way, and they have successfully homed several others as well.

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Sanchita with Chikoo

Someone on Sanchita’s WhatsApp contacts had seen her message about Chikoo, and expressed interest in adopting her. So we picked up Chikoo from the shelter, and headed out to Vasco along with Sanchita.

In Vasco, we met Chikoo’s prospective adopter, Pio Colaco, and his sister Chionia, and were straightaway quite taken with them. Pio, it was immediately evident, is a very decent, kind young man, and we could tell he would make a very good guardian for Chikoo.

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Pio and Chionia greet a nervous Chikoo

Though this is the first dog that he and his family have had at home, he had gone to a huge amount of preparation to welcome Chikoo into the household. His schoolgoing sister too was excited and delighted to have Chikoo, as were their parents Mauricio and Elodia when they arrived home a little later. We left there happy in the knowledge that Chikoo had found a home that we could contentedly leave her in.

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Already quite at home, being babied by Pio and his family

About a month later, we went and met her again and after a moment of trepidation, she came to us whining with pleasure, her entire body wiggling with the force of her tail-wagging. We spent a pleasurable half-an-hour playing with her and listening to tales of all that she’s been getting up to. A very happy ending for this puppy adoption saga.

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During our second trip, Chikoo was too hyper to get a decent photo of her. The only time we could get a shot where she wasn’t a blur was when she stopped to have a go at a chewie treat

More about Bijli

Some time ago, we had a weeklong visit from an abandoned pup who then found a home as suddenly and unexpectedly as she had come into our lives (read all about it at https://apnapun.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/bijli-giraane/). A short while back, we went and visited her in her new home, where she’s now called Clivey. Though a little hesitant to begin with, once she recognised us, she was all over us. She gets food and care at the home of the people who’ve adopted her, but spends most of her time on the streets and open spaces around their house, fraternising with the other people and dogs around. Glad to see she’s growing up happy and spunky. Here are some photos.

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Bijli giraane…

This story is from a few weeks ago, one of the strange serendipitous encounters one has with the world’s creatures.

Sometimes, instead of walking our dogs on their standard route around our house, we drive out in the Scorpio to a place close by where there are open fields, where they can have the run of the place. It was one of those days, and we were on our way home after the walk. As we slowed down at a road junction, we suddenly found a very small puppy in the middle of the road. I brought the Scorpio to a halt, and the puppy ran under the car. The dogs had seen her too, and were raising merry hell. Perhaps scared by their yelling, she cowered under the car as Anjali and I got out and tried to entice her out.

Eventually we managed to grab her and pull her out. Anjali held her as I drove ahead a little and pulled over to allow passage to a couple of cars that had by then lined up behind ours. Having parked the car, I got out and joined Anjali in mulling over what we should do next. That stretch of road has no houses in sight. The puppy could only have come there from the Aldona Police Station and Primary Health Centre, about half a kilometre ahead. So, with the other dogs scrambling all over each other to try and get a sniff at the new creature, Anjali got into the front seat holding her carefully, and we drove down to the PHC.

The security guard there, and a few other curious folk who gathered, told us that the puppy had been dumped outside the PHC a couple of days ago, and had been hanging around there since, sometimes following anyone who showed her some kindness. She must have trailed down the road after someone, and landed up where we found her.

We tried some more enquiries down the road, but it seemed quite evident that the pup was not from around there, and there was no chance of our locating her mother or siblings. Having a new puppy added to our household wasn’t exactly what we were planning for, but then as the song goes, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Not having any other option, we brought her home. It was an evening of thunder and lightning, and she was quite a bright spark, so we gave her the provisional name Bijli.

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Our dogs aren’t exactly welcoming of new recruits to the pack, so for the first night we kept her in the car, making a small nest for her with newspapers, water and food. She was small enough that it was roomy for her, and she seemed quite content to sleep in what was a warm dry place after what must have been a traumatic few days in the open by herself. We checked on her every few hours through the night, and let her out in the yard for a short chukker.

The next day, we were due to go out for some part of the day, and we didn’t dare leave her unsupervised with the hounds at home, so she remained in the car. She continued to seem comfortable, sleeping most of the time. On occasion, we would come back to the car to find she had gone exploring and was in the back or under the driver’s seat.

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Our first stop was at a vet’s, where we had her seen to, gave her some deworming meds and left an appeal for them to try and find a home for her. Throughout the day, at every stop we made, Anjali continued to make adoption requests to the most incongruous of people, but without any luck. One friend was very keen, but his rather more sensible daughters pointed out to him that if he took the pup home, it would be he who would be thrown out, so that possibility fizzled out as well.

Bijli curled up on Anjali's feet in the car.

Bijli curled up on Anjali’s feet in the car.

So Bijli came back home and spent another night in the car. The next couple of days, we were both at home, so we gradually introduced her into the household. The initial introductions were the most nerve-wracking but with Anjali holding her closely and me allowing one dog at a time to come sniff her, we got through them. Bijli of course was most excited and soon was running around after every set of feet that passed her – canine or human. The dogs, for their part, wanted nothing to do with her and preferred to stay up on the furniture, where she wouldn’t be able to get at them. Only Sungta showed any interest in her, but sometimes the interest seemed to be along the lines of “what a delicious morsel this would make”, so we kept a close eye on their limited interactions.

We kept up the adoption efforts, but knew that they were likely to be futile. Adoption of indie dogs is an extremely hit-and-miss affair, with only the very occasional hit. We were also aware that the two main local shelters were going through bad times, and even if one of them took Bijli in, her chances of survival would be quite low, so that option was also ruled out.

A week passed, with Bijli travelling with us whenever we had places to go. Luckily, the weather was still cool, so it was possible for us to leave her in the car with the windows cracked open while we attended to our tasks.

The next Saturday rolled around, the day of our weekly shopping trip to Mapusa. Anjali and I contemplated leaving Bijli to her first unsupervised stay with the dogs, but finally decided against it.

In Mapusa, we parked in the communidade complex, and went to our standard veggie guy. After we were done, I left Anjali to bring Ma back slowly to the car, and went ahead with the bags. Approaching our car, I saw that there were two women – quite clearly mother and daughter – peeking in the car window. I knew what had attracted their attention and grinned at them when I got close.

They were cooing and billing over Bijli, whom the mother was referring to as Clivey. Bijli, on her part, was on the seat, front paws up on the window, her little tail whipping about in a frenzy of ecstacy.

As I put the bags into the car, I explained about Bijli and how we were trying to find a home for her. The woman introduced herself as Lee and her daughter as Keisha. Soon, Anjali had also arrived, and a general round of extolling the loveability of dogs ensued. It turned out that Lee and Keisha – and her husband Alex, who also appeared – also had a couple of dogs at home. Another one, named Clivey, had passed away recently, and they had been reminded of her when they saw Bijli.

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Within no time at all, the talk turned to the possibility of them adopting Bijli. The women were excited by the prospect right away. Alex seemed a little hesitant, but Lee sealed the deal saying to her daughter, “Take the pup, Keisha, I’ll deal with Dadda.”

And that was it. As suddenly and unexpectedly as she had come into our lives, Bijli went out as well. We handed over the toys, bowl and milk-and-biscuits mix that we were carrying and she went from the loving embrace of Anjali in our Scorpio to Keisha’s in theirs.

Over the next few days, phone interactions continued as instructions were asked for and recived, and status was checked. We learnt that Bijli, now officially renamed Clivey, had found a friendly elder in one of the other dogs, and was sleeping curled up with him from the second day. She had also quickly got used to the idea of a staircase and was stumbling up and down floors in pursuit of human feet.

The ordeal that she must have had to go through her for a few days – stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the rain and storm with no companion – had ended up bringing her into a haven where she would quite clearly be loved and pampered.

Our dogs (and some others) on the Net

I recently wrote a piece on our travels with the dogs, for Tambdimati, an online magazine on art, literature and ecology, with a Goan flavour. You can read the piece here:
Wagging Tales – Tambdimati To read this online, click on the picture above, or here.

Here are a couple of other pieces about our dogs and others, written for different magazines in the past.

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To read this online, click on the picture above, or here.

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To read this online, click on the picture above, or here.

Jaya’s last days

Jaya

Jaya, the last of our three original ladies, died on Saturday. Coincidentally, they came into our lives within some ten months of each other, first Chipku, then Bhaloo and finally Jaya – and left also within a period of months, in the same order.

This poem was surging around inside me the last few days that she was ill.

In the evening,
Two moths flew in through the window,
Fluttering like signs of life.
Floating across the yellow plaster,
Black flakes torn off by time.

In the night,
Jaya’s breath filled the room as she
Fought to turn back the sea inside,
But the relentless currents flowed –
Dark puddles on the blood red floor.

Near dawn,
Two clouds came together in anger,
Their rage boiling over in torrents.
Life and death rained on the earth,
Leaves poured down – green, yellow, red.

In the morning,
Jaya died on a silver table,
Bright brown eyes dark with questions.
At the end, her mouth fell open
And the two moths flew out and away.