My heart cried, ugly cried 😞

It is so heartbreaking to see the state of strays and specially, when you feel completely helpless.

The NGOs are just name sake. And the very few who genuinely work, cannot reach you on time. Though I have looked after a lot of strays, and sometimes circumstances are inevitable, it is still heartbreaking to see them like this.

I did whatever I could. And will continue looking after them and in my capacity. Rest, I leave it upto God to protect them always.

This was a case of hit and run.

Behind the Scenes

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language; but only a few can understand this. I respect those who do not understand this language, and believe that a pet isn’t for them. Their reasons may be any, but are respected as they understand that they are not ready for it, and, know for sure, that they will not be able to care for the pet and do justice by bringing it home. These people are far better than those who brings pets home for various reasons, and, leave them neglected or abandon them or leave them back to the shelter.

I have come across a few people who have enquired with me to bring a dog home, only on the basis of seeing me and my dogs and how easy I make it look. So, today I am going to talk about the actual challenges I face and have faced by being a “make it look so easy” dog mom. As I always say, “Will it be easy – no! Will it be worth it – absolutely yes!”

I have heard this common statement, “I have grown up with dogs, I have always had dogs in my house, so I can handle a dog after marriage also, etc.” What they forget to compare is, they lived in a joint family where many were there to take care of the dog. These days, we live in a nuclear family in apartment houses and working couples. The biggest challenge here is, who will walk the dog? And once you have a kid, who will look after the dog? It doesn’t stop here. Even if couples distribute their walking schedules, who will wake up in the middle of the night if the dog throws up or falls ill and clean up? These are not small issues, as a dog’s life revolves around you, and if you struggle with the basics, then it is advisable to not bring a dog home. A dog is just another child; everything you do for your kid; you do for the dog. I cannot emphasize this more and its every word of it is true to the dot.

According to general public, I am living alone happily, I do what I want, I can go out party whenever I want, I can call anyone at home, etc. Because my dog stays at home peacefully, doesn’t destroy things, doesn’t bark or bite, doesn’t smell, etc., all because I make it look easy. Let me make one thing very clear, whatever I have done or do for my dogs is because I WANT TO DO IT. They are my responsibility and my babies, and I will make sure that they are healthy, happy and safe. And I believe, anyone who has this mentality will always make it look easy to others about caring for their pets.

Thus, these are the behind the scenes of keeping my dogs in the best atmosphere. Recently, I had fallen ill. It was so bad that I couldn’t even sit for more than 5 minutes. But, even in such a state, I had to take Junior for his walk. I was so liverish, but I had to feed Junior his meals on time and keep filling his water bowl as and when it got over.

I rarely go out for late night parties. Because then it becomes difficult for me to wake up in the morning to take Junior for a stroll. Living in a crowded city and being alone, I as it is sacrifice on taking Junior out to the beach or socializing as it is not my cup of tea. So my emphasis is more on his walks as that’s the only time he is outdoors.

When Casper or Junior are unwell, I stay up all night to make them comfortable. If they are better by the day, then I go for work or else take days off to look after them. Pay cuts, juggling between vet visits and back log, and make sure my dogs become healthy again. And not a damn soul would come to know I was struggling from past few days.

When I was heartbroken and going through the post breakup depressed phase, I grappled through my daily activities. I wasn’t even in the mood to take a shower or make coffee for myself. But, I fulfilled all my responsibilities towards my dogs.

I went broke for a period of time. I quit having one meal for myself to save money so that I could feed my dogs their required meals. And again, people thought I was living my best life alone with my dogs.

I adjust or miss out on many outings with family and friends because of my dog’s schedule. I don’t regret it at all, but there have been times when I had to skip on some important occasions because the boarding lodging was full and I had no place to keep my dogs. Also, recently my cousins planned a holiday and I to cancel it because Junior was recovering from pancreatitis and I couldn’t leave him at boarding lodging. When I needed to take that break the most, but I couldn’t. And it is ok, because that sacrifice was worth as Junior is in the best of health now.

I clean my dogs vomit, I clean their poop, I clean their drool, I clean their butthole, I apply ointment at weird places whenever needed, I remove ticks and fleas (whenever they get) from their body, there is dog hair all over my house, etc. and some people call it disgusting after knowing what all I do. Until then, “wow your dog is so clean, he doesn’t smell, his coat shines.”

Even on daily basis, whether I am in a good mood or a bad, I have to keep all that stuff aside and make sure my dogs schedule is not disturbed. My dogs do not bark, or bite, or destroy things is because I have put in a lot of effort in training them. My dogs can stay home alone without creating a ruckus is because of all endeavor I have made to tutor them since they were puppies.

I will definitely accept the fact that if I had a little help or someone with me, then it would be a lot easier for me to care for my dogs. Nevertheless, I still make it look easy for others on my own; but the fact is, It is NOT easy. Some days, you see stars in the day, some days, you only want to cry, some days, you are in too much pain, either physical or mental. But end of the day, when Casper and Junior sleep besides me snoring out loud, it’s all WORTH IT.

A dog is not just a Christmas gift or a companion for loneliness or an Instagram model or a status symbol. And definitely not “I have had pets all my life, so I can bring a dog after marriage”. A dog is a family member. Most of the people will get a dog and within a month return it. So, think about all the aspects before you decide for a commitment of their life time. He might only be here for a part of your life, but for him, you are his whole life. Remember that people. Dogs are forever, not until you get tired of them – be sure before you get one and once you do, he is for life! Would you return or abandon a baby no matter what the reason? Then why abandon a dog?

My Stray Dogs

When I call myself a mother to Casper and Junior, I also call myself a mother to my stray dogs. It has been almost 8 years that I have been feeding, medicating, vaccinating, etc. the stray dogs in my neighborhood. My heart fills with joy every time I see them running towards me each time I get out of the house. However, today, I am going to share some experiences which have left deep marks on my life and soul.

Let me start with my best and oldest stray pooch Caddy. I don’t remember when and from where he started taking shelter in my building, but I do remember, he was just a small cute puppy when I first saw him. I was scared of dogs that time, but my Mom encouraged me to feed him. So I started pouring milk in his bowl and running away in the fear that he might bite me. After I got Casper, and eventually when I stopped getting scared of dogs, I got closer to Caddy. He lived in my building where we had made a little shelter for him to sleep and had his dedicated bowls for food and water. He lived for 16 years, and one day he disappeared. I knew he wouldn’t make it for long as he had started falling ill, barely walked and ate. I searched for him for weeks, asked around, asked the municipality if they had picked a dog, everything, but I never found him. I know stray dogs never die in front of us. And one day, I accepted the fact that he was gone.

There was another puppy which I was feeding in my vicinity. Actually they were a litter of 5 puppies. I got the mother neutered after she stopped milking her babies. But sadly 2 puppies died in an accident. I tried a lot to get the remaining 3 puppies adopted. One day, 2 of them got adopted and the third one was left alone, so I took him with me. Unfortunately, both the puppies were returned the next day. So the puppy that I had, I returned him to his siblings and mother. Soon, one of the puppies developed high fever and started crying in the night. I thought she had tick fever and took her to the vet and started her treatment. When her blood reports came, she didn’t have tick fever, but the puppy had started trembling by then. That’s when the vet realized that she had distemper. That horrible day I can never forget when I carried that puppy in my arms and drove from north to south Mumbai, 3 hospitals, 8 hours of agony as no hospital had an isolation ward for distemper. Finally, one of the worst hospital agreed to treat her and I had to get her admitted against my will as she was critical and no clinic too would treat her. She passed away after 4 days of being admitted. It doesn’t end here, as distemper is contagious and the other puppy, her brother too had contracted it and he too passed away after some days. The remaining one puppy, was saved as he was vaccinated by the adopter before dropping him back.

There was an under construction building which was home to a lot of dogs. Some big, some puppies, some old. I was feeding nearly 25 dogs there. A dog had just given birth to cute puppies. They were so adorable that I would leave early from home just to play with them before I hit the office. One morning, as usual I told the watchman to whistle so that all the dogs would gather at the feeding spot and I could feed them and play with them, but 2 puppies didn’t come. I told the watchman to go look for them and after 2 minutes he came running to me telling me fanatically that they were not waking up. I went there and tried to shake them and realized, they had passed away in their sleep hugging each other due to the cold weather. They were just 1.5 months old and my heart was shattered into pieces seeing their position. I still cry thinking about it.

Another one was, I had shifted to a new apartment. And as usual, I got down to look for dogs to feed them. I found 10 dogs. 4 older dogs and 6 puppies. Soon they became friendly with me and Junior. The routine started as always. Junior and me would get down for walk, feed them and play with them. All these dogs would walk with us and protect us and never let anyone near us. Living in Mumbai, we have very heavy rains and I always fear about the puppies as big dogs find shelter somewhere or the other, but puppies stay where they have been staying. And one night, my worst fear became a reality. We received the first heavy rainfall of the season. I immediately took my umbrella and torch to see the puppies and transfer them to a safer place as they were living in a gutter. I searched but couldn’t find them. Neither did I find the big dogs. I thought that they must have followed the mother dog to a safer place. Next morning when the rains had stopped, I got down and the watchman told me that the municipality truck had picked up the bodies of all the six puppies and 2 big dogs. They all drowned in the gutter. In one night, I had lost 8 dogs due to rains.

And my last so far painful experience is, the two dogs that were left behind or let’s say, that were saved from the rains were living well and healthy. 4 years had passed since the last incident. I continued looking after these two dogs. One of the dog had a maggot wound and I had recently treated her. She had completely recovered and was doing fine. The other dog is a senior dog, around 12-13 years old and this dog was 5 years old. One morning when I got down for Junior’s walk, I noticed she didn’t eat her food and was trying grasp for air. I did a little physical examination and didn’t see any wound or bite mark or maggot wound. I assumed she must be just acting out weird because of the weather or something not so critical. After a few hours, I got a call from one of the building guys telling me that she has puss coming out of her eyes and cannot breathe. I immediately ran down, looked at her and she tried reaching out to me, but couldn’t. She was lying down below a car breathless. I started calling various NGOs and Animal Helplines but not one single person was ready to come to check on her or send her an ambulance because it was a Sunday. I couldn’t take her myself as she was snapping. During my phone calls, she came out from below the car and threw up green bile, ran inside the gutter and let out a loud cry. That was the last I heard from her. She passed away within minutes. Till date I don’t know what had happened to her.

Some incidents, good or bad, always leave an impression on my heart and I can never forget them. Sometimes I wish I could bring all the stray dogs home. What a sorry state they live in. Such beautiful creatures, yet we humans treat them so poorly. All they give is unconditional love and loyalty. I have vowed that after Junior if I ever think of getting a pet, it will be a stray dog. I have realized that whether you have a stray dog as a pet or a pedigree dog, doesn’t matter. All dogs fill your heart with lots of happiness and love. I will also continue to look after all the strays I can; I know I have limitations and there are times my best is not enough. But I will continue doing what I can and save as many lives as possible. There is a saying which goes “How do you change the world? One random act of kindness at a time”. I urge all of you to be kind and compassionate. It could be something as small as leaving a bowl of water in your building for stray pets or getting as involved as you can. Step by step, we can all make this world a better place for all living creatures!

Don’t shop, Adopt!

Many of you must have heard the latest catch-phrase, “Adopt, Don’t Shop?” If not, then you might be wondering what it means. Adopt, Don’t Shop is a campaign slogan that a growing number of animal rights proponents are using to promote adopting pets from shelters, rather than buying them from pet stores. Now you must be wondering that I had 2 dogs, both Labradors, one passed away and the other I can’t top raving about, and, I am talking about adopting and not shopping? As oxymoron my title and my current life may sound; I can safely confess that I realised this only after getting my dogs and becoming an animal lover. Today, I take care of some stray dogs, and over a period of time I have realised that no matter the breed, each and every dog has only two things to give, unconditional love and loyalty.

Initially when I was a new dog mom, wasn’t much involved with strays; as funny as it may sound, my involvement with stray dogs has also been accidental. One day, I was driving through my local market and had to suddenly brake as there were puppies on the road. On reaching home, I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and so, the very next day, I went back to the same spot with a packet of milk. I wasn’t even aware how many puppies were there or if they were even being looked after; I just went there to feed them. Now that I think about, my love for strays didn’t exactly start there. When I was living happily with my husband, I would always see a stray dog at a particular hour come near my apartment in search of food. I guess it all began back then; I would feed that dog every evening after realising his pattern.

Post separation, I shifted to a rented house and continued to take care of any and every dog I could. Once, I recollect, I saw a puppy limping at a traffic signal which was at walking distance to my house. I immediately went there and noticed there were not one, but two puppies out of which one was hit by a car. I called an NGO and got the puppy admitted to a hospital. Since I was in continues touch with them, the NGO volunteers informed me that the puppy’s internal organs were inflated and had to undergo a major surgery for the same. I donated some money, and after the puppy recovered, he was adopted by a loving and caring lady. His brother, unfortunately was not so fortunate, and while I would take care of him and give him the vitamins he needed, one day when I went to feed him, he was nowhere to be found and the locals informed me that the puppy passed away suddenly.

A piece of advice for all those of you who want to feed puppies’ milk; dogs genetically are lactose intolerant. So, if you intend to feed them milk, please dilute the milk with water. 1/3rd Milk and 2/3rd Water. When I used to feed the stray puppies in the market, a very old gentleman man there as well would come often to feed them. I was glad to see that there were still people living who cared. Soon it became my routine to feed those puppies on my way to work. From there, my journey began and without even noticing, I started looking after more than 40 stray dogs. Each one I would get neutered, vaccinated, fed, etc. I have even had a million fights with people for feeding them. Some for religious reason, some for spreading dirt, some with the fear of being bitten and some for no reason at all.

Not many people in the world know the realty about stray dogs; majority believe strays are untouchable beasts and carrier of rabies whose only motive in life is to bite them. What they fail to understand is that no creature bites without a reason. They bite only if threatened, or if they have had a bad past experience with humans.  If you have hit them, or something that a human has done has scared them, their natural defence mechanism will kick in and they will tend to bite as a reflex action.

The one thing we as humans are the worst at is being human! At times, we are so harsh and cruel that we forget that even strays are living beings who feel pain, anger, sorrow and happiness, just like us! All these strays want is some food, and a little love. It is a pitiful situation for them to run about for food and they don’t even know when and where their next meal will come from. To add up to their misery, the harsh weathers of the country severely affect them. I have lost several dogs and puppies to rains in Mumbai. Last year, one of my stray dogs had 6 puppies right before rains. Let me tell you, rains in Mumbai are pretty heavy. After the first rainfall, I lost all the 6 puppies as the bitch and one more stray dog got stuck in the drainage as they were trying to take shelter from the rains. Another incident that still brings tears to my eyes; I had once gone to feed some puppies in an under construction building. All the puppies came running towards me except two. When I went towards them, they had both passed away hugging each other in their sleep due to the severe cold weather. I have seen many dogs run over by cars, many being poisoned and some even being stoned. The laws in my country are weak and not at all strict against animal cruelty. So, the culprit always walks out free on bail within minutes of being reported. I myself face a lot of issues in my apartment because they do not like dogs and pick up fights for no reason. People have actually threatened me to throw me out of the building because of my dogs’ inspite of laws clearly saying that no apartment complex can ban dogs.

What people don’t understand that Indian strays are not only intelligent, but over the years their survival skills have made them live longer with lesser medical complications. My parents had adopted a stray dog in their apartment building. We called him Caddy. He was such a calm and patient dog. At the same time, he was so alert that in his entire life spam of 16 years that he lived in their building, they didn’t have one single robbery or theft. Even today, every morning when I go down to walk Junior and feed my dogs, they are eagerly waiting for me wagging their tails at the building gate. Not just that, there has been an incident when I was inappropriately approached by a man, but my stray immediately realized the danger and started barking at him, ensuring he left me alone. Love, loyalty and security, this is what every dog gives. No matter the breed or colour. And this I learnt after having Casper and Junior. I have pledged that if ever I get another dog, it will be a stray dog or an abandoned dog or a dog that has been the longest in a shelter or the most undesirable one. Because, every dog is an angel and every dog deserves a home.

Playing with one of Junior’s toys

Two are better than one!

Over the years, if there is one thing I have learnt, it is to try something different, even if you don’t think it will work. Trust that little voice in your head that says, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” and then do it. You will be surprised as to what you can achieve with this little thinking. You will never be happy if you hold on to things that make you sad.

In spite of having Casper and comprehending that things will turn out for the better between my husband and me, it once again went stagnant. To be honest they never really had improved and it was only figments of my imagination hoping for them to get better.  We had reached our comfort zone. We were in that phase where there was no drama, nothing good or bad happening and we got used to it. During that time, we got Casper mated and soon he became a father to a litter of 8 puppies. I was elated; never had I imagined that I would ever be so happy over a dog being a father to 8 puppies. Around the same time, we received a call from a relative that he wanted to adopt one of the puppies. So, we bought one of them home, got him vaccinated and cleaned, and he was all ready to be adopted into his new home. Unfortunately, the relative never came over to take him, and upon inquiring, we were informed that he had changed his mind and didn’t want the puppy for now!

We had ended up in quite a predicament and were clueless on what to do. We already had Casper, we were struggling with our marriage, my husband was frequently travelling between Mumbai and Dubai, and, I singly did not have the dexterity to handle two dogs. We had no choice, but to put him for adoption. The puppy was adopted three times, but, lamentably, was returned back to us every time for various reasons.

Call it destiny or whatever it may be, but after the 3rd time the puppy was returned back to us, I decided to adopt him myself and keep him with me permanently. My husband was completely unsupportive of this thought. But I was rigid and had made up my mind; for I couldn’t see the puppy being adopted and returned for lame reasons all the time. After all, he was a living creature with a heart and not an item which one can simply return if they don’t like it! Junior entered my life accidentally. Yes, I named him Junior; after all, he was my Casper’s son!  My husband had made it crystal clear to me that he had nothing to do with Junior and would play no role in bringing him up. I had absolutely no idea as to how I would bring up Junior alone along with Casper! But a little voice inside me told me, “Do it”.

Sometimes, destiny leaves a door a little open and you walk right through it. But, sometimes, it locks the door and you have to find the key, or pick the lock, or knock the damn thing down. And sometimes, it doesn’t even show you the door, and you have to build it yourself. But if you keep waiting for the doors to be opened for you… I think you’ll have a hard time finding a single happiness, let alone that double portion.

Today, when I sit back, and think, keeping Junior was one of the best decisions of my life. Everyone needs a friend or a partner in crime. I had a father and son duo. “We all have flaws, no matter how hard we try to tame sometimes still eludes us. If you give me your flaw, I’ll handle it flawlessly, and I give mine, you’d do the same. That’s when two is better than one; else, we’ll have two aggravated untamed flaws.” Both Casper and Junior were my babies. I became The Accidental Dog Mom, twice!

With Casper and Junior, everything doubled. Double the trouble, double energy required in running around, double the efforts in training them, double the expense, but also; double the joy, double the love, double the affection and care, double the happiness. What also doubled was the knowledge of how to handle and look after two dogs under one roof. Having said that, I would like to share a few tips with my dear readers of how to handle two dogs, and why two is better than one:

  • It is recommended to neuter the dogs. It calms them down which makes it easier to handle them. The negative side to this is, they start putting on weight. But with proper exercise and nutrition, weight can be easily managed
  • Both the dogs play with each other, burn their energy, get tired and go off to sleep. This gives pet parents more time to themselves and their personal work
  • It is easier to manage them in public as they both are stuck to each other and don’t get hyper when they socialise with other dogs
  • If one dog is scared of something, then the other one is there to comfort him. Like Caspu was super scared of crackers, and Junior would always be by his side to snuggle him

Of course there are pros and cons to everything. But, trust me when I say this, at the end of the day, it is worth it. Casper and Junior were polls apart. Casper being the calm and composed one, on the other hand, Junior was a handful. But, if you follow the Vet’s and Trainer’s instructions properly, and not to forget to give them a lot of love and devotion; you will become a pro.

Today, I once again can see the difference between having two dogs and one dog. I have to devote a lot of my time for Junior. Specially to play with him, burn his energy and socialise him. He is well trained, but being a Dog Mom, I feel extremely guilty of leaving him home alone while I go for work. Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day!