Each morning has a new beginning!

For the first time in history, we can save each one of us by staying at home and doing nothing. So I request everyone to “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” When our Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi announced the 21 days lockdown in India, I panicked too. Various thoughts came into my mind; do I have enough groceries? Do I have sufficient dog food? What about basic medicines? Do I have them? Apart from Junior, I even look after a few stray dogs. Was I allowed to feed them in this lockdown? The thoughts were endless. But a very close friend of mine made me sit down, and helped me with all my concerns. In these difficult times, it is imperative that we understand that we are not the only ones with problems and there may always be someone with more difficulty. The only thing which the human race can survive on is compassion. I can only quote the words of Janusz Korcza “I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act. It is not the duty of those around me to love me. Rather, it is my duty to be concerned about the world, about man.” Janusz Korcza was a polish-jewish educator, who ran an orphanage with 200 children and refused to abandon them and finally fell victim to the holocaust. 

As days have passed, everything started getting normal for me as well, predominantly mentally. I have made a routine for myself in this lockdown which although seemed extremely strenuous, in realty wasn’t really that bad to follow. I utilise my morning and afternoon in walking Junior, feeding the strays (yes, we are allowed (by law) to feed strays in our vicinity), cooking lunch and finishing basic chores. Later, I take a short nap and early evenings I do Yoga and then clean the house. In the night, I cook dinner, then I either paint, write my blog or do some office work (from home of course). Since I have been living alone with my dogs from the past 7 years, and as such I am more of a loner, this lockdown has not been very difficult for me. And, in any case, when you have a dog at home, you can never get bored.

When Casper had passed away, I had faced a similar time. The only difference, I felt lonely that time, and now, this is my life. Things were awful after Casper crossed the rainbow bridge. The first day I came home with only Junior, I burst out crying. My house was empty, and, Junior kept running around the house looking for Casper. Poor soul didn’t know that his partner in crime would never come back. My vet told me to control my emotions as dogs can sense it. I tried my best to be normal in front of Junior, but there were times when I couldn’t control my tears. Casper was fascinated with tennis balls; in totality he had 36 of them. He also had a favourite pillow. When I reached home, I hugged his pillow hard and cried cried and cried. My brother was with me that time and he suggested that I donate everything that was of Caspu. I knew that was the right thing to do, but my heart was not in favour of it. But every time I looked at Caspu’s stuff, I would cry. So I agreed with my brother and donated everything. The house became emptier, and Junior was a confused soul, who couldn’t figure out what was happening.

Days passed, but I couldn’t come to terms that Caspu was gone forever. Nothing helped. I tried keeping myself busy, played with Junior, worked more than my normal hours, but all in vain. The moment I would be left alone, I was lost in the memories of my baby. I searched the internet for countless hours to find answers if I could have done something different that could have saved Caspu. I blamed myself that it was my fault; to the extent that I isolated myself completely for some time. I also did an entire health check up of Junior in fear. I did everything so that Junior wouldn’t feel alone. But little did I know, not just me, but even Junior was getting into depression. One day, I didn’t even realise that I was hallucinating and was talking to my Mom and I told her that I feel the vet will call me and tell me that someone has abandoned a dog, and he looks exactly like Casper; please come and take him. That’s when my Mom realised that I now needed to see a psychiatrist. She explained to me that that there was no shame in seeking medical help. I agreed and visited the doctor and from the very first day of taking medicines I stopped crying. It wasn’t that I had forgotten Caspu. The medications only helped me to cope with my pain and accept the fact that he was gone, and I had done my best to save him. With time, and under my doctor’s guidance, my dosage was reduced, and I was completely off them after 4 months. I would like to give my suggestion to anyone suffering from depression and anxiety – Please ask for help. Do not suffer alone and talk to your loved ones. Vent it out and take medical help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. But do not take any such step by which people behind you suffer.

Healing is neither a fast track nor an easy process. It takes time, and a lot of courage, to accept the situation, and move on. Along with me, I had to stop Junior also from sinking. It took me quite a few months to get out of my miserable state and get back to routine. Even today, I have my days; I cry it out, I sulk, I vent out in front of my people. But next morning, I am a stronger girl to fight the day again – Like a phoenix rising from the ashes! I had read an article some years ago about an old man who had suffered a lot of loss in his lifetime but was still fulfilled with his life. I do not remember the exact words, but will try to convey his message in my words. He said, “Life is like sailing in a boat with your loved ones. Then a big wave comes and the boat goes down. Some make it to the surface and some drown. You hold on to one of the scattered log of wood to stay afloat in the water. Then another wave comes and pushes you back inside the water. But you have the log of wood so you float trying to catch your breath. Again, some make it and some don’t. With every wave, you are now prepared with what’s coming. So it doesn’t affect you much now. That’s life. The log of wood is your Hope to Live. Waves are the difficulties in life. And with every bad time, you get more and more prepared to face it.”

My separation from my husband and Casper’s death taught me a lot of things. First and foremost, I learnt self reflection. It is not necessary that always the other person is the evil; sometimes, in some situations, there is some amount of toxic in you as well. When a marriage breaks, or a relationship breaks, it is very easy to blame the partner. But, with time, you realise where you went wrong as well. It is always a two-way process – as rightly said, you cannot clap with one hand. With time, I reflected on my mistakes, accepted them and began the process to correct them and never repeat them.

You must be wondering, in all this, where was my husband. He left immediately after cremating Casper, and I never heard from him, or saw him again. Till that time, I was still hoping for a patch up. But after Casper’s death, I cremated my hopes also. I had finally accepted that we were not good for each other, and it was better to end the marriage legally now. But it was not easy. I didn’t know where my husband was or what he was doing. He was untraceable and even if I had to send him a legal notice, I didn’t have an address to send the same to. My family and I made many attempts to get in touch with him, but all in vain. Finally, last year I received an envelope from overseas which turned out to be a divorce notice which he had finally chosen to send. After 7 years of separation, my estranged husband had surfaced. We started the legal formalities, and the divorce will soon be finalized!

So, as I said before; this lockdown is going smooth for me. I cannot take Junior for a walk as often as I would like to. So I keep him fit and entertained by throwing one kibble of his food around the house. He runs for it and eats it. I know many people don’t keep food on the floor as the dog will get into the habit of eating crap from the ground or floor or during walk. But if you have trained your dog, your dog will never eat rubbish from the road or ground. Like Junior, he will only eat his kibble when I throw. He has never ever eaten anything from the road during his walk, or pounced on my plate when I am eating. He was trained when he was a puppy. Apart from this, a close friend of mine has gifted him a Tug Toy with suction which sticks to the floor and there is a ball on the other side of the elastic rope. Junior spends a good 20 minutes with that toy trying to pull the ball. He then gets tired and goes off to sleep. I also give him a Kong Ball filled with frozen curd and biscuits. There are many ways to keep your dogs entertained in this lockdown without much human involvement.

I just hope my blog brings encouragement, strength and positivity to your lives. And I hope my tips are helpful for your dogs. It is indeed a difficult time, but we have to be patient, and together, and we all can get through this. Daisaku Ikeda (Japanese Buddhist philosopher, educator, and author) has said “We are not defeated by adversity but by the loss of the will to strive. However devastated you may feel, so long as you have the will to fight on, you can surely triumph”

Once again, “STAY HOME, STAY SAFE.”

Till I See You Again!

William Godwin had said, “Hope is in some respects a thing more brilliant, more vivifying, than fruition. What we have looked forward to with eager and earnest aspiration is never in all respects equal to the picture we had formed of it. The very uncertainty enhances the enjoyment.”

In many ways, I do not necessarily agree with these words. Sometimes, just when you feel things are going great and you are back on track, life throws a curve ball and your world comes crushing down. Just when I was beginning to love life, life gave me a cruel slap on my face. It broke me in such a way, that this time, it was difficult to gather my shattered pieces and live again. The little happy home that I had built with Casper and Junior through a lot of struggles, tears, sacrifices and pain, came crashing down in no time. Year 2016, the worst year of my life! The year I shall never forget till my last breath. I was once asked – “What will be the most difficult thing about owning a dog?” I replied “The Goodbye!” Unfortunately, for all of its uncertainty, we still cannot flee the future!

2016, the year that took my Casper away…forever!

I had just moved to another house which was big enough for my 2 dogs to live in. It had just been a day in the new place when Casper started throwing up. I assumed it was the new place, maybe the smell, or just the dust from all the boxes and packing, which he was just trying to adjust. I gave him a carrot which was his favourite treat to munch on; but, for the first time, he didn’t show any interest in it. Casper had always had a sensitive stomach, and used to gobble up grass many a times and throw up. The vets had always advised me to just give him an anti-acid which I did this time as well and got back to unpacking my boxes. Junior was his usual self, playing, and irritating Casper as always and I assumed, Casper would be OK as well in a few hours. However, the next day, Caspu threw up again, after which I took him to the vet immediately. The vet did a general check-up, and prescribed another anti acid and told me to update him about Casper’s condition after three days. But Caspu didn’t stop vomiting and I took him to the vet once again. By then, Casper had also developed a little swelling on his stomach. The vet immediately started him on saline and took his blood sample for testing, which to our amazement, and relief, came completely normal! I was extremely confused as Casper vomited everyday despite all the treatments and medications.  By the 10th day I had gotten extremely paranoid and asked the vet to do another round of blood test. The tests again came normal and so the vet advised me to do a sonography which I did as well. His sonography showed little thickening of his liver walls. The vet informed me that Caspu had liver issues and started treating him for the same. By this time, Casper had started throwing up blood, pooping blood and peeing blood!

I was in a state of mess. Day and night, I was at the vet’s clinic with Casper, no time and enthusiasm to eat and drink, as it was difficult balancing between Junior who was all day alone at home and Casper’s illness. Even though Caspu’s health deteriorated and the vet classified him to be in a critical state, he still wanted to play, would eat and drink normally, and slept well. Somewhere, I had hopes that Caspu would make a full recovery like before; somewhere I feared the worse. But I could see that my baby was suffering; there was blood everywhere. Even when the vet tried giving him an injection, that part of the body would completely swell. This stress and fear took a severe toll on me as well. I stopped eating well and my weight came down to 40 Kgs. I couldn’t sleep at night and would randomly check on Casper to ensure he was still breathing.  But I was determined to leave no stones unturned for Casper’s treatment. I took opinions of three vets; but, nothing helped. Casper’s health kept going downhill. In all this, Junior was getting severely neglected so I decided to keep him at boarding lodging facility till Caspu came home hale and hearty. Little did I know, Caspu would never come home!

Gertrude Stein (American novelist) has said, “It is natural to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes to that siren until she allures us to our death”. I was fighting a battle against time to save my baby and one day, I had an absolute melt down. I couldn’t handle the situation alone and I called my husband (still legally married but separated) and begged him to come and be with me and Caspu. To my extreme disappointment, for a man, who couldn’t live without Casper, and had infact thrown a fit during separation to keep Casper with him, was now giving excuses for not coming. But after a lot of pleading, and begging, he came.  Somewhere within me, I knew Casper was probably not going to make it, and I guess, my main motive to call my husband was so that Caspu could spend his last days with him.

The next day, at the vet’s clinic, Casper got a stroke. That’s when the vet finally suggested putting him down. I was beyond devastated; I blanked out and I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing and hearing. Maybe it was just a bad dream, and I would snap out of it any minute. While my mind, and my soul were still processing the words which the vet had just said, my husband immediately gave his approval to the vet. I froze, but before I could even react, the vet looked at my husband with a stern eye and his exact words, as I remember were, “You are no one to take this decision. You were not even here. The only person to take this decision is your wife.” The vet then looked at me for my answer; this was by far the most difficult decision of my life I ever had to take. I knew there was no way Caspu would have made it after the stroke. I couldn’t see him suffer more and I gave my approval to the vet, but requested him if he could wait a little? The vet told me to take my time.  I wanted Casper to have his favourite meal which my Mom cooked one last time, and I immediately called my mom who said she would have my brother get it there as soon as possible. While I was waiting for my brother to come, I put Casper’s head on my lap and started talking to him that “everything will be all right. I am here. Your Mumma is here.” Just then, Casper’s eyes rolled up, he let out a sigh and he passed away naturally on my lap. At that very moment, I wanted to die with Casper too. And just when this happened, my brother arrived with Casper’s favourite food. I broke down in my brother’s arm and till this date, my brother curses himself for reaching late and Caspu crossed the rainbow bridge without eating. My baby was only 5 years and 8 months old. He died of Liver Cirrhosis within 10 days of showing symptoms!

I was inconsolable, so my brother bought me home and my husband went to cremate Casper. The only thing left with me was my Angel’s memories and his collar. Not just my parents, but my uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends were waiting for me at home. All had tears in their eyes but were trying their best to put up a strong face in front of me. For the first time in my life, I saw tears in my Dad’s eyes. A man who avoided coming close to my dogs, giving a reason that it’s an unwanted attachment; had broken down. My brother, who drove me and Casper every single day and night to the vet’s clinic, was shattered. And my Mom was beyond grief stricken.

Why this happened? Where did I go wrong? Was it my fault? There were a lot of questions in my mind. Except for vomiting once a day, Caspu didn’t show any other symptoms at that time which eventually resulted to taking his life. The time when the meaning of life was sucked out of me, I learnt a few things which I would like to share with all you pet parents:

  1. Get your pets blood work done every year; even if they are absolutely healthy
  2. Labradors are very playful dogs, so they do not show symptoms immediately
  3. Never neglect a slightest change in your dog’s behaviour. Talk to the vet immediately
  4. Do not leave anything for later. If you have plans to take them trekking, take them now, if you plan to do a photo shoot with them, do it now, etc. Life is too short!
  5. Do not blame yourself. You did everything you could
  6. Do not be a Google doctor. Trust your vet. Your vet knows what he/she is doing. Follow the instructions well
  7. Love and take care of your pets now. You do not know what tomorrow brings. And in general; LIVE IN TODAY!

Today, 4 years after Casper has left us, Junior and I have become even more inseparable.  I may have moved on, but the memory of Casper lives in me forever. At times, I remember the famous words of George Eliot, a rather famous English novelist of the 19th century. She wrote, and I quote, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”