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!