Category: Animals

Life Lessons From A Cocker Spaniel

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Three days ago, I came home in a pool of tears, terrified I was going to lose my right hand.

I could see a vein pulsating in my wrist. My thumb, index and middle finger were on the verge of numbness. At the slightest twitch of my wrist, a dreadful electric shock ran through my arm.

In a wave of panic, I imagined doctors shaking their heads. They would have to amputate my right hand. I wouldn’t be able to write, type, play keyboard, draw. Literally everything I was half decent at would slip through my fingers.

The more I thought about it, the more I wept. I had never quite wept that openly before. My mom panicked along with me. My dad meekly suggested an ointment for want of something to say.

Today, nothing about my hand has changed.

The numbness isn’t gone. My right hand lies limp on my thigh as I type with my left, backspacing and retyping to get the spellings right. The self-diagnosed carpal tunnel still taunts me.

But I’m not crying anymore.

Because I spent a day with this dog.

This is Chap.

He is a Cocker Spaniel. His mane is handsome as a lion’s. His fur soft as a baby’s blanket. His demeanour, adorable as a puppy! But he doesn’t have the gorgeous big puppy eyes that people fawn over. Instead he has his eyelids stitched together so they don’t get infected.

Chap is a blind dog. He was born blind.

When my friend adopted him as a few weeks-old puppy, he thought his eyes were infected. Eventually, the vets had to clean out the cavities completely and stitch them up so they wouldn’t get infected again.

I’m not writing this so you sympathize with Chap.

I’m writing this because I’m in awe of how Chap goes about his life.

Chap walks around his home with a striking sense of familiarity. The confidence in his gait, the sureness in his paws when he leaps onto the gate and the menacing growl he has in store for strangers will hardly make you sympathise with him.

When he smelled me, he trusted me at once. He propped his shaggy head on my knee as I sat down. I gingerly placed my right hand on his head. He licked my arm, the warmth of his tongue comforting my brittle arm.

To me, it felt like he was pitying me.

Pitying me for the little discomfort in my hand.

And suddenly, everything seemed so ludicrous. My tears, my panicked state, my overstated emotions that trapped all those around me. I was put off by my own desire for attention.

A hand pain. Seriously.

I went to the doctor today; he gave me pills and sent me off. Said it’ll be alright.

It’s going to be a while, though, before I can wave it off as a setback, like Chap has done with his sight.

Isn’t it amusing how life throws so many lessons at us and we almost always turn a blind eye to them?

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An obituary

This morning, I woke up at 6.30. As usual, the first thing I did was check my phone. Twitter prompted me to read an article about the habits of a successful entrepreneur. “Start your day with positivity. Exercise.”
I thought OK, that’s easy and went for a jog.

I had hardly run a 100 metres when I saw a dog. No collar, quite skinny, no owner around. A stray dog. He was lying on the pavement, apparently sun bathing. My instinct took over, I jogged towards the dog. It was only when I went up close that I realised he was dead.

Eyes sealed shut, one leg stuck upward, the rest of him like he was just taking a peaceful nap. No injuries, nothing. Just a dog who was walked onto the pavement to take his final nap.

A freshly dead dog. No flies around him. No foul smell.

I didn’t know what to think for a few seconds. Should I be sad? Should I be shocked? Should I continue jogging?

He’s dead. It won’t make a difference to him whether you stay or go. Positivity. Exercise. Go away. It’s alright.

Last option it is.

I continued jogging, my eyes on the road ahead of me, but my mind lagging behind. It’s not fair to let him lie on the street, his meekness open to the world, is it? If I was dead, I wouldn’t want anyone to see me splayed on the ground. In fact, personally, I wouldn’t want anybody to see me at all! I would want them to remember me as I was alive! Like a dog, I would love to go away from my home and rest in peace at a place where no one can see me.

Perhaps the dog would like that too.
He’s in a better place spiritually, but not physically. Get him out of there.

I went back, and told a sweeper about the dog. She said I’ve to call someone else. I went ahead and asked a man who was clearing up garbage. He told me it’s not in his jurisdiction to pick up the dog, but was kind enough to point out a phone number to me. Stay positive. I made a call, a courteous BBMP person picked up the phone and within half an hour the little mister who was so peacefully asleep was gone from the spot.

I don’t know what happened to him afterwards. Perhaps they buried him. Maybe they burnt him. I’m not sure. But he was not lying on the street for everyone to see any more.

When a human dies, grand funerals are arranged, meals served, ceremonies conducted, anniversaries remembered. When a stray dog dies, nobody even bothers to look twice. But for all you know, the dog made thousands of people happy in his 14 year long lifetime, possibly more than a human did in his 80 year lifespan.

The milkman the dog went galloping after. The newspaper man that the dog greeted happily every morning without fail. The watchman who shared his afternoon meals with the dog. The shopkeeper next door who gave the doggy Parle G every evening. The toddler who crawls around at the construction site. The girl who just came back home after a long day at work. The young boy who just had a fight with his girlfriend and went out for a smoke. I’m sure stray dogs make someone’s day everyday, no matter on how small or big a scale.

These dogs touch a thousand lives. And yet, they don’t get a goodbye, forget a funeral.

So this obituary is for all dogs out there that died unceremoniously.

Thank you for giving us your untamed love! You were special to at least one person everyday. You will be remembered for your beautiful innocent eyes, your wet nosie and your flappy ears that always swung back when you saw us. If you ever growled at us, we forgive you. And we apologise for having been mad at you too. Anger happens sometimes.
Usually, obituaries say “survived by so and so” about the person’s children, but you are survived by thousands of people who will remember you fondly for that one day or everyday that you made special.
We love you doggie. Hope to meet you in heaven and be with you forever.

On a more personal note, thank you to every single dog for instilling positivity in me. Whether it was Ramu, Simba or Gunner, all three dogs I’ve seen go away, you’ve all made a very big impact on me during different phases of my life. You’ll never be forgotten.

PS: If you find a dead dog, call your local BBMP incharge. You’ll find this number written on the auto that comes to pick up garbage every morning. Note it down sometime. You’ll never know when it could come of use. The least a dog deserves is a decent removal, if not a burial or a funeral. Do what you can.

Respect all dogs.

Peace. Love. Adopt.

Must stop making Disney movies out of everything in my head

A few years ago, I saw a meme that said, “When you see something that disgusts you, say, a worm or a lizard, and you want to kill it, just pause and make a Disney movie in your head from its point of view.” Or something on those lines. And for some godforsaken reason, that meme has remained etched in my head from that day.

Sheepie :)
Sheepie :)

Initially, I didn’t think of it much. But it was one of those thoughts that become louder and louder as years pass by. Now, it’s just messed my mind up badly. I think from every animal’s point of view, and since it’s a Disney movie in my head, everything is hopelessly cute, even a snake, even a worm. Every animal has a family, a child with an adorable baby voice and big eyes, waiting for Daddy Worm to come home. To give you a perspective, I make a Finding Nemo movie out of every animal’s life.

Looking at it from this point of view has made me think a hundred times before doing anything. Before I sit on the ground, I look for ants to make sure there are none. Before I pour water into a plant, I make sure there aren’t any catterpillars on it. If there’s a spider web in my room, I let it be. If a rat scuttles by me, I don’t mind. If a mosquito bites me, I le- ok no, mosquitoes gotta die. Every single one of them.

Anyway, it’s all right with me that I don’t want to cause harm to these beings. But what’s getting to me is that if I harm some living thing by mistake, I won’t hear the end of it from my brain. My mind tortures me about it for hours. The other day, I was doing the dishes, and just as a poured water into the sink, I noticed a small insect in the sink and before I could do anything, it got washed away and went right through the drain. I got into its head for ten seconds, I got flushed down a dirty black pipe. I grew depressed and shed a tear for it. Another time, I injured a big black ant by mistake and broke one of its legs. Immediately, I went into the ant’s head and saw a huge, monstrous me, out to finish the world, raising its hand and breaking its leg.

Clearly, I don’t know where to draw the line.

For instance, when the beef ban was announced in Maharashtra, I was celebrating like never before. But then, I read this article yesterday about how the economy of the country will be affected and how many people will be left unemployed. On the other hand, I read this article about how eating less meat is the best way to tackle climate change and saw this effective campaign by models in China fighting for animal rights. After reading these, I didn’t know what to think.

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Sheep in the mountains

There are many other things that add to this mind-boggled state of mine. My colleague, Vivian, was once telling me about sheep and cattle in the Himalayas, and how the shepherds there make a living from their products. When they’re alive, they provide milk, and subsequent milk products, they help control the landscape by grazing excessive vegetation. When they’re dead, their meat is eaten, their wool is used to make warm clothes, their skin is used to make leather, their horns are used for something else. Every body part of the dead animal helps the shepherd make a living. And they’re all well taken care of, as I saw for myself.

I’ve even read a lot of James Herriot, who was a countryside vet. He wrote in one of his books about how a few farmers would weep to send their ageing cattle to slaughterhouses because they were too attached to the animals. This made me realise that a lot of these people don’t want to kill and use these animals just for the heck of it, but they have to make a living out of it.

So I’m left in a very confused state. Is it OK and ethical to breed them, take good care of them and then kill them after they’ve had a good life? Or should I get into the animal’s head and be shocked at wtf is going on when I’m being taken to the slaughterhouse? I’d be enraged if I was the animal and not having my Right to Life. But I’d be equally upset if I was a broke farmer, who couldn’t put bread (or meat) on the table.

One thought that came to my mind when I read the above mentioned article about the beef ban was that it’s ok to have beef. But it’s NOT ok to slaughter them unethically, illegally and heartlessly.

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#LifeSucksAndThenYouDie

My friend, Sanjana, once did a documentary of illegal cow slaughter in Chennai. Slaughterhouses are supposed to follow a process that involves sedating the animals and then killing them. But none of that happens in most of these butcher shops. They just take the animal to the backyard and chop it’s head off with a blunt knife and most times, the head doesn’t even get chopped off fully. I do not want to be inside that cow’s head, or outside it. Unfortunately, Sanjana witnessed this first hand and was really upset for weeks together.

As you can see, this topic has really put me in a fix and I sure am glad that I’m neither an animal farmer nor someone who makes the rules. Even as a mere onlooker, I’m muddled up.

I’m not arguing for vegetarianism or against meat-eating. That’s a completely different topic. But I just had to put these confused thoughts down.

I wish my mind would stop wandering and entering other being’s heads. Sigh.

The puppy that never lived

It’s quite a strange evening in my life. Nothing funny. Nothing amusing.

I’m sorry little puppy, but I need to write this down.

Just half an hour ago, my dad and I walked to a dark, dingy railway track with a shovel, a metal rod and a heavy sack. The sack grew heavier by the minute. Strange, because the content of the sack wasn’t as heavy just ten minutes before. It was light. It was also hungry and scared.

I had taken it home, given it biscuits and some warmth.

Now, it lies under two feet of mud, a mere bundle of fur and body.

It’s strange how life changes with the blink of an eye, isn’t it?

My evening started as usual. I got home at 7. It had just stopped raining.

Before I could even take my helmet off, my dad said, “Did you see the new puppy? It was outside the house just half an hour ago. You won’t believe it! It looks just like your dog!”

“What!” I exclaimed, a wide grin forming on my face. I threw my bag down right on the door mat, took my helmet off and ran to the next road. My mum, who was probably thinking, Oh God here she goes again! shouted after me saying, “Swathi! Don’t bring the puppy home! Play with it wherever it is and come!”

This was the usual drill when someone told me about a puppy in the vicinity. I always ran after it, my mother always shouted after me. I ran although I knew I couldn’t keep it. No one is at home to take care of it. We all work. Even my current dog half lives inside and outside the house. I can’t manage another one.

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The little puppy girl

But I ran anyway. I found the puppy. She was adorable. She had big black eyes. I went up to her cautiously, trying not to scare her. It took about ten minutes to gain her trust. She finally let me scratch her ear. But she kept running away, on the road, after people who she thought had food with them. That’s when I realised she was really hungry.

I picked her up to bring her home. She was shivering. As I carried her, a young man came up to me. He had a DSLR in one hand and a veg roll in another. He introduced himself as Sameer, said he has a blog and asked if he could click a picture of me and the puppy. Instinct told me that he was a nice enough guy and I let him click a bunch of pictures.

He asked me what I was going to do with the puppy. I said I’d call a few people, try and get it adopted. He was visibly impressed. He said, “You do this with all puppies you find?” I said this was the first one I was trying to get adopted. “The previous puppy I found stayed with me, and still does,” I smiled.

As I had said, I came home, put the puppy down and called Let’s Live Together hoping to leave the puppy there for the night. While the phone rang, I saw the puppy walk all over the house leaving tiny paw prints behind. I called six times and no one answered. So I clicked a picture of the puppy, posted it on Bombat Dawgz, asking if someone wanted to adopt it. After that, I gave the puppy five Parle G biscuits. She ate hungrily.

After this, the puppy started scratching the door and whining. She wanted to go out. I let her go out thinking she wanted to pee or poop. I didn’t go with her. After all, she had been on the streets ever since she was born. I would go back out after changing my clothes and bring her back in.

Meanwhile, Supriya called me up. I spoke to her and told her about the puppy. Told her how I ran after it, told her how my mom shouted when I brought it home. We both laughed. “How typical of you and your mom!” she laughed.

Then my dad called out to me from outside. “Swathi! Your puppy is here roaming around! Come and take her,” he shouted to me.

I gleefully hung up, and was getting down the stairs to the main door, when I heard a blood-curdling scream from the road. Another louder scream followed. My mom looked at me with terror in her eyes. “I think someone’s chain got snatched!” she said to me.

I ran out.

But before I even went out, somehow, I knew what had happened – exactly what I had dreaded.

Five people stood on the other side of the road, crowded around a small bundle on the floor. I crossed the road, still without my slippers. Just like my first meeting with the puppy, I took cautious steps. This time, not because the puppy was scared, but because I was scared. I saw a man take a water bottle and pour it into the small heap that lay there.

I went to take a closer look. I don’t know what exactly the man said. Maybe it was “She’s gone.” “It’s dead.” I don’t know. All I remember was running across the road, back towards my house, wailing and unable to control myself. I ran straight up to my room, wailed and wailed into my pillow, shouted at myself for letting the puppy go out.

But then, I had to get my act together. Still wailing, I went out, back to the road. By now, all my neighbours had come out listening to the screams and my wailing. I ran towards the puppy. Sat next to her. I stroked her belly. It was still warm.

There was no blood. The bike probably ran over its neck and snapped it clean. It had died in a second. No one heard a whine or whimper.

I looked around me. The girl sitting next to me was a friend from yoga class, Veena. She has adopted a dog herself and dotes over dogs. Another girl I saw weeping across the road was Saraswathi, a girl known all over Malleswaram for her love for dogs. It was strange that the three of us had to be there at that spot, consoling each other.

My dog, Piccolo and Veena’s dog circled the dead puppy, sniffing at it and fussing about. My dad said my dog had been playing with the puppy earlier in the evening. It depressed me.

We sat by the dog for some more time. Another lady came by, with her daughter, and asked if she could help by taking the puppy to the vet. She didn’t know the puppy was already dead.

Then my dad came. I suggested we bury the dog. My dad said we could bury it near the railway track. The shopkeeper nearby gave us a big gunny bag. I didn’t want to touch the dog anymore. My dad took the bag and put the puppy into the bag. He handed the sack to me. I lifted it. I was shocked at the weight. I told Veena that I’d make sure the puppy was buried properly and that she could go home without worrying. She went home weeping.

It’s strange to think that all this happened within ten minutes. The photographs clicked by the blogger, the biscuits, the phone call, the scream.

I carried the sack home, then saw my mom. She was bursting with guilt for shouting at me when I brought the puppy. She wept. “I should’ve never shouted at you and asked you to take the puppy out. I’m so sorry.” My heart really went out to her and I just gave her a long hug. It wasn’t her fault. Once guilt gets to you, it becomes the dripping faucet at the back of your mind. I wasn’t going to let anyone blame themselves. Even my dad was already blaming himself.

But he’s a brave man. He took me to the railway track. Both of us dug a three-feet-deep hole. “Should we bury it with the gunny bag?” he asked.

I said no.

“I can’t bear to look if we take it out of the sack,” he said. My heart went out to him this time.

I said I’d do it. I emptied the gunny bag. It was dark, so I couldn’t really see the puppy. She was just a tiny, black and white bundle. My dad was turning away. I told the puppy I’m sorry.

We covered her with mud. My dad mentioned “Hanuman” something. I didn’t quite catch him. I was about to burst into tears, but I fought them back. I had to stay brave for his sake. I just said “Rest in peace puppy,” under my breath and left.

We rode back. When I reached home and opened the door, I saw the puppy’s tiny paw prints on my floor.

I took a cold shower. I deleted the “Up for adoption” post from Bombat Dawgz.

I was and still am too shocked to do or say anything more. I don’t know how to react, whether I should cry some more or just assume a matter-of-fact tone. My voice is coming out straight, but my hands won’t stop shivering.

I’m on the borderline between blaming myself for the loss of a life and blaming it on fate. But the more I brood over it, the more depressed I’m going to get.

All I can say to console myself is that the puppy is in a better place now.

And hopefully, resting in peace.

I’m glad whoever is reading this is with me to share my joys and sorrows equally. Thank you for sticking to the end. Don’t let this ruin your day. Hundreds of puppies die everyday like this. You can’t change the past. You can’t undo what happened even what happened ten seconds ago. Just tell yourself they’re all in a better place now. But the next time you see a stray puppy, make sure you take it into your house, come what may, and keep it in your house till you find a foster home or a permanent home for it.

Don’t make the same mistake I made.

Braving a hailstorm in the Himalayas

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My little kutthu

It was April 28, 2015. I rose to the sound of cuckoos cooing. Not a cuckoo clock. Real cuckoos. Slowly, my mind registered more sounds. The cric cric of mynas, the cawing of ravens, the pecking of woodpeckers, the occasional moo of a cow, the barking of mountain dogs and the rattling of bells from around mules’ necks. What a perfect morning it was!

My tent mates, Suma and Ashwini, were already up and immersed in hushed chit-chatting. Hushed because every sound in the mountains sounds ten times louder. (And the neighbouring tents can hear all your gossip.) I asked them what the time was. I had no watch and my phone had been turned off for two days. Keeping track of time on this trip was the last thing on my agenda. But we had a schedule to follow.

They said it was around 5 am.

I was up on time.

We were to go from our campsite in Rohini Bugyal to Brujgali today.

I walked out of the tent and was greeted to a fantastic view, something I could never take for granted despite seeing it everyday. From below my feet, acres and acres of bright green meadows unfolded in all directions, until they disappeared into deep, untamed forests. These forests were no ordinary forests. They were replete with rhododendron trees that were full with pink and red flowers – a rare sight that occurs during March and April in the Himalayas.

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The toilets with the best views

Beyond the forests, rose the much-coveted ranges of the Himalayas themselves. Oh how we had waited the previous evening to see these guys! It had become a sort of ordeal to reach the campsite every evening, huddle up on a carpet and stare in the general direction of the mountains, waiting for the peaks to show themselves. They were almost always hidden by a thick layer of clouds. How many abilities we all wished for – to simply blow the clouds away with an “uff,” or wipe the screen clean of clouds or maybe suck the clouds into a vacuum cleaner. If only life was that easy! On most evenings, we went to sleep disappointed, hoping for a good view in the morning.

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Pretend meditation. (Praying for a mountain view) Picture courtesy: Deepak Suri

And that hope was never shot down. Surely enough, everyday, the mountains rose from their lazy slumber along with the sun, showing off the fresh snow atop their peaks. They gleamed in golden rays at dawn, throwing gigantic shadows over villages and forests below. This was the view I woke up to this morning too. As usual, I was dumbfounded by the view. I remember thinking, “Why do I bother writing? Or clicking pictures? Like any of that can actually portray the grandeur of these guys.” I had heard so much about how insignificant they make people feel. And that happened to me everyday.

As I grudgingly brushed my teeth in the biting cold water, I saw one of the shepherd dogs about a hundred feet away. “Doggyyyy!,”  I called to it. When it turned towards me, I noticed with a chill down my spine that it was no mountain dog. It was a sleek little fox. It stared at me for a while, until I gestured to everyone to look at the fox. It stared for a few more seconds and ran away into the forest.

Such was the start to my day. It was just the beginning of the day’s adventure.

We started our trek at 7 am through the densest forests ever. Oaks, maples, rhodos, the “tree of souls” from Avatar, they were all competing for prettiness. For me, the maple trees won it. The shapely leaves against the sunlight and their many shades as they lay drying on the floor left me in awe. I picked up a few to press in a book.

Waterfall as seen from far far away
Waterfall as seen from far far away

We rambled on through the forest till we hit a waterfall. We could hear it from far away, swiftly cascading down the hillside. The water was freezing. After I saw two trekkers dive into the water, I couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge in it myself. Unable to strip down like the men, I just went and stuck my head in the water, letting my hair down. As expected, I had a temporary brain freeze. But it was bright and sunny and the water was so refreshing! (The swollen tonsils later would pay the price.)

There was more adventure yet to be faced. The final two hours were a challenging steep ascent through lush meadows where woolly sheep grazed. But as we ambled on, a thick layer of dark grey shrouded the pretty blue sky and left us apprehensive about rain. Sure enough, it began to drizzle and then pour. Since we were all equipped with raincoats, bag covers and ponchos, we were all safe and ready to carry on.

An hour away from our destination, the camp site at Brujgali, water droplets turned into tiny marbles of ice. We were all fascinated! We collected hailstones in our hands and played with them. We stood with our mouths open to the sky and ate hailstones. We were thrilled!

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Last picture I shot before putting my camera inside to protect it from the rain

But not everything was sunshine and rainbows clouds and hailstones. Within ten minutes, the hailstones grew to the size of baby potatoes and began pelting us with enormous force. It had turned into a full blown Himalayan hailstorm. Solid stones fell in abundance from the grey nothingness above. And with great force. It was painful. I remember exclaiming “Ouuuuch!” and shouting at every stone that hit me. We ran to our campsites with the little energy we had left in us. We made it just on time, before the thundering clouds lost control and burst open in a celestial flash of light.

Hailstorm at Brujgali
Hailstorm as seen from the dining tent

Had we been outside for even ten more minutes, it would have turned into a life threatening situation. If not life threatening, a few of us might have lost a few toes and fingers to frost bites. (And I’m not exaggerating.)

But we were safe for now. Fifteen of us huddled together like cows in the dining tent, threw our bags, ponchos and shoes in a corner and rubbed our hands together for warmth. Some people sat back-to-back trying to generate some warmth. It was bitterly cold. Our teeth clattered and our knees trembled. It was past lunch time and we opened the lunch boxes we had packed in the morning. Our rotis had turned cold and hard and our sabzis had dried up. But we ate hungrily. By now, there was a foot of ice all around our tent.

Ashish, bringing us tea
Ashish, bringing us chai

Struggling to speak, breathing out frosty and misty air, we kept ourselves cheerful with gay banter. But the real cheer came when we heard Ashish’s (our local guide) voice outside, shouting out that one word we longed to hear. “Chai!” My face lit up with excitement. Hot chai in the middle of a hailstorm in the Himalayas! No matter how cliched that might sound, it is worth every bit of the hype. Nothing could make me feel warmer than chai. We were all so lazy to look for our mugs, we just took chai in our lunch boxes and drank like savages. It was wonderful.

Like chai was the answer to everything, the hail storm subsided around then and we could finally step out of the dining tents into our own 3-man tents. We ran in and settled for the evening, unpacking, repacking and setting up the place with sleeping bags and inners. I remember thinking, “Did we do something to piss the mountains off? Why did they pelt us from above and give us such bad weather?” I’m not a particularly religious person, but that evening, I prayed to Shiva and Rama (whose temples were our final destination), saying sorry and to give us good weather.

My prayers were soon answered. At around 5 pm, when I stepped out of the tent, I was greeted by the most gorgeous view I’d seen so far on the trek. The jagged incisors of the Himalayas stood tall and proud on the horizon. The white of their teeth stood out against the forget-me-not blue sky. Tiny wisps of cloud floated high over the mountains. Closer to me, trees swayed, trying to shake the ice off themselves. I could sit and watch for hours despite the cold wind.

Brujgali camp site
Our campsite at Brujgali

The scenery was worth a thousand hailstorms.

I drank soup, clicked a bunch of pictures for the little time my camera battery lasted and went to my tent. The view from my tent of the setting sun is something I’ll never forget. It’s the best view I’ve ever had from any place I’ve lived in. For a while, I wished I could live permanently in that tent at that very spot.

View from my tent
View from my tent

It’s funny how a few people say good things are short-lived and how a few others say good things last forever. This Himalayan trek was a mixture of both. It lasted only a week, but it’s effect will last on my for years to come. Well, at least until I go on another trek and refresh my memory.

I feel much more mature, calm and accommodating than ever before. Despite the exhausting trek, I feel re-energised. I feel like I can deal with any demanding situation by simply saying to myself, “Pfff I’ve braved a hailstorm in the Himalayas. This is nothing.

Most of all, I feel at peace.

Vote of thanks

Thanks to all my trek mates, especially my tent mates, who turned out to be like family members to me. I’m sure every time I think of this trek, the sound of our laughter and elation upon reaching the peak will echo in my head. Also I want to say a huge thank you to the mules for transporting our luggage to every camp site, and to all the animals (dogs, cattle and sheep) who made my day everyday! Also, to the little kids in Sari, our base camp, who were such a hearty bunch. They actually came and fell at my feet and made me stupidly say, “Chill,” every time they did that.

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Baba :)

Also, special thanks to Baba, who literally paved our way to the peak with an ice axe. He is a champ. I don’t think any of us would have gotten anywhere without him, especially not in that knee-deep snow. Also, thanks to Indiahikes, who treated us like royalty with bed tea to wake us up and a hot mug of Bournvita before sleeping and the cosiest tents and sleeping bags. I don’t think I felt deprived of anything even for a minute in the mountains. And I have to thank Sandhya and Arjun, my bosses, for encouraging me to go on this trek. I really have the best job in the world.

Thank you Mahesh and Deepak for contributing pictures to this blogpost. :)

It was just my first Himalayan adventure and it taught me a lot. And I’m already planning my next one. :)

Here’s to many more trekking adventures.

PS: Sorry to all you guys whom I left worried after the earthquake in Nepal and India. I didn’t have network and I couldn’t have possibly updated you all. Thank you for the concern.

Keep calm and carry on_
Cheers!

 

When abortion is a painfully good choice

Today was one of the toughest days of my life. It was mentally exhausting.

A lady said to me, “These dogs are giving us a chance to undo our sins by helping them out.”

By “helping them out,” she meant neutering or spaying them so that they can’t have babies.

I stood there wondering, “Am I really wiping off a sin or committing another one?”

Things got much harder when the veterinary doctor came to me and said that Puppy was pregnant. It wasn’t just spaying now. It was abortion.

Puppy and me
Puppy and me

This is how it all happened. Around a month ago, a female Puppy that lived outside my house got into her heat cycle. When female dogs are in their heat cycle, they attract males from miles away. It was a terrible sight to watch the male dogs mount themselves on her, whether she liked it or not. She couldn’t sleep at all because male dogs just lined up to mate with her.

I don’t know whether I was doing the right thing, but I brought Puppy inside two days after her heat cycle began. I kept her in my house, taking her for walks four times a day so that she could still play with her friend, Piccolo. Piccolo is another male dog in the area, who dotes on Puppy. Even now, he comes like a bodyguard with Puppy and me when we go for our walks.

For a few days, she didn’t like being inside. She wanted to be outside with her friends. But I made her sleep in my room, bought her a few toys to chew on, played with her every evening after work and promised to let her out after we operate her.

I could get her operated only after her heat cycle, which lasts around 45 days. I waited and waited, and thinking it was over by now, I took her to the vet today.

The doctor called me in after the operation and showed me the six half-grown foetuses he had just removed from her. They were strung together with the placenta. They looked like tiny balloons. In 15 days, he said, Puppy would have littered.

Who would take care of them if they were born? I don’t have the capacity to take care of seven dogs. I can’t even keep one.
I wouldn’t have the heart to separate Puppy from her babies and give them up for adoption.
There are more than 10 rogue dogs around the area that I wouldn’t trust to let the puppies live on the streets.
If they did, who would feed them all after they’ve grown?
Moreover, Puppy is still only around 9 months old. Would she survive childbirth? 

My mind was teeming with all these questions. In fact, these questions were what helped me justify my decision to get her spayed.

It wasn’t a decision I made easily. I’d been reading about it every single day for over a month. Most articles I read online told me to spay her. Not trusting the internet, I asked my friends. My two most favourite people, Rahul and Nuvena, were dead against it. And I almost always take their opinions seriously.

You do not have a right over Puppy’s life and her puppies’ lives. You cannot take away her right to be a mother!

Conversation with didi
Conversation with didi

These were the lines thrown at me by them, and by my own mind. Just to make sure I spoke to the person most concerned about animals, I contacted my cousin, Kavitha didi. She has dedicated her whole life to animals, fighting for their rights. She has been a vegan for over 20 years now and is a role model to me. Her opinion was what would convince me, if anything.

So i took her advice and went to the vet. When the doctor told me she was pregnant, I was doubly torn. Will Puppy know what I’ve done to her? Will she ever forgive me? Will she go into depression? How can I do such a terrible thing to her? She would have been a loving mom. If I put myself in her place, I’d be furious.

I asked the doctor all these questions. He tried to convince me saying I was doing a good deed by sterilising six more dogs. He said birth control is the need of the hour.

Well, thinking practically, it makes sense to get street dogs spayed. It’s not easy to take care of them in this hostile urban world. Not many people like street dogs. Besides, I’ve always been pro-choice. Nip it in the bud before it grows up without love and care is what I believe. But when you aren’t making the decision for yourself, it isn’t that easy.

My mind asked me, “Why are you thinking practically when it comes to Puppy? You yourself aren’t always practical. If you were that practical in life, you’d have gone with the tide, done engineering and MBA and gotten a mainstream job and earned well. You wouldn’t have decided to be a writer. So why be practical in Puppy’s case?”

I still haven’t answered that question.

Puppy
Puppy

All I know is that it was the toughest day. Watching everything, right from Puppy getting anesthetised, to her dropping out of consciousness, my dad carrying her to the operation table, peeking into the window of the operation room to see how it was going, everything was a huge struggle. During the 10 minute operation, my dad and I were constantly pacing up and down, exactly like they show in movies. I couldn’t keep my voice stable. There was a point when  I broke down because I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad and I were equally concerned about Puppy and trying in vain to convince each other that she’ll be fine.

The most heart-wrenching moment for me was when she was still lying unconscious at home. She couldn’t move, not her eyes, not her ears, not anything. She lay there, limp, with her tongue sticking out. I sat next to her and said, “Puppy, I’m sorry.” And I was shocked to see her tail wag just hearing my voice.

Sigh.

Someone said that Puppy has the deepest trust in me because she knows I won’t let anything bad happen to her.

I hope that still holds good.

To all those of you planning to get your dogs neutered/spayed, I wish you good luck.

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Dad and Puppy

Special thanks to my dad, who has been with me throughout my time with Puppy, advising me what to do and taking care of her all day himself. I’d never be able to handle Puppy without him. Heck I wouldn’t even love dogs this much if not for him. So thank you appa! And to my mom, who takes care of Puppy and ensures she feeds her, even if she has to sacrifice her own curd rice. A hug from her after the operation was all I needed to calm me down a bit.

Also, a lovely and selfless lady called Geeta Mishra helped me incredibly in getting Puppy spayed. If you guys know stray dogs around your house that need to be neutered, do feel free to contact me. I’ll put you through to her.

Thank you for sticking around till the end of this post.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

Puppy
Puppy

They say that a dog’s behaviour is a reflection of its master’s.

My first dog was a rascal (I don’t mean to be rude, Simba. But you bit someone). This one, I call her Puppy, is a darling. Every time she sees someone enter the house, her ears fly back and her tail smashes everything in its vicinity with excitement. She has learnt to be the most friendly dog in the neighbourhood.

Her eyes are the most adorable, truthful eyes I’ve ever seen.

I hopelessly love her.

Here’s why you should adopt Indian dogs

You all know, by now, that I love dogs. If you don’t know that yet, read this.

The day before yesterday, my Puppy got bitten by a bully. You see, Puppy is a 4-month-old Indian dog, who lives on the streets and sleeps outside my house when she feels like it. I keep a bowl of milk and a bowl of water for her. She drinks when she feels like it. Basically, she is free to do what she wants, go where she wants and live how she wants. No leash, no collar – freedom.

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See how symmetrical the design on her face is? She can’t be more perfect.

 

But like I said, she got bitten by a bully. So for two days, she hasn’t been her usual self – jumping, running about and going berserk when she sees me, or mom or dad. She has been lying low, not walking, not talking, not eating, not even wagging her tail. The bully bit her on her inner thigh. So she is finding it hard to sit and stand easily. She sways while walking too. But she’s a strong little puppy. She’s holding up, without complaining. Not one sound from her. No whining, no growling.

We took her to the vet this morning, to CUPA. My dad and I. My dad is helplessly in love with her, although he won’t admit it. So he drove us down. Puppy sat with her front paws and head in my lap, her eyes wide open, gaping at everything she could see through the window. You know dogs like Marley? How they stick their heads out of car windows, stand in the seat, wag their big tails and make a mess? Puppy did none of that. She sat quietly, ready to accept whatever came to her.

When we reached CUPA, we parked the car. We lifted her and put her down, because she isn’t currently strong/brave enough to jump about with the wound and everything. She walked towards the lawn and peed there. My dad and I began to walk into the building. All we had to say was “Puppy, come,” and she followed, although a bit hesitantly. At the entrance sat a scared Golden Retriever with its two masters. A Rottweiler soon followed, drooling all over the place. Puppy, naturally, was a bit scared of other dogs, because she’d just been bitten by one. So she sort of hesitated and went off-path. so my dad carried her to the waiting area. There, we set her down, just near our feet. There was a Labrador, a Pomeranian, a German Shepherd, two Golden retrievers and a Dachshund. All these dogs were snarling, growling, a few excitedly whimpering and straining at the leashes of their masters. One of them peed right there, just at his master’s leg. Puppy sat there, at our feet, without a leash or a collar that we could hold her by, just looking around at things with amusement. She was curious no doubt; she didn’t show a sign. I’m blessed that God put such a well-behaved puppy on my street.

Inside, all went well. The doc gave her two shots. Before we got into the car, puppy, who was following us, took another detour to the lawn, to pee again. I have no clue where she learnt that she mustn’t pee where humans walk. She sat in the car as she was told to and slept outside after we reached home.

You might think that she is this subdued because she’s wounded. But that’s not true at all. The first time I took her to the doc for a general vaccination, it was the same scene. She was very good. And although playful and enthusiastic all the time, even with other dogs on the street, she has never caused problems.

Now, I don’t see a reason for her to listen to me or my dad. We are not her masters. Yet, she does. She doesn’t do anything to piss us off. When she is thirsty or hungry, she holds her bowl in her mouth and stares at my mum. Even my mum, who isn’t as into dogs as my dad and I are, has fallen in love with her. Even if the amount of dinner is just about enough for the three of us, mum keeps a bit aside for puppy every night. That’s the only time we feed her. She fends for herself otherwise. She hasn’t been trained, hasn’t been made to stay with us. But she does.

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Puppy, hugging my feet and sleeping

 

I’m not bragging about Puppy here. In fact, I’m telling you, she isn’t mine. She loves me, I love her and that’s about it. She is an Indian dog, and I help her when she needs it. It’s all you need to do, because Indian dogs are bloody intelligent and street-smart. If you’re wondering why I don’t keep Puppy inside my house, I have had bad experiences in the past, and I feel it’ll reduce their immunity. Besides, last night, I tried bringing Puppy inside. She came inside. When I shut the main door, she panicked and wanted to be let out. It was 1 am and I couldn’t leave the main door open.

But a lot of puppies aren’t lucky like this girl. Many puppies are left in other dog’s territories and when that happens, they are bitten and sometimes, killed by other dogs, because like humans, dogs are extremely territorial. So when you see abandoned and helpless puppies, do what you can to help them – be it adopting them, or rescuing them for adoption through online forums – because no one can love you and stay equally detached like Indian dogs can. It is the most ideal relationship in the world.

You know that cliched line, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t it never was”? I think whoever wrote that had an Indian dog.

So if you’d like to adopt puppies or help adopt abandoned ones that you come across, you can check out this Facebook page, Let’s Live Together. They do really good work. Or hand them over to CUPA. The number is 080-22947317. Or post pictures of the puppies on Put Me In Touch or Bombat Dawgz, both of which are groups on Facebook. That’s also helpful.

PS: I have nothing against foreign breeds. I go gaga over them too. But Indian dogs need help where they can get it. So do try and help.

Cheers.