A Million in One


Every creature fights for survival.

This dog gave up to ticks. Millions of them. In clusters all over her. Her soft skin invaded by clusters of them. The armpits, the ears, the toes, the neck. In my eight years in rescue and animal cruelty investigations, I have never seen  dog with so many ticks.


Someone tied her amongst tall grass and left her there.

She must’ve tried to get away.

The missing fur tells us that at some point she chose to bite them off.

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Then she tried to break her leash.

Then she gave up.

To die a horrible death.

This dog was anemic beyond belief. Her gums were bleached. She wouldn’t have made it through the day with those ticks sucking away at her emaciated body.


So I sat down on my knees and started picking them off her body. 2 people working for 30 minutes or so got maybe 25% of them off her. Nothing grosses me out more than clusters of ticks but this dog needed relief.

We doused her with chemicals and took her to the Vet -assuming she will need a transfusion. The good Vet told us that as long as she eats- she will be fine. So I opened some wet food for her and even before the dish hit the floor she had scarfed down almost all of it.


Then I wrote “Very Gentle” with a sharpie across her disposition paperwork. That means she will have 3 days. The compassionate Vet smiled at me for the work done to save her and marked her for spay surgery. That would mean she won’t die immediately. That she will have a shot at life.

While I was putting her back in her cage she wagged her tail and for the first time in her empty eyes I saw a spark. A chance at life- hope.




As the ticks dropped off her continually- due to the medication I wondered if my touch today was the first loving touch this dog had ever known.

Her survival chances are up to her luck now. Maybe (post spay) in the weeks she has at the shelter a family would see through all the dried scabs of blood and see a priceless soul. Maybe she will finally get the love that we humans owe her. Maybe she’ll be able to give her love to someone.

She was one with a million ticks on her.

Today her survival chances are one in a million……

…But one is a number.

Will you be the one to make her your ONE and ONLY?



A New Sheriff in Town


Que Sera Sera…


“When my foster Mommy, Sarah picked me up from the euthanasia list at the pound, I was fifteen minutes away from the pink stuff.” I settle in for the bedtime story Daphne, the Great Dane has been begging for. “In effect my life already is a blessing- and Sarah is my angel.”

“She’s my angel too.” Daphne perks up at the mention of Sarah’s name.

“And mine.” Pickles chimes in.

“Not mine- I’m her master.” Diesel licks his giant paw with his massive spatula like tongue.

“Unnhh hunnnh.” I take a swipe at Diesel.

“She picks up my poop, guys. That proves it.” Diesel’s bed creaks under his 165 Lb. weight.

I must say he does poop out mountains. “Anyways, moving on. Nobody wanted an emaciated black puppy with severe mange. But she saw something in me that NOBODY else could.”

“Yep, that’s my Sarah.” Daphne says. “She sees with her heart.”

Pickles interjects. “But what sort of a name is Wyatt? What the heck is Wyatt?”


Whatever will be will be…


Yes, she named me after an American hero, Wyatt Earp. I run my tongue over my sharp puppy teeth. “Although every day is a gift for me, I often wonder what I will be when I grow up.”

“Your name must indicate to Sarah what you might become.” Daphne says.

“Will I be handsome, Daph?” I lay my head on her paw.

“Absolutely, little brother.” Daphne licks my head.

“Will I be brave, Diesel?”

Diesel yawns. “Wyatt was a very flawed character. The sort that storywriters love. He was a sheriff—

Pow pow. I imagine myself as Wyatt the sheriff, badge and all- Sweeeeet.

“–He was a miner and a boxing referee–” Diesel adds.

Gentledogs, lets get ready to rummmmble.

“–He was a pimp and a brothel owner–” Diesel says.

A what?? “A pimp- OK. Maybe I can pimp you, Pickles. Wyatt the pimp-doggy; bling-bling.

“Hey, I’m a boy.” Pickles blinks rapidly.

Diesel turns over and closes his eyes. “But he was mostly a great cowboy who killed three outlaws at the gunfight at OK Corral.”



I asked my mamma, what would I be? Here’s what she said to me…


Diesel and Daphne are lying on their backs with their legs in the air; the typical Great Dane, sleeping pose. Pickles is snoring through his snaggle teeth.

Sarah stares into some papers sprawled on the table. The incandescent light reflects off her brown hair. It takes me two well-directed jumps to land into her lap.

She runs her soft warm hand over my now full head of hair and kisses me between the eyes. “The long hours and these bills are killing me, Wyatt. Rescue work isn’t easy- but just looking at you makes it all worth it.”

“Mommy, thank you for naming me Wyatt. I will be the bestest Wyatt ever. I will watch over you and Daphne and Diesel when they becomes old.”

“Shhhhh. No barking Wyatt.” Sarah rubs my ear and speaks in more gibberish. “How am I going to live without you when you get adopted? My heart is sick from breaking over and over.”

Words are such a beautiful things if understood. “Did you hear what I said, Mommy; The best Wyatt ever. Ever, ever, ever times infinity.”

Sarah sighs. “…But break it must. Because you deserve a forever home. Someone out there will see what I see in you. The fun and frolic, the unfathomable amount of love you offer. The mischievous and lovable puppy that is just so thankful to be alive. Someone will take you and break my heart- and surprisingly I pray for that day to come everyday.”




Sophie’s Choice


“Capture their spirit with your camera, Inder.” My Grandfather had a standard answer for why my pictures didn’t look as good as his, as he peered through his top drawer lens on his Rollie flex camera.

Thirty years later, here I am; prostrate in the grass of a Clear Lake, Texas home- waiting for the dog to show me her spirit. How do I capture her spirit , Grandpapa? The ten month old tan and white pit-bull lies on her back, limbs akimbo; silly as a tart, goofy as a ball of yarn. Her mud brown iris that encompasses her black pupil enlarges as she locks her gaze through the camera lens into my eyes.


Wait a minute; that is her spirit; a goofball.

A few months ago Sophie lived by the railroad tracks and a church in the Wayside area of Houston, Texas. A shattered front leg caused her to limp up and down the tracks but when Joel: a local factory worker showed her some love –she warmed up to him right away.

Joel and his colleague Danny brought her food and water and one day they took Sophie to a local Vet’s office. Such is the level of Sophie’s trust for humans that she willingly jumped into their car. Struggling to make ends meet themselves, Joel and Danny did what they could to get Sophie the help she needed.

The Vet was certain that Sophie would’ve been raised to breed bait dogs or a puppy mill mama when she was old enough, so he spayed her right away. He thought, when she had broke her leg (abuse or accident), she was promptly abandoned; discarded like garbage. Now she needed surgery to be a 100% healthy again.


But she already is a 100% dog and 200% a puppy. She’s playful, careless, energetic and often forgets that her leg hurts. After being rescued by S.A.V.E  rescue coalition, Angela placed her with a charming family of fosters. Here she thrives amongst two other dogs, two energetic young ladies and a loving couple. They frolic and play in the lawn all day- and when they are tired; they frolic some more. In a few short weeks she will get her surgery and fully recover from it.


That is Sophie’s spirit. Despite having to endure pain and cruelty, abandonment and starvation- she hasn’t forgotten how to remain a silly-goofy-puppy.

She’s a hand-me-down dog. A Sophie who wasn’t given a choice but her choice is very clear. She chooses love over hatred, a string of a sweatshirt over a dog-fight.

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Anyone who allow themselves to be touched by Sophie’s soul will be a part of her loving choice. The question is – Do you choose Sophie to give you a chance at her life?


Erica- You’re FIRED. Humanity- You’re FRIED

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I swerved heard to the right and slammed on my brakes. “Oh My God, did you see that?” My car skidded sideways to a screeching halt. I looked over my shoulder into the moonless Texas night. “That dog didn’t even flinch when I almost ran it over.”

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There it stood – all of twenty pounds, right in the middle of the intersection- frozen in fear. I scampered into the road where the white poodle-mix stood paralyzed in fear. “Here little guy.” I whistled, but it didn’t turn its head as if the dog had no clue I was there. When I touched its head, it reacted to my touch. I cradled it and ran back to my car as it shivered in fear- dazed and confused and very scared.

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It took a bath plus some trimming of the matted fur under its belly to even figure out that the dog was a female. The cataracts in her eyes were dense and her hearing non-existent. Her thinning coat showed the discoloration where once a collar had been firmly in place. This dog had clearly been abandoned, the collar removed and had been left one the road to be run over.

She (now named Erica) probably found shelter and in a drain but the rain in Houston last week must’ve driven her out. Unable to defend herself or find food- Erica must’ve just wandered and waited for impending doom- A.K.A her destiny- to become Texas road-kill.

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The decisions those a rescue worked makes are in play again.

-It is impossible to find an old blind and deaf dog a home.

-Is it more humane to euthanize Erica with dignity?

-Would the local Poodle rescue group take her?

-Will I end up being a dog-hoarder if I keep on saving these dogs off the street?

-How much can I afford in terms of vet bills for these abandoned dogs?

-Is my time and effort better used in rescuing more adoptable pets?

Here is my decision for today.

-Get her checked out by a vet for health issues.

-Give her one week to find a home while I foster her.

-Then shut my heart down. Don’t let her love crawl grow into my heart. Be blind to her

blindness and be ready for putting Erica down.

Am I a horrible person? Or am I better than the people who loved her when she was happy and healthy. Who made her a part of their awesome life when they needed Erica and discarded her like a used tissue when she needed them? People who couldn’t find it in their hearts to put her down humanely but to assuage their guilt would have her starve to death or be crushed by a car.

Those people are who they are. I’m not responsible for their soul. I’m responsible for mine. Truth be told- I’m just marginally better than them because although I couldn’t abandon a dog like they did- I will shut my eyes to her pain one day- maybe within a week. I will shut down my heart… Unless…

–Unless you are a bigger and better person than I am… Unless you have the heart I don’t have. Unless you can keep her or try and find her a home.

Please find it in your heart to help her and help me. Maybe someone can still treasure her as she once treasured her humans.

Erica’s old and deaf and blind- and she’s looking for a new job.

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RAMBO- The Size of the Fight in this Dog?

RAMBO- The Size of the Fight in this Dog?


         We all fail.

I’m carrying a brown and rust Doberman into the ICU. His nose is dripping snot on the floor as his head lolls back and forth on my arms. Having rushed Rambo to the Emergency Vet at Gulf Coast for the third time in the past three weeks has drained me of all energy- but I still have the one thing that drives all of us rescue workers- Hope.

His body feels like a sack of potatoes in my arms and I lay him on the stretcher. The compassionate workers at the Houston Area Doberman Rescue (HADR) have given all of themselves into saving this 18 month old Doberman. We all stare at each other with empty eyes as the doctors take over his weak body.

We gave Rambo our heart, we gave him our love, we gave him our blessings, we gave him our hope…His health recovered briefly before failing again. The countless compassionate donators who paid a part of his staggering hospital bill and his loving foster Cindy who showered boundless love and care to Rambo all keep their hope alive for Rambo.

And he gave us his love.

Our tired, sleepless eyes and confused minds try and make sense of the doctor naming Rambo’s illness- Ligneous Conjunctivitus. A condition so rare that six cases of the disease have been reported so far, five of them Dobermen.

“His body can’t sustain life any longer.” The vet pinches his nose under his thick glasses. “This could be a Doberman relevant disease and Rambo’s body will help his fellow Dobermen. We would like to use his body to research this devastating disease. If you could–”

“Yes.” Cindy blurts out. Then she puts her soft warm hand on mine. “That’s what Rambo would want, Inder.”

My legs stagger. His body? But he’s only a puppy—He has not known life yet. At a year and half old, he just started living a few weeks ago.

At the end of the day- that is all he had; his Body. That is all we gave him- taking from him his freedom, his puppyhood, his comfort and his shot at life.

We took his life- You and me- we did. Not just the vile excuse of a man who tied him to a tire and a cage outdoors for a year and a half, starving him. The only water he got was off a drain. We shut our eyes to cruelty too often. We let the perpetrators slip through the cracks too often. The reason why that man could do this is because he knew he wouldn’t be held accountable.

When the last dog the owner had (the boxer) died, he should’ve never been allowed another dog. But he got Rambo- and we didn’t care.

So we failed Rambo. You and I did. Humanity did.

I wow today that never again will Rambo’s owner own another dog. If he gets one I’ll steal it. If he gets another one; I will steal that too. I am a thief- so let it be written- so let it be told. I have no shame.

Here lies Rambo- ready to leave this world; ready to leave this body that has tormented his soul.


        Today Rambo was Euthanized, his favourite toy duck by his side. He had just learnt how to play with it less than two months ago. Today his Duckie held his paw as he crossed the rainbow bridge. I had failed to say goodbye to my friend Cooper a few years ago. Today I didn’t turn my back on Rambo. My heart is broken in so many pieces today that I don’t think it will mend.


But it will have to. It must- Just like it did when my own Speedy passed, or when I couldn’t bear to see Cooper be euthanized. Or when Tina found Mi Corazon crushed and flattened on the road in Phoenix or when Sadku was euthanized for no apparent reason.  My heart must mend because like anyone in rescue it the next one you can save that drives us and not the ones we failed.

Every bit of Rambo means love. To us humans; Love is selfishness. Love has thrashed the greatest of goals and desires into the most mediocre of fights (as I found out very recently). His love means giving and strength despite what we put him through.

Today Rambo closed his eyes for the last time.

Will we open ours?


ROAD-MAPS OF THE SOUL- August’s tale

A human’s journey is complete when there is someone at the door to greet them when they get home. What is an animal’s journey? Some unfortunate ones struggle through the ups and down of a horrific world that we’ve created for them.

Dinggg. The amber light glowed on my cellphone screen. New text message from the Mole. I pushed the green tab. “One male black puppy. 8-10 weeks old. Rail-yard.

I gulped and quickly checked my watch. 7:47 PM. The fading sunlight in the Texas sky stopped me in my tracks. I was planning to go to the scariest part of town for picking up the puppy. A neighborhood where drugs exchange hands and possessions of guns and knives was the norm. The brutal practice of dog-fighting and killing of the weak bait-dogs was an everyday practice and this remote rail-yard provided the ideal backdrop for it.

Yet the puppy tied to the railway tracks wouldn’t make it till the morning. He was deemed too weak by the dog-fighting gang so they had tied him to the railway tracks for the train to crush him. I must get him from there tonight. I wore dark clothes and armed myself with a flashlight, a bag and a knife for protection.

I crouched low to the railway tracks and whispered, “Here, puppy puppy.” I whistled and strained to hear a sound in the darkness. My fingertips rested on the tracks and the shiny metal felt warm on my fingertips Gosh, has a train gone over these tracks recently? Is it too late?

I crawled down the tracks as they curved by the bushes and vanished from the view of the road. The beam from my flashlight danced on the broad gauge sleepers hoping I wouldn’t be spotted by the gang-members. My eyes squinted to adjust to the all-encompassing darkness.

           Aooor.I strained to listen again. Aooor.

I sprinted towards the sound. There he was; a little black puppy tied so close to the tracks that he couldn’t move more than two inches away from them. Just as expected he was a Labrador-Pit bull mix. Blood still oozed from the scar across his face. His legs had scars and his fur was matted with crusted over blood.


“Don’t worry, little guy, you’re safe now,” I cut the rope and lifted him in the air. He was cowering and trembling but the moment I held him close to my chest, he stopped wailing.

Next morning, back at the animal shelter where I volunteer the 8 week old puppy played with the Labrador Retriever, Chevvy. He had been fed, bathed, given medicine and a new name; St. Augustine A.K.A August.

August stood up to Chevvy and teased him into playing with him. Even when he was pushed to the ground, he never backed down from a scuffle. One day when he and Chevy were playing with a tug rope. August got a little too bossy and Chevvy lost his cool, grabbing one end of the rope he flung August about six feet away. August got up, shrugged himself off and was back bothering Chevvy to ‘do it again’……

St. Augustine had boundless amounts of energy and he ran around in his small cage at breakneck speeds, the centrifugal force propelling him higher in the cage like a motorcycle in the well of death. The motorcycle gets higher and higher, the faster it goes.  It made such a horrible mess in his cage, that everyone thought he was un-adoptable.

I knew he was just burning his energy and being a rambunctious puppy. One day I caught him trying to bite his way out of the cage to try and escape, so he could play with the rest of the dogs.    It’s sad to see such a live-wire spend his puppyhood in a kennel.  August’s journey wasn’t complete yet, he needed a new home.


Week after week of taking him to adoption events, failing to find him a home and leaving him inside a small cage every night made my heart bleed. I spent several nights staring at the ceiling, imagining his sad empty eyes behind the cold stainless steel rods, wondering if the cost August was paying for being safe at the shelter with his puppyhood was a fair one.

My friend, Navnit met him on one of her trips to Texas, fell utterly and completely in love with him and decided to give him a new home and a new name; Augustus Maximus.

A month later when I visited Navnit, August ran to the door to greet me. His tail wagged merrily and his butt shook in glee when his tongue licked my cheek. ‘All dogs are adoptable’, I thought to myself. We just need to give them a chance to succeed.

Augusts journey spanned being a lone puppy minutes away from being crushed by a locomotive engine, to finding limited joy at the animal shelter and finally an overabundance of love from Navnit.

The warm Texas breeze tousled my hair when I drove back that evening, worried about when I’d receive the next text from the Mole; my informant within the dog-fighting gang. How many more puppies can I save among the sea of cruelty all around me? A new puppy would be starting his journey soon.

August’s journey is now complete – he has found his road-map; now I need to find mine.


FRIDA- Bella

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As I peel off my socks and groan the long day out, I run my finger over the mouse wheel.  My Facebook page races upwards and I pick up my re-heated sandwich from the Tupperware and take a big bite into the bland meal.

A piece of tomato escapes my mouth as I catch the image of a puppy, reposted from a page that sells goods. Puppy for sale. Will let it go for 100$. Several people have commented on ‘how sick they are with such posts’ and ‘how can FB allow people to post dogs in an item sale’. Some want to ‘kill the person selling it’, but most just say ‘how sad it makes them’.

Some parts of the rescue workers body function involuntarily. The brain gets put in the Tupperware along-with the awful sandwich and the heart kicks into over-drive. Ugggh. The long day is going to extend into a long night. I’ll need the nutrition. I stuff more of the sandwich in my face and crack my knuckles.

Its go time.

My desktop, laptop and cellphone are conducting Facebook searches, Craigslist scanning and I’m trying to rally a team to save the Coffee brown pit-bull puppy with a white butterfly patch on her chest. The freshly printed picture of the hazel eyed puppy is pasted over the portrait of my own beloved dog speed. Her eyes stare into mine asking me one simple question; will you save me?

Within half an hour my mind is saturated and my heart is overwhelmed by the number of ‘free puppy’ postings on Craigslist. All of these sweet pit bulls are headed to the dog-fighting rings that scour the underbelly of the American landscape. Why am I losing sleep over this one puppy out of all of these? I clasp a fistful of my hair and stare at my reflection in the TV screen. Because, she became mine when I looked into her eyes and saw a soul. Yes, there are countless others but today, right now- this puppy represents hope for all the other ones those will die this day. Her rescue will signify victory of good over evil. God, give me the courage to save her. The dog fighting rings are dangerous. I’m just one person. I touch the picture of Guru Gobind Singh – our tenth guru who gave his Sikh’s the famous line

“ Chirion te mein baaz tadaun,

Sawa laakh se ek ladaun,

tabhe Gobind Singh naam kahaun”.

(I will make birds fight hawks and win, one of my Sikhs will win against 125,000 of the enemy. Only then will I call myself Gobind Singh).

                By morning I’ve tracked down the puppy and his owner. Now it’s a matter of pin-pointing the house and stealing the puppy. Yes steal it. My money will not go to the dog-fighters. By instinct, I offer a hoodlum fifty bucks, give him the picture and show him the house. He leaps across the fence and I drive around the corner and sit and …wait.

My mouth is running dry and my car’s engine has been idling for twenty minutes when I he turns the corner scruffing the weak tan puppy and ducking across the street. I throw open the car-door and he dives in.

“Go Go Go.”


I ran every stop sign in the wretched neighborhood, stopping at a local Walgreens and let the man out. He counts the money and gives me a homie handshake. “Aiiight, Lemme know if you want sumthin’ else, bro.” He adjusts hi crotch, “Pretty dog tho’. What you be naming her?”

Her pink nose has been on my mind all day. She’s as pretty as the first stroke of paint on a blank canvas.  “I’ll name her Frida Kahlo; after my friend Tina’s favorite painter.”

“Daaawg, who dat’ be?” He splays his arms.

“Thx Man.” I look straight ahead and gun it, driving till the yards are manicured and then finally I breathe. The puppy is sitting on the back seat and cowering. “Come here little, girl. You’re safe now.” Tears stream my face when I touch Frida for the first time.

She’s surprised by a kind touch and stands behind me on the car seat. She tentatively licks my ear and backs away. On her next lick I pet her head. She plants herself in my lap while we’re zipping on the freeway. She’s enthralled by everything; the steering wheel, the music, the air-conditioning vent letting out a stream of wonderful cold air.


For the first time in my life I take a selfie, while driving with a dog in my lap. I don’t want to be unsafe anymore because now Frida’s life depends upon mine. The past is behind me and it’s certainly behind her.

In three minutes she’s snoring. After two baths and some food, we head to my newly found friends Jill and Dori from Dori’s cat rescue. They rescue cats but just like me they couldn’t close their eyes to this puppy. My hard work for the night is over and theirs has just begun.


Within 24 hours she is transported to a foster and is even adopted. I know how hard these women have worked to save this one pretty dog. But I also know that in a matter of 24 hours Frida has touched the lives of all of us …and she’s just getting started. Frida has forever united me and Jill and Dori and Oktober into a cohesive team.


Tonight the evil will be out in full-force again, money will exchange greasy palms and dogs will die. Tonight several rescue workers will be disheartened and overwhelmed. But our team will sleep peacefully- Just like Frida will.

Tomorrow I’ll be disillusioned by a fresh dose of cruelty. But tonight I sleep- with new hope.

The audacity of Hope.


RAMBO- The Fighter

“Gosh, he’s the biggest Doberman I’ve ever seen,” I turned on my camera.

“And the most handsome one too,” Cindy tore a double-quilted paper towel from the roll.

The two-year-old 32 inch tall Doberman felt his way around the new house and stumbled towards me. His burnished-copper rust coat was dry and rough, his eye crusted over by mucus secretions. He turned his head to peep from behind the infectious growth in both his eyes.


He bent his head in front of me, nudging his head in my hand. “This is the way he greets all strangers?” I caressed his head.

“Yep.” Cindy rushed at me with the paper towel held out, “Inder, mind the snot.”

My hand snapped to my nose but Cindy was gunning for the dog’s nose.

“I’m sorry, Inder. Rambo’s infection is terrible.”

“Rambo? Did I hear you right?” I held his face in my hands. “Nobody will use the word ‘Rambo’ and ‘snot’ in the same sentence, unless it is ‘Rambo punched the snot out of the bad guys.” I laughed.

I touched his nose. The sand-paper grit texture of his nose was crusted over by dried mucus. His eye-sores, his ears, even his penis has minor secretions of mucus.

“What is wrong with him?” my voice faltered.

Cindy sighed and slumped in her chair. “These are symptoms of Ligneous Conjunctivitis. He’s been abused badly and was kept tied to a tire for two years. He has been denied food and water…” Cindys lower lip quivered. “He’s never been a puppy. He’s never had human contact, he’s…” she choked on her words.

I followed Cindy and Rambo into the yard. Cindy tucked her coffee to her neck allowing the warmth to grow into her body. “The vet is trying his best to save Rambo’s eyesight but he might have a bigger problem.”


I shivered in the hot summer Texas sun A two year old dog that’s fighting for his eyesight is not the biggest problem for the dog?

Cindy continued, “He might have Ligneous Conjunctivitis and need plasma replacement therapy. That can be very expensive and it will fix the problem but won’t cure it. He’ll need annual treatments.”

“Does that mean he’ll be put to–”

“–That’s the worst case.” She cut me off before I could use the dreaded word. “I hope it doesn’t come to that but it isn’t looking good” Cindy wiped the fresh lot of mucus Rambo had gladly rubbed against her blue shirt. “The woman who reported him will be devastated. She spoke to the owner, secretly fed him, thought about stealing him and finally called the SPCA.”


“Why didn’t the SPCA take him away sooner?”

Cindy squinted her eyes. “There’s more cruel people out there than you can imagine, Inder. They are overworked and under-staffed, but thank god for them; they finally got Rambo. The abuser’s previous dog wasn’t so lucky.”

I splayed my arms, “What? He’s done this before?”

“Yes. His last dog was a boxer that died of thirst.” Cindy shook her head. “But now they have him black-listed. He won’t e able to abuse again. Let’s just hope we we’re in time for Rambo.” Her peridot-green eyes softened with love she has felt for Rambo in the one week she’s been fostering him.

Rambo walked around with a toy in his mouth. That was the first toy he’d known. As a puppy he’d never played. He wasn’t sure what he should do with the toy. Cindy’s other foster Doberman, showed him how to play but Rambo was just so excited about having a toy that he didn’t want to give it up.


Rambo’s personality had just started shaping in the past week. He was not living before- he was breathing yes, alive yes—but he never lived. He is a two year old puppy. My heart bled imagining that he might be put to sleep in another week. A three week old, two-year-old Dobie. A life truly extinguished. I asked my own departed dog Speedy to put in a good word for Rambo to Speed’s good buddy; God.

Just then the bell rang and Rambo perked up. He dropped his precious toy and actually trotted to the gate. The woman who secretly fed him and showed him the only affection he’s ever known was at the gate. She dropped to her knees and Rambo dug his body into hers. She held his head and kissed his rheumy face. She apologized to Rambo profusely and he was stuck to her like he were velcroed to her.


Tears stream down her face and she cried for Rambo openly. The tears she had shed for him secretly for two long years were unleashed. Cindy, after having fostered several abused dogs and the ones she’s been unable to save from euthanasia lists is hardened to pain. Even she couldn’t help shed tears for Rambo.

Rambo’s fight had become personal to her.

I pulled my face out from behind my camera and wiped the lens. The scene still looked hazy. Then I felt a big fat tear trickle down my cheek.

Rambo’s fight just became mine.


Fearless Nadia- Who’s scared of Whom- Animal or Human?


“My god, this dog has either never seen stairs or is so afraid of climbing them that I’ll have to carry her.” I pointed at the golden-brown pit-bull mix.

“She’s got to be pushing a hundred pounds.” Tina urged the dog upstairs.

“This is the first overweight abused dog I’ve seen.”

Tina pointed at the bruises on her back, “We see well fed, but perennially shackled dogs all the time. She’s been hit repeatedly.” She rubbed the dog’s ear. “Don’t worry little girl, we’ll smother you with love.”

After we cajoled her upstairs and into my apartment she dashed under my bed. All the coaxing couldn’t get her out from under there. Well into the night, the dog’s water bowl and food remained untouched.

Then in the middle of the night I heard her creep out and go to the food bowl. Poor girl, she couldn’t take the hunger anymore. No sooner had she finished eating, she was back under my bed.

Tina called me next morning. “How did it go last night? Do you think you can socialize her enough to help her get adopted?”

I knelt by my bed. The dog’s empty scared eyes darted away from mine. “It’s not possible for me. She’s scared of everything. She cowers and doesn’t respond to anything. Somebody sure has done a number on her.”


“Maybe I should take her.” Tina started. “She’d do better around my handicapped dog.”

“You’re the expert. I’ve never seen a dog this scared in my two years in dog rescue.” I laid out my palm flat.

“What should we name her on her adoption papers?” Tina was in her adoption and fostering supervisor mode.

“I have the perfect name for her. There were a bunch of C grade stunt movies made in India in the 1950’s they all had a female lead stunt woman by the name of Fearless Nadia.”

Tina guffawed. “Nadia then?”

“No. Fearless Nadia.”

Tina choked on her laughter. “You might be new at our shelter but you are the most optimistic guy.”


Thus began the tale of Fearless Nadia. The endless hours Tina spent showering love and affection on her; the back breaking sit-ins with under Tina’s bed to help her come out from under there. Several times during the process I lost faith, but Tina’s dogged determination made her go on and on…and on.

            ..And on.

            Then one day I walked into Tina’s house and Fearless Nadia greeted me in all her glory; a wild wagging tail, an eager-to- kiss- tongue and an eagerness to be pet. In five months we’d just evened the playing field between her and the other rescue dogs and it still seemed like a long way away from finding a home. Both of us were concerned with how she would react to people she didn’t know.

I was at work one day when Tina showed up un-announced at my office door. “Somebody’s interested in adopting Nadia.”

My heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“Only problem is they’re in Utah and can’t get her.” Tina cupped her mouth.

“We’ll drive her there.”

“Inder, I knew you’d say this.” Her eyes smiled.

“You’ve done so much. We can’t let a few hundred miles snatch the only chance she might ever get at having a family.”

The landscape changed a few times from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. She lounged on the back seat; waiting, anticipating, hoping- enacting all the rituals of expectation that a migrant like me felt when I had moved to the US.

singing to nadia

Her new family loved her instantly. A little boy to play with, an adolescent girl that would care for her, a mother, waiting to dole unconditional love to the new family member. She couldn’t have asked for more.

Nadia5 Nadia7Nadia8

Tina stared out the window with her palm covering her face. Six months of loving Fearless Nadia had drained her. Her tears had not stopped for an hour. Every adoption tests a rescue workers heart. The joy and the sorrow, the elation and the loneliness push their heart to fluctuations my heart was not equipped to endure.

My trance was broken by the sound of a police siren. I hit the brakes and pulled over.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” The burly officer pulled up his pants

by the belt buckle. “Where are you driving from?”

When we explained the situation to him his scowl softened. “Thank you for caring

for dogs the way you do. What do you think makes Fearless Nadia so fearful?”

Tina wiped her cheek. “I think she was abused so badly that she forgot what it feels like to be a dog.”

The officer squinted. “And you suppose she remembers now?”

Tina sniffed. “Yes she does officer. Love changes everything, she’s joyful now and her new family will cherish her.”


“I’m going to let you get away with a warning this time just because my partner Sgt. Scott asked me to.” The officer touched the brim of his hat. “Now you two be careful and drive slow.”


I started the engine and eased past his parked cruiser parked by the freeway. The red decal on the white door read ‘Utah State Trooper- K-9 Unit.’ And staring out the window with his tongue hanging out his mouth was Sgt. Scott.

Nadia11Nadia 2

Children of a Lesser Dog- I


I peep from between my fingers at the email again. It has been brought to my attention that you had some underage children at the dog running yard last Sunday. I rub my hands on my forehead guessing which volunteer at our animal shelter might have reported me and keep reading. This is a serious violation of our policy. I know you have the best interest of the dogs in your heart but I’m sure you understand that we have insurance and liability issues in case… blah- blah -blah.
Two days earlier I was at my friends for dinner when she’d asked me if it was okay to bring her kids to the shelter.
“This would be their first encounter with dogs.” She dropped some veggies in the stir fry pan. “They love dogs but I can’t have one in my house because…” I’d stopped listening because she couldn’t have listed a reason I hadn’t heard before.
I laid out the dishes. “I’m sure someone at the shelter will get their panties in a bunch, but I think your kids should come and interact with the dogs.” Like most people she had thought about it several times but this was the first time she was entertaining the idea with any level of seriousness.
The next morning I’d just started taking the dogs out to their play yards when I got her text. ‘We’re here. My kids are very sensitive, be gentle with them’.
I kept reading sensitive but my mind kept translating it to ‘sissies’. I stepped out to find a nine year old girl clinging to her mother’s arm and a six year old boy running around in the parking lot, ignoring his mom’s instructions.
I shook the girl’s limp hand. “Are you guys ready to meet the dogs?”
The boy ran straight up to me. “Puppies.”
I grabbed him by the waist and flipped him upside down. “Yes puppies too, big guy.”
Over the next few hours they continued to play with every dog I brought out. I explained to them why some were shy and scared because they had been abused.       Why some were slow because they were old and why puppies nipped at them because they were teething. They took it all in. They were happy, excited, tired and finally bored.

When they walked out with their mother I knew a spark had been lit in their little hearts. They didn’t have two or ten or thirty dog friends, they had befriended a new species. The world of animal activism had two little warriors added to their team.
That’s the sort of future we people in rescue hang our hats on. Once again it was me who failed to recognize a child’s strength and endurance and labelled it wrongly as “sissyish” owing to my preconceived notions.

Kids- 1, Inder -0