I Lost Myself to Find Love, in India.

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The amber readout of my Garmin watch flickers on my wrist. “Jeannie, don’t you stay out on the streets after dark in that country.” My husband’s words ring as clear in my mind as my doctors warnings, “Don’t you eat anything that the infamous street-vendors sell, Ms Baca.”

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I hold up the saffron coloured Jalebi against the setting Bangalore sun and bite into the crunchy goodness. A burst of sugary heaven spiced with saffron explodes in my mouth. My salivating tongue feels the gritty texture of fried dough dipped in syrup. Take that, Dr. Whatley.

The yellow and green Auto-rickshaw driver appears more nervous that I do of the fading sunlight. “Madam, let yus go to Yotel. It’s getting dark, No?”

“Relax, Anand.” I lick the syrup off my fingers.

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The soft January breeze teases my short hair. The gentle tuk-tuk of the scooter rickshaw lulls me into thoughts. I’ve always been a risk taker… When they offered me to do an assignment in India, I jumped at the opportunity. This mystical land; Nothing in India is kind to your senses- The colours are bright, the noise is crazy, reality is stark, people feel deeply- I mean anybody who has to ‘FIND THEMSELVES’ come to India- the land of–”

Screech…..

The rickshaw comes to a sudden halt. That’s when I first see Sita– “She’s dark brown and black. Nothing spectacular about her, but she’s run onto the road to come between the rickshaw and her three puppies.” She’s confident, fearless and not worried about herself-

She’s a mother.

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Her hip bones protrude from her severely emaciated body. Then she looks directly into my eyes.

No, Jeannie, don’t even think about it. DO NOT…this is not your country, there is NOTHING you can do, You have a conference call in 20 minutes, your flights leaves in less than 30 hours. Don’t even think about it, just ignore–

She nudges her face against my palm. This is probably the first kind touch she has received in her short painful life.

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Her pain is over- Mine has just begun.

She is now mine. Just like all the other animals in this world that have nobody, have me. She’s mine. I just have to find them a home and love—something all of us deserve.

As I sit back from the drab conference call, my mind races. What can I do? Who can I call for help? Who will help me in this foreign land? And Why?

My fatigued mind can’t think anymore so I put out a post on social media and close my fatigued eyes.

Ding Ding Ding

A series of messages jumping on my screen wakes me up. I rub my eyes in amazement as I read the screen. Facebook has been working while I slept.

Fate;

A man who is a friend of a friend of a friend is traveling to Bangalore from Chandigarh to day and is going to be in Bangalore for a few hours. He just happens to have a friend who has a rescue in Bangalore and can keep the dogs there safely while we figure a way for them to get to the USA.

“It all seems far too convenient,” says my best friend over the phone.

“My gut says, I can trust these people.” I tell her. “I just know I was meant to find Sita and her puppies. “Gosh, Sita even has a best friend called Nandi– wonder if they will agree to take her too?”

So I ask.

So they agree. It’s as simple as that.

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The rescue organization called Voice of the Stray Dogs (VOSD) picks up the stray dogs the very next day. Unfortunately one of the puppies has died. The person who came from Chandigarh works for an organization called Peedu’s People. They collaborate to save Nandi, Sita and her remaining two puppies.

*****

My risk taking ways paid off.

I lost myself in belief of humanity and found love in India. The love of Nandi and Sita and her two puppies.

Now we all need your help to get these puppies to the USA so where we have homes already for them.

These poor dogs who have never known love or kindness deserve the same love I found.

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Children of a Lesser Dog- II

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Two months ago, on a vacation to India, I’d stepped into the kennel at the SPCA shelter in my hometown of Chandigarh. The acrid open sewer-like smell blasted my nostrils. Dogs sat on straw beds with week old excrement scattered around them.
I dug my nose into the inside of my elbow “When were these kennels cleaned last?”
“We clean every morning.” The Supervisor did the Indian nod.
“Really? You could use that poop as chalk on the black-board.” I pointed at the crusted over lump.
He nodded. “Well the sweeper has been on vacation for–”
“–What if children from a school show up to volunteer–”
“No sir, no children come here.”
“You mean like never?”
He scrolled through his smart-phone. “The kids from Vivek high school came in August. Some kids started vomiting and–”
“What did you expect? You must make volunteering a pleasant and fun-filled experience for kids.”
“No sir, kids in India don’t have compassion–”
I walked out in disgust. Typical. Blame someone else for our faults. Kids are the same everywhere. These kids aren’t sissies. We adults are.

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I read the email one final time and take a few deep breaths before hitting the reply button. I type a few words and then delete them. After repeating the process a few times I wonder what an appropriate reply would be.
Here in the US we have the infrastructure, the volunteers and school programs in place to foster compassion in children but we are hampered by the ‘Cover Your base’ mentality of lawyers and insurance companies. In India we have no infrastructure that allows the natural bond between child and animal to come to the forefront but the laws are conducive to kids interacting with children.
Although one is slightly better than the other, neither situation is ideal. Problem is, there is just one factor common to both countries- the losers are the animals.

Kids- 2, Inder-0

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Da’ Coopster

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The life of a rescue worker; try our best to win a fight for a dog’s life from the abuse and indifference of man. Every once in a while we’re tested by god’s ultimate plan.

I was excited at the prospect of reaching the top of Squaw peak again. It was an idle Sunday morning and I was hiking in the pristine Valley of the Sun, accompanied by the zealot Doberman from the Desert Doberman Rescue Group (http://azdoberescue.org/). His soft rust colored coat reminded me of butter melting on overdone toast.
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The now five year old powerhouse, Cooper was abandoned in the desert as a six month old puppy. In the desert, filial instincts gave way to survival techniques. He’d been abused and maltreated and left for dead.

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I shook my head. Who would be so vile to abuse this kind dog? He wants to please people, to the point of being servile. He craves attention, but is never in the way. He always turns around to make sure I’m not out of sight, as he prances to the top of the mountain. That day he seemed a little off his game. He was taking too many breaks. The Vet was concerned about his recent lack of appetite and had wanted to do a few tests. His results were due anytime–

Burrrzzzzz. I peeled my cellphone out of my pocket. A closed envelope flew across the screen. Text message from Sidney flashed on the blue screen.

I paused mid-step. Cooper stopped and turned.

“It’s cancer,” announced my phone. I blinked hard. It still said the same thing.

The world had collectively punched me in the gut. It can’t be. He’s so healthy and strong. I fumbled a few lines on the phone and finally types. They’ve made a mistake. It can’t be.

I tried pressing the send button send a few times. Dingggg. The message floated into cyberspace.

Squaw peak must’ve been as high Mt. Everest because we were the only ones at the peak. The world below was so far. The oxygen. What happened to all the oxygen?

Burzzz. I squinted at my phone. So sorry, Inder. The report is clear… I shut my eyes.

No way, God … This can’t be happening. Why Cooper? Why? Hasn’t he been through enough already? This is so unfair. So…I flung my phone, shut my eyes and held my face in my hands.

My grandfather’s face flashed before my eyes. Don’t you fucking try and give me some sage advice here, old man. Your wisdom is not—

–Cooper pawed my hand. I opened my eyes. He had my phone in his mouth. I rubbed the skin between his eyes. “Coop, why did you have to come into my life and make me love you so darn much?”

He dropped the phone in my lap. My grandpa smiled back at me on the screensaver. His words rang in my ears. A couplet from the Guru Granth Sahib; the holy book of the Sikh religion of Northern India.

Teriyan beparwahiyan O rabba Ki Ki khed rachawein

(Your carelessness O Lord, plays weird games with humans)

Ikk nu bhejen is duniya te, Ikk nu kol bulayein.
(You send one new one in this world and call one back to you)

 

Darn it…I should’ve taken him to the Vet sooner. Maybe when he had the first symptom. If only I was a more regular volunteer, I would’ve noticed something sooner. Maybe—

Burzzzz. My thoughts returned to the present. The Vet’s given him a few weeks.

I held his face in my hands and kissed his forehead. “Please don’t leave me, Cooper. Please, buddy.”

                                                                                          ………………..To be continued

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WHAT IS THE COLOUR OF YOUR LOVE- CINNAMON?

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           “Look at me Cinnamon.” I held the ball in my hand.

            The rust colored puppy turned her head. Her left eye was fixed directly at the ball. The right eye stared into nothingness. I tossed the ball to my left hand. Her right eye focused on the ball. She didn’t even move her head. “Cinnamon, what’s the matter your eyes?” I made a small circle with the ball. Her right eyeball followed the ball. The other eyeball stayed put.

            I laughed out loud. “Cinnabonita, how damn lazy is your eye?”

            She lifted her paw and took a swipe at my face. 

            “Okay, Okay. Peace.” I hoisted her in the air. She squirmed. Her body contorted in one direction and then the other till she wiggled out of my hands. Every miniscule muscle in her thirty-pound body will soon be sinewy and firm. “I won’t be able to do wrestle with you once you’re an eighty pound powerhouse, Cinnabonita.” 

            Auunhhhh. She cocked her head.

            I held my arms up to form a triangle “And your head will be this shape, your jaw will be square.” I mock punched her tiny jowl. “You, my sweet girl, will be feared. You’ll be discriminated against. People will judge you without knowing you like I do.”

            Aooor. She lifted her paw and I high fived her. She did it again and kept it up till she lost balance and tipped over, falling into a clumsy pile of dopey puppy.

            She pranced around me. I took pictures but she wanted to play with the camera strap. I pushed her away repeatedly and she kept licking the camera. Finally she figured another game. She tugged on one end of the lace of my yellow shoes.

            “No Cinnamon. Bad girl.”

            She looked away but kept the lace in her mouth. Then she backed up, slowly.

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            “Cinnamon, leggo’ my lace.”

            She jerked her head and backed up, got on her haunches and stared into my eyes; well at least one of her eyes did.

            “Okay, you naughty girl. Playtime is over. Back into the kennel”

            I picked her up and cradled her. She laid her head on my shoulder and enjoyed the ride back. Her soft, velvety skin tickled my ear.

            As soon as she got in the cage, she started whining like a baby.

            “It kills me to leave you in that cage too, Cinnamon. A cage is no place for a puppy, but all you get is twenty minutes of playtime a day at the shelter. Soon all the hard working volunteers here will find a good home for you where you’ll play all day.” I caressed the skin between her eyes across the cage.

            Aoooooor. Her whining followed me into the car, clear across the city and well into the night. Bring her home, Inder. I lay awake at night. Yeah, but how can you justify bringing Cinnamon home when Perry has been at the shelter for more than six months. It’s the classic struggle of every single one of us in rescue. How to turn down one dog and adopt another?

            Then the next week she undid my laces and the next and the next. It broke my heart each and every week to put her back into the cage and hear her whine.

            Then this past Sunday a new puppy was in her cage. My panicked mind searched the shelter for her. I finished my shift and came back home ready to shower off the mud the playful dogs had lathered on me.

            I placed my heel on the edge of the chair and started undoing my shoelace. It was too heavy. It wouldn’t budge.  I stumbled over to my laptop and typed an email to the volunteer co-ordinator.

          ‘I didn’t see Cinnabon in her cage today.’ I typed and retyped a few other sentences. Then I hit the send button and froze.

          Dinnggg

          One new mail. I clicked on it. “Yay…” It began. I didn’t need to read the rest. My heart and my mind were in a race. Everyone who has volunteered knows that feeling. The joy and the sorrow; missing a dog you love so dearly and feeling very happy for missing it, sending it all your love. The joy and the longing- we lead a blessed, sweet life.

         Fear not my fluttering heart- soon there will be another Cinnamon and then there will be another. Each of them will fill my life with more joy and more love for the next one.

        I love you, my lazy eyed Cinnabonita. That’s the color of love today; Cinnamon

        But just for today. Tomorrow it might be white or black… or brindle.

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© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

THE AUDACITY OF…

                 By the time a human is wise enough to watch where he’s going, he’s too old to go anywhere. I twirl the fluorescent ball. Its fibers catch the ridges of my fingerprint. I wipe the saliva off my hand. A Doberman puppy on the other hand–

            The complex art of putting paw in front of paw, maintaining her balance and keeping an eye on the ball is too much for the puppy to handle. She stumbles on her own cast. I lunge to catch her fall and in one swift motion she snatches the ball out of my hand and hops into the open yard.

           I smile at her triumph. This tennis ball means the world to an eight-month-old puppy. The past is behind her; the future holds thousands of promises and a sea of sunshine.

            It didn’t seem like it five months ago when I got a call early in the morning.

          “We found an injured thirteen week old female Doberman puppy by the sidewalk.” The volunteer’s voice was more urgent than usual.

            I’ve done this a hundred times before but it hurts every single time more than before. I take a deep breath. “How bad is it?”

“Umm…”

            Gosh. “How did we find her?” I press my palm to my forehead.

            “Somebody saw her fly out of a pick-up truck at about 50 mph.”

            When will people stop taking their dogs out in pick-up trucks? Dogs don’t belong in the back of pick-up trucks. Like children, they must be strapped in with a seat belt.  “If she’s a puppy and she fell out, the truck must’ve had its tail-gate lowered.”

            “Yes, he slammed on the brakes and then took off at a break-neck speed. The witness said she flew out like a cannon-ball and struck the pavement. The driver didn’t stop. She’s been here since. Can’t move.”

             A lump forms in my throat. “Stay with her and keep her calm. I’ll rally the troops.” The call I make to the director puts the entire organization at Houston Area Doberman Rescue into auto-pilot mode. There’s a certain amount of mechanical synchronicity in the way we become when we hear of an abandoned dog. We act swiftly and deliberately; get medical help, identify a foster, estimate medical costs, start a fundraiser, ensure the dog’s safety—then we breathe.

             Finally we name the dog.

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             Yip Yip Yip. She jostles me out of my thoughts by dropping the ball at my feet and is pawing it with the leg covered in a blue cast. Messages are scribbled on it.  GET WELL SOON, HOPE. I LOVE YOU, HOPE. YOU GO, GIRL. YOU’RE MY HERO, HOPE.

              Hope. Yes, that’s it; simple, honest and straight from the heart.

              Aoo Aoo Aoor. She taps the ball with her cast, sits on her butt and waves her front legs in the air like a Kangaroo. I caress her head and playfully tug her cropped ear. “That’s enough for today. The cast came off your other foot just yesterday.”

              Aaoooooooonnnnn. She cocks her head.

             “Yes, little girl. And your E-collar came off yesterday.” Poor puppy has worn that uncomfortable collar for sixteen weeks straight; half of her life so far.

             She cocks her head in the other direction.

            I sit cross legged in front of her and run my finger on the fur between her eyes. “You’re doing great now. Yes you are.” She had a broken femur, a displaced and chipped left hind leg, fractures on either side of the growth plate in her wrist where her wrist had hyper-extended upon impact with the pavement.

               She blinks a few times.

             “Yes you’re very brave, Hope. You had some lung damage, radial nerve damage in your front leg and you pinched a nerve in your hip because you sat on the concrete for five days.” I put my arm around her neck. “Every bit of you was banged up, wasn’t it?”

             She presses her muzzle to my chest.

            “Yes Hopey, the doctor said even your heart was bruised.” I kiss her nose. “Does this heal your heart a bit?”

            She takes out her broad spatula-like tongue and licks my cheek.

            “Yes, Hopey. I know. I love you too.” 

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            This is what we humans classify as an aggressive breed? The ones who are indifferent to an animal’s suffering are the real aggressors. This puppy still responds to the one feeling that is lost on the driver of that truck: love. She doesn’t know she’s being rescued by a rescue group. The children who write on her cast, the foster family that spoils her by feeding her the yummy treats or by the vet who kisses his patient before and after each surgery. To her they are all the same- the people who show her love. That’s exactly how she responds to all of them– by showing love.

            Many years ago, when my niece turned one, I tried for weeks to teach her how to walk. She’d clasp her tiny hand around my finger and I would guide her. She would take a few flat footed steps, cross her legs, lose her balance and plop on the floor. So we’d try again. She’s nine years old now. When she grows into a woman and gets married to someone, I’ll watch her go to her new home and her new life and I’ll cry. I know this today.

            I’ll cry when Hope goes to her new home too.

            She’s eight months old now and has undergone three surgeries. Her puppyhood has been spent in hospitals, e-collars and casts. She hasn’t run at full gallop ever. A puppy masters the complex art of running by extending both its front legs in gallop, not worrying about stopping. It gladly lets inertia make it fall and roll over. There will be none of that for Hope but with the love and care of her foster Ms Carpenter and her companion dogs. She will run soon.

            The one thing the human indifference hasn’t extinguished in her life is hope. She is hopeful that one day her wrist will extend the way it should. She hopes that when this cast comes off, no further surgery will be required. She hopes that somebody will fall so utterly and completely in love with her that they will take her home.

            Yes, that’s what she has: that’s what we have for her.

             And now, introducing for the first time, in the red corner wearing no shorts at all, this black and tan girl weighing in at forty pounds when dripping wet- Hope: Our hope.Humanity’s Hope.

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 © Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.