The Legend of the Blue Jay

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If you’ve never seen  Blue-Jay up close, you’ve missed on a character so complex that it seems like J.J Audubon’s words “Who could imagine that a form so graceful arrayed by nature in a garb so resplendent, should harbor so much mischief.” aren’t adequate to define one.

-They mimic hawks to protect their families.

-They are intelligent and social birds who have a dulcet of a voice.

-The use their voices to alert other species of birds when predators approach.

-They are nest-robbers.

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Nature in it’s bounty has given them a color so brilliant and markings so uniform and pretty that we have to stop and appreciate the artist who drew up these pretty birds.

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Then one of them fell to the ground today.

Unable to fly; it flapped it’s wings in front of a citizens car and hopped up and down. It’s neck lolling from side to side.

As I showed up on the scene, I noticed a stick approximately 4 inches long and 2 cm in diameter sticking out of it’s anus. As I removed the stick with a lot of care the bird collapsed into my palm.

This poor bird couldn’t hold it’s head up. The weight of it’s head kept on knocking it off it’s feet.

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The bird was in pain.

After making a few quick calls, I realized the only humane thing I could do was to put it out of it’s misery.

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There was no human to be held responsible, no case to be filed.

Somebody just put a bird through extreme cruelty and there wasn’t a thing I could do.

Tonight a social birds family waits for their mother’s familiar call but she lies silent by my desk. Silenced by me, silenced by us; humans.

Nature keeps on doling it’s bounty on us and we keep on abusing it. We don’t realize that the Blue of a Blue-Jay is more precious than the Green of the Dollar.

We don’t deserve the song of the Blue-Jay or what nature offers us with open arms.

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Come on baby, LIGHT MY FIRE

Citizen: I need to surrender my dog to the city.
City Employee: What’s the reason for your return?
Citizen: She keeps trying to get away from the house. She’s jumping the fence.
Employee: Please fill out this form while I take the picture of the dog.
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I walk in at this point and see a black female pit-bull tied to the abandoning-dog-hitch.
Me: Sir, what happened to this dog on her back?

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Citizen: Uh ! Umm! I don’t know officer. Officer…Sanhu…is it?
Me: Sandhu. Sir this dog has third degree burns on her back. Maybe she won’t try to escape the yard if you stop lighting her on fire, you fuckwad,dimwit, nincompoop.

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Citizen: Wait, maybe my wife knows more about those. Let me check with her.

As he backs towards the door he picks up the pace, spins on his heel and is out the door yelling at his wife to ‘start the car’ and ‘go go go’.
I’m not sure what out policy states regarding chasing cowardly citizens down the street, catching them and lighting them on fire.
But we’re never going to find out, are we?

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You’re AXED

I got a cruelty case today that made me question my belief in humanity. It made me question my constitution as someone who witnesses cruelty to animals every single day.

It made me want to ask all humans these basic questions;

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If someone came at you with an axe, what would you do?

If someone did this to your face? What would you do?

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If you were a dog, would you love humans still?

Would you respond kindly to their touch?

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…and give kisses to the human cleaning your wounds?

What will it take for us humans to be more like animals?

To love completely?

To trust completely?

Will we always remain like this guy?

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Or will we become….their voice?

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So that the bad guy doesn’t win…

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Had a ball once- NOT HAVING A BALL NOW.

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“I love a tennis ball- There; I said it.”

The soft fluorescent fuzz on the ball helps me grip it as I snap in in the air. The dirt and grime from weeks and the nastiest smells are all trapped within the short wiry hair on the surface.

A joy- A total–

“–What the heck? I just got trapped inside these tennis courts. Someone locked the gate and now I can’t get out. The other dogs always told me that my love for the tennis ball will get me in trouble one day. Uggggghhhh.”

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The Animal Control Officer (ACO) in the blue uniform shows up and put me on the back of his truck. He pets my head and promises that I will be OK at the dog-pound. There’s my other fault- I am gullible. The animal control officer makes a verbal contract with me that I will be better off inside than as a stray.

I believe him. I always believe everybody- what can I say. I’m an animal.

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Humans invented time. From that time they allocated some time for me. 72 Hours is what I was given. I have no idea how much time that it and how many times will the sun come out before my time runs out.

All I know is that I am inside a kennel, I don’t see the sun come out. All I see is the inside of a dark kennel and hear other dogs barking, begging to be let go all day. Then they give up when the humans leave.

Then one day when they lifted the partition between my kennel and the next one as they do while the humans clean, I met Tiki Tiki.

She told me she was abandoned and had a million fleas on her. The same ACO had picked her up and promised her a good life in a real home. She was scared of everything. She’d never known affection so I shared my love with her. I told her stories about humans who care, about tennis balls those bounce, about families who take their dogs on vacations. I consoled her till she trusted me.

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Then one day they lifted the partition and there was another dog there.

Tiki was gone. My best friend.

My ONLY friend.

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The ACO was true to his word. He found Tiki a home- but I was left alone- all by myself.

Now he visits me everyday and takes me for a walk- he promises me while petting my head that one day I will find a real home too. He calls me Ol’ blue eyes and has named me ‘Sinatra’.

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As time goes on, I see other dogs come and go. I stay here and wait- I hold my end of the bargain I made with the ACO and be patient and a good boy.

He tells me he will post me on Facebook and somebody would wan’t me.

But I wait.

And I wait.

I’m holding my end of the contract I made with the ACO; will he hold his end up?

And maybe I can have a BALL OF A TIME too.

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This KARMA is not a Bitch- It’s a DOG

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Meet ‘Karma’.

He’s THE classic example. ‘Do Good and Good things will happen to you’.

It’s the story of 2 dogs and how their worlds collide in total chaos. From the depth of despair rises hope that saves them both.

Karma- the grey and white Pit-bull had been found wandering the streets and picked up by an Animal Control Officer. One day while he was chomping down his food in his kennel at the shelter, the dog on the other side get’s through the handlers legs and into Karma’s kennel. They get into a fight and the trigger happy kennel staff labels Karma as an ‘Aggressive dog’.

So next day Karma is on the Euthanasia list. As he is being weighed the staff notices multiple puncture wounds on his neck. Per policy he is pulled off the list and sent to the clinic to be sutured.

Somewhere on the other side of town I pick up Foo-Foo fighter and his Mom (https://indersandhu.com/2015/06/11/ignorance-is-not-bliss-ignorance-is-impotence/) from extreme starvation and abuse.

Later that day the Vet is scrambling to find a donor to transfuse blood into Foo-Foo. Upon taking samples they find out that Karma is DEA 1.1 Negative- effectively a universal donor.

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3 days later, Foo-Foo has had two transfusions and Karma has been sutured and is back on the Euthanasia list. When the staff is about to Euthanize him a note pops up on his records. Its a HOLD. The simple note reads- Do not PTS (put to sleep). He’s the donor baby who saved the cruelty-case dog.

So he gets another shot at life.

What surprised me is that in a shelter where scores of dogs are put to sleep every day, the shelter supervisor would use a word like ‘baby’ to describe a dog.

Today Karma went urgent again.

That’s when an angel named Tiffany asked me to get her a dog. I sent her 4 options ranging from an abused dog, a sweet puppy and a pretty eyed girl. Then I said to her I have another dog who is my favorite but he’s a black and white fully grown pit-bull and he has very little chance of being adopted.

Then I texted her Karma’s picture and waited- holding my breath.

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I opened my eyes and read the text. OMG, Inder. I feel a connection with Karma. He’s the one I want.

I was sitting in front of Foo-Foo’s cage when she sent me that message. I kissed his head. “Your savior just got saved, Foo Foo.”

Foo-Foo waged his tail.

He saved Foo-Foo and saving Foo-Foo saved him.

Karma; nope, not a bitch. He’s a dog.

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Very lovable.

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Very handsome–

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Now safe and forever happy.

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Ignorance is Impotence- Part2- RIGHTING THE WRONGS

The abused dogs have new names-

Mama dog is called -Athena

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Puppy is called – Foo Foo Fighter (because he’s twice the fighter)

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The following day, the Vet told me he was toying with the idea of humanely euthanizing the puppy, when I saw him sitting with the two dogs in the sun. His labored breathing and lack of energy caused the Vet to crease his fore head.

I couldn’t tell him what to do directly and challenge his medical opinion- but here’s what I could do; put a doubt in his mind. “We need him for the cruelty case and any evidence the court might need. Maybe he’ll be better in a day or after another blood transfusion.”

So next morning I approached his kennel gingerly; Hoping.

I closed my eyes and faced his kennel. Then I looked.

There he was- wrapped up in a blanket and an incubator light on him. I finally let out my breath.

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Then the next day- and the next. There he was- alive, and a bit stronger each morning.

He ate some solid food.

The incubator was turned off.

Then he survived the weekend.

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Today was the court hearing. I showed up in court with a thick folder of midnight oil burnt. Pictures, reports, expert opinion, sketches, layouts, interviews with neighbors. The whole nine yards.

It took the judge less than three minutes after going through my report to issue a warrant for the owners arrest.

The coward has sent his sister to the hearing. She stood in the witness box and claimed that she had found the the dogs as strays in emaciated condition.

“If I could draw your attention to exhibits 18, 23, 27 and 32.” I pointed with my laser pointer. “There is no sign of feces in the areas where these dogs were. For weeks they have been eating their own feces as the only means of nutrition. Exhibit 48 is an X-ray of their stomach.” I tried to force my bile down again pointing to an X-ray I’ve seen a thousand times in the past 4 days. “This dense grey mass is feces.”

The sister opened her mouth but no words came out. She slumped back into her chair.

Today when I came back to Foo Foo and Athena’s kennel I was smiling. “We got him Foo Foo. We got him. He will face justice.”

Foo Foo stood up and wagged his tail. I saw a new spark in his eye today. I took some pictures to prove it.

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Maybe – just maybe. One day they will heal and know life like both of them deserved . Love and tenderness- safety and LOVE.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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O My Indie Dog, How I Fear thee, Let me Count the Ways

-Inder Sandhu

             Aiiiiyiiiii.” The scrawny shirtless kid holds up two sticks in his hands and chases a dog. His ten-year-old legs allow him to catch up to the limping stray before I can blink my eyes.

“Whaaack.” A smile of triumph beams across the boy’s dark complexioned face.

“Aoor Aoor Aoor,” The dog lifts his injured leg higher and tries to scramble away. The boy raises his sticks again.

My body kicks into action. “Oye!” I charge the boy.

He drops the sticks and tries to flee.

Tadaak.

injured dogMy fingers sting from the pain. The boy is holding the back of his head. “Why are you hitting a defenseless dog?” I yell in Hindi. The onlookers at the Fatehpur Sikri surround us. The boy runs away. “How does it feel to be hit like that?” I shout at his receding figure.

The mosque has drawn its weekend crowd of visitors and devout locals. Merchants by the Kotah stone coloured forty meter high entrance gate, the Buland Darwaza, trade their wares in song. The mild wafting aroma of groundnuts roasting over coal saturates the air. The azaan (call to prayer) blares over the loud-speaker. “Allah-hu-Akbar.” Although not a Muslim, I repeat the phrase aloud. I’ve been taught as a child to respect all religions. I fold my hands in prayer and bow my head.  

              Ḥayya ʿala khayr al ʿamal.” (The time for the best deed has come) the Muezzin’s voice is crisp over the loudspeaker.

             The best deed? I slump. How does it feel to be the perpetrator of the crime you just accused him of? Hitting someone weaker than you is just wrong. I close my eyes. That kid hasn’t learnt his lesson and he never will. Where did we go wrong? When did it become acceptable for peace loving Indians to hurt defenseless animals? What happened to our concept of ‘be kind to animals-‘nahi to paap lagega’ (or you will be cursed by your karma).

A part of the answer is fear and the lack of education of how to handle the Indie dog; a stray of no particular breed. We see them everywhere and are indifferent to their presence. Their plight is so common that we’ve become immune to it. We Indians are experts at shutting our eyes and zoning out problems from our lives if they don’t affect us.

            We have no idea how to approach these dogs. We’ve never learnt it. We fear them.

            Imagine if you will the life of a stray dog. Born into scarce food supply and poor health conditions, they have ticks and fleas and no form of vaccination. Most of them in the litter die within a few days. Only the tough survive. They face other big, rabid dogs and children pelting stones at them.

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            Oftentimes, the mother is too busy searching for food or gets runs down by cars and trucks, leaving these puppies to fend for themselves. Like children, these puppies need the human touch, love and nurturing. A human that is orphaned and struggles for survival often becomes a criminal. These dogs are the outcasts of our society. They have very little in terms of orphanages or shelters.

         When we can show them love, we show them fear and hatred. Even if our children try, we’re guilty of shooing the dogs away and reprimanding our children for trying to get close. When these children grow into teenagers we offer them no outlet to quell the fear we instilled in their hearts. We offer them no opportunity to volunteer with these defenseless animals.

         When our children have children of their own- they propagate the same fear in them. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear begets more fear- until one day our society becomes immune to their plight. Then we are left with the only option of scoffing at our own country and the overpopulation of dogs. We cite examples of other countries, those don’t have these problems.

animal cruelty       The simple question is- Will we do anything to break the circle? Will we allow our children to volunteer with these poor helpless dogs and nurse them to health and love? Allow the children to ensure that our administrators have policies in place to control the overpopulation of strays? Or will we just sit back and make the circle of fear get stronger and stronger? Will we do nothing and then complain?

The child comes back with his father. “Why did you hit my son?” He jabs a stick in my pectorals. “You thought he has nobody to support him? Apologize to him” He looks over my shoulder at the growing crowd behind me.

I sit down on my knee and rub the kid’s head where I’d struck him. “I’m sorry I hit you, little guy.” I straighten up.

His father triumphantly twirls his moustache. He turns around and walks away.

I call out behind him. “Now will you ask your son to apologize to the dog he hit because he thought there was nobody to support the dog?”

He pauses for a while, then turns around. Tears have pooled around his now soft eyes. He loses the grip of his stick. I see it rattle on the bitumen and I would’ve heard it too- had the applause not drowned out the sound.

© 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.