The Roles of Our Lives

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The Bhagvad Gita claims that ‘The Savior is bigger than the killer.’

We, at the Chuck Silcox center at FWACC play our roles in saving each soul. It’s a tale of sweat and tears for animals we feel responsible towards.

It all starts with the most important ingredient; one compassionate citizen who has witnessed an act of cruelty decides to be the voice of the hapless animal. So we get a call. The ladies at the call center are experts in assigning priority to calls based on urgency they hear in a citizen’s voice.

“These two dogs are tied in the backyard,” The citizen gulps for air. “They don’t have any food or water they are very very…” His voice starts to break. “Please help them.”

The Animal Control officer who responds knows the law backwards. We can’t enter someone’s yard without a warrant unless we perceive that an animal’s life is in danger. Minutes later, he dials the cruelty officer’s phone, “You’ve got to see this.” His voice is hurried. “Please drop everything and get here.”

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The cruelty officer has seen hundreds of emaciated animals with open, maggot infested wounds. Even he cringes at a puppy so emaciated that his pointed hipbone has broken through the skin from being unable to get up. The mother dog has a 25 pound bar-belle plate tied to her collar. The grass in the backyard so tall, that we heard the two pit bulls before we saw them. Flies swarm their ears and maggots crawl in their open wounds. The puppy is so weak that he falls every time he tries to get up. His furless white skinned body has created a small pit from repeatedly trying.

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The cruelty officer flips his phone. “I’m getting these dogs out of here, right now.” He dials the Vet at the shelter and calls for the emergency code.

As the truck pulls in to the shelter the dogs are transported to the waiting arms of the vet-techs. They name the puppy Duke and the mama Duchess. Naming animals makes their survival personal and half the battle is won. They hope that these two are not too far-gone to be helped.

Next day the Shelter manager and the Vet are sitting with the puppy in the yard when I walk out.

“I think we’ll have to put Duke down if he doesn’t eat.” The Vet helps the puppy to its feet but it collapses in a lump of skin and bones.

“Can we try a blood transfusion as a last resort?” The shelter manager draws back her auburn hair into a ponytail as she cups the puppy’s face with her palms.

“We don’t have a donor.” The Vet pinches his nose under his spectacles.

The shelter manager splays her arms. “What about the dog that got into a fight yesterday and is in recovery. The white and black pittie- Woodrow.”

“Well, I suppose we can try.” The Vet smiles.

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The shelter techs those clean Duke and Duchesses kennels everyday have bonded with them in the next 4 weeks. Slowly but surely they gain strength and their wounds heal.

The rescue coordinators at the shelter work overtime in finding these two dogs a rescue. They try to have mama and the puppy stay together while they learn social skills at a foster.

Finally after nearly dropping dead in hundred-degree weather, 5 weeks ago, Ms. Alix at Believe-A-Bull rescue steps up to take on the toughest task yet; Train them and then find them a loving home. She takes upon her young shoulders the task of reversing the cruelty these poor animals have faced at the hands of some humans.

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After getting a lot of care and tenderness at the shelter; Duke and Duchess now get love at Alix’s home. The grooming and cleaning; the training and playtime; the kissing and the cuddling transform them into lovable pets in two short months.

Then a family sees them for who they really are; sweet gentle souls. They get adopted and as luck would have them they are still together in the same home. Together they bring joy into a family that has been bereft of happiness due to circumstances out of their control.

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The shame that some perpetrators had put humanity through has been reversed a bit.

But this is just one story. We live these stories everyday. We get a new Duke and a new Duchess often. We do not let compassion fatigue get the better of us; we stand united as a voice for the voiceless at the Fort Worth Animal Care and Control center.

We as a society need to play our role too; one to prevent cruelty rather than fix the symptoms of it. One to teach our children compassion and love.

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And then there is my role.

I just observe and report.

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Bad to the Bone?

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Neglect?- Of property? Of Animal?

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Abandonment?

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Was this puppy in a dangerous situation?

That is a skull and pelvic bone of another dog

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A Puppy?

-It looks fat because its belly is bloated with round-worms.

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Thirsty?

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Hungry?

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Brought to shelter?

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Did it get its first bath?

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Did it get Spayed?

Is it ready for the BIG Adoption event?

Will it find a loving home?

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Compassion fatigue??-  NOT YET.

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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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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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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

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“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.”

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.

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