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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STEREOtyping !!

Humans label things.

Aggressive, Pre-dosposed to fight, Dangerous-dog.

We take one look at an animal to deem its future. Even as the people responsible for educating people against stereotyping we become the first perpetrators of it.

If we aren’t their voices; what right do we have to take actions on their behalf?

Why do we assume the right of being judge, jury and executioner without being fair and biased?

This Rottweiler was marked aggressive because he went after an Animal Control Officer who had just entered it’s yard.

Imagine what goes through the head of a dog who has been kept to protect the owners territory when a person shows up in a yard dressed like this.

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Huge sunglasses to cover their eyes. A cap to cover their face. A big dog-pole in their hand. Wearing a uniform that some dogs recognize.

The dog attacks- and then backs off. All dogs do this; they always back off because they are COWARDS.

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So he gets put on the Euthanasia list but someone calls to adopt him last minute and he gets pulled off the list. Then they are told he is aggressive  (by us) and they back off, so he’s back on the E-list. Then by the weirdest stroke of luck we run out of blue juice to put him down because he’s a staggering 120 Lbs. and now is the last one on the list.

Lucky you would say; well then you can say it again.

So next morning he’s on the list again- but the rescue group has worked all night to find him a foster already, so he gets pulled off the list for a 3rd time in 24 hours.

Now you can call him a Lucky Bastard.

Because two days later- This is his new home and his new life. Filled with joy and love.

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Then we have Ryder. Abandoned at a house by the owner.

He’s been without food and water for a few weeks. So when the police show up to get him, he charges them. What do you expect from a very very high energy dog that hasn’t eaten for days and is still guarding his territory.

But the way our society works is this- Once the law enforcement labels him as aggressive – he is deemed aggressive and has lost his chance at life.

We all STEREOtype- It’s only when it happens to us that we get angry.

When we are called Black, Brown, Cheap, Flirts,Callous, Hardened, White-trash, Rednecks etc etc we get angry. Only when the shoe is on the other paw we stop caring.

So Ryder was on the E-list.

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So I found him a place and pulled him.

So everybody at the shelter called me crazy. Even my friends doubted Ryder.

But I had faith and a lot of hope.

So this is Ryder today.

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We need to be their voice. We need to allow for some of their screw ups; just like errant kids do sometimes.

We don’t send our children to the gallows every-time they fight or say something nasty.

Then why would we STEREOtype against these poor dogs who don’t even understand the implications of their actions.

Why can’t we just be more tolerant and FAIRER.

Preferential Treatment

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Sarcoptic Mange is caused by the parasite Sacroptes Scabiei. While it can infect and grow in humans too- it prefers to grow in dogs.

The kind of preferential treatment they can absolutely do without.

Because we can help ourselves. They can’t.

We have sprays. They have neglect.

We have money they are destitute.

We control out destiny. They have been robbed of their destiny because we domesticate and breed them.

And this is what it does to a ‘once vibrant’ Great Dane. His legs are swollen to three times the normal size. His walk is so painful that he shuffles inch by inch. Standing up is so excruciating for him that he eats lying down.

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In a world where shelters are overcrowded and animals  get put down for perceived aggression or a minor kennel cough, what chance does this poor neglected boy have?

Who was the human that let the neglect go this far. At what point do you stop and say- I think my dog needs help.

So what did this human do??

He abandoned this dog on the street in almost 100 degree blistering hot Texas sun. A skin so sensitive it cannot endure human touch was found lying on a burning hot pavement.

Now that is preferential cruelty.

The Messenger of Death

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Death;

That’s the final frontier.

Nothing is more definite.

Nothing is more final.

Nothing is more irreversible.

Then why do we take a life?

Why do I?

If Dr. Kevorkian can be punished for human Euthanasia, what is my punishment for killing sixteen cats and nine dogs with reasons ranging from upper respiratory infection to perceived aggressive to simply – “un-adoptable because they’ve been at the shelter too long” scribbled clear across their charts.

A red tag around their collar as I walk him to his final walk. The chocolate brown big-pittie wags his tail wildly as I pet his pretty face. He jumps up and down the weigh-scale ready to play his game with me.

  1. The amber read-out of the scale flickers. That would mean 8cc of the Blue-juice. My gut tightens.

The vet-techs check his vitals and I tranquilize him. Then we put him in the cage and the vet techs cover it with a blanket.

“Why do we do that?”

“So he can’t see what’s going on outside.” He says to me and re-starts his banter with the other vet-techs.

Having been here for a week has taught me how to read between lines. Having worked in rescue for years has taught me how we veil our fears and feeling. It’s not because we don’t want them to see outside. It’s because we don’t want to see inside.

So I peek behind the blanket. My pittie is swaying his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder does when he sings. Drool is dribbling out of his mouth.

I can barely hold his chart up with my trembling hands. There must be something wrong. He is so healthy and happy. I go over every line again. It still says Upper respiratory tract infection. I could’ve sworn I never heard a cough or anything.

They pull him out and lay his limp body on the table. His muscles are quivering involuntarily. He must’ve figured out what’s coming.

“Why don’t you do this one.” My supervisor points to me.

“Me?” I look behind me. Nothing. Gosh.

My mouth runs dry. I gulp a few times and pick up the syringe. I draw 8cc’s of the blue liquid and grab the pittie by the elbow and twist my wrist slightly.

His big vein pops up willingly, eager to please me very much like him. Always obliging. Always ready to give happiness, joy, love and now even his own life; The true spirit of a dog.

And the true spirit of man.

I point the beveled end of the needle up and dig into his skin, feeling the vein. I draw out a little blood to ensure I’ve hit the vein and then I plunge the syringe as deep as I can.

A sudden urge to vomit overpowers me. I’ve just pushed death into the body of an animal that I had sworn just to give life to. I had chosen death.

“Good job, officer.” My supervisor spins on his heel and leaves the lab.

My knees hit the floor. I run my hand over the pitties head repeating the words SORRY SORRY , Please forgive me. I am so sorry, big guy.

His eyes glaze over they are staring into nothingness. I put my face right in front of his eyes. I want me to be the last thing he saw. I pet his head and kiss his nose till the heart jab injection tells me he has passed.

I force myself not to cry in front of the vet techs. I force myself to appear professional but my heart broke into a million pieces today. But it has broken several times before and it will as long as I work in this field.

Today I am the messenger of death. We in rescue call this by different names- we try to ease the pain and cutify death. Lab Limbo (stalling going to the lab by doing menial things to delay killing), The Rainbow Bridge, Going to meet Jesus, Going night-night… It’s still death; Final and all encompassing.

I trudge over to the wash-basin.

Boraxo, Industrial strength hand-wash. An orange bottle over the basin reads. Removes paint, grease, tar, ink and oils.

I pump some on my hands and scrub the grainy gel as vigorously as I can. Yes but can it remove DEATH too?

Gammy Saves Arse-Souls (like me)

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Her silver hair is ruffled by the wind again. She takes her frail hand off the microphone and straightens her hair. Then she places a hand on her knee and slumps into a chair.

“That’s my grandma”, I blurt out to nobody in particular. The woman standing next to me looks me up and down. My brown complexion which is in stark contrast of the pale Caucasian woman is the reason why she’s baffled. The gray bristles in my salt and pepper scruff defies the relationship too.

My grandma is frozen in time in my mind from fifteen years ago. This woman however is a pastor at a church. I’m attending an event called ‘Blessing of the Pets’ at The Church of Good-Shepherd in Tomball, Texas.

Somebody brings a dog to her. She places her palm on the dogs head and mutters a few words. My eyes are transfixed at hers. It doesn’t matter what she’s saying. Her eyes magnified by her glasses are flooded with love for the dog.

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I’ve never been to one of these events before. I’m just a volunteer photographer there. I’ve never been inside a church in session (or whatever it is the real expression). I’m not a Christian- I’m not even religious. However there is one language she is speaking that I believe in.

In her heart she’s not blessed a dog, she’s not blessed a cat. If there were a lion or a deer here- she would’ve blessed them too. She has blessed a soul. And I speak soul fluently.

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Is it my grandma teaching me a lesson in compassion or a pastor teaching me how to not be speciesist? I don’t know- but I think I’ve learned my lesson for today.

Have we all at the event learned some lesson? The joyous costumes and the cute children are out in numbers. My gaze hidden behind my lens wanders around till I observe a kids face getting licked by a pitbull.

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This toddler reaches out to the pitbull with his small arms and wants to be kissed again.

The answer is –Yes others have learned from the pastor as well. The hope that these animals have from being saved from the cruelty that’s meted on them rests with these kids. This boy in a fire-fighter’s hat; This girl with a dog by her side and this one with a dog on his lap. All of them are the only hope these animals have- and not just the pets; All animals.

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Amen to that.

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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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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Children of a Lesser Dog- I

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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.

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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.

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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

Cooper1

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.

stray

            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.