Dogs are Cowards.

Snip20150826_5

“What is your first name?” The motel owner pointed to my name tag while playing with her dark yellow gold ear-ring.

“Inder. How long have the dogs been in the room, madam?” I jotted the details on my note-pad.

“I recognised your Kada. You’re a sikh.” She pointed at my iron bangle representing one of the 5 symbols of my religion.

I raised my eyebrows.

“5 days- he abandoned them 5 days ago.”

“Have you given them any water? Food?” I took down information of the renter.

“No sir, I’ve always been very scared of dogs. They bite.”

I thought to myself- so do most of us humans. They bite when they are scared or hurt. We bite because we like to play games.

“Our workers are very scared to even open the door.” She did the indian nod.

Gosh. Not a drop of water for 5 days and no food. I slid the card in the slot and entered the room. The brindle pitiful charged at me and then stopped.

Dogs are cowards.

Yes. Dogs are the biggest cowards in the world. They will achieve their goal using the minimum required force. They fake you out with their aggression and test its effect and then they wait. If you don’t flinch- they back off.

Always.

It never fails.

He recedes back on the bed where he has shredded newspapers, peed and pooped and made a royal mess. But its we, the humans who messed up their lives.

thumb_IMG_2873_1024 thumb_IMG_2876_1024

I sit on the chair and turn on the TV.

The dog stops barking. Thats when I see the other black dog cowering under a sink. He’s protecting her. He comes toward me, unsure but calm now.

thumb_IMG_2874_1024

The motel owner and his wife are staring wide-eyed through the window of the room.

I put some water in front of the dog. His tail starts wagging but he is unsure of drinking. I put water in front of the dog under the sink and she drinks right away. I caress her face. The brindle male starts drinking too.

thumb_IMG_2875_1024

In less than 5 minutes, I’m their new best friend. They are licking my face.

In the next ten minutes they are on my truck and when I take his picture he makes this absolutely angelic face which says. I didn’t do anything back there. It wasn’t me.

thumb_IMG_2872_1024

They are now at the shelter- in the same kennel. That’s the least I could do for them- to ensure they don’t feel even more abandoned; separated from each other.

So starts another vigil to find them a home- and this time hopefully together. The dogs don’t stop coming. The cruelty and abandonment and callousness never ceases to hurt my heart.

We humans are cowards too.

I was a coward for the longest time. Shutting my eyes to the plight of these animals.

I’m just trying my best to face up to the cruelty this world has inflicted on these animals now.

Just trying to NOT be a coward anymore.

Snip20150826_4

You sir, are under a Contract !!

Snip20150713_7

 

We made a contract with animals-

Sure, there was no fine print. Surely, nobody from their team had the ability to read it or sign it or veto it. They just had to lower their defenses and give in.

We tricked them

Snip20150713_6

— But even one-sided contracts are contracts.

 

“We will domesticate you,” it read. “We will trade you for profit like a commodity. We will make all possible uses of you and we will even expect you to love us unconditionally. In return we will give you the food and shelter as long at it is convenient to us…”

The stupid animals didn’t even hear us beyond the phrase “Unconditional Love.”

They were sold.

They were duped.

Somewhere down the line, we forgot our promise because we humans have the one basic thing these animals lack- GREED.

They are still stuck on the phrase. “Unconditional Love.”

Snip20150713_8

 

Every festival we have be it Easter, Thanksgiving, Bakr-Eid, Gadhimai, Christmas; we find an excuse to feast on their flesh.

Sometimes in the name of religion.

Sometimes in the name of dating, family get-togethers, feasts, partying with the boys/girls, graduations, weddings, birthdays- we celebrate all our events by murdering them.

Such is our GREED.

Sometimes in the name of entertainment- we maim and mutilate them. We profit off their pain and suffering.

And if killing them isn’t enough, we scare them with our celebrations. At Holi we colour them with chemicals on their skin. On Diwali and independence day fireworks spoof and scare them.

Snip20150713_5 Snip20150713_4

Every 4th of July the shelter gets the MAXIMUM number of dogs and cats those have been abandoned or run away scared. The Euthanasia rates of cute dogs and cats triples on the week following July 4th.

Snip20150713_2 Snip20150713_1

We read this and say- Ohhhhh that’s horrible. But the following year, the following festival- even our need to see fireworks super-cedes the life of a dog.

Our independence celebrations mean their independence from their life.

When are we going to honour our end of the social contract we made with the animals?

When will we be honest and fair and have equal rights – The very foundations of this nation and humanity?

Snip20150713_3

Gammy Saves Arse-Souls (like me)

IMG_5776

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.

IMG_5848

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.

IMG_5859

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.

IMG_5765IMG_5767

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.

IMG_5789IMG_5674IMG_5793

Amen to that.

Da’ Coopster ……. Continued….

Cooper-new2  

           I’d been sitting in the parking lot with Cooper’s head in my lap when my phone rang.
           I wore the blue-tooth around my ear. “How much time does the Vet give him?” This couldn’t be happening to my Cooper, my favorite playmate at the shelter, my reason for joining this Rescue. I bit my quivering lip.
           “A few weeks. The cancer has spread. We’ve decided to put him to sleep. It’s the only…”
          Her words faded into mumbo jumbo. Put him to sleep? He’s so full of energy. He’s my running buddy. I squinted the harsh Arizona sun out of my eyes. “When?”
“Today. We’re taking him to the dog park and then feeding him some burgers. Then we will take him to the vet and–”
          “–Don’t say it.” If I don’t hear it, then it didn’t happen. Right?
           “I know you love Cooper.” Her voice softened. “It’s time to say goodbye.”
           I clasp myself tighter. “I…err…you see…umm…I can’t…don’t have the ability of saying goodbye.”
         “That’s okay. We’ve called Tina from HomeFurGood Rescue. She’ll be with him till the very end. Till his eyes–”
          “–you called someone else? Someone that doesn’t even know our Coopster?” I splayed my arms.
          “She’s the one we call when any of our dogs are euthanized. She has a way of comforting the animals in their final moments.”
          “What a horribly depressing job. She must be a dark, gloomy soul.” I clasped two fistfuls of my hair.
                                                ****************
            Two days later. I’m walking into the HomeFurGood shelter for picking up Coopers ashes. The receptionist directs me to Tina’s desk. “She’s helping a dog that’s being put to sleep right now. Take a seat, she’ll be in soon.” She motions to a wooden chair.
          I take a seat, cross my legs and rap my fingers on her desk. A short haired woman stares into my eyes from a picture frame. She’s holding a handicapped dog in the picture close to her chest. Her nametag reads Tina. N. She has a warm smile that makes even the crow’s feet around her eyes appealing.”
        OK so she’s young and pretty…and happy. But she must be a depressed ‘in the closet’ lesbian. I pick up a plastic clip from her desk with a small tube attached to it.
“Mr. Sandhu. I see that you found my special Euthanasia tube.” She flashes her pearly whites and extends her long fingers towards me.
       I drop the tube and rub my hands clean. The tube falls to the floor with the yellow smiley face tag facing up. I shake her warm and soft hand. Then I rub my palm on my shirt.
     “I see that death bothers you.”
     “I love dogs way too much and don’t have the heart of watching them die.”
      “So you close your eyes. Did you ever consider Cooper’s passing from his point of view? You refused to be with him–”
     “–You don’t know Cooper. He was my favorite dog.” I touch my heart. “You see hundreds of dogs die every day. They’re all the same to you. You don’t know the first thing about Cooper–”
      “–I don’t know the first thing about him. But I know the last.” She crosses her arms. “I snuggled next to him on the soft Sherpa blanket. He ate a Frosty Paws ice-cream I brought him. Then he nuzzled my hand so I gave him a second one. I kissed him between his eyes and whispered stories about how when he gets to heaven he should look out for Speedy, the Dobie who is the keeper of the gates. To seek out Mi Corazon and Sarge; the one’s I couldn’t save. I held Cooper, speaking softly until he drifted off.”
       My shoulders droop. The chair is just aIMAG0980bout ready to swallow me.
She walks up to me and sits on her desk. “Cooper would’ve been a little happier in death if you had been with him when he passed on.”
I rest my elbows on my knee. “I was- was- scared.” I manage a whisper.
She touches my shoulder. “I know fear, Mr. Sandhu . Every Friday, I find a list of dogs at Animal control those are going to be put down. I drive to the pound paralyzed with fear. Knowing those dogs are missing their chance at life are the darkest moments of my week.”
“How do you do it, Tina?”
She sighs. “I’ve encompassed the world of rescue. I’ve brought the love of animals into my heart. My love for the animals does not fill some void in my life left by a bad relationship, a dog that passed or some sociological issue I had in my childhood.” She taps the picture of a black and tan Doberman wearing a red collar that reads ‘Speed’.IMAG0978
              I raise my eyebrows. “Why do you–”
“–Because nobody else will. They’ve gone through life without love or understanding.They are at the Animal Shelter because a human chose to abandon them. Because they think the dog’s life wasn’t worthwhile anymore. Now at the end of their life and in the final moments I share my heart and my love with them. These last comforting moments are all I can give them.”
       I tug my earlobe. That explains her picture with five handicapped dogs. “Do you think you make a difference in their lives?”
      “Absolutely. The human touch and love is all an animal needs. That love is all that Cooper needed to make the most difficult journey he ever made.” She places an urn of his ashes on the table.
      The urn rattles. I place my trembling hand on it. I haven’t encompassed rescue like her. After having done this for seven years I feel today that I’m on the outside looking in. I haven’t encompassed compassion. I still judge people based on appearance or sexuality or my preconceived notions. “Thank you, Tina.” I stumble out the door.
     She calls out behind me. “Peace be with you.”
     I stop in my tracks. If I were a marginally better person, I’d be friends with her- because if a person like her is not in my life. The loss will be entirely and completely mine.DSC00660

WHAT IS THE COLOUR OF YOUR LOVE- CINNAMON?

Image

           “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.

Image

            “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.

Image

© 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.