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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The A,B,C’s of L. O. V. E

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Three eight year old boys A, B and C are walking back from school when they chance upon a mangy stray dog. A digs a few rocks out of his shorts and flings one at the dog. Boy B recedes behind a tree and keeps a close watch on the dog. Boy C plants himself firmly between boy A and the dog, ensuring that the dog is not hit anymore.
Which of the 3 boys from the scenario defines you? A hypothetical question, you say? Maybe it doesn’t jog your memory enough. Okay, read on;
Boy A goes home and his mom is indifferent to him. She’s busy arguing with his father or planning a kitty party.
Boy B goes home to a mother that is the quiet contemplative type. She’s a housewife concerned about her family’s well-being. Worried about her son having all he needs to do well in school.
Boy C goes home to find his mother feeding a cow or teaching the servant’s six- year-old child how to read and write.
Does either of these scenarios sound familiar? Too general, you claim? Well, read on;
Boy A’s path in life is as follows. From seeking fun in hurting others he becomes a bully at school. He then becomes an eve-teaser in college. He ends up getting into a few fights, always on the verge of getting in trouble, or worse; arrested. He gets married and has a good chance of being a wife-beater.
Boy B is the classic case of someone that does what’s expected of him. The “also ran” in life. The one who observes everything, does nothing and is educated enough to talk about it at a party. He gets married, has kids and watches out for them like his mom did for him. He will complain about ills in society and his country but he won’t do a thing about it.
And then there is boy C. He has learnt compassion from his mother. Love and care for animals and other humans has been nurtured in his heart. He will grow up to encompass everything. The environment, animal abuse, sex workers, oppressed classes, geriatric care; everything will be of concern to him. He will do something about each and everything. He will fill his life with causes those are beyond himself.
Now does the picture become clearer?
Here is the simple truth. Most of us fall under the category B. Always afraid that our B child doesn’t become a category A kid. All we have to do is make him a category C child. That will make a generation of category C children.
Most of us ask what one person can do for this world or to change our country. Well here’s the answer for you. Encourage your child to be a type C child. Learning about compassion early in life builds empathy and moral character, reduces violence and builds a sense of empowerment and responsibility. Society as a whole benefits when its members are more caring toward each other and the animal those live among us.
Studies have shown that kids those abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit theft and three times more likely to do drugs than kids who don’t. In fact the FBI uses violent crimes against animals to profile violent criminals.
Hence A is not equal to B and B is not equal to C. So there you have it- Hence proved.
Q.E.D – Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

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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.