Rielley Today


“I can’t find her vein.” Dr. Collins glances at the amber oval wall-clock. “ The anesthesia is about to wear off. Its time to stitch her up.“

My eves are transfixed on pitch-black blotchy skin on the 30 pound dog on the operating table. A purple tag around her collar reads ‘Rielley’. Her leg is swollen up to three times the normal size. The monochromatic surgery lamp is focused on it leg- lying split open with the doctor poring deep into it.


“Forceps” the doctor squeals. I hand him, the cold metal instrument.


“Where do I put it?” I hold up my gloved hand.

“Just wipe my forehead.”

The large beads of sweat that I have seen on the Vets forehead for the first time almost drop into the dog. He wrinkles his nose at the P.A system playing Ticket to ride. “Ashley, this loud music is very distracting.”

You’re the die-hard Beatles fan, Doctor.

He continues to complain, “There’s no god damn skin to suture the wound. I don’t see how this dog can make it.” He pushes back his surgery goggles with the back of his wrist.

Inner strength doctor inner strength.




Dr Collins peels off his blue gown-“I think we should have put her to sleep.”

“I’d never seen anything like it, Doctor have you?

“People are sick. “ He tears off his face-mask. “Somebody picks up a stray with mange and puts her in a vat of motor oil .”

“Motor oil? Why?” I whimper.

“It’s an old wives tale. Motor oil doesn’t cure mange. It burnt this dog. The motor oil seeped through her legs and they swelled to three times the size. Her belly, face and legs are 90% burnt.”



“But she has spirit” I run my hand over her soft, bald head.

“That she does” His frown turned upside down. “She has more pain tolerance than any dog.”

I’ve seen bad-ass Dobies with Harley Davidson collars being dragged through that door” I point to the sliding door with the reverse image of Shadow Creek Veterinary Hospital for nothing more than a rabies booster shot. And then there’s Rielley- she traipses in every time. Greets each and every one of us- her mouse like tail wagging in glee. She’s just so happy to be alive.”

“Amazing.” He runs his finger on the bandaged legs. “We’ll be using an old method of treatment called wet-dry compress for these wounds.”

“An old wives tale almost killed her and now an old method of treatment will save her.”

“Last week I didn’t think she would make it. I recommended euthanasia but she wouldn’t take NO for an answer” Dr. Collins raised his eyebrows towards a woman sitting on the bench. Her arms folded in prayer- her soft eyes watching over Rielley like a mother-hawk. Her hopeful smile revealing her crow’s feet as she negotiated with god to save her girl.

“Yes, Angela, her foster from S.A.V.E rescue helped her. And this time it was the real help. She’s spent hours dressing her wounds, cleaning her suppurating pads.” I nod in familiarity. “Doctor, how long before Rielly will heal?”

“Well after the wounds heal we have to treat her for her original problem; mange. “

I put a hand on Angela’s shoulder. “So when the person who poured motor oil on her to help her caused her most harm.”

“Yes, life-threatening injuries. What’s worse is that when they saw the horrible results they abandoned her. All of you have really helped. Rielley responds to you because how much you care.”

“No Angela. The inner-strength that she shows while enduring the painful treatments gives us the strength to help her.”

“She’s quite a trooper, isn’t she?” Dr. Collins kisses her nose.

She gives me belief doctor. She gives me strength to face my own fears. It’s strengthened my resolve to educate everybody about the plight of animals.




Today I took Rielleys collar off six weeks after I first saw her. Today she lifted her paw without any pain and shook my hand. Today we beamed over the first patch of peach fuzz she has got on her almost healed body.


Then the Beatles song started on the P.A system-


When I was younger, so much younger than today.

I never needed anybody’s help in any way


Today our help has paid off. This has been the roadmap of her journey.

The roadmap of my own journey has been made clearer by a path an abandoned stray has shown. I run my fingers over her almost dried wounds.

The gift of inner strength that a 9 year-old mutt abandoned in the dark and dingy underbelly of Houston gave me that beats any story, any parent or any preacher’s help.”

One day someone will give you a home, Rielley and you will help them in ways they don’t even know yet.


Won’t you please please help me,

Help me, help me, help me, oooooooo


Gammy Saves Arse-Souls (like me)


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.


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.


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.


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.


Amen to that.



           “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.


            “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.


          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.


© Inderpal Sandhu and, 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.