A Dog’s LifeMy first encounter with maggot, Lynn de Souza

‘A dog’s life’ is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven. –by Lynn de Souza Till now…Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and brought to Brindavan building. He befriends Tiger, another dog and the kind-hearted Pinto girl who takes care of both of them. Moti is hurt and driven away from Brindavan, seeks refuge in drain but eventually with the help of Pinto girl gets acceptance at Brindavan. He also fathers a pup. A death dog van catches Moti and Tiger and Pinto girl rescues them from the death chamber…

My first encounter with maggot wounds was when Tiger got bitten in a dog fight, on the inside of his thigh. Flies hovered around the bleeding wound, and laid their eggs, which then hatched into little white worms called maggots. These creatures rapidly ate up all the surrounding flesh, and formed a kind of crater like wound. When treated quickly, these wounds heal very fast, but if neglected, the maggots can eat away so much of the dog’s flesh that it eventually leads to death. The most identifiable symptom of a maggot wound is the distinctive horrible smell. Tiger stank, oh did he stink! As soon as the Pinto girl discovered his wound, she dragged him off to the vet. When he came back home, he ran round and round the building for an hour, chasing his tail and shaking his head with discomfort. “What happened to you at the vet’s place?” I asked him. “You seem to be in even more discomfort now”.

“That wretched vet poured a strong liquid called turpentine into the wound”, he answered. “It burned like crazy but it made the maggots jump out very quickly. He also pulled out some more maggots from inside with forceps. Then he dusted some yellow powder which doesn’t burn as much but feels all sticky. I want to lick it off, but can’t reach my tongue there, will you do it for me?” “Oh rubbish”, I replied, “You’re such a fusspot. That powder’s good for you, why should I lick it off? Just calm down, and it’s bound to ease up”.

But I did sit down by his side and licked his face and neck instead, while the burning pain subsided. For two days after that, she dressed the wound herself, removing the remaining maggots with forceps.

Tiger was very cooperative with her, like me. Many dogs need to be muzzled during veterinary treatment, because the pain can make even ordinarily mild tempered dogs bite. But Tiger and I would let her touch us anywhere with anything, without a murmur.

He was up and about and his usual self in a few days, and the wound healed very well. I had stayed with him all the time, giving up my street roaming in the mornings to be with him.

It seemed to make him feel better, and we got the rare chance to just sit and talk about all kinds of things, from life in the drain, to the visit to the vet, to dog fights, to the problems of cats and rats, and wondered what it must be like to be living up in the Pinto flat with all those other namby pamby dogs. The one subject we studiously avoided was our tryst with death.

“Do humans also get maggot wounds?” Tiger asked.

“I doubt”, I replied, never having seen a human with one.

Then came my turn with those slimy little worms. A minor dog fight in which I got bitten on my front paw, and soon enough the maggots came. She didn’t take me to the vet, but fixed me up with the turpentine and antiseptic cream herself. I was soon well.

Maggot wounds became a common occurrence, because there were many flies around the place. Even the smallest of wounds picked up while not necessarily fighting, but just jumping over the wall, would get infested with maggots, and she became quite an expert at treating them.

Some years later, however, Tiger’s right ear got bitten in a dog fight, and the maggots wormed their way right down the ear canal. There were several trips to the vet, but this wound took almost a month to heal, and repeated dressing took its toll on his ear.

Over the weeks, the canal closed up completely, and he lost his hearing on the right side. The vet’s treatment couldn’t have been too good, because the ear would still ooze a whitish liquid from time to time, which she would mop up and medicate. If she ever forgot, the maggots would start up again, because the flies loved to feed on this ooze, even more than on blood.

This unhappy state of affairs continued for nearly two years.

Tiger was now almost ten years old, and finding the whole situation pretty painful and uncomfortable. There was a constant bad smell around him, either from the dressing, or the ooze, or the maggots, whichever happened to be on him at the time. The building residents started to complain, and the Chairman’s wife wanted him thrown out. Though he was almost always in pain, and probably also had a constant low fever, he ate well, and went about his daily wanderings, shaking his head all the while. It reminded me of the time when I was a youngster and the rats had bitten my ears.

His eyes however took on a vacant stare, as if he were there but not really there. They had lost that mischievous devil may care Tiger look, and a human would have now felt he was a very sad dog. Which he was.

“It seems to be my turn to get the boot now”, Tiger said to me mournfully, when he heard what the Chairman’s wife said “What fair weather friends these humans are”.

The Pintos left the building every year for a month to go on a holiday. The Pinto mother would give Harichander a packet of uncooked dal, and money for bread before she left, and he was kept in charge of our daily meals.

Despite his earlier behaviour, Harichander had completely reformed, and kept us properly fed and watered while they were away.

When we wished them bon voyage, Tiger’s ear wasn’t bad. It happened to be during those rare days, when there was nothing wrong with it, not even ooze. But a few days after they left, it started oozing again.

This time, since there was no treatment, the pus formed very rapidly, and maggots multiplied by the thousands. The building residents were too selfish and miserly to do anything for us, when the Pintos weren’t around, not even Harichander who was Tiger’s owner. No one even bothered to call the vet, or the SPCA and have Tiger admitted to the hospital.

In a couple of weeks, the right side of Tiger’s head was a stinking rotten mass. There was no visible ear left, just a large red open wound, in which big white and yellow maggots kept crawling up and down. The wound now extended well over his forehead almost reaching his right eye.

He shook his head all the time to ease the pain and discomfort. The maggots had begun worming their way towards his brain, and he complained of a constant headache, and was slowly losing his vision too. And his sanity. Though he didn’t go mad, he began to lose his grip on reality and would drift off into a daze.

My faithful friend Tiger, was such a happy handsome smart dog – I couldn’t bear to see him now reduced to this indignity. If I could, I would have delivered him a fatal bite on his neck, but I didn’t even know how to do that. So I just sat quietly by his side, keeping him updated about what was going on in the streets, and reassuring him that the Pintos would soon be back, and then everything would be all right.

But no, it only got worse. The Chairman’s wife began to complain bitterly about the smell and ordered for Tiger to be thrown out of the building. So Harichander did as he was told, and sent him out.

Too weak to complain, Tiger went out without a sound, and sat outside the gate. I went out with him.

For two days, Harichander brought us our food outside as usual, and though I ate, Tiger didn’t touch a morsel. He grew sadder and weaker, so weak that even a tail wag became difficult. His eyes watered, and you would have thought he was crying. In his own way, he was.

“It’s too late for me now”, he said to me quietly, on the third evening. “Moti, you’ve been such a good friend, but I don’t think I can wait till she comes back for me to get some treatment. It is a bad and cruel thing that I have to live like this in my dying days, discarded in the street, when I have saved the people in this building from so many robberies, and played with all of them and their children over the years. But you must understand, that it is better for me to die quickly”.

“Wouldn’t you like to wait to say good bye to her?” I asked.

“Moti, we did say our byes. She knew when she was going that she would not see me again, at least not on this earth. It will be a long time before I meet up with her again, but you Moti, you will join me soon, won’t you?”
“Oh I will, Tiger”, I promised him, and nuzzled his chest.

“Hey, but don’t you go having such a rotten death, okay? I will protect you from where I am, and see that you are looked after till the very end”.

“Thank you, my friend”, I replied, and licked his living face for the last time. “Have a good journey, and see you soon. Say hi to that stupid kitten for me, will you?”

Tiger breathed his last, and I licked the other side of his face for a long while after that. Then I came back into the building, heavy hearted and lonely.

I knew that life is never quite the same from one day to the next, but I had never lost a close friend before. My ears and nose could still pick up the sounds and smells of Tiger, but they came now from very far away and I wanted to be there.

The next morning, the municipality garbage van took his body away along with the other rubbish. No, the building folks didn’t even bother to give him a decent burial.

To be continued in the next issue…

A dog’s life

‘A dog’s life’ is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven.
-by Lynn d Souza

Till now… Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and bought to Brindavan building, where he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and Pinto girl. He gets hurt and is driven away. He seeks refuge in the drain but with the onset of monsoon, the drain gets clogged. With the help of Pinto mother, he gets acceptance in Brindavan, which becomes his home now. All through this, Pinto girl remains by his side. He befriends Rani and even becomes a dad…

The dog van is the one thing that all stray dogs dread. There are of course many types of dog vans, and some of them are actually run by hospitals to capture and treat sick stray dogs and make them well again. But in this story, I am talking of the death dog van, the one in which cruel men used to drive around, to catch stray dogs which had to be put to death in an electric chamber. The one that took Tiger’s mom away.
The death dog vans no longer exist, because many animal loving groups protested against them to the government, which then abolished their use. But during the first half of my lifetime, they were very much around.
“You must be very careful of this van,” the Pinto girl warned us, “That’s why I’ve given you collars, which you mustn’t lose. The dog catchers are paid twenty five rupees for every dog they catch, so they’d love to catch you”.
What we didn’t know then, but learned only later, was that though they were meant to pick up only stray unlicensed dogs, they would often go after other dogs on the street wearing collars, like me, because we were easier to catch being friendlier with and more trusting of humans. Then they would remove the collars and license tags, throw them away, and pocket the illegal income.Tiger and I often observed the action from a safe distance. There were usually three or four men in every van, including the driver. The van would start patrolling the streets early in the morning, and stop wherever it found stray dogs running about. Then two men would jump out of the van, and begin rounding up the dogs, one at a time, by backing them up against a wall or a gate and shouting loudly at the same time. The third man would carry a long metal pole at the end of which were the metal clamps. He w ould grab the terrorised dog around the jaws with the clamps, and then drag the poor animal by its neck and teeth into the van.
Since the dog would be struggling hard to free itself from the clamp, there was no way it could bite, nor could it turn around because of some contraption that was in those clamps. I saw a couple of dogs choke to death right before my eyes even before they made it to the van.
One early morning, Tiger and I trotted back from our stroll with the Pinto dogs and the Pinto father, and were still sniffing around in the cool dewy air on the street aimlessly indulging in our favourite morning occupation – when the death van arrived. The men came up so stealthily behind us that we were taken completely by surprise. Tiger got caught first. He screamed when the clamps descended around his mouth, but the men were too quick, grabbing him by the hindquarters and flinging
him into the van.
Then they came after me, as I knew they would. I should have run away, but didn’t want to leave Tiger alone, so I stood there and did what I do best-yelled and howled with all my might.I was thrown roughly into the van, and barely managed to straighten myself, when I heard the Pinto girl come charging.“You have taken my dogs”, she scolded. “They have collars and license tags, you have no right to do that”.
“We haven’t taken any dogs without tags”, the driver lied.“I don’t believe you”, she insisted. “Let me look inside and check”.
“You can’t do that”, he replied rudely. “We won’t let you”.
“Oh, just try stopping me”, she defied him, and then boldly jumped up into the front of the van, and peeped back into the rear area where Tiger and I wagged our tails furiously, surrounded by five or six other cowering dogs. “There they are, those are mine”, she cried, when she saw us. “You just take them off this van at once”.
“We won’t do anything. Even collared dogs are not supposed to run about loose on the street. If you don’t get off the van, we’ll report you to the police”. The driver was getting really rude and threatening now.
“Ok, let’s go straight to the police station then”, she retorted. “I have their licenses here, and I will complain to them about how you are taking dogs for money”.
By then many people from
the building were looking out of their balconies, and Harichander and the watchman had gathered around to watch.
Meanwhile her parents were watching the scene from the balcony above, and from time to time, they issued words of caution. When they realised that she was taking no notices, her father came rushing down.
He forcibly wrenched open the driver’s door, and threatened him loudly.
“First you show us your own license”, he demanded.
The driver fumbled around in his pocket, no longer as cocky as he was earlier. When he couldn’t produce the license immediately, the Pinto father pulled at his shoulder and shouted. “Get out of this van at once, I am taking you to the police station for driving without a license”.
I don’t know whether the driver really had a licence or not, but he certainly got very scared of the Pinto father, and immediately gave orders for us to be released.
We jumped off the van, and she came running over to us and hugged us hard. But tears were rolling down her eyes.
“I wish I could have got those other dogs off the van as well”, she said. “Oh, I’ll never forget the look on their faces, all scared and hopeful, their eyes pleading with me to save them too”.
But hey, wait a minute. I haven’t even got to the electrocution bit yet. My death van story isn’t over. Barely a month later we got caught again, this time when the Pintos weren’t at home. So we were taken away, yes, all the way to the death chamber.
Every city corporation has a pound, a place where lost and stray animals are kept for a few days till they are reclaimed by their owners, rescued by animal shelters, or put to sleep. Nowadays, unwanted and very ill animals are put to sleep in a humane way, using a painless injection.
But at the time that I am writing about, hundreds of dogs would be rounded up each day. The practice was to keep them in the pound for three days and electrocute them after that if no one came to claim them.
At the end of a long bumpy ride in the van, jostled among strange dogs, we were thrown out and dragged into very large cages. Some of the dogs resisted going in, and bit at the clamps till their mouths and tongues were dripping with blood. Some others peed and shat in fright and slipped on their dirt.
The cages itself were meant to hold about ten dogs each, but we were thrown inside and crammed with at least forty other dogs. Most of them were vomiting, peeing and crapping with nausea and fright. Those that had been there for more than a day knew exactly what was in store for them.
The attendants went to two of the other cages and threw chains around some of the dogs, tied them by the feet, and then dunked them into large buckets of water. The dogs, by now, were too terrorised to protest physically, but some of them did scream out so pitifully, I still hear the sounds.
They were then led dripping wet into the electric chamber next door, where a current was passed under the floor to electrocute them to death. The problem was that this current was usually not strong enough to kill instantaneously.
We heard yelps of terror and protest turn into tortured shrieks of pain, as the dogs felt the first shocks of unimaginable agony, when the electric current started shooting up their wet feet. Then the shrieks quietened down into dull moans as they gradually got burned to death. The smell of charring fur and flesh hung heavily over us for the rest of the day.
We were meant to be fed, and watered every day. Instead, the attendants pocketed our rations, figuring that there was no point in feeding dogs that were going to die anyway. Besides, none of us wanted to eat, the state of filth and fright too overpowering for any hunger or thirst to be felt. There was no place to sit, so we stood all day and night. Even normally ferocious dogs cowered against each other, and I did not see a single dog fight while I was there.
With my fearful timid nature, I would probably have died in that cage itself, if it hadn’t been for Tiger, who stood close by me, and comforted me all the while. He was sure she would come for us, and would stick his nose into my rat-eaten ears from time to time to tell me so.
What I will tell you now is based on what she told me a few days after taking us home.
She had a sleepless night too. She had never seen the death chamber and had only a rough idea of how bad it was, but just the thought that we could be dead, or worse, alive but just barely, made her toss and turn and cry.
So very early in the morning, she called up the vet who treated her dogs and gave us our regular shots. He gave her the phone number and address of the pound we were most likely to be at, and told her to be there as early as possible, before they started up the electrocution because sometimes they carelessly took in dogs that had just arrived.
I don’t think I have ever been so relieved and overjoyed to see anyone as I was when I saw her that morning, accompanied by her father. When they came into the large room to identify us, all the dogs started howling loudly to attract their attention, hoping to be rescued too.
Tiger and I stood up on our hind legs reaching out paws way above our heads and the heads of the other dogs around us, to make sure she didn’t miss us in the crowd in that darkened room. She did spot us thankfully, and must have been glad to see us, but her face didn’t show it – the sight of the filth and the stench of death must have been too hard to bear.
She didn’t even open her mouth to speak to us, but just pointed us out to the attendant, then quickly slipped our collars over our necks. She led us out to her car to take us home, while her father went away to complete some formalities and from there on to his office.
Tiger and I felt very lucky, but this time I too felt sad to leave all the others behind. I knew now what was going to happen to them, and for the first time in my life I actually wanted to reach out and bite the leg of one of the attendants who was leading us out.
Normally, Tiger and I sat quietly on the floorboards, whenever she took us in her car for a trip to the vet. But
this time, we were both inexplicably boisterous.
She tried to hold us down, but it was a losing battle. At the end of the forty five minute drive, she was as exhausted and filthy and tense as we were, covered with the urine and vomit of all the other
dogs that had rubbed off on to our bodies, and the car was a total mess.
Nothing that couldn’t be wiped clean of course, unlike the memories of those harrowing moments in the death chamber.
But we had survived that near death experience, and it became one that would tie the bonds between her and us forever, long after death really took us away.
To be continued in the next issue…

A Dog’s Life First Half of My Lifetime, Lynn de Souza

Till now… Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and bought to Brindavan building, where he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and Pinto girl. He gets hurt and is driven away. He seeks refuge in the drain but with the onset of monsoon, the drain gets clogged. With the help of Pinto mother, he gets acceptance in Brindavan, which becomes his home now. All through this, Pinto girl remains by his side. He befriends Rani and even becomes a dad…

The dog van is the one thing that all stray dogs dread. There are of course many types of dog vans, and some of them are actually run by hospitals to capture and treat sick stray dogs and make them well again. But in this story, I am talking of the death dog van, the one in which cruel men used to drive around, to catch stray dogs which had to be put to death in an electric chamber. The one that took Tiger’s mom away.

The death dog vans no longer exist, because many animal loving groups protested against them to the government, which then abolished their use.

But during the first half of my lifetime, they were very much around.

“You must be very careful of this van,” the Pinto girl warned us, “That’s why I’ve given you collars, which you mustn’t lose. The dog catchers are paid twenty five rupees for every dog they catch, so they’d love to catch you”.

What we didn’t know then, but learned only later, was that though they were meant to pick up only stray unlicensed dogs, they would often go after other dogs on the street wearing collars, like me, because we were easier to catch being friendlier with and more trusting of humans. Then they would remove the collars and license tags, throw them away, and pocket the illegal income.

Tiger and I often observed the action from a safe distance. There were usually three or four men in every van, including the driver. The van would start patrolling the streets early in the morning, and stop wherever it found stray dogs running about. Then two men would jump out of the van, and begin rounding up the dogs, one at a time, by backing them up against a wall or a gate and shouting loudly at the same time. The third man would carry a long metal pole at the end of which were the metal clamps. He w?ould grab the terrorised dog around the jaws with the clamps, and then drag the poor animal by its neck and teeth into the van.

Since the dog would be struggling hard to free itself from the clamp, there was no way it could bite, nor could it turn around because of some contraption that was in those clamps. I saw a couple of dogs choke to death right before my eyes even before they made it to the van.

One early morning, Tiger and I trotted back from our stroll with the Pinto dogs and the Pinto father, and were still sniffing around in the cool dewy air on the street aimlessly indulging in our favourite morning occupation – when the death van arrived. The men came up so stealthily behind us that we were taken completely by surprise. Tiger got caught first. He screamed when the clamps descended around his mouth, but the men were too quick, grabbing him by the hindquarters and flinging him into the van.

Then they came after me, as I knew they would. I should have run away, but didn’t want to leave Tiger alone, so I stood there and did what I do best-yelled and howled with all my might.

I was thrown roughly into the van, and barely managed to straighten myself, when I heard the Pinto girl come charging.

“You have taken my dogs”, she scolded. “They have collars and license tags, you have no right to do that”.

“We haven’t taken any dogs without tags”, the driver lied.

“I don’t believe you”, she insisted. “Let me look inside and check”.

“You can’t do that”, he replied rudely. “We won’t let you”.

“Oh, just try stopping me”, she defied him, and then boldly jumped up into the front of the van, and peeped back into the rear area where Tiger and I wagged our tails furiously, surrounded by five or six other cowering dogs. “There they are, those are mine”, she cried, when she saw us. “You just take them off this van at once”.

“We won’t do anything. Even collared dogs are not supposed to run about loose on the street. If you don’t get off the van, we’ll report you to the police”. The driver was getting really rude and threatening now.

“Ok, let’s go straight to the police station then”, she retorted. “I have their licenses here, and I will complain to them about how you are taking dogs for money”.

By then many people from the building were looking out of their balconies, and Harichander and the watchman had gathered around to watch.

Meanwhile her parents were watching the scene from the balcony above, and from time to time, they issued words of caution. When they realised that she was taking no notices, her father came rushing down.

He forcibly wrenched open the driver’s door, and threatened him loudly. “First you show us your own license”, he demanded.

The driver fumbled around in his pocket, no longer as cocky as he was earlier. When he couldn’t produce the license immediately, the Pinto father pulled at his shoulder and shouted. “Get out of this van at once, I am taking you to the police station for driving without a license”.

I don’t know whether the driver really had a licence or not, but he certainly got very scared of the Pinto father, and immediately gave orders for us to be released.

We jumped off the van, and she came running over to us and hugged us hard. But tears were rolling down her eyes.

“I wish I could have got those other dogs off the van as well”, she said. “Oh, I’ll never forget the look on their faces, all scared and hopeful, their eyes pleading with me to save them too”.

But hey, wait a minute. I haven’t even got to the electrocution bit yet. My death van story isn’t over. Barely a month later we got caught again, this time when the Pintos weren’t at home. So we were taken away, yes, all the way to the death chamber.

Every city corporation has a pound, a place where lost and stray animals are kept for a few days till they are reclaimed by their owners, rescued by animal shelters, or put to sleep. Nowadays, unwanted and very ill animals are put to sleep in a humane way, using a painless injection.

But at the time that I am writing about, hundreds of dogs would be rounded up each day. The practice was to keep them in the pound for three days and electrocute them after that if no one came to claim them.

At the end of a long bumpy ride in the van, jostled among strange dogs, we were thrown out and dragged into very large cages. Some of the dogs resisted going in, and bit at the clamps till their mouths and tongues were dripping with blood. Some others peed and shat in fright and slipped on their dirt.

The cages itself were meant to hold about ten dogs each, but we were thrown inside and crammed with at least forty other dogs. Most of them were vomiting, peeing and crapping with nausea and fright. Those that had been there for more than a day knew exactly what was in store for them.

The attendants went to two of the other cages and threw chains around some of the dogs, tied them by the feet, and then dunked them into large buckets of water. The dogs, by now, were too terrorised to protest physically, but some of them did scream out so pitifully, I still hear the sounds.

They were then led dripping wet into the electric chamber next door, where a current was passed under the floor to electrocute them to death. The problem was that this current was usually not strong enough to kill instantaneously.

We heard yelps of terror and protest turn into tortured shrieks of pain, as the dogs felt the first shocks of unimaginable agony, when the electric current started shooting up their wet feet. Then the shrieks quietened down into dull moans as they gradually got burned to death. The smell of charring fur and flesh hung heavily over us for the rest of the day.

We were meant to be fed, and watered every day. Instead, the attendants pocketed our rations, figuring that there was no point in feeding dogs that were going to die anyway. Besides, none of us wanted to eat, the state of filth and fright too overpowering for any hunger or thirst to be felt. There was no place to sit, so we stood all day and night. Even normally ferocious dogs cowered against each other, and I did not see a single dog fight while I was there.

With my fearful timid nature, I would probably have died in that cage itself, if it hadn’t been for Tiger, who stood close by me, and comforted me all the while. He was sure she would come for us, and would stick his nose into my rat-eaten ears from time to time to tell me so.

What I will tell you now is based on what she told me a few days after taking us home.

She had a sleepless night too. She had never seen the death chamber and had only a rough idea of how bad it was, but just the thought that we could be dead, or worse, alive but just barely, made her toss and turn and cry.

So very early in the morning, she called up the vet who treated her dogs and gave us our regular shots. He gave her the phone number and address of the pound we were most likely to be at, and told her to be there as early as possible, before they started up the electrocution because sometimes they carelessly took in dogs that had just arrived.

I don’t think I have ever been so relieved and overjoyed to see anyone as I was when I saw her that morning, accompanied by her father. When they came into the large room to identify us, all the dogs started howling loudly to attract their attention, hoping to be rescued too.

Tiger and I stood up on our hind legs reaching out paws way above our heads and the heads of the other dogs around us, to make sure she didn’t miss us in the crowd in that darkened room. She did spot us thankfully, and must have been glad to see us, but her face didn’t show it – the sight of the filth and the stench of death must have been too hard to bear.

She didn’t even open her mouth to speak to us, but just pointed us out to the attendant, then quickly slipped our collars over our necks. She led us out to her car to take us home, while her father went away to complete some formalities and from there on to his office.

Tiger and I felt very lucky, but this time I too felt sad to leave all the others behind. I knew now what was going to happen to them, and for the first time in my life I actually wanted to reach out and bite the leg of one of the attendants who was leading us out.

Normally, Tiger and I sat quietly on the floorboards, whenever she took us in her car for a trip to the vet. But this time, we were both inexplicably boisterous.

She tried to hold us down, but it was a losing battle. At the end of the forty five minute drive, she was as exhausted and filthy and tense as we were, covered with the urine and vomit of all the other dogs that had rubbed off on to our bodies, and the car was a total mess.

Nothing that couldn’t be wiped clean of course, unlike the memories of those harrowing moments in the death chamber.

But we had survived that near death experience, and it became one that would tie the bonds between her and us forever, long after death really took us away.

To be continued in the next issue…

A dog’s life

‘A dog’s life’ is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven.

After that, life became one long party. My skin began to heal very fast, and I began to put on weight. Within a few months, the fur started growing back, still coarse and mousy brown, but at least I looked like a proper dog. Since my muscles had grown stronger, I could walk and run around using all four legs. In fact, you wouldn’t even have known I was lame when I was in motion. It was only while standing still that my left rear leg looked slightly raised at the hip.
My ears had healed well. The Pinto girl called them maps of Australia, because the flaps were all unevenly shaped where the pieces had been bitten off.
In the beginning, Harichander and watchman avoided me. But as I started getting well, and they realised that I was really quite even tempered, they started talking to me occasionally.
Though I must clarify that I never sought out or greeted any humans other than the Pintos. But when approached by anyone, I would wag my tail politely, and allow them to stroke me. And I was very careful to stand by the one personal rule I had made – never ever to bite any living creature, whatever the provocation.
Tiger and I adopted the Pinto family. They had six dogs, of which three were white, one black and two brown. They were walked in groups of three, twice a day. Tiger and I would scamper along beside them pretending we were on leashes too, all walking in a horizontal line. Two of the white ones were males, but they didn’t act possessive of their white lady, and allowed us to cover her pee. Lucky thing, she had four guys with her always marking after her.
But Tiger and I were always aware of the “status” difference. Oh yes, doggy society has that too. So we did very much want a girlfriend of our own to hang out with.
Tiger told me that there were lots of interesting things we could do with a female dog. He had done some, and then found his female friends with lots of little pups after that. But he also warned me that when it got really interesting, all the male dogs nearby would start fighting, and we could get bitten and mauled. He had been wounded several times, but not too badly.
“The fun part is so good, Moti, that you just don’t care about the pain from fighting for it. There are many days when I don’t even want to eat when I’m on a roll”.
I was curious about all this. So when Rani moved in next door one summer, I greeted her with much warmth and expectation.
She was already a grown up dog, and we had no idea where she suddenly sprung from, nor did she ever tell us.
Tiger said she looked a lot like his mother, white with brown patches. She was very pretty with a taut muscular little body and the sweetest nature I ever encountered among all the dogs I knew. She had an enticing short stepped springy gait, and swayed her hindquarters slightly when she walked. She was lovely, and we were in love.
The three of us got along like a house on fire. We played in the field, we ran about in the streets, we were fed like clockwork so never went hungry, and we slept, as they say, like dogs. The Pinto girl often teased me about what a great life we had. “We humans go to work, to make money to live. But you chaps just have a ball the whole day long”, she grumbled at me affectionately. But that was strictly not true. We did guard the building at night. There were many occasions when we fended off cat burglars and car accessory thieves by barking, and walking up the night watchman.
It was Rani who did most of the guard work. She was always alert especially at night, and her pert little ears picked up the smallest of sounds. As for Tiger, he was only too happy to let Rani take over the watch once she moved in.
“Her bark is better than mine”, was his excuse. “The humans find it more scary”.
A few months after knowing Rani, she suddenly became all playful and affectionate. I was very happy and surprised about that, but Tiger started behaving a little odd with me. Now and then, he would growl at me for no apparent reason, and I would move away hurt but without argument.
Then, Rani began to wander off a bit, Tiger in tow. I didn’t like to stray too far from the building, so I didn’t join them. After some weeks, all kinds of male dogs came visiting, wanting to play with Rani, and she would enjoy herself with all of them. But some of them would get angry with each other, and there would be noisy fights.
I decided that I had my share of beating up in life and wanted no part of this aggression, so I stayed quietly out of the way and just observed. Then the pandemonium stopped as quickly as it started, and after a month, Rani became very quiet indeed, and put on some weight. Another month, and lo and behold, just as Tiger said, one morning we found four little pups all curled up near Rani.
Initially, Rani refused to let us approach her. But after a few days, she allowed me to come forward and sniff her babies. Strangely enough, though Tiger was probably a father to one or two of them, she refused to let him even within a few feet from her. I was however allowed to sit close by, and lick them and nuzzle them.
The pups were blind and deaf, and only interested in her milk and sleep, and cried stupidly every time they were hungry and she had gone off to ease herself. But they soon grew bigger and fatter, and after their eyes opened, they waddled off by themselves on their plump little feet. As they got older, they got very playful, knocking each other about, rolling on their sides, and chasing each other, and I would join in the revelry, privately thinking that they were very silly fellows indeed.
“Rani is too choosy”, Tiger complained to me. “Why does she treat you like their father, and not me?”
“You had your fun with her earlier”, I replied, “and I didn’t complain, did I? She probably thinks you will be too rough with them, that’s all. Now let’s just enjoy being with these kids since they will go away soon, and then you will miss them a little. Later it will just be the three of us again, and you will feel better”.
As soon as the pups were two months old, the Pinto girl found human homes for them, and things were back to normal.
This cycle happened a few more times over the years, till one day I decided that it was time Rani made me a father too.
She was very sweet about that, letting me play with her quietly.
One day inside the building when no other dogs were around, so that I wouldn’t get attacked by them. After it was over, I noticed that the Pinto mother had seen us. That evening when the Pinto girl brought us our food, she gave me a special cuddle. “I’m so happy for you, Moti. I bet your pup will be Rani’s best ever”.
And he was. A fine light brown fellow with my hazel eyes, who found a good home, which I hope stayed that way. I never saw him again, just like I never saw my parents and littermates – but then, even if I had, I wouldn’t know. After he and his littermates left, Rani did a very strange thing. She adopted a kitten! He was a little ginger brown tabby that had wandered into our building when he was a few weeks old, meowing pitifully with hunger. Cats weren’t too popular among the building folk, so Harichander and the rest of the downstairs gang ignored him.
He must have hung around furtively, in the way that cats always seem to, till he got the smell of milk from Rani’s teats. I wasn’t around to actually see Rani bond with him. All I know was that the next morning I found him suckling away at one of her teats, eyes closed in bliss, paws kneading her stomach, while Rani looked up at me sheepishly.
She knew that Tiger and I hated cats, but her maternal instinct was too strong for her to discard the orphaned kitten, especially now when her teats were still full of milk but there were no pups around to suckle.
Tiger was disgusted by her “betrayal” and snarled at the kitten, who ignored him in that supercilious way cats have. “First she doesn’t treat me like the father of her pups, now she goes and feeds this cat”, he grumbled. Tiger liked to be the centre of attention and losing out to the pups was bad enough, but losing out to a kitten was an insult.
I decided to ignore them, since Rani would not have listened to us anyway, and told Tiger to do the same. He reluctantly agreed, sensing that this was not going to be a permanent problem.
The Pinto girl got very excited when she saw Rani feeding the kitten, and rushed off to get her camera for a photograph. This made us jealous, because she had never taken photos of us, and we told her so. “Stop making such a fuss”, she chided us. “I have photos of you in my heart, okay, where they last much longer. But cats never stay, and this kitten will go off soon. Besides, this is like an animal miracle and I want to show this photo around to a few friends”.
The kitten stayed on for more that a month, growing fat and friendly. He and Rani scampered around the building, like an odd couple, and I think he became genuinely confused about whether he was a dog or a cat.
He rolled and leaped about imitating Rani, but did none of the usual cat things like kneading and stalking, and jumping around in mid air. But Tiger and I continued to ignore him, because who knew when he would suddenly realize that he had those awful retractable cat claws with which he could scratch our faces?
He did go away soon, but not in the way we expected. One night he got hit by a speeding car when he left the building to investigate something on the road.
Rani was desolate, sadder than she had ever been to see any of her own puppies go. But there is no place for lasting grief in the animal world, and she recovered soon enough.

A Dog’s Life From my safe vantage point

Till now… Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and brought to Brindavan building, where he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and Pinto girl. He gets hurt and is disowned. He is driven away from Brindavan and he makes the drain as his home. The Pinto girl is concerned about him and brings him food everyday. Tiger shows him the cricket field, where he plays at night….

The second monsoon of my life came with a very loud bang indeed. Lightning and thunderclaps, heavy winds that felled down some trees, a dust storm that sent the leaves scurrying down the road, and all the neighbourhood dogs running for cover under the cars. The rains came down in a torrent, sweeping up all the muck in my drain, and water logging it completely. I could not even put one foot inside my “home”, let alone live there. So I ran about aimlessly in the cricket field, or on the street, taking shelter where I could, and finding very little.

Finally desperation drove me into “Brindavan”. I huddled close to Tiger under a car, the sound of the thunder and the chill of the rain temporarily shut away by his comforting breath.

“You’re playing with fire, do you know that?” Tiger was not very pleased to see me. “They will beat you up again if they see you. You just keep very still and quiet now.”

From my safe vantage point under the Shivdasani car beside Tiger, I saw the Pinto girl and her family leave the building in their grey car. I remember she was wearing a powder blue dress. Fool that I was, I should have left the building then, but I chose to hang around with Tiger.

To my misfortune, Harichander did discover me, and along with the other servants, he gave me the hiding of my life. Blow after blow rained upon me, while Tiger watched sadly, unable to help me in any way. I ran outside in terror, shaking my head and tail, quivering with fright, howling in pain.

I slipped inside the cricket field, and hung around woefully, soaking wet, the rash on my skin burning with the sting of the biting rain, both of the water and of the blows I had received. Those were the saddest moments of my life. The physical pain was more than matched by the feeling of despair that coursed through me as I now seriously considered the possibility of complete homelessness.

“No one wants me,” I thought to myself. “I have nowhere to live. It would be kinder for the SPCA to take me away and put me down, easier had she never fed me, had I never known those few moments of friendship with Tiger. I wouldn’t have minded being run over by a car when the rats bit my ears, but this is even worse, much much worse. My body hurts too much.” But, my human friend, I think you know all about something called keeping the faith. At that time, when I was only two years old, I didn’t. That evening I gave up hope.

After she returned home that night, she came down with our meals in the bread paper as usual. I watched her, from my vantage point under the steel gate unseen by others. The rain had thinned down to a drizzle.

When I didn’t respond to her calls, she went up and down the street looking for me and calling my name repeatedly for a very long time. Wet mud and water from splashes made by passing cars stained her pretty blue dress in several places.

Later she told me that the dress was completely ruined, she could never get those stains out. In a way, that was good because it became a permanent reminder of the night that was to change my life forever.

Eventually, she went back into the building, shoulders drooping, probably thinking that I had been frightened away for good, or run over by a car. I wanted so many times to call out to her, “I’m here, I’m here, please help me”, but of course I dare not.

A few hours later, she came down again with my food in her hand and asked the watchman if he had seen me. This was a different, kind-hearted watchman who kept the night duty. He told her that I was probably in the field, since he had seen me slip in there many times, and had kept my secret, that sweet man. When she spied me hiding beyond the steel gate, her face broke into a smile of relief, and she called out to me softly.

“Here Moti, come here, sweetheart, and have your dinner. Aren’t you the little hungry boy then? Oh my dear, you scared me so!”

I wagged my tail slowly, but did not approach her. I still wasn’t fully sure of her intentions. Humans had treated me very badly, and she was a human after all. Humans had even turned against me, after feeding and befriending me. For all I knew then, she could do the same.

“You don’t trust me, do you, Moti?” she asked me, quietly, knowingly. “You think I am going to beat you too. So let’s see how we can work around that and still get some food inside your tum”.

She then went to the security people at the Gymkhana and asked them to open the steel gate, so that the could take me out. I don’t know how she managed to get them to agree, that too at midnight, but how does that matter?

I watched her walking slowly towards me, with mixed feelings. Hunger and pain struggled with fear and mistrust, and the latter won. So every time she got close, I darted away.

By now, Tiger had joined the party, and urged me to stay away from her too. But she didn’t give up, approaching me in a slow semi circular fashion that eventually got me backed up into a corner near the main Gymkhana building. Then she got close enough to make a quick sharp lunge at me, from which I couldn’t escape. And I was caught. I struggled to break loose, but she held on tight. I gave up the fight and started trembling with fear, confusion and cold. I needn’t have.

Because all she did next was warm me up with love. I must have been the filthiest thing she had ever held in her life, muddy, wet, with a red rash all over my body and bleeding ear tips. But she held me like a little puppy, cuddling and soothing me, wiping away the pain of the beating I had received with gentle strokes and kind words.

“My poor poor Moti”, she murmured, caressing my face and shoulders. “What did they do to make you shiver so much? There now, let’s get you inside the building and warm you up”.

She carried me back to “Brindavan”, and there was Harichander standing at the gate, drunk and ill-tempered.

He actually stopped her from getting inside! He must have been well over the top to risk blocking a legitimate resident from entering the building. He began to hurl abuses, defying her to bring me back into the building.

She pointedly ignored him, which infuriated him even more, and pushed past him, still carrying me in her arms like a puppy, though I was a fully grown dog by then. Miffed and insulted, he stormed off to fetch his stick.

By now, the Pinto mother, who had heard all the fuss he was making, came downstairs to investigate. She was a hot-headed bighearted woman, with the kind of guts rarely seen in women of her age. Most of the other middle aged and elderly women in the building were overweight housewives who came down for the odd gossip session. This lady was very different, a trim energetic outspoken person who could hold her own among all the men folk. A reassuring fact for us that night.

Though it was way past midnight, she had no qualms about waking up the entire building by rebuking Hari-chander. In her outrageously broken Hindi she called him a stonehearted servant who did not know his place in the society! “Dil hai, ya patthar hai?” she demanded angrily.

He was too drunk to keep his mouth shut, and answered her back, and a shouting match ensued. One of the Shivdasanis leaned out of his balcony on the second floor, and foolishly asked the Pinto mother what all the fuss was about. That was all the cue she needed to launch into a ten minute tirade about the cruel hearted residents of “Brindavan”, who indirectly supported their staff in such acts of cruelty by not reprimanding them, perhaps tacitly even encouraging them to do what they themselves could not.

I can never forget this little tableau, me sitting pretty in the Pinto girl’s arms, Tiger looking on very interested, the watchman and all the other servants standing around the Pinto mother in a circle as she looked up at the second floor balcony and let forth her speech which was actually directed, not at the servants but at all the building residents, and they all knew it.

She rounded it off with her ultimatum. “This dog will live right here in this building, downstairs among the servants, just the way Tiger is. He will be fed, and medically treated by us. I defy any of you to lay a finger on him hereafter. We will not be spoken to by drunken servants in this way, and you will first keep your own servants in check before taking off on harmless dogs. If any of you have a problem with Moti living downstairs, well then I too object to your servants living downstairs. You take them into your own homes first, before sending this dog back out on to the street. Is… that…. clear?” There was a stunned silence all around, even more pronounced in the stillness of the night.

After a few seconds, the Shivdasani man apologised profusely for Harichander’s behaviour, and then ordered Harichander to go to bed and never touch me again, or speak to anyone in the building in that manner.

The Pinto girl fed me at last, very relieved to be doing so. After all she had been waiting for several hours to do it, but I ate only to please her. Fear has a way of killing hunger.

Then Tiger licked my face, led me to the grey car, and said to me,’“Go under this, Moti. This will be your home from now on”.

This was my first real lesson in the power of universal compassion. Put a drunken man with a stick before a helpless wounded animal, and you expect the former to win-right? Wrong. That night I learned that there are good and kind forces in this world that do prevail, and all we have to do is to believe in them for them to come to our rescue.

A dog’s life

Till now… Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and brought to Brindavan building, where he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and Pinto girl. He gets hurt and is disowned. He becomes a stray dog. He is driven away from Brindavan and he makes the drain, his home. The Pinto girl is concerned about him and brings him food everyday….

rarely came out of the drain now, because people would kick and abuse me, and little children would throw stones at me. Only Pinto girl remained unaffected, bringing me my food as usual, but now it was laced with something pink that contained calcium.
“It tastes yuck, I know”, she explained, “But it will help your skin a lot”.
She had finally discovered my “home” such as it was, and had let out a huge laugh when she saw me jump down into the drain one night after my meal. “You crafty little thing”, she guffawed. “What a good idea for a home, so near, and yet so safe from all these idiots. But don’t you get cramped up? You’re growing up now, and it looks like you’re going to be bigger than Tiger, so you can’t stay there forever you know. Beside, it will make your weak leg hurt”.
She was right, but what choice did I have? Staying all the time in the drain with little exposure to fresh air only worsened my condition, till I figured it couldn’t get any worse, so gradually accepted it.
The rains went away, and I lived out my first winter.
The drain was actually a pretty good place then, because I felt quite warm in there. My skin improved a little, the pink stuff and the dry cooler air appeared to have some effect. But I was still more clumps of red than mousy brown fur.
Then came the summer, and the hot sweltering heat, and I was a mass of bleeding skin again.
I had taken to the habit of trotting after her every morning as she walked down to the main road three streets away to catch her contract bus to work. It was my only time out of the drain, and I felt safe and protected during that ten minutes walk. People would stare at us, and some would warn her that there was a mad dog following her, but she would laugh at them and say, “No problem, he’s my dog, he’s just got a skin infection but it will be ok”.
She would wave at me after boarding her bus, and call out a goodbye, and always say, “Now go back home safely, Moti”. Then I would run back to the drain before anyone could come after me with sticks.
But there really wasn’t much that she was doing for my rash filled skin. She worked very hard, leaving home early in the morning and returning home well after sundown. She often went to work on weekends, and told me that she was doing quite well at her job. She did not seem to make time for just having fun with her friends. I think humans call such people “over ambitious”. Had I been human I probably would not have liked her too much.
One weekend, when she was home, I heard loud arguments between her and the building secretary. I knew that Tiger and I were the subject of discussion, because our names cropped up several times. She wanted me to be allowed to live in the building so that I could get well soon, while that secretary taunted her that if she loved us so much why didn’t she take us into her home and treat me there. She lost the argument.
That summer the dog vans started coming around again. Tiger warned me to stay well out of sight whenever they approached, and I listened to him very obediently.
“I lost my mom to this van, Moti”, he warned,”“I don’t want to lose you to it too”.
So we weren’t caught, at least not that year. But she felt nervous that we would get rounded up, and called a vet over to give us some injections.
“It’s just a little poke in your skin”, she reassured us. “But that will prevent you from getting a very serious disease that you could die from – it’s called rabies, and it makes you so thirsty that you would go mad with the pain and discomfort. After you take this injection, the government will let me have a license to keep you and the dog van won’t be able to take you away”.
Unlike Tiger, who was very trusting of humans, I never let anyone except the Pinto girl touch me. So I really wanted to bite the vet hard, when he dangled that sharp looking tube before me, and took out a bottle with a nasty pungent smelling liquid. But she held me comfortingly, and the prick came and went with very little pain.
Soon after that, she brought Tiger and me two handsome nylon collars, around which dangled small aluminium tags that held our licence numbers. We were now legitimate dogs, owned by “Brindavan”– Tiger with his glossy brown black coat and black muzzle, and
me with my terrier face, unshapely ears, broken hip, skin and bones frame and furless red skin.
Since the nights were so warm now, I complained to Tiger about the stuffiness of the drain. Resourceful as he always was, he tossed his head and said, “Let’s show you some magic then, Moti. I am going to take you to the dog discotheque”.
Big show off. All he did was take me across the street, under a steel gate, into the cricket field that belonged to the Gymkhana opposite
the building.
“No one will see you in the dark,” he said. “You just hide out anywhere you like, it’s nice and pleasant out here, and full of surprises. I’ll come out and join you sometimes in case you feel scared”.
I should have known he would be right about the magic. The cricket field was like heaven. Cool, soft, wide open spaces, with real squishy mud and real crunchy grass, not hard cement like the roads and the car bays. There were frogs and insects that came out at night, and made funny musical sounds. Very early in the morning, a light dew would fall all around making the air moist and full of mystery.
After that, each night when the lights at “Brindavan” went out, I would crawl out from the drain, dash across the street, duck under the steel gate, and wait for Tiger, who was more bold about leaping over the building wall, and jauntily walking across the road and under the gate to join me.
Then we would party wildly, chasing each other across the field, rolling over, jumping and frolicking. I felt like a puppy again. Tiger warned me not to bark out loud or we would get caught by the Gymkhana guards.
The grass used to be watered every evening, so whenever we rolled on it at night, it smelled and felt so good, somehow I was dimly reminded of  my mother.

A dog’s life

Till now… Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and brought to Brindavan building, where he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and Pinto girl. He gets hurt and is disowned. He becomes a stray dog. He is driven away from Brindavan and he makes the drain, his home. The Pinto girl is concerned about him and brings him food everyday…. Irarely came out of the drain now, because people would kick and abuse me, and little children would throw stones at me. Only Pinto girl remained unaffected, bringing me my food as usual, but now it was laced with something pink that contained calcium.

“It tastes yuck, I know”, she explained, “But it will help your skin a lot”. She had finally discovered my “home” such as it was, and had let out a huge laugh when she saw me jump down into the drain one night after my meal.

“You crafty little thing”, she guffawed. “What a good idea for a home, so near, and yet so safe from all these idiots. But don’t you get cramped up? You’re growing up now, and it looks like you’re going to be bigger than Tiger, so you can’t stay there forever you know. Beside, it will make your weak leg hurt”.

She was right, but what choice did I have? Staying all the time in the drain with little exposure to fresh air only worsened my condition, till I figured it couldn’t get any worse, so gradually accepted it.

The rains went away, and I lived out my first winter.

The drain was actually a pretty good place then, because I felt quite warm in there. My skin improved a little, the pink stuff and the dry cooler air appeared to have some effect. But I was still more clumps of red than mousy brown fur. Then came the summer, and the hot sweltering heat, and I was a mass of bleeding skin again.

I had taken to the habit of trotting after her every morning as she walked down to the main road three streets away to catch her contract bus to work. It was my only time out of the drain, and I felt safe and protected during that ten minutes walk. People would stare at us, and some would warn her that there was a mad dog following her, but she would laugh at them and say, “No problem, he’s my dog, he’s just got a skin infection but it will be ok”.

She would wave at me after boarding her bus, and call out a goodbye, and always say, “Now go back home safely, Moti”. Then I would run back to the drain before anyone could come after me with sticks.

But there really wasn’t much that she was doing for my rash filled skin. She worked very hard, leaving home early in the morning and returning home well after sundown. She often went to work on weekends, and told me that she was doing quite well at her job. She did not seem to make time for just having fun with her friends. I think humans call such people “over ambitious”. Had I been human I probably would not have liked her too much.

One weekend, when she was home, I heard loud arguments between her and the building secretary. I knew that Tiger and I were the subject of discussion, because our names cropped up several times. She wanted me to be allowed to live in the building so that I could get well soon, while that secretary taunted her that if she loved us so much why didn’t she take us into her home and treat me there. She lost the argument.

That summer the dog vans started coming around again. Tiger warned me to stay well out of sight whenever they approached, and I listened to him very obediently.

“I lost my mom to this van, Moti”, he warned,”“I don’t want to lose you to it too”. So we weren’t caught, at least not that year. But she felt nervous that we would get rounded up, and called a vet over to give us some injections.

“It’s just a little poke in your skin”, she reassured us. “But that will prevent you from getting a very serious disease that you could die from – it’s called rabies, and it makes you so thirsty that you would go mad with the pain and discomfort. After you take this injection, the government will let me have a license to keep you and the dog van won’t be able to take you away”.

Unlike Tiger, who was very trusting of humans, I never let anyone except the Pinto girl touch me. So I really wanted to bite the vet hard, when he dangled that sharp looking tube before me, and took out a bottle with a nasty pungent smelling liquid. But she held me comfortingly, and the prick came and went with very little pain. Soon after that, she brought Tiger and me two handsome nylon collars, around which dangled small aluminium tags that held our licence numbers. We were now legitimate dogs, owned by “Brindavan”– Tiger with his glossy brown black coat and black muzzle, and me with my terrier face, unshapely ears, broken hip, skin and bones frame and furless red skin. Since the nights were so warm now, I complained to Tiger about the stuffiness of the drain. Resourceful as he always was, he tossed his head and said, “Let’s show you some magic then, Moti. I am going to take you to the dog discotheque”. Big show off. All he did was take me across the street, under a steel gate, into the cricket field that belonged to the Gymkhana opposite the building.

“No one will see you in the dark,” he said. “You just hide out anywhere you like, it’s nice and pleasant out here, and full of surprises. I’ll come out and join you sometimes in case you feel scared”.

I should have known he would be right about the magic. The cricket field was like heaven. Cool, soft, wide open spaces, with real squishy mud and real crunchy grass, not hard cement like the roads and the car bays. There were frogs and insects that came out at night, and made funny musical sounds. Very early in the morning, a light dew would fall all around making the air moist and full of mystery.

After that, each night when the lights at “Brindavan” went out, I would crawl out from the drain, dash across the street, duck under the steel gate, and wait for Tiger, who was more bold about leaping over the building wall, and jauntily walking across the road and under the gate to join me.

Then we would party wildly, chasing each other across the field, rolling over, jumping and frolicking. I felt like a puppy again. Tiger warned me not to bark out loud or we would get caught by the Gymkhana guards.

The grass used to be watered every evening, so whenever we rolled on it at night, it smelled and felt so good, somehow I was dimly reminded of my mother.

I have no recall of what she looked like, none at all. But off and on, I still do get a strong sharp sense of what her skin and fur felt like when I nestled against her, and the smell of her breath is still with me as if it were only yesterday that she nursed me, and licked what you call my “bum” after that to get me to defecate. Bet your human mom doesn’t do that, does she! Let me tell you, among us that is a sign of love, and rather a practical sign too!

A Dog’s Life, permanent shelter in the drain, Lynn de Souza

Till now…?Moti, a stray dog was picked by Golu from his littermates and lands up in building ’Brindavan’. Here, he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and kind-hearted Pinto girl. During one of his puppy adventures, his hind leg gets injured. Moti is abandoned as nobody wants him in Brindavan. He becomes a stray dog.… One morning, I discovered the storm water drain which was to be my home for the next year of my life. It was a wide round pipe that ran all the way on one side of the street, about a foot below ground level. There were “entrances” to the pipe at the opposite ends of each building gate on that road. These openings were for the extra rain water to escape into during flooding, but worked as magical doorways for all kinds of life forms wanting to find a hideaway from the world above whenever it got too cruel.

Tiger was born in the drain, and lived there till he and his family almost got washed away on one particularly stormy occasion. The Pinto mother had come to the rescue, sending Harichander to fish out the drowning puppies. They were given shelter in the building for a while, till all of his littermates found homes, and Tiger and his mother were adopted by Harichander.

“My mom was a pretty cool mom, very playful and gentle, and also very pretty”, Tiger told me.”“She was white with brown spots. All the dogs in this neighbourhood loved her, and Harichander used to cook special chicken legs for her because she loved those. Sometimes she would even share them with me”.

When Tiger was five months old, the dreaded municipal dog van came around and caught her and Tiger while rounding up all the dogs in the street, because they weren’t wearing collars or license tags.

The Pinto mother came to Tiger’s rescue again. When she heard the din of screaming dogs and shouting men, she called out to the watchman to go get Tiger and his mother off the van. In the commotion, he managed to pull Tiger out, but the van sped away with Tiger’s mother in it.

“I howled after her, Moti, and couldn’t eat for days, waiting for her to come back”, Tiger recalled, unhappily.”“I missed her so much, I think that’s why Golu brought you here. When you came into my life, it made me feel much better”.

Though he didn’t dwell on this fact, I know that he felt even worse knowing what a horrible death she must have had later in the gas chamber. But at least Tiger got his third chance with life.

“Come, Moti, “Let me show you where I was born and where we lived when I was a pup”. I followed him inside.

The drain was a tight squeeze for him, but I found moving up and down among all the muck and garbage easy and exciting. There were old bottles and paper bags, rotten fruit peels, all kinds of worms and insects, oh it was delightful! Did you know that dogs simply love to play around in what humans consider filth? Your kind can never understand this side to our nature, but then we don’t understand why you use all those awful smelling scents and sprays either! You smell so good when you sweat.

I also realized that the drain was a pretty good place to hide out in, if the humans got into a “shoo Moti” mood again. Which of course they did, as soon as the next downpour came, only a few weeks later.

I now took permanent shelter in the drain.

One day, I heard the Pinto girl ask the watchman where I was, since she hadn’t seen me for many weeks. He said he didn’t know, but I think he was lying. She then started walking up and down the street, calling my name repeatedly. I heard her, but was afraid to answer in case my hidey-hole got discovered. After a while, I felt sorry for her and stealthily came out of the drain. When she spied me slinking about around her legs, she let out a cry of joy, and not caring how dirty I was, she gathered me in to her arms and hugged me tight. That felt good! It was several months since I had been cuddled that way, and I had given up hopes of ever being pampered again.

“Let me get you something to eat”, she said. She went away and came back with some bread mixed with dal and meat, laid out on a waxed bread wrapper.

This was to be my daily meal from that day on, mine and Tiger’s. The bread and dal and meat on the bread wrappers in lieu of bowls. I once asked her why she didn’t give us bowls.

“Because I can simply throw these bread papers away into the dustbin, your Highness”, she replied, “Don’t tell me you expect me to start washing up after you now”.

She had still not found out where I lived, apparently content with just knowing that at least I would definitely show up for the food whenever she called out to me. She knew I was growing up, and learning to be independent like the other street dogs. I think she had reconciled herself to the fact that I may never become a “society” dog like Tiger, and was probably just relieved to be aware of my existence in the neighbourhood, and to know that I was well.

But I wasn’t well, not really.

Living amid the grime and humidity in the drain had caused my skin to redden and itch. I picked up fleas. And they gave me something you call flea allergy dermatitis – a nasty kind of infection which made me scratch constantly and pull chunks of fur off my skin. It was painful and uncomfortable, and my body felt very sore all the time, there was just no respite from the itching. After some weeks, there were raw bleeding patches all over me, and I looked a horrible scary sight. I could not move about without shaking my head-somehow that movement seemed to lessen the itchy feeling, though I haven’t a clue about the connection between head shaking and itching, we dogs just do it sometimes, and it does work.

The effect of all this was that I presented a grotesque picture of a scratchy shaky wobbly red thing, and quite naturally I smelled rather off too! You would have avoided me.

One morning, I woke up to find the tips of my ears red and chewed off! I was shocked, because I just couldn’t imagine how this could have happened without my even knowing. Miserable, and in pain, I asked Tiger what could have happened.

“Rats”, he explained. “They must have eaten off your ears in the drain. When they chew on anything alive, there is something in their spit that numbs any kind of feeling, so you don’t even realize they are gnawing away at bits of you”.

I was really really scared now. Where would I go? If the rats were going to start eating up bits of me, what would I end up becoming?

I started running around in circles, afraid to go back into the drain, afraid to stay out on the road. Life was a nasty piece of business. I had heard of dogs being run over by cars, and I began to wish that would happen to me. I was tired of being hounded all the time.

I didn’t go hungry, I know, but there were many moments when I would have traded in a full stomach for a decent place to lie down in.

I stayed out in the field that night but eventually by the next morning, I did go back into the drain. What else could I do?

At first, I was too scared to sleep, or even shut my eyes. Tiger had warned me that rats were nocturnal creatures so they didn’t mind the darkness within the drain, in fact they loved it. I kept a constant look out for them, but did you know that rats are very intelligent, even more than dogs, if you compare the size of their brains to ours? They seemed to know that I was awake, and stayed well away from me. For some reason, they didn’t chew on me again, maybe my flesh was not so tasty!

The tips of my ears took long to heal, and would ooze a little blood every now and then for several months. Eventually, my ear flaps healed, and they took on an uneven shape that turned my once cute terrier face into something rather ugly. As if the deck in the looks area hadn’t already been stacked against me high enough!

To be continued in the next issue.

Written by Ms. Lynn de Souza, Director, Media Services, Lowe Lintas and founder and chairperson of Goa SPCA, ‘A dog’s life’ is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven.

A dog’s life

‘A dog’s life,’ written by Ms Lynn de Souza, is about a friendship between three pariah dogs, Moti, Tiger and Rani and their human benefactor, the Pinto girl. It is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven, describing the moments of happiness and sadness, mixed with gut-wrenching episodes that will act as eye-openers to animal lovers everywhere. Ms Lynn de Souza is Director, Media Services, Lowe Lintas and is also the Founder and Chairperson of Goa SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals). Ms De Souza is very fond of dogs and she had over nineteen dogs in her family over the years, and at one time she had nine dogs together. Presented below is the first chapter of the book, which describes how Moti met his friends Tiger and the Pinto girl.

Iam, or was, a mixed breed dog, often called a mongrel or pariah or just stray dog. In some countries, they refer to our kind as feral. In Mumbai, where I lived, we are also called gauti kutra which loosely translates to “village” or “local” dog. Whatever the term, it implies that we have no pedigree or lineage, and by implication no home and no owners and are therefore not a good idea to have around. Actually I did have an owner, and a proper home, though I roamed the streets whenever I could, and sometimes foraged in garbage bins. No, it wasn’t due to hunger. It’s just that the food and smells there are so much more interesting. I am no longer alive, in the way that being alive usually means, and I am now writing this to you from a faraway place that is actually a lot closer than you think, because you are a human and you need to know the truth. You don’t have to be scared of me or my kind. I am actually a pretty cool guy, and we could be great pals. I can say this now, because once I was very scared of you and your kind. Till I learned to trust and love someone like you. Read my story. Then may be you will learn to trust and love someone like me too! Golu gave me my name. He was a ten year old boy, who picked me up and took me away from my littermates when I was about eight weeks old. As a pup, I looked very cute with my mixed breed terrier type face, and Golu thought that I would make a good companion to Tiger, the two year old resident “society” dog, who lived in his building, “Brindavan”. Tiger was a pariah dog too, very smart and brave, and rather handsome with his pert black muzzle and natty black ticked brown coat. He always walked with a little swagger, his chest out, tail high, and ears cocked, as if he knew he looked good. Before I met Tiger, I had no idea what a real grown up dog was like. The only interaction I had with an adult dog was with my mother, and I think you have a pretty good idea what I liked best about her. So quite naturally when Golu put me down next to Tiger, I went straight for his stomach looking for something to suckle at. What I encountered there was not what I expected. It smelled quite different too. Not the warm sweet scent of milk, but rather the sour pungent odour of pee! Tiger’s reaction was far from the mild indulgent semi-satisfied tummy rumble that I got from my mom. “Excuse me, please,” he growled, and showed me his mouth full of teeth, some small, some wide and a few very long and pointed. “If you want to live around here, we need to get a few things sorted out. I don’t feed you, and I don’t lick you clean. I am the alpha dog, and the first thing you do when you see me is roll over and show me your stomach, got that?” I lowered my head respectfully. He was tough, but he also had a humourous glint in his eye, and once his lips had closed over his teeth, he looked like he was actually smiling. I rolled over in submission and presented him with my stomach to sniff at. He didn’t stop there though, but snuffled me all over, his wet nose and warm breath tickling me so much that I wanted to giggle but dare not. Once finished he appeared satisfied like I had passed some test. He ran off playfully calling out to me to run after him. I scampered after him joyfully. My first lesson in dog etiquette had been learnt. Tiger belonged to Harichander, the handyman of the Shivdasanis who lived as a joint family on the second floor of “Brindavan”. Harichander didn’t stay with them but camped out in two of the car bays at the rear end of the building. He was a wizened old man, with sunken cheeks and several teeth missing from his mouth. He coughed all the time, perhaps because he chewed some brown stuff the whole day, and drank some brown stuff the whole night. He wasn’t really Tiger’s pal. He just kept him as a watchdog to guard him and the other Brindavan servants who stayed in the car bays, since they slept in an area that had no walls enclosing it, and therefore was not very safe. Naming me was about the only thing Golu ever did for me. He loved animals in his own way, but was never allowed to keep a pet, so I guess he thought that he could keep me downstairs as a “society” dog, and pretend I was his pet. Perhaps he was too young then to know what it meant to take responsibility for another life. Besides, I can’t honestly say that I would have had a better existence out on the streets among my littermates. My first month at Brindavan was thoroughly enjoyable. You probably know that play and sleep are a healthy puppy’s only occupation, and I was no different. Tiger and I would roll about in the mud, chase each other around the building, bark and yap, then fall asleep in exhaustion, quite satisfied. Golu would carry me around in his little ten year old arms, tickling my tummy all the time – oh, how I enjoyed that! I loved to nose around all the flower pots, sniffing out the strange smells of bird droppings, cat sprays, left over food, fruit peels, even rat poison. Tiger was always around to warn me about what was safe and what wasn’t, because I usually popped anything that smelled good straight into my mouth. Harichander fed me every day, and off and on the Pintos from the first floor would send me some milk. They had six small dogs of their own, and I would watch the father, the daughter and sometimes the son of the house take them for their daily walks, often two or three at a time. They were very good looking furry but rather yappy fellows, and I longed to be friends with them. But I got into the habit of standing aside and cocking my ears every time they passed, because once when I playfully scampered about their feet, one of them turned around and gave me a sharp snap. Moody snoots! One evening, one of the building cars bumped hard into me while reversing, knocking me down. I yelped and howled in pain, but no one came to check on me immediately, not Golu not Harichander because they weren’t around, and the watchman on duty at that time didn’t particularly care. The Pinto girl may not have been at home, or she would certainly have come, since she was always running around looking after the neighbourhood dogs and cats that were injured, and calling the SPCA van to attend to them. She wasn’t actually a girl, more of a young lady in her early twenties, tall, thin and quiet, and rather aloof from everyone else in the building. Since I was still quite young, the pain went away pretty quickly, and I was able to limp around without much difficulty. My left hip had been injured and twisted out of shape, so I must no longer have looked “cute”, because almost everyone lost interest in me. Golu stopped playing with me, and Harichander stopped feeding me. I grew thin, and gangly. My left hind leg dangled uselessly behind me, and the ribs on my chest stood out. They say that many pups are given to little people as presents, but are often given away or put to sleep if they grow up looking ugly or get sick or deformed. Would I now be sent away too since I was a little of all three – ugly, underfed, and deformed? To be continued in the next issue…