‘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…