Charlie does not have a pedigree or a breed attached to his name. He is just an ordinary differently-abled Indian dog doing extraordinary things. Charlie’s courage in the face of a crippling disability and his zest for life is a message that where there is a will, the way is not too far away.
Charlie was brought to CUPA Animal Shelter, Bengaluru, one rainy evening when he was only five weeks old. Covered in blood after a gruesome accident, which crushed his right hind leg completely, he was barely able to open his eyes. It was then that Dr Lohith, the veterinarian at CUPA took a bold decision to amputate the hind leg so that Charlie’s life could be saved. The surgery lasted almost four hours and when he recovered from the effects of anaesthesia, he was puzzled to find that he could not stand up. He kept sniffing the place where his hind leg had been and crying piteously.
But his indomitable zest for life would not allow him to give up so easily and soon he was back on his feet, careening around the shelter, devising new forms of mischief or chasing the other shelter dogs and cats. There was never a dull moment when Charlie was around!
The turning moment…
One day the children from the Spastics Society visited CUPA Animal Shelter and we were astounded to see the way Charlie bonded with them. He was gentle, compassionate and wouldn’t leave their side. He even allowed them to pull his ears and tail. A shocking change from the naughty doggie that he normally was!
That’s when I decided to initiate him into Canine Therapy. He started his career as a therapist with the differently-abled children of Vishwas – the school for special children run by the Indian Air Force. Soon we branched into working with children with autism at Shrishti Special Academy and now at Kara4Kids. It’s been eight years since the journey began as a therapist and in these years, he has helped so many children find the confidence to face life once again.
Charlie has inspired a group of us to start a new animal shelter in Bengaluru and it was only appropriate to name it Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre – CARE.
The magical bond…
The bond between Charlie and his therapy group children is magical. The children crave for his attention and open up easily to him. They whisper all their secrets into his ears, recite poems and rhymes that they have been taught at school, sing songs, make cards and gifts for him, stroke him, give him milk to drink…and Charlie absorbs it all. I don’t know what goes on his head when he is with them but I see a sense of peace on his face as he sits with them. By doing these activities, the children improve their communication skills, motor skills and increase their sense of responsibilities. Their memory power is also enhanced. The days that Charlie visits them they are so happy that their minds open up to grasping more things and more knowledge.
Charlie listens to each one of them patiently, dividing his attention equally among them, coaxing the more reticent children to come out of their shell. He reserves his kisses for his favourite children. He doesn’t even flinch if they pull his tail accidently or pinch him. Being three-legged, he doesn’t have much flexibility of movement and there are days when he tires easily and his leg hurts but that has never deterred him from completing each session with the children.
A lesson of courage…
Charlie is a lesson of courage in the face of adversity. The lesson that he teaches children is that never let anything hold you back from achieving your goals, doing good deeds, realising your ambitions and from making people around you happy. A physical disability should never be an impediment in living life to the full. If Charlie can – then you can!
Now, Charlie lives at home, playing and socialising with family members – in general an almost retired life as he is now 10 years old.
Tips for pet parents with three-legged paw friends…
- Ensure that they do not put on too much weight as the three legs cannot support the extra weight.
- They require less exercise compared to normal dogs, so exercise should be moderated.
- Regular blood examinations should be done to monitor their health.
- Do not let them lie down for longer period of time and keep them active throughout the day.
- When transporting them in a car, be careful not to hurt or strain their legs while carrying them inside, putting them on the seat or taking them out of the car.
- Take extra care in cold weather as it can cause discomfort and pain in the leg.
- Ensure that his bed is always easily accessible and kept in a place where he can lie down and yet be amongst the family.
- Monitor his diet very carefully to ensure that he does not put on weight.
(Sudha Narayanan is trustee at CARE, Bengaluru).