A Dog’s Life Moti from his home in heaven, 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 meets Rani and fathers a pup. Facing other brutalities of life, he and Tiger are caught by death dog van but are rescued by the Pinto girl. Tiger gets ill and is driven from Brindavan and suffers a painful death…

I was eight years old when Tiger died, with still a couple of good doggy years left inside me. But I grew lonely, and missed him very much. Rani now practically stayed all the time at Brindavan, and kept me company.

The Pintos had started feeding her daily. When they came back from their holiday, and Harichander told them about Tiger, I was surprised to see how upset the mother got. The tears stood out in her eyes, and she rushed off upstairs. “Mum saved Tiger’s life so many times when he was little”, the Pinto girl explained to me.

Rani stopped having puppies. She too had started to age a little, and her wandering days were over. We both kept watch over the building at night, but our hearts weren’t in it, after we saw the shabby treatment Tiger had received.

But the Pinto girl reminded me that for every wrong act, there is a corresponding right one happening somewhere in the world, so I should not bear any grudges against Harichander and company, and be grateful that I still enjoyed a peaceful life. Peaceful it was, but that only lasted till Rex came along.

Rex was a German Shepherd who came into the building as a pup in the apartment immediately neighbouring the Pinto’s. By the time he was a year old, and I was nine, he was the terror of the building.

He had bitten other dogs, including one of the Pinto’s, and also some of the children. His owner had a special extra door with grills built, to prevent him from rushing out. But they secretly wanted a ferocious guard dog, because they were up to all kinds of shady business.

It was only a matter of time before he bit me. One of the Pinto’s dogs came into season and Rex got very excited indeed. On one of the days of her heat, he managed to escape past both the doors, and rushed down the stairs. I made a dash for the gate as soon as I heard his heavy breath and pounding feet, but it was too late. He went for my genitals and bit hard. Being much lighter and nimbler than he was, despite my age and broken hip, I pulled free and ran as fast as I could out of the gate, while the watchman quickly shut it past me, so that Rex couldn’t follow. The servant who looked after him came running down, and collared him and took him away.

Luckily I wasn’t too badly hurt, just the one bite, which hadn’t gone too deep, but it was still very painful. She came quickly with her dressing material and started to clean and bandage the wound.

The next morning her parents left for an extended holiday abroad to live with their son. While leaving her mother said to me, quite sadly, “Will you be well? Will you still be here when I get back, or will you too be gone like Tiger?” I couldn’t reply then, but like Tiger had felt earlier, I think we too said our silent goodbyes to each other at that moment.

Despite the dressing, the wound caught maggots. And I came down with a high fever as well. So she called the vet, who gave me a shot of antibiotics, and then attempted to puncture a vein in my left leg to feed in a special kind of injection, that would perk me up a bit. I think that was a mistake. He didn’t seem to have found the vein properly, and sent the medicine into the muscles around it instead. That is very dangerous, because these strong injections can destroy all the surrounding tissues, and in my case they did. My leg started swelling up, and by the next evening, I was unable to put my foot down.

The vet came again and tried to give me another injection, in the other leg, but I didn’t trust him anymore and for the first time in my life, I resisted, and wouldn’t stay still. So he went away without doing anything.

I had lost the will to eat, and she began to feed me manually, holding my mouth open and placing morsels of bread mixed with something sweet deep inside my mouth. The fever was still high, and she fed me little bits every few hours.

I could tell that she was exhausted from managing her home, and her own dogs, and her office, and now me all by herself, but did the best she could, sitting by my side all evening, and late into the night. When we dogs feel ill, we like to sit quietly away from everything preferably in a dark place, so I crawled under her car and tried to sleep.

I was suffering and in pain again after so many years. This time it was a little different though. When I was a young dog, pain made me panic. Now I felt no fear, just discomfort. I knew that I was in good hands, that Tiger would fulfil his promise to me, that from his place far away, he would exercise whatever power he had over mother nature to make sure that I would not have reason to be sad or scared.

On my last night on earth, she stayed with me till well past midnight. She gave me my last helping of sweet water and medicine, then wished me goodnight. “I’ll see you in the morning then, Moti. I’ll bring Mischief to see you as well, he’s been wondering why you haven’t joined him for the morning walk for so many days”. That was a good thing to hear. Mischief was a very sweet chap, a black long eared Cocker Spaniel, with a playful nature, who had also once been bitten by Rex. She had adopted him two years earlier, and he had quickly become her favourite. I liked him too, he loved walking with me, and I could tell that he would be very good to her when Tiger and I were no longer around.

It was an agonising night for me. The pain in my leg was intense, and despite the medicine, I felt alternately hot and cold with fever. My head and eyes ached, and I found it difficult to breathe.

At one point in the middle of the night I was so uncomfortable, that I let out a loud cry. She came running down to check on me when she heard me cry, but I had already settled down by the bench, and felt a little better. So she stayed with me for a while, and then went back upstairs.

Like Tiger, I knew when it was time for me to go. Unlike him, I was loved and cared for till the very end. But I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Mischief who, she had promised me, was coming to see me the next morning. So I kept on breathing for as long as I could, waiting and waiting for the early morning sun to rise.

She brought him right after his morning walk. Mischief kissed me, and licked my face. “You look all tired out, old chap”, he said, jovially. “Don’t worry, there will be no more pain and suffering in the place where you’re going. And you’ll meet Tiger again, and some of my friends too, I won’t be meeting you in a hurry, but when I do, don’t act like you’ve forgotten me already, okay?”

He wagged his stump of a tail joyfully, because I could tell that he was genuinely happy for me. He could see past my pain to the times that lay ahead, in that special way we animals have.

I did have a pretty good life, and here I was, having the best kind of death in the circumstances. Pain becomes much more bearable when you have someone around who gives you love along with medicines.

“I’ll be back just now with your food, Moti”, she whispered, and chucked me under my chin. She stroked my head a few times, but tears were already rolling down her eyes, as she witnessed Mischief and me sniffing each other for the last time. She gazed deep and searchingly into my hazel eyes for a long time. I think she was looking for something very important right then, and I hope she found it. Then she turned away, and went upstairs with Mischief in tow.

I filled my eyes with my last earthly sight of her, and then looked beyond into another world, a world where I could see Tiger, the stupid kitten, some of the Pinto dogs who had passed on too, and the dogs I had seen at the electric chamber, all beautiful and happy, and eternally alive. And full of the joy of living. In that instant I learnt that finding your home, and you can only ever have one true home in any life, is not an easy thing. It is always preceded by great suffering – like the night I was beaten up in the rain, and now the night of fever and pain.

Could that be why many of you never find your true homes ever – because you are not prepared to accept or endure the trials that must go before?

She came down again when the watchman informed her that I had passed away, and wrapped me up in a white towel, then laid me in the back seat of her car. She phoned her aunt and uncle who came over and drove the car to the spot at the beach where she had buried all her other dogs. She dug up a deep pit in the sand with a shovel, laid me down in it, and then crossing herself and me, she wished me goodbye. “See you someday, Moti”, she wept softly. “You have been the best friend I ever had, and I will really miss you”.

So that’s my story, the story of a dog’s life, sometimes happy sometimes sad, but a life I am always more than glad to have lived.

I felt the hardship of blows, but I also felt the tenderness of the human touch. I found that true friendship crosses all the boundaries and forms of life, and home lies only in the heart of a true friend.

And if there is one important lesson that I have for you, my human friend, it is that nothing is perfect. Where there is great sorrow there is also great joy, and the opposite is also true. It is only in discovering and dealing with the imperfections of life with eternal love and optimism that we live at all.

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, 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.