Turns out that there is a scruffy little park across from my apartment building. I thought it was just an empty lot but, when I left my house this morning wondering where a dog could do his business near here, I realized that I needn’t look any further than my own front yard. Funny how one’s intentions change the way one sees the world. I had to laugh at my previous blindness to what was right in front of me. Despite having recovered from jet lag, I am still pretty overwhelmed by the dusty urban jungle which I now inhabit. I often don’t see any of my surroundings because I am busy dodging cars and motorcycles or looking for dogs that might be hungry. A place to pee and poop outdoors had never been on my agenda… until now.
After considerable thought, I finally decided to see if the puppy that was hanging around the university couldn’t be transformed into a good pet. After she (I thought she was a “he” until the trainer informed me otherwise, what do I know?) sat on my lap for nearly half an hour one day and, although she didn’t actually fit on my lap all that well, I decided that she had great potential to become a loving extension of someone’s family one day. So far, she hasn’t disappointed me. Quiet, gentle, sleeps through the night (!!), and doesn’t mess the house. Apparently her street mom taught her good manners.
I found a kennel just 4 km from my apartment and went to see it because I already had two months of travel planned and, if I was to bring the puppy home, I had to have somewhere for her to go while I was gone. I wanted to see what the condition would be at a Nepali kennel. As it turns out, that the man who runs it takes simply your dog home to his house when he boards it for you. How cool is that? He will also come to your house daily for 45 consecutive days to train your dog. And he will train me for a week, he said. I guess he thinks that I will be a faster learner, but I’m not sure that this will be true. It may take me longer since I don’t speak Nepali and he doesn’t speak English. But then, who needs words when gestures will do the job?
Of course, this puppy is going to be trained in Nepali so I am going to have to learn enough Nepali to give her commands. And, I suppose, whoever eventually adopts her in the U.S. might have to do this as well. Linguist and language teacher that I am, I thought I might try a bilingual approach, give the Nepali command, followed by the same in English and see what happens over time. When children are raised in the presence of two languages, they learn them both. Why wouldn’t this be true of a dog? Of course, probably what will happen, is that she assume that the commands are both words together. Maybe not such a good idea after all. In addition, she will spend more than two weeks living with her trainer during her 45 days since I will be away. Undoubtedly, he will have to teach me dog Nepali.
I went to the shop with a list of things I needed: De-wormer, flea medicine, dog shampoo, puppy food, vitamins, things to chew, treats for training, although the kennel owner shook his head at this last request. First he pointed to the boxes marked “dog treats” and shook his head with obvious disapproval, which did make me wonder why he sold them at all. Then he pointed to the dog food. Apparently, he thinks dogs should be trained with the good quality dog food rather than “treats”. Milk bones completed the list of consumables.
I also needed a harness and a leash and when I delightedly picked the purple ones, the kennel own smiled. I think perhaps he knew what was coming. You see, I also wanted to get a crate so the dog could be crate-trained and, low and behold, when the time came, I was given a lovely purple wire crate to match the leash and harness. And, as it turns out, my dress — I happened to be wearing a purple dress so I looked like some picture-perfect fashion model in an advertisement for the color-coordinated new dog owner. Finally, two balls, sadly, not purple. I opted not to get the one that squeaked. Both were gray with city dust, as the shop sits right on the street.
The kennel, like other pet stores in Kathmandu, sells darling little purebred puppies. The irony of this does not escape me whenever I pass by the pet store housed just a few buildings down from my house. With 26,000 stray dogs in the city, it seems a bit inappropriate (to me) to be selling purebred dogs but I realize that many people want the “real thing” for a pet. This is also true at Lake Ashton in FL. I always wonder, though, what’s wrong with taking care of the needy first, particularly when there are so many. I don’t believe for a minute that each and every street dog in Kathmandu would have made a loving pet had someone just taken the time to give it a loving home.
The kennel keeper, Ramprasad, appears to be a kind man, and when he shook his head and said that street dogs do not make good pets, I told him that this was a good dog, and that I needed his help to transform him into the good pet that I knew he could become. And he agreed to help me.
I don’t know if this dog will be happy but, at the very least, she will be spayed and vaccinated, fed well and trained. If we are successful, I will bring him to the U.S. to find a forever home next year.
I just watched an absurd movie tonight, something that I ordinarily do not do because I don’t find many comedies to actually be that funny. Almighty Evan. Silly it was, but unlike many fantastic stories, this one had a moral: We change the world with one act of random kindness at a time. It also had lots of animals hanging about (literally) which was fun. Eventually they all traipsed onto an ark (in pairs, of course) that the main character had built before the flood that eventually occurred when the local dam collapsed. Get it? ARK = act of random kindness. I always wonder what the people who write these types of movies are like in their “real” lives. I mean who would think of taking the expression “random acts of kindness” and reinterpret it into a modern-day story of Noah’s Ark and local political corruption. Must be a pretty interesting person.
I like to believe that random acts of kinds will change the world but I am not motivated by wanting to change the world. I will be happy if I change just the life of one small homeless dog for the better. However, at the moment, despite her wagging tail, she is looking at me with sorrowful brown eyes that are saying I am lost, you have taken me from the only life that I have ever known world? Why are you doing this to me?
To be truthful, I realize that my apparent altruism cloaks what is actually just a deeply personal, and genuinely selfish, need — I simply knew that I could not spend the next ten months going in and out of the university watching a perfectly good puppy grow too old to become a pet, not to mention possibly becoming ill or injured. It is difficult enough watching the older dogs live out a destiny that I would never wish for any dog. It may be a way of life here, but it is not mine. I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself had I not tried to do something — anything — but something. So, allergies and all, this previously monogamous cat-loving woman has just gotten a dog…. I guess he won’t be the only one learning new tricks.
Now she is Lakshmi. Baby Lakshmi, a baby goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. Seems like a lot to have to live up to. I tried to tell the trainers that I had already given this name to another dog but, of course, they had no idea what I was talking about and said it was a good name for her. Since I love the name, and they were going to be training her, I decided not to argue. I am sure that it is fine to have more than one Lakshmi in the world. In fact, since everyone else has told me that Lashmi is a good name, I am contemplating naming every female dog I assist here, should there be any more, Lakshmi. Undoubtedly, there are already many Laksmis around, although they are probably not all dogs. Apparently, we celebrate Lakshimi as part of Tihar. A good name for a good life, I hope. I guess I can’t have too much of wealth and prosperity in my life anyway. I shall go to check on Mama Lakshmi later this week. It would be nice if I could find them both forever homes one day but I don’t know how Mama will be after a few months. She may have other medical issues of which I am unaware. And she may not be as malleable as a puppy when it comes to training.
Apparently, Lakshmi, has an animal buddy, know for his (her?) patience and intelligence whom she rides when she wants to get around. Lakshmi mounts the wise old white owl. Besides wisdom, the bird also symbolizes patience and intelligence. Its white plumes denote spiritual purity. It is also bestowed with the mythical powers of fortune telling. Simultaneously, this owl also serves the practical purposes of a barn owl. In the state of Bengal in India, the annual festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, is celebrated in late autumn. This is when the farmers have just reaped a rich harvest and have stocked their granaries with food grains. The owl cleanses the granaries of all pests, thereby protecting the grain. The more grain the farmer sells, the wealthier he/ she will become. https://www.yourpetspace.info/hindu-animal-vehicles/ Maybe I should take up farming….
I have recognized something about myself in all of this. Living my life has never been about doing what is safe, comfortable, and practical. It has always been about doing I believe is right, no matter how wacky it might appear to anyone else. No matter how impractical it might be. No matter how inconvenient. No matter what the cost. As long as it is within my budget, I will do it if I think it is the right — the just — thing to do. Besides this, if I do a reality check, which I often do when I am about to take on an unanticipated expense, if I can spend $700 on a nice hotel for myself for the week of Dashain, I can certainly afford to take in a stray puppy. All her vaccinations today (4) cost a mere 1700 rupees ($14.70). I suspect that only one vaccine in the U.S. would have cost at least that much, if not more. I should be able to fly her to the U.S. for less than a week in a hotel.
I am lucky here because, interestingly enough, no one has told me that I am crazy, that I shouldn’t have taken in the puppy. Quite the contrary, everyone has helped me, from my university contact who took part of his only day off to come and translate for the kennel owner, to my cab driver who took me to the university and found Lakshmi stalking some imaginary critter in the tall grass next to the university parking area where I could not see her, to the kennel owner who, despite his misgivings about training a street dog came today, on a holiday, to give Lakshmi her first vaccinations and to tell me that, no, she wasn’t a boy, what I thought was a penis apparently wasn’t one, and that, yes, I was right, she is a good dog. Female dogs usually are, he said.
Ramprasad and the veterinary, Bhanubhakta, who came with him, are gentle men. They have the same last name, so perhaps they are brothers. I loved watching how they treated Lakshmi, although she was temporarily quite upset with the vaccines. I think one of them stung, from the way she squeaked and tore around the house. Few minutes, she be okay, I was reassured. So now I have added female canine anatomy to my new repertoire of dog owner skills. I suppose that what I thought was an immature penis is an immature vagina. Perhaps someday someone who speaks English can enlighten me on this point. We also had to give up our beautiful purple harness; it was just too big. Maybe she will grow into it, maybe not. I’d just as soon she stay small but her big floopy ears suggest that she still has more growing to do. In the end, this dog adventure appears to be more about letting of what I think is true, or what I want to be true, about both myself and the world, than holding onto it.
Today, for just one moment in time, there are only 25,999 stray dogs in Kathmandu.