Note: This is the sequel to another post, The Kindness of Strangers, in this blog.
Shakti is coming home tomorrow, I told the shopkeeper whose family had befriended her several months and were providing her with a place to sleep on their porch and feeding her, although I had taken over the job of providing food until I left in June, the same mix of rice, ground chicken, liver and high quality puppy food, cooked together. Preparing food for three wasn’t all that different from cooking for my two rescues, Shiva and Lakshmi, although, admittedly, I had to cook more often. In fact, these pooches were getting food that was freshly cooked each day. Now I would only have one to cook for, since the other two were now in the States. It would be a piece of cake compared to all the cooking and shopping I had done previously.
Shaki had been at a medical clinic for the two weeks that I had been in the U.S. being treated for her chronic cough. When we arrived in the neighborhood, she had no collar but it was clear that she had had one once because it had been too tight that all the hair on her neck was worn away. We are speculating this this perhaps led to the chronic throat inflammation that she has. Now that I was home, I could give her her medications each day when I brought her food. I had hoped that she wouldn’t need them by the time I left but the vet had just informed me that morning that he thought she would need treatment indefinitely. So now, in addition to asking the shopkeeper to continue letting her sleep on his porch and to feed her after I left, I was going to have to ask him to give her medication? I was not sure how that would go over, but I still had two and a half months to figure it out, I thought. Turned out that I didn’t even have two days…
He looked distressed…
We don’t want her here again.
But this is her home! This is the only place she knows…
I was remembering our original agreement as I spoke. I said I would pay for all her expenses if they would continue to allow her to live on their shop porch. And they had agreed. I wondered if they had really understood what I had promised but the shopkeeper’s English was more or less non-existent. True, he knew more English than I knew Nepali, but it was unclear to me if he really understood what I had said when we first struck up our agreement. He was adamant.
You can keep her at your apartment now…
I knew that living with me would not be a long term solution, as I was leaving in a few months and the apartment owners would certainly not want a stray dog hanging around after I left, even assuming that I could walk away and leave her homeless on the front step after taking her into my home for two months which, of course, I could never do.
I cannot imagine anything more cruel than abandoning a house pet to fend for itself. It is one thing for a puppy who is born in the streets and manages to survive in the streets. But to leave one after it has had a home was unfathomable for me. But, in fact, I saw this over and over again when I was doing feral cat rescue at the university where I went to medical school. Students would get kittens because they were so cute, keep them for four years, and then just leave the adults behind when they finished their studies.
This is also what happens to many of the dogs that actually have owners in Nepal if they become ill – they are simply turned out into the street to fend for themselves, a solution whose logic escapes me. It’s one thing to leave a healthy animal to live in the streets, but a sick one? But Shakti was clearly was a living example of the custom. In all likelihood, she had been abandoned because the previous owner didn’t want to deal with her pups, whom we never saw any sign of and whom we presumed had died, or her cough, which resulted in her vomiting, or the fear that she would have more puppies in the future.
My customers don’t like her. I told the vet when he took her for treatment to leave her at the center where he said he would take her to stay during treatment.
First of all, from what I had seen, his customers did not all dislike her. Some of his them brought her food, others thanked me for taking care of her. She had become a neighborhood fixture and somewhat of a local celebrity once people knew that I was providing her with the necessary medical treatment. Secondly, the shopkeeper’s wife clearly liked her as I would see her sitting and petting her on their storefront porch. Nevertheless, her husband didn’t want her anymore and his wife was not around to comment one way or the other.
I have nowhere to keep her he said gesturing to his shop.
This also was not quite true. They had two dogs upstairs apparently, although I had never seen them. I hoped that those dogs were allowed into their residence, that they were not just some of the many dogs kept chained to the rooftops of Kathmandu. Shakti did not demand much. The little bed that they had made her could have easily been put just inside the door to the shop at night. I had no doubt that she would stay where she was put. She obviously had had years of “making do” with very little. A relatively warm spot indoors would have been heaven.
No, she cannot stay here again…
I finally accepted defeat. Shakti has already been dumped once (at least). I am not going to dump her somewhere again and I certainly am not going to insist that someone who didn’t want her keep her.
The reality is that I would have worried about her after I leave had I left her at the shop. She most certainly not have been as well-fed unless the shopkeepers agreed to cook her food with meat for which, of course, I would have been happy to pay. And someone would have needed to give her medicine. It is unlikely that they would have agreed to this. In her condition, she needed a good diet. And then… there is all the traffic she dodges on a daily basis in that location. Odds were that she will perish much before her time from malnourishment or physical trauma. It had always been a less than optimal solution, but it was the only one I thought I had… I called the vet immediately.
Arjun, we have a problem. The shopkeepers don’t want her anymore.
I will try to find a shelter that will take her tomorrow.
You could try Sneha, they took one dog for me when I first got here.
They are much too crowded to take her.
Perhaps all was not lost, perhaps there was another place for her to go. I hoped that Arjun was persuasive enough to convince a shelter to take her. I realized that I had forgotten to tell him that I would pay her expenses so I called back. The call would not go through so I texted him. A hour or so later, the phone rang…
I got your text. When I told the people here who manage the clinic where I work what you said, they said that they will keep her here as a clinic pet.
Another canine dream come true? A forever home in a medical clinic with people who love and care for ailing animals instead of a dusty storefront on a busy thoroughfare?
I considered her options, such that they were. First of all, no one would here ever adopt her because of her medical needs, especially when there are literally thousands of of healthy street dogs lying about the city, literally. Culturally, people here don’t usually adopt street dogs and provide them with medical care, or even high quality food. They feed them their leftovers, which consist of mostly rice from what I have seen, but that’s about it. In some cases, it may be all they can afford. In others, it is more likely that they could provide better quality food, if they wanted to. At a shelter, even assuming we could get her in, she would be among dozens of other dogs. She wouldn’t ever have her own forever home. Last but not least, I couldn’t take her to the States because the airlines won’t put animals in cargo in the summer. I also don’t know if a dog with health issues such as hers would be any more adoptable in the States that she would be here. I would certainly have taken her if I could. More importantly, I’m not even sure that, in her condition, I’d want to risk the trip for her. She is courageous, to be sure, but I am not sure how physically strong she actually is.
Shakti is a sweet dog, a survivor who reminds me every time I see her that you don’t have to live a life of luxury to be happy. She obviously has been struggling to stay alive for a long time, even before she was abandoned in our neighborhood, and yet she accepted her life with grace and dignity. I still saw her eating plants and dirt from time to time. She spent most of her time sitting or sleeping on the storefront porch she had claimed for her own. I really couldn’t understand how anyone could be turning away an animal whom they had previously welcomed. But then I can’t understand how people can live surrounded by street dogs and cows and not feel compelled to do something to change the situation. When she isn’t on the porch, she would dance up and down the street, greeting all passer-bys with an eager doggy grin and a wagging tail. Now that her mange is gone, she is turning into a lovely redhead! With her crazy ears sticking out the side of her head, she will probably never be a prize-winning beauty but her heart clearly holds room for anyone and everyone whom she meets. What’s not to love about such a combination of courage and generosity?
The clinic offer is more than generous under the circumstances, even if it is motivated by the promise of financial support. But I actually don’t think that is their only reason for proposing to keep her. Between her spaying and aftercare, and her recent stay to treat her cough while I was away, she has already been in the clinic more than a month. It is a tiny clinic, with living quarters upstairs. My guess is that they already like having her around and my offer to support her medically “sealed the deal” and made it possible for them to consider keeping her themselves.
Whatever their reasons, altruistic, personal, or financial, or some combination of the three (which is the most likely), I only know that she’ll get the medical care she needs as a permanent clinic resident and, more importantly, she will be loved. I have seen the people at the clinic handle my two dogs, as well as others who were there when I came through with Lakshmi and Shiva. They are kind and gentle to the animals, something that is not always true of Nepalese dog owners. Their own little one dog, a round little gray pug with a wrinkled black face, is treated like a queen (or king). Shakti will be loved and, when the end comes, she won’t die alone, forgotten and left on another street corner. Given how much she likes people, she’ll enjoy the constant stream of clients at the clinic although, since they aren’t going to let her out to roam the streets for some time, if ever, she may have to be confined upstairs when the front door is open during the warmer months. But I suspect that, eventually, she will be happy to stay home even with an open door because she won’t want to miss any of the action and the possible opportunities to be petted and admired. It is my hope that she will, over time, become the clinic “greeter”.
In a way, Shakti’s disability is her blessing. Certainly it has opened a door for her that otherwise would have remained forever closed and out-of-reach. Although her journey has been circuitous, and she has been tested in ways that I can only imagine, she finally has a second chance… I am pretty sure that she won’t waste it.
*For anyone reading this post who would like to help support Shakti’s Second Chance, a funding campaign will soon be launched at mightycause.com. I just have to get some pictures of her to add to the site. The target goal of $4000, together with what I can contribute, should cover her care for 3.5 years. She is probably 7 or 8 years old, quite old for a street dog, I think. Please consider helping this brave little lady make the most out of her second chance.