Note: This is a sequel to the post Share the Wealth.
Where are you, are you coming? I was talking to Choekyi, a Tibetan student of mine, one of the four who had been with me when we first sighted the three puppies at Swayambhu Stupa and now a co-conspirators for the puppy rescue effort. She had arrived at the stupa first. Her mission was to locate the puppies we had seen the day before.
We are on our way, but the traffic is bad.
Did you find the puppies again ?
Yes, but there are FIVE, not three!
Five!!? I conveyed the news to Dr. Arjun as we wound along the tiny roads, lined with houses and shops and congested with people and motorcycles, and the occasional car, leading the up the hill to the stupa.
Oh, I only brought vaccinations enough for three! he muttered. Not to be dissuaded from his appointed task at my request, and with one hand still on the wheel, he reached for his phone. (What did we ever do without cell phones?) Moments later….
I have worked in many different clinics in the valley and one of them was right here in Swayambhu so my colleague is going to give us two more doses.
Where? I was worried about being even later.
Oh, just here, he waved his arms vaguely out the window.
I was dubious. But, sure enough, about 10 minutes later, as we crept up another hill past a small unassuming building on one corner, there stood a man, packet in hand, ready to pass it through the window. We barely needed to stop and, as I looked back, I could see that the sign on the building said Veterinary Clinic. It seems like everything one needs is in every local neighborhood in Kathmandu if you just know where to look..
I was reminded again, of my wildly unsuccessful search for months for unsweetened soy milk at the big supermarket chain of stores, all of which are a taxi ride away from my apartment, only to stumble across it at the corner grocer not more than 100 yards from my house. I had gone into the grocer when I first arrived, and found some things, but I hadn’t been looking for others and I hadn’t thought to go back once jet lag was passed and I had more of my bearings. I had a similar story looking for edible bread; I finally found this at yet another local grocer and, although it pales in comparison to the four loaves of bread – feta and spinach, Amy’s whole grain, Sprouterickel and Red Hen (I think) ciabatta — that I dragged back from Vermont in April, it is definitely better than everything else I found, most of which appears to be a version of wonder bread. Once again, it had been sitting virtually in my front yard for months. Right alongside the pre-made paratha that I have discovered are nothing more than a thin version of the Swahili chapati that I adore… The secret to living here, I discovered somewhat belatedly, is to walk around and actually go into every shop to see what is there because you simply can’t tell from the outside what treasures await you behind the dusty towering shelves of things that you know you don’t need.
Sure enough, when we finally got to the stupa, and after wandering around in what appeared to be one big circle while I tried to remember where we had seen them — cell reception was terrible that Choesky and I kept getting cut off so she couldn’t tell us where she was — we discovered that were, indeed, five puppies, four black and one brindle. Four girls and one boy. I chose the smallest to take, clearly the runt of the litter, I figured she was the least likely to survive. Little did I know… They were filthy, of course, and mom was not too happy about what we were doing to them after the first one yelped and so, midst her incessant barking, we managed to vaccinate, de-worm, and de-flea them all. I tried not to think about the others as we made our way back to the car. I mean, one can only do so much….
I named the puppy whom I took home Kali, literally “black”, but also the name of one of the most powerful female deities Kali, considered the ultimate Nature, black at night, blue during the day, she rides a tiger, and is the tantric partner of Shiva, the god of transformation. She is a great archer and, in some depictions, is quite fierce and frightening. But, as a term of endearment, Kali simply means “lovely, happy girl”. Women in the park referred to her as Kalu when they saw her, another term of endearment. Of course, after a bath and careful scrutiny in the light of the sun, I realized that she wasn’t black, rather she is a deep dark chocolate brown which appears to darken into black when it reaches her feet.
Kali was quite civilized from the minute I brought her home. As long as I took her outside every couple of hours, she simply “copped a squat” the minute I set her down on the grass, and peed. She only pooped in the AM and PM, and always outside. The children loved her, and she loved them. She would run along behind me as we played tag in the park, just as I had done with Lakshmi. Still small enough for me to outrun, our first days together passed simply and gently.
Hi, I see you are playing with this puppy. I take care of Nepali dogs and I was wondering if you would let me de-worm the puppy. The young woman apparently thought that I and the children just happened to be playing with a wandering puppy in the park, and wanted to educate me about the need to de-worm stray puppies.
Oh, this is my puppy, and I have already de-wormed her. And so began a conversation which ultimately led me to revisit my decision to leave Kali’s siblings to live as best they could “in place”. She and a veterinary friend were trying to do what they could for the street dogs of Nepal. He would spay for only 3000 NPR, half of what my veterinary charges, and she and a friend had rescued two dogs who had been sent to forever homes in the U.S. by a rescue organization of which I had never heard. Don’t panic Nepali dogs! We’ll find you a home! She didn’t have the contact person’s number but she said she’d post the puppies pic on her Facebook page to see if someone would adopt them and sent me home to look up the organization that send dogs to the U.S. on Facebook.
Not being a Facebook user, although I apparently have an account, I was unfamiliar with the layout of the pages and could not find an contact information. I signed up to become a friend and asked for someone to email me since I really didn’t know how to use Facebook. Of course, I haven’t heard a peep but the seed had already been planted. I could also see that the organization was not rolling in money, they were soliciting donations for transporting other animals already. While I knew I couldn’t take the other puppies in cargo for my 30-hour itinerary, courtesy of the U.S. government’s policy that one has to fly on American carriers even if it turns a 20 hour trip into a 30 hour one, maybe I could send them separately in cargo on Turkish Airlines’ new itinerary, beginning July 1, a mere twenty hours from Kathmandu to Boston, with only 1’40” in Istanbul. That is, if the woman who runs Don’t Panic Nepali dogs we’ll find you a home could do it, why couldn’t I? The TA flight leaves Kathamandu in the wee hours of the morning, eliminating any risk of carriers being left out in the sun on the tarmac as occurred when I left in April, and arrives in Boston in the early evening when the air is already cooling down. I also know, since I took the same flight in April, there was virtually no other flight coming into the international terminal than the TA one. With such a short layover in Istanbul, they weren’t likely to be left outdoors to languish in the sun there either. And since travel was not through the Middle East, they could travel cargo in late June. So, the next question was, could it be done? Or perhaps more aptly, could I do it?
Phone calls to Turkish airlines, plus a thorough scrutiny of their animal transport policies online, which differed from what the man on the phone told me (I love it when company representatives don’t know the policies of the companies that they work for), revealed that it would cost me less to send four puppies unaccompanied cargo than it had cost me to send two larger dogs as accompanied cargo. Ironic. Of course, adding in the cost of health certificates and chips which, as it turns out, are useless in the US but are required to get out of Nepal, and more than another $1000 would be gone quick as a wink. But… it was — and still is — the right thing to do. And, with any luck, my sweet little puppies could win the hearts of enough unsuspectingly friends to generate a something to help with their expenses if I started a crowdfunding campaign in their honor. Having just learned that word, I was ready to try anything.
But, to be honest, were it not for the woman who crossed my path that day in the park, I don’t know that I would have realized what I could do, and how. The universe seems to have something very special in mind for these puppies.
Dr. Arjun was tasked with the job of going back to retrieve all of the remaining puppies, plus their mother, who was headed straight for surgery to make sure that she didn’t bless the planet with any more tiny feet. Four females (3 puppies, one mother), and 5 puppies a year we could make quite a dent in the future dog population at Swayambhu, I consoled myself. Who was I kidding? There are thousands of females throughout the city regularly birthing puppies, most of whom do not survive. But these ones would, if I were to have anything to say about it. However, by the time Arjun could get back, one was gone, swept up by someone, they thought. The owner wanted us to bring one back to keep the mother company but, upon seeing up close and personal the dreadful condition they were in, and hearing that any child could simply grab up any one that I left behind and take it away and, possibly, just dump it somewhere else, I decided to put my foot down. I mean, if you’re not going to feed your dogs, why have any more than the one you started with?
The three remaining arrived tucked under the front seat of Arjun’s car, with mom stuck in the compartment in the back.
They stink. Arjun announced as he dragged out the plastic mat from under the passenger seat to shake off a deposit that one had left onto the pavement next to his car.
Straight into the bathroom they went and, 45″ later, out they popped, each having had not one but two baths, the first with flea shampoo, the second with herbs soothing to their skin and aloe vera. They ate as if they had never seen food, jockeying and growling at one another, unaware that they had finally landed in the garden of Eden where they would never go hungry again. It was then that the dismal condition of one, and not the one that I originally thought needed rescuing the most, became apparent. Sanu (a term of endearment meaning sweet little girl) was definitely the biggest, and the size of her paws suggests that she may grow up to be a bigger dog than the others, and has longer hair than the others which, owing to a well-progressed case of mange, looked like a moldy old piece of wool after her bath. Utterly pitiful. Even her forehead is missing hair, and the wrinkled skin showing through what is left of her fur around her neck and legs makes her look like an old woman, instead of the 8-week old child that she is.
Upon further scrutiny, it was apparent that all the puppies had fallen prey to mange, it just wasn’t quite as far advanced as hers. I had already announced to Arjun that I thought that Kali had mange, but he had not been convinced. But one look at Sanu and, a closer look at the telltale patches on all the others that I had uncovered with the bathing project, convinced him that treatment needed to begin immediately, although he had been previously loathe to do it because it might affect their immunity. But what good is good immunity if you’re dead, which they surely would be if left on the streets because the airlines would not take a puppy with an obvious health condition?
That evening, I carried them out to the park, one-by-one, as I had been doing with their sister. They were not impressed. And so, once again, my apartment is decorated with tiny pools of golden liquid and disgusting piles of chocolate pudding — they all had diarrhea which probiotics, dutifully delivered by Dr. Arjun, could not resolve. Only Sanu, despite her mange, delivered neat brown curls of semi-solid poo. I was reminded of a patient who would always use food metaphors to describe her stools.
I need something for the diarrhea.
If it isn’t better in a day or two, I will give you medicine.
That’s easy for you to say, you’re not the one running around and cleaning up poo and pee from four puppies. I laid out mats and dish towels. Some were clever enough to make their deposits on those. Others, like Shiva had been previously, were less discerning and I got used to the familiar feeling of stepping in a puddle of cool golden liquid, virtually invisible on the golden wood laminate floors. I remember this…. Of course, neither Lakshmi or Shiva ever pooed in the house. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of stepping into creamy poo in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom. But, being a naturopath, I took it in stride, literally. After all, we are the docs who specialize in diet and poo quality.
My days are now once again filled with endless loads of laundry, steaming pots of ground chicken and liver, cooked with rice, protein powder and little pellets of dry food, designed for puppies, but which they seem completely mystified how to eat on their own. One night of crying puppies in the bathroom and now we all sleep in a clump of fuzzy piles on my bed which I, quite cleverly I must admit, have covered with a waterproof polyester shower curtain in case of accidents. But, to their credit, most of them climb down the staircase I made for them of two wooden drawers, one smaller, one larger, turned upside down, the highest step being a stack of murder mysteries which I have already read, in order to do their business at night and then clamor back up to bed when they have finished. There is only one who seems to think that the foot of the bed is a great place to pee. Ha! The shower curtain works great!
When awake, puppies are inperpetual motion, pitter-pattering around engaging in a plethora of different pastimes, from fighting over the stuffed animals I bought them, to batting the ping pong balls across the room, to grabbing a tennis ball firmly in their little mouths and running in circles while others chase after to get it. Of course, then there is the dependable, just chew his or her leg, or ears, or tail approach to play. Why bother with a toy when you can just gnaw on someone else? Including me, although that doesn’t usually end too well since their teeth are quite sharp. Just as suddenly as the free-for-all around the house begins, all becomes quiet, as they drop deep into somnolence, more-or-less right where they were previously wreaking havoc.
This is only day three and already they are bigger. By day two, they awoke footloose and fancy-free, happy to be alive and in their new habitat with a new mom. Overnight, I had gone from a suspicious being to man’s and woman’s best friend. Wherever I go, there is a trail of puppies behind me, tripping over one another in their haste to follow me and see what I am going to do next. Whoever knew that walking across the apartment could be so interesting?
Food is still a big hit, but already they are less desperate, and leave some food on the plate to nibble later. Tonight they barely touched their dinner. Perhaps we have reached the point where they have caught up to where they should have been had they been getting enough food all along.
My only misstep thus far has been when I attempted to take them all outside on their new glittering blue, gold, and red leashes, with their new iridescent collars. Unlike my first two puppies, going outside is not (yet) a great adventure. And forget being attached to a leash. They all laid down on their stomachs, gazed at me with baleful eyes, and didn’t move as I dragged them en masse across the floor on their stomachs. I pulled them down the stairs. I knew that they could go up and down stairs because they were living at the base of a huge staircase at the stupa, up which they climbed every day to reach the tourist area where I had first seen them, and then went back down to sleep at night with mom.
Kerplunk, kerplunk, as each fell down each step only to sit on the one below it until I gently yanked again. I honestly thought they’d finally stand up and walk down. Ha! Every step was like the first, apparently torture. Their faces said it all…. how can you do this to me??!!!
Upon reaching the bottom (two flights), they resumed their on-my-belly-I’m-not-budging poses which, of course, was not going to work for getting across the street. So Suresh, the day guard who helps take care of my dogs when I am gone for any length of time, and I picked them up, one in each arm and deposited them on the grass. Kali knew the routine and, although she was not enamored of her new leash, she finally figured out that she could walk around with it. Reaching the end of it, however, unleashed cries of distress. The others just sat, looking miserable. Maya got up and walked over to the rubbish pile and deposited a glorious heap of golden custard — Yay, one I don’t have to clean up! She’s got the idea! But then she remained squatting in her delivery position, refusing to go anywhere and eventually, having apparently forgotten what she had done, started to lower her butt towards the still steaming mound as if to sit in it!! I dragged them all to a nice patch of grass. Certainly that would be pleasing to them. Wrong again.
Apparently, one has to teach a dog how to be on a leash; how my first two knew, I’ll never know. A gaggle of little girls came to admire them but only Kali seemed happy to see them. Finally, admitting defeat, I asked the girls to help me carry them back across the street to the apartment building, where Suresh and I then lugged them back up to the apartment. Kali seemed to have completely forgotten that she had already learned to go up the stairs herself. Obviously, I still have more to learn about puppies. We have not left the apartment now for two days. I can even leave the door open for a nice breeze and no one sets a paw beyond te threshold. Everyone is happy with this arrangement and now that the metronidizole seems to be kicking in for the diarrhea, I am not quite so crazed trying to thee space clean while I allow them the time that they apparently need to develop the confidence to venture out unassisted into the great world beyond the front door. However, my allergies are finally acting up. Four puppies apparently exceeds my limit. I suspect that it is the puppy fuzz and that, when it turns to fur, things will be easier, as they were with the first two. In the meantime, I always have Allegra!!
According to the internet, you’re supposed to start getting them used to wearing a collar at around 8 weeks, which I only did for one day before I tried the leash walk. The internet, in its infinite wisdom, has this to say about leash training:
Teach leash walking as a fun game, anywhere from 10-12 weeks on wards, depending on the individual pup – but just don’t expect too much too soon.
Ah, well, my first two didn’t seem to need “leash training” so how was I supposed to know? But Lakshmi was 4 months when I got her and Shiva 10 weeks. These babies aren’t even 10 weeks old yet and I was dragging them down a flight of stairs on a leash. Luckily, they are a forgiving crew.
I did start leash training today, letting them walk about the house dragging a leash and then taking them outside two at a time to do the same. The problem arises when I attempt to pull on the leash to get them to go somewhere… This must be was just don’t expect too much too soon must mean. They’ll figure it out. But my allergies will definitely improve when I can grab four leashes, each with a dog on the end that will walk on its own, and go out into the park and run around there instead of filling the apartment air with puppy dander.
For the discerning reader who might be wondering about the fifth puppy, as luck would have it, my vet reported having a woman come in with one that looked just like the one who was missing. Apparently someone dumped it on her doorstep. She lives in the neighborhood next to the one where we found them so we are assuming, and hoping, that this is our missing girl. Kathmandu is a huge city, with thousands of dogs and a million people. The odds that our missing pup would find its way to the same vet that I used is so infinitesimal that the mind boggles at the thought. But we do think it is her and, if so, I am grateful to live a universe that is generous enough to let me know what happened to her and that was willing to lead her to a home, no matter how circuitous the route, where someone would take care of her.
Puppies blessed from birthplace by the Buddha himself, they appear to be off to an auspicious beginning. I hope they bring as much joy to the people who adopt as I know that having a forever family will bring to each of them. I am quite sure that Buddha himself smiling now as I sit, nose dripping, surrounded by fuzzy sentient beings who, for whatever reasons, are destined for a better life than they would have had here, assuming that they had even survived. He obviously knew that I would do the right thing, but that I just might need a little “push”, which he was happy to oblige. Clever man.
I have a friend who says that I am “out-of-my-mind” to be doing what I am doing but, she was quick to qualify, in a “good sense.” When she said this, I recalled that all the mystical traditions of the world agree that being out-of-one’s-mind is the key to eternal bliss. Perhaps this is my path to enlightenment. Certainly, what I am doing is not rationale, but neither is it random, if my so-called chance encounter with the woman in the park is recognized for what it undoubtedly was. No, I may be out-of-my-mind in the rationale sense of the word, but not in its mystical sense. I am whole-heartedly engaged in what I consider to be mindful madness. Upon due consideration of logistical and financial realities, I am allowing myself to fall headlong into that river of pleasure that we experience when we do something for someone without knowing why. Certainly doing something for another living being with no expectation of reward or even recognition is madness in a rational world. But in the souls’s world, it is nothing short of liberation.