Iiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiiyiyi! A heart-stopping squeal tore through the evening air.
I stopped typing and listened.
Shiiit. Was that an animal?
Iyiyiyiyyyiiyiyiyiyi! Again the same cry.
Maybe it’s a bird, I thought desperately, afraid to look out my window to the street below.
Nope, definitely not a bird.
I reluctantly got up and looked out my window. Nothing in the street, a relief. But there was a small cluster of people standing on the sidewalk to the left and below my window. All were looking down at something.
Regardless of culture, the body language and facial expressions of confusion and concern are universal. I could see both emotions were reflected in the way that they stood, the looks on their faces.
What should we do? I didn’t need to speak Tajik to know what they were thinking. Some man in a car across the street, had his door open and sitting, half in and half out of the car, he was shouting something at them, I assumed that he had hit whatever it was with his car. I looked at the grass beneath their feet. A small brown furry bundle was visible in the grassy verge between their feet.
I grabbed the fleece jacket that had served me for two previous rescues, one of the second puppy, Shiva, now Misha, and the second a dying cat whom we could not save in Nepal, and flew down the stairs, not even taking time to lock my door or put on my shoes.
It was a small brindle puppy, much like Maya-Daisy, the only brown pup in my second brood of puppies, complete with the floppy ears and sad drooping eyes of a hound. The only thing that was missing, as I was to discover later, is the curly tail; hers is straight as an arrow. As I gazed at the tableau before me, I remembered having promised myself that the previous pups would be my last rescues if, for no other reason, I simply couldn’t afford to keep rescuing puppies half way around the world and carting them back to the U.S. Never say never, I thought to myself, as the situation was definitely beginning to look like one of those times that I would have to eat my words.
Someone else was saying machine machine and pointing. Obviously, she had been hit by a car, but how did she get to the verge where she now lay drooping in misery. I laid out the jacket and slid her gently onto it. There were no obvious wounds, someone was pointing to her leg. I looked up.
Pointing to different people, I gestured. Is she yours? Yours?
Everyone was shaking their heads and stepping back.
Where could she have come from? She can’t be more than 3 months old.
My only thought was that perhaps she had been abandoned in the Grand Park, across the street, but the street is separated from the park by a deep and wide gutter that this little one could never have leapt across, even I feel like I am risking life and limb each time I lift up my skirts and leap across it.
I scooped her up in my arms and turned to carry her home.
Thank you thank you. No one knew English, but they knew the words thank you and they were grateful that I was saving them from having to figure out what to do with her themselves. Given that most Muslims do not like dogs, or know much about them as a result, I didn’t mind. There was obviously no one else around who would, or could, help the sad little bundle of fur in my arms.
Puppy? This is something I know how to do, no problem! Of course, my bravado was only a mask, inwardly my mind was screaming shit shit shit, what am I going to do with a puppy in Tajikstan?!!!
while, of course, my heart was doing a little dance at having another furball upon which to bestow my recently acquired skills in canine recovery. Pathetic, I know.
I have named her Bhakti which means faith, devotion, worship, and purity, to name but a few meanings associated with the word in Sanskrit. Bhakti-bear, bhati-boo, bhakti boo-bear have all found their way out of my mouth when speaking to her. Sometimes she is simply Boo, or Boo-boo. After all, she did have a pretty big boo-boo when she arrived.
She was in perfectly good shape, slightly smelly, slightly dusty, when I brought her home, but in the larger scheme of things, this was nothing. I saw no sign of fleas, and apart from her guzzling down a full bowl of water before taking a breath sometime later, there was no sign that she had not been going to sleep with a full tummy every night. Although I did, and still do, wonder whether her round belly is only puppy belly or whether I am going to have to clean up another pile of disgusting worms eventually, once I de-worm her.
I have no idea if this puppy belongs to someone who is out looking, heartbroken with guilt at having lost her, or whether she had been abandoned. She is old enough that I would have thought any responsible owner would have had her on a leash if they took her out. I may be able to tell later, when I get a leash, whether she has been leashed-trained or not. I worry that someone is out looking for her, but I have no way to know how to find them if they don’t sit outside my apartment calling for her and, so far, no one has.
So, now my life is intertwined, once again, with a puppy. I didn’t want another puppy, and after the fiasco with mold at my house, I can ill afford another puppy escort trip back to the states but, the truth was I had thought about doing a mid-year trip home before any of this happened. I hadn’t decided.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know why this keeps happening to me. Certainly, the first six puppies, I admit, I found them at some distance from my home and brought them home. But Bhakti was delivered, literally, to my doorstep. I do not believe for a moment that this was random chance, but what is it?
She slept for along time, on the floor in my living room, tucked into the soft fleece. I left a little scrambled egg and water, plus a few dog biscuits which I already had on hand for other reasons. I felt her limbs, nothing was obviously broken. The task felt familiar, I was an old had at this. We had done it after Lakshmi was attacked by the Pitt bull in Kathmandu. When she finally tried staggering to her feet, her paws slipped on the slick surface of the fake wood covering of the floor. But I could see enough to know that it was her right hind leg that was giving her trouble as she held it slightly aloft.
I hoped that the car had simply tossed her in the air and that her more malleable infant body had fluxed as she had fallen and that it was only a sprain. I didn’t know how she had gotten from the road to the verge however, unless the man had gotten out of his car and picked her up and dumped her there. In hindsight, this was the most likely explanations of both his yelling and Bhakti’s location. Presumably, he was cursing them for having let their dog run into the street. But, of course, they hadn’t.
At bedtime, I took her into the bedroom and set her up on a towel just next to my bed, a platform bed that is just one big box without any legs. I left the water, egg, and biscuits by her side. She had nibbled at the biscuits and the egg, after having consumed what must have been a least a full cup, if not more, of water. I knew that she just needed time. Nature would takes its course, whatever that might be. If she had internal injuries, she might die, but then she would at least be safe and warm. If not, then I expected her to be up and walking more the next day.
Thus far, Bhakti has shown herself to be a sweet, loving puppy, content to stay in her corner by the bed even when the door of the bedroom is open, only leaving what she has claimed to be her spot, to go to the other side of the room to pee and poop. She is very neat and proper, going to one corner to pee and to another area to poop. After cleaning up after 4 puppies, looking after her is a piece of cake. She will go no further out of the room than the doorway. The door is not flush with the floor, the door frame is maybe half an inch above floor. She will go up to it and tentatively take one step, and the retreat. She was clearly anxious when I tried to bring her out into the living room tonight, so I decided to leave her where she is. She will come out when she is ready. She is, of course, always happy to see me when I come to visit her in her nest. Tail-wagging, she shows her affection as everyone else did, by chewing. I doubt they have Nepali buffalo milk bones here, but she is going to need something to chew beside my fingers and socks and, most-recently the new shaggy head to my floor mop.
I am just as happy that she has chosen her spot and doesn’t want to leave it. She doesn’t seem to care when I close the door and go out to forage for food, or to visit the neighbors. She has had a bath of a concoction of vinegar, water, and dish soap, a recipe that I found online, and nary a flea showed its face. Her stools are regular puppy stools, soft at first but after a day of egg and biscuits, solid, and with little odor, a sharp contrast to the black smelly semi-liquid mess that the four babies from Swayambhu Temple were delivering at my feet for the first week of our sharing the same residence. And her pee rate is about the same as the other young puppies that I rescued. This is all to say that, so far, all systems seemed to be working normally, and as that of a healthy puppy, and today she is only walking with a slight limp, although occasionally she doesn’t always put weight on her foot when standing to eat. But, all in all, this naturopath thinks she is going to be just fine. Of course, only naturopaths look to stool to assess the presence, or absence, of good health.
I am now, however, faced with an ethical dilemma of sorts. I would be willing to bet that my landlord would not allow me to have a pet. I can’t risk finding out if I am wrong about this because, once I ask the question, the proverbial cat, or dog in this case, would be out of the bag. There is a chance that someone at the Embassy might want a puppy, I will see if there is a noticeboard where her appearance in my life could be announced. I could send her back on her own, as I did the four pups, but she is definitely too small for that now, and I don’t know how she would do on her own for the 20-hour layover that exists for the connection from Istanbul to Boston that I took with the puppies, the only non-stop flight I could find.
It was so much easier to take the first two as accompanied baggage than it was to ship the second four as cargo, and there was no cost difference, the decision that remains is whether I will take a mid-year flight back and, if so, can I keep her stashed and out of sight for 2-3 months? I won’t be able to house-train her, people in the building would see us coming and going and, for all I know, pets aren’t allowed in the apartment complex at all. I might bundle her into my knapsack at night, which was how I was able to have not one, but two, kittens in my dorm room at medical school, and spirit her away for a romp in the park, but that will be all that I imagine I will be able to do.
I have found two vets near here, 2-3 kilometers, but it is definitely too far for me to walk. So my next challenge will be to figure out how to get there. I know my neighbors would be happy to help me, but I don’t want them to know she is in the apartment. So I am plotting to ask the group of teachers whom I will start training next week whether one of them, or one of their students, would call us a taxi, accompany me to the apartment to get Bhakti where I will load her into my knapsack to take her out (and in), and then go the vet with us to translate. Maybe I will be as lucky here as I was in Kathmandu and one of the vets will speak English. But whatever the case, she will need her vaccinations if she is going to travel and, once again, I am going to have to find a travel crate, sooner rather than later, in case she gets discovered and I have to get her to the States sooner rather than later.
Once again, I have redone my budget. Once again, I spending money I can ill afford to spend at the moment. But for me, there is no turning back. Sometimes she just sits on my chest and gazes quizzically into my eyes with her drooping eyes, outlined in beige fur beneath a darker brow, as if she has something to say to me and expects me to know what it is, and I can do nothing more than laugh and sigh at finding myself once again sitting between the paws of a pup. She has the same funny doggy mole with a few hairs sticking out of it on the side of her snout, just like Lakshmi had. Déjà vu.
When I am in my 90’s and forced to live on Medicaid because my savings ran out and Social Security went belly up, will I regret what I have done now? No.
Would I look back at 83, having been diagnosed with some disease that will lead to my demise long before my savings run out, with regret that I was too selfish to help an animal in need when I could? Without a doubt, the answer would have been – Yes.