Funny thing about unforeseen circumstances arising when one is in a foreign land like when someone bounces a puppy into one’s front yard with their car and, literally, you are the only person in the vicinity of the assault who has any idea what to do with it, is that you end up having to engage in transactions which you expected to find yourself as you try to respond to the sudden shift in the landscape of your life. In a just a heartbeat, for example, you can go to not-having-a-puppy state of existence to a having-a-puppy one. Your only choice really is to try to rise to the occasion as best you can.
If you ever want to see a town that is not dog-friendly, then Dushanbe is it, although I have been informed by one of my colleagues living outside of the capital that things are much worse elsewhere. Here, in Dushanbe, they periodically come in and euthanize all the strays, so there aren’t that many around to begin with and, with the exception of one, whose image still haunts me, the few that are around don’t look that bad.
I found only two vets listed for a city of just over three quarters of a million people, which tells you something already. Plus one veterinary pharmacy which is the only place in town where I was told by her vet, who came to the house thank god (that’s one similarity to Nepal), I would be able to find a small collar and least.
For this seemingly modest adventure, I had to have someone at the college call to make sure that the pharmacy was open and then order me a taxi. The pharmacy isn’t really that far as the crow flies but, now having been there, I strenuously doubt that ever would have found it myself on foot. I made the right choice. The taxi cost a little under $3.00, 70-80 cents of which was spend waiting for the customer a
A nondescript building, tired and work out looking, as if it had sat where I found it for decades prior to, and after, any beautification of the city projects had come to town. It could have been a shop front in Nepal, Rwanda, or the Comoros for that matter, the ubiquitous single story block of cement with a door and some signage.
In these case, there were two doors, one opened into two rooms, one to each side of the door. Each was about 12 feet long, maybe 6 feet deep and the back was was basically a half-wall of glass (?could be clear plastic) behind which was displayed a dizzying array of boxes of various shapes and sizes, identifiable only as veterinary supplies by the occasional picture of a cat or a dog on some of the packaging. The lower half of the wall was wood paneling of some sort, behind which I am sure more shelves of products were hidden out of sight.
Various people were chatting, no one even acknowledged my presence. I finally caught the eye of one man who was ducking out of a doorway in the wood under the glass wall, pointed to my neck to indicate a collar and said “puppy” (I had studied the word for ‘dog’ but, when I needed it, it was nowhere to be found. He pointed me outside and toward the second door in the face of the cement block. This opened into an even smaller space, maybe 4 feet wide and 8 feet long, excluding the boxes stacked at one end, with another half-wall of products on display but this time, and perhaps in the other rooms as well, I hadn’t noticed, there was a square opening, maybe 2 feet by 2 feet, where the clerk for the shop sat and waited for the next unsuspecting customer to peer in to find him.
When I arrived at the shop, two rather large men were engaged with the shopkeeper in a great debate of some sort over what one of them was trying to buy. However, by sticking my head in, I could see a set of hooks with leashes on them over the left front corner of the shop. I squeezed my way past the man standing in front of it. He didn’t appear to even notice me, I could have been a fly whizzing by and he might have paid more attention so, indeed, I had to push past him.
Finally at my destination, I gazed with some consternation at the wall in front of me. Sure, there were leashes but they all looked like they belonged on a mastiff or a Rottweiler, they were that large. The three men continued to argue, apparently oblivious to my presence. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, the longer I was cornered in the leash display, the more I noticed. I found a thin rope leash with some sort of harness that I couldn’t quite figure out attached to it. It looked like it might be small enough. I decided that I would figure out how it worked when I had a dog to stick into it. (In fact, it wasn’t, but almost small enough, maybe in another couple of weeks, it will do.) Still no collar. After standing for some more time, crammed into the corner with the limited selection of collars and leashes, I took a second look at the smallest collar, which I had disregarded initially because I still thought I would find some cute little puppy collars like the ones I found in Nepal, with little bells on them. Of course, I had found one such collar at the “mall” (subject of another post), for cats but, when I got it home, it turned out to be some sort of break away affair that fell open at the slightest tug. Safe for cats, useless for puppies.
The collar at which I was now begrudgingly taken a second look (what else was there to do in the corner, anyway?) was at least half and in wide and 8-10 inches long. It was about the size that I got for Lakshmi and Shiva when they outgrew their puppy collars in Nepal. Upon closer scrutiny, I discovered that, as wide and thick as it was, it could be made into quite a small circle, albeit with a great long end of maybe six inches sticking out from the clasp.
Well, she’ll grow into it.
My transaction, when the two men squeezed out the door with their package, was relatively simple. Drawing a picture of a flea and then doing scratching, got me what I hope is flea medicine to put on Bhakti’s neck. I’ll know when I open the tiny squirt thing whether I got that right or not. But the dirth of pet supplies (and vets) doesn’t stop at the veterinary pharmacy.
When you go to the supermarket, there is a whole wall of different kinds of cat food. No canned food however, dry food and the little vacuum-packed envelopes that are now the rage but are really not that cost effective. Next to it is a tiny shelf of dog food. I have only found one brand here so far. The store display makes it obvious what the preferred pet is in Tajikistan. Even the vet, competent and efficient, did his job but there was no ooohing and aaahing, cooing and cajoling that my vet did in Nepal. Certainly no big smile when Bhakti came bounding up to greet him. Owing to the contraband nature of her presence here, we don’t have any visitors. Despite Bhakti’s best efforts, he ignored any puppy cuteness that she came up with which included, but was not limited to, trying to climb into his bag or chew on its handle.
Dogs just do not bring anyone very much pleasure to anyone here, it would seem. Of course, I have to admit, my favorite times with Bhakti are when she is sleeping next to me, or when she looks at me with a quizzical face, as if she has something important to say. This is probably proof that, despite all my puppy escapades this past year, that I am still not really a dog lover. But I most certainly am an “old hand” at puppy care; under any circumstances, I am not to be deterred from doing the best I can if someone hands me a puppy. For example, when I couldn’t find a leash at the mall, I went online and learned how to do a slip knot. Then with much gesturing and several clerks, again at the “mall”, I managed to find some string. Of course, Bhakti had other ideas, she simply grabbed the string with her mouth and wouldn’t let go but, at least, in a pinch, I had a way to restrain her. In a way, my rescue work in Nepal prepared me for the more difficult task of rescuing a puppy in Tajikistan.
I have decided that, unless someone at the U.S. Embassy steps up to take her, I am going to get her the hell out of Dodge as fast as I can. Disapproving landlords notwithstanding, she needs to have a yar in which to play, people to teach her how to not walk underfoot, and to be in a place where people will be happy to see her. By the end of October, she’ll be the age that my last troupe of puppies was when they took their harrowing trip to the U.S. via Istanbul. I think that I am going to take a long weekend in Istanbul, where I’d like to spend more time anyway, and take her there as accompanied luggage and then personally put her onto the nonstop flight to Boston that I previously used. That is, I shall make sure she doesn’t get stuck in Istanbul for a day without food and water.
To be honest, she looks quite debonair in her new collar-that-I-thought-would-be-too-big. It makes her look more “grown-up”. I can’t imagine she won’t be snapped up in a heartbeat once she hits the U.S. Now for the next occasion to which I must rise, I have to figure out how to get someone to meet her in Boston and take her north to find her forever home in Vermont….