I have finally accepted what is. I have become a PPP (Pied Piper of Puppies). Whereas I used to rescue every cat in sight, it is dogs who are coming to me while I am in Asia and I realize that I just need to let go and let whoever is responsible for orchestrating my life take the lead. I keep saying to myself “no more” and then there is one more. I keep saying “I can’t afford it”, which I can’t, and then readjust my budget once again to include one more stray soul. If the Hindus are correct, I will have a whole passel of dogs escorting me into the afterlife.
I now have four pups to bring back to the U.S. in January. Two just over a year old, two 3-4 months now. Two are boarded; two are with me, but will also be boarded if my landlord objects. But she was here for over and hour earlier this week, and never knew that there was a sleeping pup in the bedroom closet. We shall see if I can manage to hide my contraband for another 3 months.
All are sweet, gentle dogs, except for nipping in excitement. I understand that biting stops around seven months, too late for me, however. I am learning how to give a high pitched squeak to be released from a puppy-play-with-me hold, and and learning how to train a dog to heel. We already have “sit” down pat. That was very easy to teach for some reason. Slowing down and not fighting me or the leash when walking is not quite as easy. But I figure that there are millions of dog-owners out there with well-behaved dogs, so I just have to keep it.
Let me tell you about Shakti 2 and Musleem: Shakti looks like a larger version of Bhakti – brindle — but Samir is a fluffy black dog with white accents. While he looks like he must be some breed to me, the vet assures me he is mixed like all the others.
We met one day last week as I was coming out of meeting at a hotel. They were playing on the lawn across the street from the hotel. As I always carry dog biscuits, I joined them on the lawn.
Shakti was happy to sit right next to me; Musleem was a bit more reticent.
Musleem doesn’t look like most of the strays. He looked more like a pet to me. But he was dirty and did not have a collar and they were obviously a pair of some sort. Shakti does look like a stray. She is thinner, obviously has recently given birth but given her own youth, I doubt any puppies survived.
It was clear right from the beginning that they would both make lovely pets. I wished I had brought more food and water, as they gobbled up what I had quite quickly. Shakti was a slower eater; Musleem wolfed it down.
So I said to them:
If you come home with me, I will give you more food.
I got up to leave and, sure enough, there they were, following right behind me. My house was about a ten minute walk. They would follow for a bit and then would take off.
That’s it. They have gone on to their usually stray dog daily affairs. I would think.
Then I would see them from a distance playing with each other and smile.
But then they would come back…
They followed me all the way home and waited, still romping, while I brought down more food.
I then brought out Bhakti for her midday walk. We walked to the park and so did Shakti and Samir. I have no idea what anyone in the park thought, a woman with one dog on a leash and two others following. I am quite sure that I was already the “talk of the neighborhood”, but just as most everyone ignores dogs, I too am, for the most part ignored, except when the rare dog-lover clicks their tongue at Bhakti and she goes running over to be cooed over and have her ears rubbed. Then I always thank whoever it is.
We came home and there we were outside my apartment again.
Well, at least I can get them spayed and neutered.
So I called my vet.
In the meantime, we parked ourselves in the dirt parking lot behind my apartment and waited.
I sat in the dirt, the puppy and the female (Bhakti and Shakti) were in love with one another. Finally, Bhakti had a friend, although I knew there was no way I could add a full-grown pup into my apartment and, besides, she was obviously Musleem’s best buddy. I would not separate them. We were there for almost two hours, napping, playing, neither of them made any attempt to leave, me sitting in the dirt along side of them. And all I could think was:
They would both make lovely pets….
Musleem and Shakti are now staying with a vet (one of the only two in town) who lives outside of Dushanbe in a huge walled in compound with 8 other stray dogs. One of them, an emaciate black and white puppy apparently recently showed up. The thought passed my mind…
Could I bring him too?
The fee for boarding them for $50/month each, a bargain. And I am relieved to know that if my landlord ever finds out that I have a dog at my apartment and object, I know have a place to send them. It is not the Ritz, nor do they get the same attention they got from the people with whom I left the pups in Nepal, but they are, at least, safe and fed.
They will be de-fleaed, vaccinated, spayed and neutered and will, on January 9th travel with Bhakti to the U.S. to find forever homes in Vermont.
Bhakti and I met Sarita today on our walk, not 2” from the apartment.
Floppy ears, black with caramel trim, and a curly tail, I handed Bhakti’s leash to a hotel guard who was standing and watching us, and who assured me she was a street puppy. He accepted it without complaint. Then I picked the puppy up, reclaimed Bhakt’s leash and she let me carry home with us without a peep, just as Musleem had done when he accidently escaped from the boarding kennel because of a faulty collar. Unlike feral cats, these stray dogs are the most docile of creatures. I don’t understand it. Now she is in my kitchen getting acclimated on her own.
The kitten I rescued for a colleague who was wishing he had a cat is here for a few days while her new owner delivers another workshop in the city is in the bedroom. And Bhakti is the hallway. I have a pet hotel of sorts. It all seems very familiar and, oddly enough, somehow “normal”.
Bhakti has now been crate-trained and will sleep alone tonight. But it is my hope that eventually the two puppies will become friends. Bhakti, like Lakshmi, also at this time last year and at the same age, desperately needs someone to play with. In this way, puppies are like kittens – pairs (or more) keep themselves occupied. One alone becomes lonely and testy at times as a result.
And so, I have started a new business – Forever Homes for Asian Pups. Officially founded on October 13, 2019, the day I met Sarita. I have decided that, at the very least, I might as well deduct all my expenses for what has obviously become a personal cottage industry, and I will definitely be accepting donations, either via snail mail at the following address: 5553 Hogan Lane, Winter Haven, FL 33884, or, for those who prefer online transactions, I will start an online crowd-funding campaign momentarily, as I was already planning to do for Shakti 1 in Nepal. The two Shaktis look alike, hence they have the same name.
Funny what life brings… I think it is fair to say that no one will ever be able to accuse me of being a “cat lady” ever again. They will, however, most assuredly, think that I am crazy. Even I think I am crazy, but it feels right to me to be this kind of “crazy”and so I go to bed content each night knowing that at least four more souls will one day have their own forever homes in the green mountains of Vermont.
A week after I wrote this post, my vet and I went out to see Musleem and Shakti.
Is this your dog? He said showing me a picture of Musleem on his phone.
This post from Facebook, these people saying give me back my dog. Me not call. I remember now. I treat him. Him little. Distemper he had.
It’s a small world… Call them, for goodness sake! If he has a home, that is great.
It also made sense to me that he had a home. I had wondered about him; he was not the usual type of stray that one sees. Apparently, because he had not been neutered, he wandered after the sweet female he had found and she, in turn, had followed me, bringing him along. When I spoke to his owner, who had impeccable English, I suggested that she get him neutered or he will just wander off again.
At the boarding house, both were happy to see me, cuddled and, had they been cats, they would have been purring. They had only spent the one day with me but they knew me. I can’t help but wonder in what lifetime we were previously connected. I love this Shakti even more than the first one I rescued and whom I am still supporting in Nepal. Of all the dogs I have rescued thus far, she is the first that makes me wish I could take her home.
So apparently Musleem’s owners were in a state of upheaval because the daughter was hysterical without her dog. So I bid my farewell and, presumably, he went home later that day.
We never even knew his actual name.
The vet suggested that I take the little black and white puppy instead and, of course, I agreed. If anyone looks like they need a little loving, it would be him. His name is Samir.
I am not sure what I am going to do if any more puppies show up. My logical self says that I have to stop rescuing canines sooner or later. Apart from the expense, the supply is endless. One woman at the Humane Society said,
You could help 50 dogs with what you are spending on the ones you brought back.
I find that this idea that helping a few is somehow less valuable than helping large numbers to be a curious perspective. I actually did pay for 100 dogs to get rabies vaccines but, like the ones I am importing, they are dogs that I have met in person, with whom I feel some connection.
I am reminded of how statistics are used to determine who gets tested for what, and when, in the U.S. health care system. For example, they tell women not to worry about getting breast scans until age 40 because statistically few women get cancer before them. But for the 35 year old who DOES get cancer, well, those five years of waiting to get their first scan is a death sentence.
Like the 35-year old with breast cancer, telling me to spend my money on 50 dogs is a death sentence for the 11 rescues whom I rescued. What is the value of a life? Who decides who is more deserving, and who is not? Why do those 50 dogs deserve more than my 11? Certainly, I don’t have an answer to this question, but I know that analyzing a situation in terms of simple statistics leaves out the very real truth that we are all in this life together, touching one another’s lives in different ways.
I think that there is a place for people who deal with volume, i.e. statistics, and a place for those of us who just want to help one, or two, (or more) individuals who cross our paths. I don’t think either approach is better or worse than the other, I just know that I fall in the latter category. That is, I need to help the ones that I can see, touch, and smell, the ones with whom I experience an actual real-world connection. The hypothetical 50 dogs do not speak to me. The one emaciated black-and-white puppy does… and deeply so.