Pawprints on the Heart

Between Buttons’s adoption and his return in 2014, for whatever reason, I’d started to feed the streeties outside our place. One meal later, they put me on a pedestal I didn’t deserve. They would come to greet me every time I went outside on foot. They learnt to ‘sit’ on demand. We named them Alpha, Bib, Browns.

We lost Alpha a year later. He’d developed a tumor in his leg, the result of a fracture from when he was a puppy, and would have died on the streets if we’d left him alone. Instead, we had him taken to Sarvodaya, and that’s where, the next morning, they discovered that he’d passed away during the night. Alone, away from his friends.

Road to hell, paved with good intentions, still heads nowhere else.

For a while, that put us off our ‘activism.’ Who were we to interfere, Gow and I would say whenever we saw a dog that needed help. Perhaps we might make it worse.

We moved away. And met Appu and Appu2. I kid you not, that’s what we’ve named them.

We thanked God we found a landlord who didn’t have any issues with us keeping a dog, or letting the Appus stay on even after the apartments had come up. We had security guards who treated them indulgently. When a tenant complained that his wife was scared they would attack her, he was told, as politely as possible, that as the dogs were here before them, it might make more sense for him to move out.

Except for the fact that they aren’t in our apartment 24×7, the Appus are as much ours as is Buttons. Or, to be more precise, we are as much theirs as we are Buttons’s. They are the first to greet us when we come home; they’ll leave their food behind and risk it being eaten by the other just so that they can get a pat from us. When I took Buttons out for a walk, it was Appu who stood up to the neighboring street’s territorial dogs and ensured that they didn’t get closer to Buttons (who’s an absolute imbecile when it comes to dealing with other dogs in the right way!)

A few months later, we brought home Biscuit, a three-month-old Indy female. She got along famously with us, and we even have a shot of her lying on Buttu’s Butt. But she had severe anxiety issues and would scream the roof down if we left her at home. Behavioral therapy failed. She finally found a home on a farm where there would be wide open spaces to run around in, and plenty of cows to yodel at.

We fed another streetie, a very young mother. For a while, we would spot her scurrying along the service road. Not a single prayer went by in which she wasn’t mentioned. When we couldn’t see her anymore, we assumed she’d found a pack somewhere safer to run with.

Another chap, whom we called Happy after a nearby landmark, became a regular patron of our nighttime meal service because hardly a day went by when he wasn’t injured by a careless bike or a speeding cab. One day, he was nowhere to be found. A nearby shopkeeper remarked that he’d been hit one last time by a cab. Every time we cross that spot, I remember him jumping up on two legs as soon as I pulled into that lane. He was a Happy ‘un; wherever he is now, I hope he is even Happier.

Brownie, a streetie who lived on the Mahadevapura Main road, was another soul that touched us before leaving. He’d always been a little scrawny, but his rapid weight-loss alarmed us one day. We brought in a vet, caught him, brought him home and gave him a glucose drip. Blood tests revealed that his kidneys had failed, that it was already too late, and we left him back on the streets where he had his mother looking after him. One day, on her way to work, Gow noticed that he wasn’t moving; a few hours later, I found a shroud for him; in the evening, a good soul cremated what remained.

We came across Paiyyans on one of our house-hunting trips. A slab had fallen on him, lacerating his sides; but everytime it healed, it would itch and he would rub himself against a wall… and the wounds would open up again, bright red blood oozing out. He was a timid chap, perhaps made so by constant pain and injuries, but his neck of the road wasn’t patronized by any of the other dogs. We tried to capture him for treatment, but that seemed to traumatize him even more than the injuries, and we finally decided to let him be.

When we went to Bali this year, we’d already started him on medication. I made arrangements with a watchman nearby and Canine Cuisine to feed Paiyyans in our absence. Maybe it just got too much for him one day. When he didn’t show up for his breakfast one morning, the watchman went in search of him. He’d passed away in his sleep. My consolation? At least during those last few days, he was being fed regularly. He was happier than he had been. It hadn’t taken much to keep him happy, you know. Thirty rupees’ worth of meals a day was more than enough. You could spend thirty lakhs on a human and still not be able to bank on his/her loyalty.

The latest in an inadequate list of windmills is this little beauty we’ve named Ammukutty. She has a limp, and we suspected a spinal fusion/fracture when we first saw her skinny little butt finagling discards from a mutton stall on the main road. I feed her just one night, and the little tyke curls up on my feet to sleep for the night. The next time Gow and I saw her, we picked her up and took her to Dr. Lohit’s clinic where he’s cleared our fears of a spinal complication. Turns out it’s an improperly-fused back leg from a long-ago fracture. I was supposed to pick her up two days ago for releasing her back in her area, but, thanks to the Cauvery protests, she’s had an additional two days of R & R, and a bit of pampering.

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