Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mutthu dear

The homecoming
In the afternoon of this day last week, as I sat at my desk scripting a course in geriatrics, I was suddenly jolted by the cries of what sounded like an animal in distress. I rushed to the window to find out was going on.... and there I saw a little brown pup with a black snout under my window, across the street, sitting on a patch of grass, looking up at the sky and howling! Without wasting any time in thought, I made a dash for the stairs. By the time I had run down three flights of stairs, the pup was no longer where I had seen it from my window. I went up and down the street looking everywhere—even under the bricks and stones. I was about to give up when suddenly I spotted the brown thing again at an adjacent construction site precariously standing amongst heavy machinery and deafening noise and laborers busy at work. It was hungrily lapping up water from a stagnant muddy puddle. I asked the men whether it belonged to them and they said no. I did not need any further confirmation. That was enough for me to pick up the pup and bring it home.

“You seem to be a fine little puppy,” I said to the pup as I placed it on my balcony in answer to its vigorously wagging tail. To which it wagged its tail some more. I put some water before it and it seemed to drink endless quantities! I crushed some biscuits and offered it and the biscuits vanished within no time. Not for a moment did it stop wagging its little tail. That is how crazy a little pup can get! “Cleaning time”, I announced and puppy seemed to understand and did not resist much as I sponged its little body with dettol and water. It had a soft mane, like it would melt in my palms....

Where did puppy come from?
With cleaning done and puppy fed, I made a little bed for it to rest. As it rested, I thought for the first time since I went to the window to investigate who the howls belonged to. I have never seen a pup in my area before. Of all the localities, the locality where I live is one of the few perhaps where the BBMP (the municipal body of Bangalore) has done a good job with their dog neutering programme. I can say with certainty that all dogs in this locality are neutered. By that logic, puppy couldn’t have been born in this area. Also, it was all alone; there was no sign of any other pup or its mother. I was certain it had been “dumped” by somebody from some other locality. Interestingly, puppy had a small red “tika” on its forehead prompting me to think that whoever dumped it did not have bad intentions afterall. The person had perhaps made an invocation to Mother Nature to do the best for the pup. To this day I recall with amusement and wonder at how little pup, from among the numerous houses lined on the street, chose to howl under my house. And I shall always be grateful for this opportunity.

The next steps
Then, I dialed Achala. As I spoke to her, I could see little pup’s steady gaze on me and wondered what it was thinking. I felt a little foolish discussing pup with it being within earshot but my human instincts told me to go on, “It’s a pup afterall!” Nevertheless, I felt foolish. Achala advised me to organize a general health check-up for puppy. Also, she was holding another puppy adoption camp two days hence, so I had an opportunity to take puppy there and find it a good home. I must state at this point that it is against my personal policy to put up any animal that I rescue for adoption because I believe I too can provide animals all that they require to live comfortably and happily. BUT, at this point the circumstances of my life are such that I may be able to provide them, love, affection, food, and water, however I will not be able to guarantee them freedom to the degree they require. There is very little freedom for them in the current apartment house that I am staying at—there is no garden, nor a lawn. Besides, it is against the law to lock up any animal in a closed apartment for extended periods of time. With me away in office during the day time, locking an animal for 10 hours in a closed apartment with no escape route in case of an emergency is an abject crime.

The first night
Little pup, I soon discovered was a very happy-go-lucky thing, always ready to play, jump, hop, and wag its little tail. It had a gigantic appetite and I was scared that its stomach would burst from all the eating. It would follow me everywhere in the house, never losing sight of me. I never saw it walking, it always ran and as it did, stumbled, got up, and ran again. As I cooked, it sat watching my every move. It cried when I went from one room to the other as though to say “Why you leaving me!” I could understand its insecurity which perhaps came from the events in its little past. But very, very interestingly, it never cried when I went to the bathroom and locked the door behind me! It just sat outside patiently waiting for me to come out. “Gosh who sent you with all that intelligence, you are not even one foot high!”, I thought.

Suddenly late in the night it started crying loudly. “You have everything that you need, why you crying now, especially at this hour when little puppies should be fast asleep!”, I admonished little puppy. In answer puppy yelped louder! I thought perhaps it is remembering its mother and the life it had left behind and needed to clam down. So I promptly put on Reiki music. I have read that animals and plants are wonderfully receptive to Reiki energies and soft, soothing music. Lo and behold, that did it! Pup steadily calmed down, directed its little ears towards the direction of the speakers, closed its eyes, and was soon fast asleep. The following day I got more clues as to why pup was feeling restless.

The health check-up and a general health note
The following morning my door bell rang at 7:30 am and there stood a smiling Dr. Srinivasan, our good "flying" animal doctor with his mobile medical van. He had arrived to conduct a health check-up for puppy. Puppy was game to any kind of fuss around him; he consented without a protest to all sorts of examinations. Finally, Doctor pulled puppy’s eyes wide and declared, “Very, very healthy puppy, very friendly.” From some symptoms I described to him, Doctor administered a solution for diarrhea and de-worming.

For the information of anyone who rescues pups, it is important to be aware of the other side of the coin: the health angle. Most pups born on the streets get stomach infection through their mother’s milk (because the mother may not be getting the best of food) or if the mother is not around to nurse them, then through the garbage and rotten food the pups may be consuming. This results in the following two conditions that may exist simultaneously: diarrhea and worms. Mother Nature is so wise and thoughtful that even little pups have a high threshold for tolerating adverse conditions and can continue to be active despite diarrhea and the presence of worms. It is only after a certain point that these conditions become life-threatening. My pup visibly had loose motions with specks of blood—confirming that it was carrying worms. Doctor’s medicines worked very quickly—within a day diarrhea was cured and so did all the parasites clear from its stomach. “Poor little puppy” I thought, “Carrying all those living organisms in your stomach must have been quite demanding.” After the worms cleared, little puppy did not eat anything much for almost a day—as there were no worms making demands for food! I also understood why it may be crying all of a sudden the previous night. It could be because of the tormenting worms.

How puppy got his name
One of these days, my good friend Vj living nearby came to meet little puppy. In the first few minutes of the meeting little puppy got his name: Mutthu! At first I thought the name was too regional but then gave in to my friend’s rationale that Mutthu is born on the soil of south India, afterall. Over and above that, little Mutthu seemed to like his name and started to respond on call! From the second day onwards, little Mutthu started to get independent. He no longer frantically followed me; I guess he sensed I was here to stay. He also started to  display his naughty side—trying to bite off the wires of my computer, extension chords, and mobile charger! He did not spare my friend’s fingers either! Little Mutthu was teething. So, all this biting was normal. On the night of the second day, he suddenly started to cry again. “Now that your worms have gone, what are you crying for!”
This time, he demonstrated a peculiar style of crying. He held on to the contours of my chair with his two little front paws as he cried. I had to rake my head to understand what that meant. I lifted him and placed him on the cushioned chair. Mutthu gave me a satisfied look and promptly went into a deep sleep! And for the next one and a half days Mutthu stayed with me, he never slept on the bed I had made for him on the floor. He always slept on the cushioned chair and each time I sat on the chair that was now “his”, he made it a point to whine and get him lifted onto it! I just wondered what naughtiness lay in store when within a few weeks he will be capable of jumping on the chair himself!

The adoption
Thirteenth of September arrived very fast. It was the day of the adoption camp. That day I found two distinct personalities within me. One of them was dressing herself up and getting Mutthu ready to take to the camp and the other was hoping that something untoward would happen and the camp would get canceled. Not necessarily, but anything that would make Mutthu stay with her. MD wrote that I should keep Mutthu but she doesn’t understand the “freedom” part of the deal of keeping a pet that I tried to explain at the beginning of this post. As I sat holding Mutthu in the auto rixa, with every kilometer covered, one part of me badly wanted to turn back; it even cooked a story to tell everybody of how the camp had been a disaster. But then the other part said, “Do you have the right to make a sprightly animal a prisoner in your little apartment?” Mutthu raised his head to look at me from time to time. I don’t even what to guess what he may be thinking. With the two personalities squabbling amongst eachother, we finally reached the camp traveling almost 30 kilometers.

All the volunteers welcomed Mutthu with warm hugs. Gradually, the pups started arriving. There were many media photographers as well as amateur ones. There was the local TV channel too. We had to tell the photographers not to flash on the eyes of the pups too much. They wanted endless poses! Mutthu was quite disturbed by the din of the place, therefore either me or some volunteer had to constantly carry him so that he would not run away through the gaps in the tent. I discovered that unlike Mutthu, the other pups were quietly sleeping in their baskets. I wondered that he must really be a free soul and I prayed that he gets a home with lots of space to play in!

The camp started at 10 am and until 4 pm Mutthu hadn’t got adopted. One part of me rejoiced, while the other was concerned. I had refused Mutthu to two families already because they just did not give me the “right vibes”. I am glad that I did. I had made up my mind that I am going to keep refusing him to anyone who does not give me the proper vibes. Then, around 4 pm a lady walked in with her three kids, gave one glance at the pups and put her hands on Mutthu and another pup and said, “I want to adopt two puppies!”. It all happened very quickly. I had no time to refuse; worst, I had no reasons to refuse. The lady was extremely decisive; unlike others, she did not spend hours comparing the pups, her eyes were honest and kind and what’s more the family was vegetarian! I had always wanted Mutthu to go to a vegetarian home and learn to appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables. And this is not all; the family lived in rural Bangalore in a spacious house with acres of land around the house.

Very soon we were in a room completing the adoption formalities. The volunteers were recording Mutthu’s details and those of the other pup and explaining to the lady the terms and conditions of the adoption. Mutthu received his shots for rabies and distemper from the camp doctor and the other pup received his too. And the next thing I saw was the family carrying both the pups and walking away.

The story does not end here
Despite everything, I still felt that I had abandoned little Mutthu. My good friend G from France who has four animals in her farm, out of which two are rescued, tried her best to comfort me and convince me that I did not abandon Mutthu but had acted in his best interests. While I know this is true, the part of me that kept suggesting me to turn away from the camp had gone ballistic with grief. The only way to calm it was to keep in touch with the family and take Mutthu’s updates. And in any case, part of the terms and conditions is that the family has to agree to follow-ups. Mutthu’s new family readily agreed, in fact they were more than welcoming! That was again a positive sign. A day after the camp, I called them up to ask how the pups were doing. “Mutthu is running around in the garden and playing with us and the other pup is sleeping,” they said. Incidentally I had told them Mutthu’s name and added that if they so do wish to, they can change it. I was elated when they said they liked the name and wished to continue with it. “We are having a namkaran (name giving ceremony) for the other pup after two weeks, can you come?” they asked me. “Of course I will be there!”, I said. After some general chit-chat about puppy care and how clever and intelligent Mutthu is, we hung up.

I was at peace at last. I got a thumbs up from the part of me that had tried encouraging me to scoot from the camp with Mutthu and what a relief its approval brought to me! This does not mean I do not miss Mutthu, I still do. I still gaze at the spot I had first seen him from my window and in my mind’s eye I can see him squatting there and howling....