It’s an early Sunday afternoon and we are rushing to reach the place where we usually had our breakfast. We wait at the signal and a regular sight from Indian roads meets our eyes – an Indian ‘stray’ dog struggling to cross the road, wagging its tail tentatively at each passer-by and gazing up at every vehicle in an attempt to reach out to those inside. The definition of “stray” in the literal sense, applied to this dog – she looked lost, wandered around, drifted from one corner of the footpath to the other and clearly seemed direction-less. Yes, that in totality is a ‘stray’.
Anyhow, we stopped by on our way back, noticed her yet again and fed her. This continued for about 3-4 weeks, every Sunday. One Sunday, 21st July, 2013, we decided to stop a while longer. After feeding her my husband and a couple of our friends who were with us, decided to interact with her. She had a three-coloured coat, a gentle lamb-like demeanour, golden eyes and no voice. She was comfortable with human beings, seemed to be well-trained and knew a lot of the basic commands. And we knew that afternoon, that she was an abandoned dog.
You will probably sympathize with her and shake your head in resigned acceptance that this was becoming such a common thing these days. Since you are reading this on this blog, you love or like dogs and will also be angry that yet another such story seems to be emerging.
But what is the first thought that hits you when I tell you that she is an abandoned dog aged 9 ½ years old, with some teeth already fallen. In dog years, she’s extremely old and the abandonment had made her weaker. She couldn’t seem to fend for herself and had a bewildered look in her eyes trying to make some sense of what was happening to her.
We got her home and named her Hope, because we felt that her spirit was far stronger than her physical condition and her age belied her underlying strength of character. We had debated about adopting a second dog, but our plan for Hope was to try and see which shelter she could be sent to so that she is able to spend the twilight of her life in love, comfort and warmth. But she was too old to survive in a shelter and deep in our hearts, we knew that we would yet again fail – in giving her up to a shelter. Because, we don’t abandon those we love and we don’t give up on them.
She didn’t bark for the first one month that she was with us. My domestic help analysed it as trauma due to being left by her family and she was right.
Imagine your emotional state if you didn’t have a voice, were almost 70 years old and frail, left on the road by your family, without any money and every time you returned to your house where you’ve been since birth, someone would stone or beat you, till you were too frightened to return.
To add to that imagine your physical state, when you have to scavenge for food without knowing where to find it, avoid fights with others who are battle-hardened by spending years on the road and try to learn how beg for food.
Imagine your mental state, when desperation hits you to such an extent that you cannot find a dry or warm place to sleep even on the footpath, or your vision blurs due to age and so you cannot dare to cross the road for the fear of being run over.
All these 3 states, each day without any end in sight – Get the picture?
To be very honest, I don’t recall my immediate thoughts when I realized that Hope’s family had abandoned her due to her old age, except for the shock, anger, pain and helplessness. But when I sit back today, after a year, I know my thoughts- such an offence should be punishable by death.
Too harsh a sentence? I urge you to go back to the three states I shared above, create those states for one single day of the year in your life and think again how to deal with such a situation. I believe your soul will answer your question, in a split second.
For me, when my 20 month old son hugs her or says “Hopey” my heart fills with pride – because I think in a small way, we have probably taught our son that no home is complete without Hope and sometimes getting that second chance in life, is far more beautiful than the first one itself, no matter how old you are.
Hope completes a year with us today – our little old girl barks with relish at other dogs, loves her chicken and rice, jumps at the chance of a quick walk and growls back if Elsa (our other canine girl) tries to trouble her. It has taken her a year to revert to her “doggy-ness”, but we are very happy she made the journey.
~Guest post by Simran.