Sunday, September 2, 2012

Operation Live Long and Prosper

Last Monday, walking back from Medical Anthropology with some friends, we came across a very tiny black puppy. And NO, this does not go where you're thinking... at least not yet.
We had all seen him before in the various times that we walk across campus, but this time he was sitting in the middle of the road and howling. I don't know what came over me, but I knew that I needed to get that puppy. 
Live Long and Prosper Bitches
So I did. I walked over, followed him for a second and then picked him up. He really was ridiculously tiny with a comically oversized head. However, as I was walking back to where my friends were I realized that he was absolutely covered in bugs. Like, his skin looked like it was moving. I realized that he needed more attention that I could currently give him (I was on my way to a meeting), so my sense of reason took over and I placed the puppy back on the ground, assuring him that I'd come back for him. 
As we finished walking back to Tagore I came up with a plan; Operation Live Long and Prosper. After my meeting (which literally took 5min), I went back to my room and Googled "animal shelters in Hyderabad India." To my pleasant surprise, my search brought me answers in the first link. I was directed to the homepage of Blue Cross Animal Shelter, a no-kill animal shelter that focuses on finding homes for India's stray animals. It was perfect. There was even a printable volunteer application! I had everything I needed... except the puppy. 
I still had to go to Urdu at 4, so I threw a towel in my bag and went to hitch a ride from a motor bike to the Humanities Building. My friend Connor and I usually walk back from Urdu together, so as we began I filled him in on Operation LL&P. He was in, as any creature with a heart would be. The only kink in my plan was that while we were in Urdu a storm blew in, and as we were walking the skies opened up on us and it began to torrentially pour. Despite the rain, we went back to where I had found the puppy earlier, but like any good street-dog he had run off to seek shelter. He was obviously smarter than us, because we continued to look for him calling, "Puppy! Puppy!!" for at least 15-20min. Disappointed, but facing the facts, I cursed fate and we began to walk home. Luckily, two men in a car offered us a ride back, even though we were soaked. Sometimes I like Indians. 
Later that night I tried not to focus on my puppy, but I was still thinking about him. I worried if he had enough food and if he had suitable shelter for the whole night? I hoped the other dogs were nice to him despite his "bug" problem. 
Really, it's not my fault this is the way I am. My grandmother was also a notorious dog-lover and I was practically raised outside with a dog at my side. I openly admit to liking animals more than people (no offense, sometimes people are great too). But no animal has ever lied to me, crossed me, or said hateful things. No animal has ever started a war (well, except Chimps...) and they generally only kill to feed themselves. 
While I do completely trust and believe that animals are capable of taking care of themselves, it physically pains me to see an animal destitute due to human interference. I mean, if people could tell their pets that they lost their job and have to move into an apartment that doesn't allow animals and that they're not willingly being put into a shelter, maybe I would look at life differently. But that's not how things work. 
It is actually impossible for anyone to communicate to that puppy that his mom was probably killed or collected by humans, or that stray populations in urban areas make his chances at survival infinitesimal, which is why he is hungry and sick and scared. 
Maybe this is just me being all "lovey" and such, but I see it as an attribute rather than a flaw. My love for animals and contempt for humans makes me more human. Sometimes I like to think that my spirit animal could be a snail, because I'm tough, hard, and kind of cool lookin' on the outside, but I'm just squishy, soft, and slimy underneath.  
I decided that I would continue to look for my puppy every time I passed his way, which is nearly every time I go to class. So for the rest of the week I went to class with a towel in my bag and everyday after Urdu Connor and I got off our bikes and looked for him. I really tried not to worry about him, which is actually very hard since I have obsessive thought disorder, and I left everything up to fate. 
Saturday was a beautiful day. It was sunny, hot, and after lunch we went to explore some old tombs that turned out to be awesome. We had riden our bikes to the Main Gate to catch a bus to the tombs, and on our way back to Tagore guess who I saw sitting in the road. Damn right. It was my puppy.
I pulled over and picked up my puppy. He didn't even try to tun away, so I assumed he remembered me and was agreeing to accept my love. But alas! There were two more puppies too! They were small enough to perhaps be my puppy's siblings, but they were different colors and looked better. But I'm a firm believer in No Puppies Left Behind, so I handed off my puppy to Connor and went in search for the other two. 
I lost one in some bushes, but I was able to encourage/chase one into the corner of a building. Upon trying to pick him up, he bit me. I tried again and succeeded. So I carried him by the scruff over to the others, who were crowding around my puppy, "oohing" and "aahing". The second puppy looked, and was, much healthier than my puppy, and since one puppy is enough of a handful I set him back down to run off with his equally-healthy sibling (still in the bushes). 
I took my scarf out of my bag, unwound it from around my camera, and swaddled my puppy in it. Diana, who was riding on the back of Connor's bike, carried him back to Tagore. Now, one of the most crucial aspects of Operation LL&P was to safely get my puppy into Tagore and have him stay through the night without any of the staff knowing. Obviously, I would have taken all the blame if we/I was found out, but I didn't want to deal with having to pretend I was sorry for something I would more than likely end up doing again. 
So outside the gates of Tagore, mere feet from the security guards, we transferred my puppy into my Kavu-patch bag. Holding my breath, I breached the gate, parked and locked my bike, and walked though the front door. It was tense, but my puppy pulled through like a champ. Diana and I quickly changed and met in the bathroom to give him a bath, in an attempt to get some of the bugs off him. We managed get a lot of them off, but he was still fairly covered by the time we called it quits. The bath was long and exhausting, be he only ever cried when we got too much water on his head, an unfortunate necessity since the bugs were also crawling over his face. 
I sat and dried him off while Diana went down to get him some chicken from dinner. He gobbled it up, but as soon as he was full he PTFOed on my lap. He was out cold, and who can blame him? And amazingly, besides a few girls who passed us on their way to shower, no one realized why there was such a mess in the bathroom...
Fate stepped in again when my roommate, Alana, got the package she had been waiting for, which was shipped in a nice big box. We lined the bottom with towels and let him sleep. Thankfully Alana is also an animal person, so having him in our room for the night was no big deal. She also didn't mind watching him as I was escorted to the hospital later in the night (see previous post). 
Oogy in his Box
I woke up this morning bright and early, around 9:30, to a quiet, bright-eyed puppy peering up at me from his box. Everyone was preparing to leave for an organic market at 10, so I got ready and we headed out with them. I had the address of the animal shelter with me, including a map I got off the internet, but I still figured we'd have a hard time finding the place, because this is India after all. I was super right. 
I got a rickshaw at South Gate, showed him the map and he agreed to take us. It was just me and Oogy ("my puppy" was christened Oogy Boogy due to his bug affliction) headed to shelter, so I had him on my lap for some of the ride. However, he quickly became terrified so I put him back in my bag where he burrowed back down in the corner between my hand and scarf. Our ride was abruptly called to a halt when my rickshaw driver stopped to ask for directions, then told me to change rickshaws. So we got into our second rickshaw and continued. 
Once we got to the neighborhood where the shelter was located (a richer, suburban area of the city), we were obviously and completely lost. The driver started to ask everyone we passed if they knew where the Blue Cross Animal Shelter was. No one really did, and some said just that, but others still pointed us in the "right" direction until we were basically going in circles. Eventually someone did know what he was talking about and we finally arrived. 
I got the rickshaw to wait at the driveway, while I walked through the gate and up the hill to check everything out. It turned out to be quite a nice facility. We waited around for about 10min, but then were seen by a doctor. The vet immediately identified the "bugs" as fleas (gross) and then proceeded to rub Oogy in this baby-powder/anti-flea stuff. Oogy was so small and covered that they actually just poured some on the table then turned him over and rubbed him in it like they were flouring a chicken for dinner. Once I told the vet that I couldn't keep Oogy, he told me I was free to go after I filled out some paperwork. 
I knew how this story would end as soon as Operation Live Long and Prosper first began to formulate in my squishy, snail-like brain, but that certainly did not make things easier. It was simply heart-breaking when I put Oogy on the exam table and he immediately pressed his little body as close to mine as possible. But I know I made the best choice. Oogy would never have survived on the streets and hopefully he'll now have a chance to be adopted by a local family.
As I was filling out Oogy's paperwork I also dropped off my volunteer application. The guy at the desk said that I could come by whenever I wanted, and when I asked what I'd be doing he just just kind of gave the Indian head nod and said "helping." Touche India, touche. 

1 comment:

  1. Lovely story, and a great way to tell it. Simple and touching. Congratulations for this post and for being such a nice person. I bet living in India must be a very eye-opening experience. Good luck with your studies and keep on writing, you do it well. Best regards,

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