By Dr. Kuhu Roy
Home was reeling under shock with two deaths, that of Butter and Matalu, in a span of less than three weeks, in November, 2019. The three of us were waking up every morning because we had to, there were precious lives that were dependent on us; at home, as well as on the streets, and their well-being could not be compromised at any cost. As for me, I had closed myself in a cocoon of unsurmountable sadness. My parents, leaving their own grief aside, were watching me miserably stuck. With no bereavement counselling and support groups in India to deal with the loss of a beloved animal companion, I knew I had no other option but to help my own self. My grief would take me somewhere, definitely. But from where and how to begin? What would set the ball rolling?
It is then, Chamgi, a furless stray dog, who had been missing for three weeks, had just been found after Maa had made a terrific hue and cry about her mysterious disappearance. Chamgi needed help and desperately. The world is not any kind to stray dogs and not in any way atleast to those who have no fur. I saw Maa smiling for the first time after the double blow. She said, “Chamgi has been found, go and get her.” But, my own grief was so overwhelming that I did not feel anything for Chamgi. This was not me! Since when had I become so selfish?
I dressed up, grabbed a bed sheet and left home. The traffic, the chatter, the noise, smiling faces, conversing people, all seemed so alien to me. Half an hour later, I reached at Chamgi’s location. There was so nervousness or fear surrounding what if she wouldn’t be there? Again, that was not me. A furless dog was sitting at a distance taking sun in a small patch between trees that was filtering the sunlight. Suddenly, the bubble around me broke. My legs had a sudden rush of energy and I dashed off to Chamgi and she looked at me. The sight of Chamgi, with helpless eyes that were tired of sticks, stones and rebuke for the cruelty meted out on her and those of her kind, with no fur, brought me back to reality. I held her face in my hands and said, “Where had been you been, Chamgi? Do you know how worried we had been for you? Who took you and what did they do with you?” The very little energy she must have been left with, she had been reduced to a bag of bones, she wagged the tail for me. I lifted her, she did protest momentarily, but gave in. She had seen sufficient muck, but not anymore. I hugged her, it was so soothing that I broke into tears. I was not the only one. Chamgi had shed a tear too on my hand. We both had come to rescue each other.
We rushed to the vet and she ruled out demodex after taking a skip scraping. She then took Chamgi’s blood sample and it turned out Chamgi had hypothyroidism, severe hypothyroidism. With her medication and a bottle of oil, and Chamgi wrapped in a bedsheet and a green pull over, sitting on my lap, we started for home. She had no idea where was she being taken and why. But as the cold winter breeze started, she started shivering, not because of the dip in the temperature, but because she had no idea what awaited her next. The ride to home had taken a little than longer due to traffic.
“We are going home, Chamgi, your new home. We are about to make a new beginning.” I clutched her closer to my heart to comfort her and my own self.
As we reached home, sensing a new member had arrived, the barking in chorus began. Chutki, the nurse dog, who had non-genetically inherited the goodness of Georgina, was keen to have a look at Chamgi at the earliest.
“Chutki, she is just home. Maybe you can start helping her from tomorrow. She needs some rest right now.”
The home needed major healing too, and maybe Chamgi was here for that purpose itself. In that cold winter night, Chamgi felt the warmth of home for the first time in her life as we stepped inside, while I found my purpose once again. I took her upstairs and put on her on the bed. She took a note of her new surroundings for a couple of minutes and then sat down on the bed. The landscape of life had changed. It felt soft, she lied down. Maa walked in ten minutes later, with her dinner bowl, warm chicken soup and rice. Watching her eat felt as though she was filling my stomach with happiness. “Now go off to sleep Chamgi, this is your bed.” I slept peacefully that night.
For the next nine days, all that Chamgi did was to sleep and she made the most of the double bed at her disposal. Watching her sleep with no worries of the world, brought immense peace. Chamgi only got up during the three meals and to relieve herself thereafter. I had to shake and wake her up for the oil massages that we did in the sun. It left my hands stinking but her skin glowing and she rolled around after every massage. She loved the sun, as though all the light was meant for. By Christmas eve, she had new tufts of fur. Our Christmas was made as she rolled around in happiness, soaking the sun, carefree, knowing she is deeply loved and wanted. She truly represented the spirit of Christmas, for the Rudolph we had in her.
On the tenth day, she was wide awake and she wanted to come down to be with the rest of the brood, as eager to meet them as they were about the new member. When Chamgi climbed down the stairs, Chutki and Orange rushed to sniff her. She gave them a growl. “They are not going to harm you, Chamgi, they are your family now.” But she was vary, as well as afraid, what this new pack of dogs she had introduced to, would do to her, unaware, that they had welcomed all who had come to their home leaving their horrid past behind to step into a new life of love and hope. Unlike us who judge on physical appearance, the canines of the house did not bother that Chamgi had no fur. For them, she was a dog, as worthy as they were, of enjoying the privileges of being homed.
Chamgi spent the following days making sense of the other canines of the house and the belongings, food among them, being her primary interest. She was smitten watching the bags of dog food and every night before she left for her bedroom on the first floor, she made every possible attempt to drag one bag atleast and keep it in her safe keeps. She was miles away from being food secure given the deprivation she had seen. She was the most innocent soul, we, as a family, ever came across.
She found a place for herself in every close friend’s lap who came to visit.
Insecurities soon paved way for confidence as Chamgi saw none of the canines harmed her, rather they wanted her to become one amongst them, then, there was plenty of food, love and care. Her personality began to flower from that instant.
She quit the idea of going to her bedroom upstairs, rather, the ground floor bedroom appealed her; it was closer to the kitchen and also the open backyard where she basked on the sun, rotating herself clockwise first and then anti-clockwise, humming ‘hhhhhhhhh’ during the daily ritual.
She conveniently took a cosy spot on the bed. That was just the beginning. Home started glowing with Chamgi’s antics. She would even pull a pile of laundered clothes and make a bed of it.
She then eyed Tweeky and Sundae’s bed, the two peace keepers of the house. She went about kicking Tweeky and Sundae pretty often while Tri Babu and Chutki gave up on discipling her. She had transformed into an Orangutan, who wanted a new bed every single day. Every night was about whose bed would Chamgi go onto grab. Even when Chamgi grew all the fur back and then lost it again in three months, what she didn’t lose was her determination to snatch everyone’s bed, including mine. Chamgi became the most carefree soul.
She waited for her food bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the bed. She knew she is madly loved and wanted.
If not for a stomach infection, because of which she was put on metronidazole, she lost her appetite, and eventually her life to acute renal failure, despite best medical interventions, very untimely. A mere ten years old child was gone too soon, the 25th of February, 2021. It left us devastated. There is guilt, of not giving her ample time and attention, maybe because she was one dog we did not have to bother about because of her independent nature; she ate, slept, ate and slept. But, she brought an energy to the house like no other dog did; she loved herself for who she was and we loved her even more for her ‘Hakunamatata’ attitude. Chamgi came home to teach a valuable lesson that many of us are still alien to; what matters is the fire brand spirit of life and not the outward appearances and our Chamgi will always be a manifestation of that. For every mother, her child is the most beautiful one in the world; so is Chamgi for me.
Chamgi, you rescued me when I needed help the most. Why did you go away so early? I yearn for you and live with terrific guilt, you could have been saved.