By Dr. Kuhu Roy
All that glitters may not always be gold, but is definitely the aura of a senior dog.
It was May 2007 when a quiet stray dog, named DELMA, with big beautiful dark brown soulful eyes walked into my life along with her pack of six. Me and my mother’s job was to simply feed and go away; no touching, forget patting. There was a strange sense of calm on Delma’s face that only added to her beauty. She was a very graceful dog and a no fuss eater. While her face glowed with gratitude after every meal, she had drawn certain boundaries that we humans were never supposed to cross, but rather respect. She must have had reasons of her own.
Then, walked in a harbinger of happiness in the life of Delma and her daughter, DISCO, a jet black stray dog named KALLU. Together, the trio formed a new pack and began flowering as a family in each others company. They developed interest in places beyond their territory as I often saw them loitering around and returning only on time to the complex to not miss on their food.
It was the blossoming of a symbiotic relationship as the mother-daughter had welcomed him to be one among them while Kallu added to the strength as a pack. Kallu, in turn, found food, love, a sense of belonging and good company to begin his new phase of life.
The happiness of the stray dogs is jinxed. We lost Kallu to a head injury, all due to someone’s reckless driving. The absence of Kallu, who brought so much life to Disco and Delma, came to bite. In the days that followed, there were left just two very quiet souls on a very busy road intersection, trying to pick up life once again in bits and pieces. They were disillusioned and clueless with the leader of their pack gone. Though they began waiting for meals once again, the zeal for life was gone and the confidence that Kallu had injected in them had fizzed away and Delma especially, had shrunk to her old self. She never stepped out the complex after Kallu’s death.
Stray dogs have to embrace hardships and abuse as a part of their daily life, Delma’s was no different. For me, to talk about it is so easy but for them to endure it every moment is so difficult. Although she was looked after for fourteen years for every single day of her life, a series of ugly episodes made the survival of Delma questionable on the streets, in the complex she lived. Delma had aged and she had a tough road lying ahead of her. And then, the toothless laws. But, I was not just her food provider, but it was duty to protect her from any harm. Since when did her eyes begin to glaze? When did her fur fade? When did she get those warts and wrinkles? When did her face begin to frost? She was a senior dog, the ones who are most abused and yet under looked.
With eleven rescued dogs as permanent resident at home at that point, could I have brought a twelfth one? With guilt in my heart and conscience, I boarded her with a shelter, only to reaffirm my faith that a shelter is no place for a dog, but a home is. While I had been invited to bid her a bye, I pulled her out in a comatose condition.
She met HOPE, a God sent stray dog on the way.
Thereon, began a tapasya to infuse life back in a soul that wanted to live. Twice daily IV fluids, night hours entirely dedicated to her feeds that were to be given at every two hours. Then, it was her spirit of life and love for her own life. That is what made the vet title her as a miracle dog – the dog who lived.
Delma transitioned onto become the Grand Old Lady of the House with GEORGINA, the nurse cum guide dog of the house who played the most instrumental role in her recovery. Of special mention here is the fact that, Georgina was a rescued dog from Mumbai who had received no formal training. Her innate ability to judge the health status, needs of the humans and the dogs, guidance and supervision, made her a doctor without a degree. It came as no surprise as to why Georgina had a white cross on her chest. She was gifted.
With time, our bond grew deeper in strength. From the dog who never showed emotions for any human, she started trusting and loving me. The dog who would not even let touch, wanted me to hold her every time she relived herself. I was kind of duty bound to her and if I forgot to do so, she would show me her beautiful eyes. We became even closer when she started having those momentary episodes of blindness, wherein only my touch used to comfort her. Feeding time was special too because I was judged by her based on the food I brought. Dog food had to be have atleast some clarified butter and good amounts of chicken, otherwise the food would be straight rejected. I had started understanding my boss’s choice of taste.
From there on, the warrior princess stepped into a life which every dog, or for that matter, every life form deserves. Delma had a room of her own, a beautiful mattress gifted to her by her human grandfather, warm rotis made thrice daily for her by her human grandmother and a human secretary (yes, that’s me) who would make an appearance even at the mildest ‘twww’ she would utter.
Delma lived for another fourteen months at home, throwing food tantrums she had never had in her life on the streets, she was crazy about vanilla cake, pampering by the humans of the house who were at her ready disposal and Georgina, as her best friend and BUTTER, as her ears.
My friends turned out to be members of her fan club because there was so much to learn from the age old wisdom of Delma and her zest for life. So many of them especially came to meet her because Delma was a phenomenon, a charismatic fiercely independent dog woman with a ‘bring it on’ attitude.
She lighted up the home with her wisdom and lessons that usually tend to gather dust in self-help books. Delma inspired and that is why I am on the verge of completion of a memoir, ‘Delma, an ode to a senior stray dog.’ Through Delma, the world needs to know how important it is to love oneself, respect the gift of life despite the hardships and be the sole in-charge of every decision powered with determination that carves the fate. However, it does not end there. What happened to Disco and the other pack members? The story continues with challenges and hopes.
Delma wants scores of heroes like her, who are fading away on the streets and at shelters, to be heard and homed and be given a second chance at life.
Serving Delma was one of the greatest honours of my life that brought the same sense of peace that children get while tending to their aging parents. Hoping to be at Delma’s service one more time over the rainbow bridge.
See that senior stray dog with scars, wrinkles, warts, faded fur and glazed eyes sitting at a secluded spot in your locality or building or dumped at a shelter? Give them a chance please and experience a soothing calm like never before.
Delma’s two-legged secretary, soulmate, daughter, care-giver or whatever she took me to be.