By Hansa Roy
It is during the daily feeding round, somewhere in the mid of September, 2020, a scrawny female white dog with orange patches and kohl eyes caught my attention while I was passing by a village. She had a slightly swollen abdomen. I stopped for her. She was not pregnant. She had a clear sterilization shaven area on the side, a fresh mark. She turned out to be a timid dog, someone who would run away even at the sight of a food bowl.
In a week’s time, she started eating from me, albeit from a distance, along with seven other members of her pack. Her belly was growing, abnormally. She needed help for the ascetic fluid that was building inside her, but there was no way I could approach her.
I requested an NGO, who had expert catchers at their disposal, to help to catch the dog and submit her to a private vet, to whom I take my dogs to for surgery and serious conditions. However, when the van arrived, the dog with ascites was asleep, but the other dogs alerted her and she broke into a run. While she was at it, a man began to chase her with a stick, thinking people were ganging up to kill the dog. I blasted him. The catchers ran after the dog but she managed to vanish inside the village. I felt very bad after the episode. I promised to her and my own self that I won’t ever make her run with that abnormally swollen abdomen. The NGO offered to come again for her, but I refused.
The private vet, Dr. Angela Lobo, also volunteered to catch the ascites dog, but the plan could not materialize as the dog went missing for four days after the failed catching attempt. When she made an appearance on the fifth day, she avoided me and the food I had to offer, for obvious reasons. I had broken her trust.
It is then the vet and I mutually agreed to begin her on the spot medication for ascites. We tried to narrow down on the reason behind her ascites and arrived at a probable conclusion that it could be due to the liver dysfunction. I returned to her after buying all her medicines, but she had vanished. There was no sign of her. I took it she may have perished, given her condition.
Five days later, I was enquiring with the local NGOs about an old dog named Laalu, who lived outside Optical Palace, and was removed from there for no reason. The man at the desk of one of the NGOs was reading out locations where they had picked up dogs from, he rattled out the location where the ascites dog used to live. After he had finished the list, I asked him whether the dog was a white female with bloated stomach, to which he responded yes. What a huge relief it was that the ascites dog was alive.
The next day, the ascites dog was dumped back in a pitiable condition without any treatment. She had become more thin and the stomach had increased further in size. I started her ascites treatment immediately. She had her food and medicines while I stood away from her. Everything seemed fine for the next two days. She ate from the autorickshaw driver while I fed the rest of the members of her pack.
It was the morning of tenth of November, 2020, when the vet had come home to examine Guchguch. He was just not himself. His blood sample was taken. The turning point came when I late left for feeding that day, after the vet had left. When I reached the location of the ascites dog, it was almost nine thirty and she was all alone. It was a golden opportunity to go and check on her carefully. When I approached her, she did not try to get up or run away, rather she was lying on one side. It was very strange. She took her medicines and had her food in the supine position. What bothered me even more was that the earth was soaked up with her urine where she was lying. I sat beside her to examine her as to why was she lying on her urine. I touched her for the first time, she allowed. It is then I saw that ants were crawling on her, which is very strange on a live animal. Her left hind leg had also swollen. I called up the same vet who had come for Guchguch. She left her clinic and arrived in half an hour with the ambulance. She put the ascites dog in the ambulance and when I told her I will visit her after completing the feeding round, which would have taken me another four hours, she said, “I will let you know what to do with her.” Even she was not certain if the dog was going to survive, because she was severely malnourished with an abnormally bloated abdomen and had a badly fractured and swollen leg. It seems, a week ago when I had last fed her and moved ahead with my round, she had been in a terrible accident and a villager had sent her to the NGO.
After my feeding round was over, I went to the clinic. The doctor had taken out seven litres of ascetic fluid from her. The ascites dog looked at me as her IV ran and her stomach had become flat. She appeared to be at peace. The doctor showed me, where her leg was swollen, there was an abscess in the thigh due to the fracture. After the abscess had burst, there was a tennis ball sized cavity. Her blood reports were not encouraging. Her liver was damaged, as we had suspected, she was anemic and she had near fatal albumin in her body. The vet, with her experience, suggested about albumin injection which worked in certain cases, and could possibly help revive the dog. The injection was costly, amounting to 5k, but I took the chance. Every life matters and the dog deserved a second chance at life.
By the time I returned from the clinic, a call came from the vet’s clinic. I hoped the ascites dog was fine. It turned out, Guchguch had elevated creatinine, we were staring at renal failure. He was fifteen years old and a cancer survivor and his deterioration was rapid.
At the other end, the albumin injection worked the miracle and the ascites did not resurface. For the next four days, the dog stayed at the clinic. After that, it was time for the Diwali break and the clinic was going to remain closed. After going through so much suffering, from a near fatal ordeal that she had been pulled through, I did not have the heart to leave her back on the roads. She was very frail and fragile. Her abscess wound was still raw and she needed a lot of time to recuperate. Then, she had a striking resemblance in terms of mannerism with Butter. She got named Jammy and came home with me on the thirteen of November, 2020.
Jammy was a meek dog, a docile child. She slept and slept, had all her meals on the bed. She had a voracious appetite. She was food insecure as she had seen deprivation. On the third day, she got up and wagged her tail. She tried to comprehend what the new set up was, where there was no fear of traffic, no fear of fighting for food for survival, a soft mattress instead of the earth to sleep on, no hatred from humans, but only love. She slept all throughout the day and soaked as much sun she wanted to.]
In a fortnight, we started to see the other side of Jammy. She first began to pull the bedsheets and then, the mattress. She had a sheepish face when she conveniently stole Rapunzel’s blanket. She first became friends with Rapunzel, who was an old dog who had been ousted from her place purely due to old age as the crime. However, she was skeptical about other canines at home, although they welcomed her, as they always do with anyone needy who comes home to become one among them. Zenobia, a rescued less than a year old pup, stepped in and played the ice breaking role. Zenobia began to ask Jammy to play and she retaliated with a bark and a growl. The child in her started to come out when she began to play on her own with the toys on the bed, while Zenobia, Chhutki and Ghoplu played together.
Jammy, then, all of a sudden, became one among them when she started to play with the other three. Now, that is how her day begins. Right from five thirty in the morning to ten in the night, all that she does with Zenobia is to play. In friendship, age difference really does not matter. When she limps, it is a silent reminder of the brutal past that she left behind, but a scar of which shall always remain, to step into her new dignified life. She cannot do without a pillow on the bed. She shows affection by licking my hand. She is a food secure dog now, who knows she will be fed, that too on the bed itself.
As she completes a year at her home today, she has become a dog with the most enviable muscles. She is an adult, but she is a pup at heart. We also see a nurse dog in her, as she sits beside Baldev, who is struggling to be on his legs after he was run down on the roads.
While she leads a comfortable life at home, her pack members continue to be under my care.
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