She has no name. She’s a stray. Just like thousands of other dogs roaming the scorching streets of India. So what?
Weeks ago when we arrived to Yamuna Nagar, my fellow interns and I found a batch of newborn puppies in the exterior gardens of the college complex where we stay. These cute little puppies who had not yet opened their eyes stole our hearts and became our new favorite pass time. We enjoyed their prescence and seemed to be amused by them in a way that others could not understand. The guards who stayed nearby and the people who passed by seemed like they didn’t empathize with this new life in the same way that we did. After all, dogs are dogs. And there are too many dogs in India.
Momma and her pups
Things had changed when we returned to Yamuna Nagar after a weekend in Delhi. Shortly after we arrived Kristi and I rushed out of our kothi excited to see the pups only to find that one of them had a large hole. Her frail body was laying in the 45°C scorching heat, with maggots eating her flesh, and liquid spewing out her side. The sight couldn’t have been worse. My stomach dropped and my face couldn’t hide my disgust. Immediately, Kristi and I felt a strong sense of responsibility to relieve her pain. We just didn’t know what we could do.
That afternoon we ended up walking into a Frozen Sperm Bank with a little black puppy in a small Bisleri box. Her body steadily moving with every breath she’d take in an amazing display of a willingness to live. We had been directed this way after repeatedly asking for an animal doctor. It seemed like a very unusual request. As we walked into the tiny office with empty walls, a man sitting behind a desk looked confused as we stood in front of him with the Bisleri box. He informed us repeatedly that we were in a Sperm Bank. With Kristi’s Hindi and their broken English we were able to explain the situation. Soon after, the man who sat behind the largest desk in the office had us sit around his desk, explained to us where we were, asked us where we were from, what we were doing, and what brought us to him. As usual, we received the customary glass of cold pani that Kristi and I were hesitant to receive. He assured it was OK to drink. He agreed to take a look at the puppy. As he was examining the puppy with his bare hands he questioned why we were caring for a stray dog. We couldn’t quite answer.
Unfortunately, the puppy was no better the next day. Kristi and I walked away from the puppies in silence. We were not sure what to do say or what to do. The night before (a very brave) Kristi had tried to clean the puppy’s wound. We used the disinfectant that the animal doctor had prescribed and everything we had to try to eliminate the maggots from her body. They were resilient, but were were confident that the spray with the picture of a cow on the bottle would be enough to kill maggots eventually. It had not been enough.
We decided that there must be something else we could do. We asked our new colleagues (Leap just hired 6 new trainers!) for animal doctors and they guided us to a nearby veterinary. An hour later I was sitting in the back of an Activa with the black puppy in the small Bisleri box. As the vet made the usual questions he continued to question our interest in caring for a stray puppy. He kept on saying, “but, since she’s a stray puppy…”, making it clear that she would simply not receive the same treatment just because she was a stray. He eventually agreed, however, to clean her wound and give her all the medicine she needed. I am sure that it was this that made all the difference between life and death.
Here she is getting better!
Today the puppy is well. She is still smaller and weaker than her brothers and sisters. Yet, I cannot help but think of the ethical dilemma that we faced when investing our time and money in saving this puppy. As the doctors insisted, she is not the only one. And even worse, there are people right around the corner with wounds similar to hers. Then why did we care so much? While I’m not entirely sure how to answer all my doubts, I still feel like I did the right thing.
This experience was certainly a reminder to me of the acute poverty that surrounds us. Bill, who is a great fan of Russell Peters, often repeats Peters’ joke that says that there is always someone worse off in India. And that is exactly what I have seen. It also made me reflect on where, as a western, I place my values and priorities. In some strange way, this situation has made me feel most foreign.
Life is good 🙂