November, 2012. Twenty eight beagles were rescued from Advinus Therapeutics Pvt. Ltd. (a Tata Enterprise) in Bangalore. All on average ten years old, they had spent their entire lives in tiny cages while experiments of an unknown nature were conducted on them.
When they were released, there was an urgent appeal to adopt or at the very least foster these dogs. Since they were coming out of a sterile laboratory environment, it was not advisable to keep them in the animal shelter for too long for fear that they would contract infections.
I went to the pound and without knowing what I would do, I brought home a dog, whose only identity was a number -1053. I didn’t know if I was going to keep him forever or until we found him a home. When I saw him, he was stuck to the back of his kennel, staring at me with eyes as black as the night. I knew I had to get him out of there, I HAD to do something. He was unlike any dog that I had ever encountered in my life. Tongue hanging out of his mouth in stress. Lumps and bumps all over his legs. Skinny. Severe teeth and gum infection. He had a chemical stench emanating from his body. Back bent with no muscle strength to support his skeletal frame. Two hairless rings around his neck, suggestive of him being cut open at some point in his life. Everything was overwhelming for him. He didn’t know to climb up and down stairs, he didn’t know to recognize anything as food other than Pedigree even though he barely had teeth to eat it. I decided to name him Phoenix.
He stayed with me for a week, during which time it became obvious that he had never been around another dog in his life and being around my dog, Calvin was causing him tremendous stress. Despite the fact that Calvin is a peaceful dog, Phoenix would pace up and down anxiously if Calvin was anywhere in the same room, not sitting still for a single moment. It became imperative for me to find him a more suitable home where he could heal from the scars of his past.
Medical examination showed that his liver was producing three times more enzymes than what was normal. I wanted to make sure that he was treated for that, that he was physically fit before finding him an adoptive home. I moved him to my vet’s boarding kennel where we ensured that he never had to be in close proximity with another dog. He got to roam free in the sun through the day and would sleep in his spacious kennel at night. I visited him at least once a week and I could see improvement. His appetite had improved, he was gaining weight. More importantly, he was not stressed out around humans. He would even shyly come close for a pat on his head. He was learning to be comfortable around other, quiet dogs, although being around males still made him very nervous.
Phoenix on my terrace. He was happiest being outside in the sun, something that he was denied as his entire life was spent in a cage. He was visiting after a month at the vet’s boarding place and there was already a remarkable improvement.
(Pic courtesy: Atindra Mohan)
After three months, it was time to find him a home. A friend of mine from college reached out to me and offered to adopt him. He was finally going home; a home like one that I had dreamed of for him but one that I didn’t know was possible. She was going to take him to her estate in Coorg, where the two existing dogs she had were both female. (What are the odds??!!) He would have wide open spaces to roam around in, plenty of sunshine to soak in and a family that would take care of him in the winter of his life.
Phoenix goes for a walk with his most favourite human in the whole wide world,
his baby sister
(Pic courtesy: Kushi Bhimaya)
Phoenix goes fishing with his brother in his new home in Coorg
(Pic courtesy: Kushi Bhimaya)
In helping Phoenix heal, I changed as a person dramatically. It is easy to fall in love with a happy, healthy dog but as I fell in love with an old, broken, stinky dog, I felt my heart grow bigger. It is true, “Saving one dog will not change the world but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever” and might I add, the world of the human changes forever too. Thank you Phoenix for leaving your
footprints pawprints in my life, you are definitely the better part of my growing up in the thirties.
I had written for another blog, the incredible story of another incredible dog, Duke, from the same batch of rescued beagles. You can read that story, here: