People who work in canine welfare come across rescued/abandoned mutts almost every single day. Each of them is special, with their own quirks and the unbeatable spirit they all possess to get over all odds, to live a happy life. We try to detach ourselves emotionally as best as we can, to protect our hearts. But there is always one dog, who breaks through our best defenses; there is no reason why this happens, it just does.
It was a bright sunny Saturday afternoon spent picnicking in Cubbon Park with Calvin, Sasha, a few canine friends and their human companions. When we were returning home, happy with the world, I got a call from my friend Santosh. He had found a chocolate brown Labrador wandering the streets near his home. He said that he looked scared, a little skinny and seemed to have some skin infection on his hind legs but was otherwise friendly. I immediately sent the picture to a WhatsApp group that I have with Melissa, Sanjana and Anoopa; three ladies I work closely with. A kennel was arranged for this boy at the CUPA Trauma Center, Hebbal.
Abandoned and scared on the streets of Bangalore. August 30, 2014. (Image courtesy: Santosh Kumar)
I went over the next morning to meet him. He looked uncertain of his new surroundings, the cacophony caused by the other dogs barking their welcome to me compounding his fear. All the emotions he felt, danced nakedly in his bright amber eyes. I entered his kennel and sat down. Without hesitation, he climbed onto my lap. He was panting, shivering, he was stressed. As I held him close, his breathing evened out. I felt his muscles relax and he let out a low contented groan. This was it. He had imprinted himself on my heart. The colour of his coat, nose and his sweet disposition made it easy for me to name him – Snickers.
He continued to stay at the Center for a week where I visited every day. His blood tests came clean, he didn’t have any infections and his organs were functioning well. He was trying to be friends with other dogs but was mostly nervous around them. Most dogs by now, settle into the routine of life in a shelter. Some sensitive ones like Snickers, don’t do too well. He would look to me with such desolation in his eyes when it was time to say goodbye, that it broke my heart every single time. At the end of a week, CUPA had to let go off a few kennels at the Trauma Center and the already limited space became scarcer. Most of the dogs were moved to the other Centers. Snickers came home with me for foster care.
Snickers on his way to our home for foster care. The only time he rode on the backseat of my car.
My little Godmother Sasha, aided by her trusted sidekick Calvin, tried every trick in the book to bully the newcomer. Snickers remained unperturbed, unprovoked and had eyes only for me. If I went to the bathroom, he would sit patiently outside till I emerged. If I sat down to have a meal, he curled up near my feet. He needed to go to the vet everyday to get a course of antibiotic shots for his skin infections. He would sit on the front seat of the car with at least a paw on my lap while I drove, constantly trying to inch his entire body onto my lap. He never made an attempt to get on the bed as Sasha considered it her personal fiefdom. He curled up on his mat next to the bed by my side, sitting upright as if jolted by electricity if I went towards the door of either the bedroom or the bathroom. He would dance on his hind legs at the mere sight of his leash. After walking two sniffing machines also known as beagles, walking briskly with this athletic boy gave me much joy. In our gibberish dog talk, I’d often tell him that when he grew up, we would co-author a book titled “The SnickWick Papers”. He didn’t care about the words that came out of my mouth; he continued to gaze lovingly up at me with his beautiful eyes and an indulgent smile.
Calvin, Sasha and Snickers. Slowly learning to be friends. Sleeping and love for ice cream being bonding factors.
Snickers, the finest stalker there ever will be.
All too soon, came the bittersweet moment when an adoption screening for a foster child comes through. It was an ideal home for him and it was time to say goodbye. As I walked quickly away from the gate after dropping him off, I felt big fat tears roll down my cheeks as I tried hard to ignore his confused barking. This was his bright shiny future, I told myself. This was his happy ending. I would visit him when he had settled in.
Saying goodbye before sending him off to his big, bright, shiny future.
Three days after that, I got a call from his adopter. He was looking a little unwell, wasn’t eating properly, was disinclined to climb stairs and didn’t seem interested to go for a walk. The next morning, he was taken to the CUPA clinic where they suspected Canine Distemper. The breath caught in my throat as I tried to stay calm. I asked for him to be brought to CESSNA Lifeline in Domlur, where they had a Distemper Kit. I was on my way elsewhere but turned my car and drove straight to the hospital. Sanjana happened to be there to collect medical reports for her foster dog and I was glad to have her around. The minute Snickers saw me, he demanded to climb onto my lap. I sat on the floor, only too happy to oblige. After an interminable wait of about an hour, the test was done. It was positive.
While Canine Distemper is fatal, there have been cases of several dogs that have pulled through. Sanjana had fostered a Labrador Retriever very recently who had emerged from the same illness, unscathed. We took Snickers back in our custody; we wanted to give him every chance to fight this. We dug our heels in and prepared to battle. He was kept in quarantine in a room in the CUPA Adoption Center for a couple of days and then moved to Sanjana’s home. The vet visited him twice daily to check on him and give him his medication. We took each day as it came. We celebrated the clearing of the nasal discharge, we did a little mental jig when his eyes looked slightly clearer than it did the previous day. His heartbeat was normal one day, there would be an arrhythmia the next. The vets at CESSNA, the vet who was administering his medication and my vet of over 20 years said that there was no reason to give up hope. In the midst of all this medical talk, the Snickers Magic that I had long been bewitched with, slowly started to take other victims. How could one not help but fall in love with a boy who was so gentle, loving, trusting and who made one of the best lapdogs in the world?
Cuddling into people’s laps made him and the owner of the lap feel much better.
A week on and our hopes had slowly started to turn into a firm belief that he was going to make the bend. And then, he stopped eating. IV fluids were administered, sludgy food fed through a syringe. His demands to cuddle up on any available lap continued. On September 27, 2014 (Day 9 after diagnosis), it came. The first massive seizure, without warning, a bolt out of the blue. The dreadful virus had begun its attack on his nervous system. The time had come to put the weapons down and let our boy go in peace.
I was far away in Meghalaya when the call came. I was helpless but I knew he had loving arms to hold him while he made his journey. I will remain eternally grateful to Anushree for all the love he got while he was at the Trauma Center, to Melissa for taking charge and giving him a fighting chance when he was diagnosed with distemper, to Sanjana & Anoopa for lovingly administering his medication and giving him plenty of hugs, to Santosh for laying him down in his final resting place. We are his family, the ones who will go through the rest of our lives with a giant space in our hearts where a gentle, chocolate coloured, amber eyed boy will eternally rule.
I will always remember him looking up at me as if to ask, “Where are you going, missy? More importantly, you better be taking me with you!!?”
My little Snicker Doodle, “Yes. I will take you with me. Everywhere I go.”
Snickers. We hope there’s plenty of sunshine, treats, ice cream & laps to cuddle into wherever you are. (Image courtesy: Anushree Thamanna)