Phoenix

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.

phoenix-toyThe first time Phoenix picked up a toy to play with, was a day of great celebration, he was learning to get past his past and be carefree.
(Pic courtesy: Atindra Mohan)

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.

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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.

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Phoenix goes for a walk with his most favourite human in the whole wide world,
his baby sister
(Pic courtesy: Kushi Bhimaya)

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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:

Duke : A story of rebirth.

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An affair to remember

I was taking my father for a trek in the Garhwal Mountains in 2011, he had turned 60 that year and this was his birthday gift. We were to start our trek from a tiny village called Sankri in Uttarakhand. We ate an early breakfast of bread, eggs & chai and set out. The first day of a trek is always special. Spirits are high, muscles are not aching, and you’re abuzz with the excitement that you’re finally on the trail after months of planning and preparing.

This was a post-monsoon trek but given the change in the climatic conditions the world over, there had been a heavy downpour the previous night. The path leading into the forests had huge puddles of water. Heavy mist hung in the air. There were gorgeous, lush green trees on either side.

We had hardly walked a few meters outside the village when I first saw him. He was standing in the middle of the path, facing me. Tall and lanky, he had a beautiful white coat on with swirls of beige all over it. He languidly started walking towards me with a slow swagger. As he got closer, I noticed his eyes. They were the colour of melted caramel and they looked warm against the cold, damp surroundings. He had such an easy, friendly demeanour about him. I couldn’t help but smile, I think I may have let out an involuntary giggle. That was the only encouragement he needed. The swagger quickly turned into a full throttle run as he came charging towards me. He pounced on me trying to kiss my face, his entire body quivering with the sheer excitement of encountering somebody who was interested in him.

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I turned to look at my father who was also smiling at the unabashed display of affection. Wow, my father approved? Super!! And just like that, I had found myself a travel companion. He walked with us every step of the way over the next week. Sometimes he led the way. He would walk ahead and look behind to ensure that I was following. If I had stopped to rest or take pictures, he would sit on the path and wait till I reached him to continue on. The only moments when he would run away from me were when he saw some noisy monkeys on the trees. He would go charging off the path, into the forests to give them a good shouting, as if asking them to stop monkeying around.

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He was especially protective of me when we had to go past a landslide area. He would walk a few steps and then come back to me as I gingerly put one foot in front of the other over a path strewn with loose stones and rubble. There was another trekker slightly ahead of me; he even tried to push her aside to make space for me to pass. Not a very gentlemanly thing to do I agree, but he was so smitten by me that all social niceties were forgotten.

His smiling happy face was the first face I saw every morning as I stepped out of my tent, I’d imagine he slept right outside the entrance waiting to see me appear. I shared my food with him, a few rotis with every meal and biscuits when on the trail.

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When we got back to Sankri on the last day after completing our trek, I went into the tiny lodge to leave my bags. I dreaded the moment when I would have to say bye to him. When I came out of the lodge, he was not there. I looked around the village a little bit but didn’t find him at all. I waited at dinnertime for him to appear but I was disappointed.

Just as quickly as he had bounded into my life, he had disappeared. I guess he didn’t want to go through a teary goodbye. I hope he finds kindness in the mountains, somebody who would love him the way I did. I do know that my gorgeous travel companion will forever remain free spirited and wanderlust, at home in the Himalayas… probably all the reasons why we were kindred spirits for a moment in time.

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