Sara Casapulla is from Italy. She adopted two beautiful Indies while posted in India on work.
Here's the story of Sara, Maya and Chicca:
I moved to Kerala (Kochi to be exact) in June 2010 for a work project.
I have always been an animal lover and living in a rural area of Kochi made me see the real interaction between humans and animals, for beautiful or ugly as it might be. Day after day, something was changing inside of me, an overall awareness. I didn't see any more the world I was living in as a beautiful and heavenly place, all I could see and concentrate on was the fate of the animal world in the hands of humans.
Cows and buffaloes in congested trucks being brought to slaughterhouses, chained elephants used to serve Gods and tourists, chickens kept in tiny cages waiting to be sold and cooked...But what struck me the most was the condition of stray dogs, which is sadly the same all around the world.
The streets of Kerala are filled with stray dogs, who I found later from personal research are often INDogs or aboriginal pariah dogs, and they are the oldest breed in the world. Most of them live off human garbage, some of them are lucky to be fed by street vendors or roadside butchers. Only a few find real homes, as nowadays the upper classes like to show their social status by buying expensive breed dogs and consider INDogs a second-class breed...
I decided I wanted to help them and I wanted to start by adopting a stray. So I went to see a shelter in Kochi run by a British lady (Maddogtrust), and asked if she had any abandoned dog for adoption. She showed me dozens of dogs, puppies and grown-up ones, abandoned and neglected. It was very difficult and painful to choose as all were desperately looking for human affection and somebody who would take them home...But I had to make a choice.
Among all the dogs, I noticed a three-month-old little white girl, whom Penny (the owner of the shelter) had found a few weeks back abandoned on Fort Kochi beach. She was tiny and skinny and very shy. She was all white with black patches on her belly and and a black nose, sweet as honey.
I decided I would take her home with me and I named her Maya.
When I brought her home she slept for days, as she was obviously exhausted. My partner Valentino already had a dog who "fathered" Maya from the first moment he saw her, and they became best friends in a span of days!
The tiny shy girl blossomed into a healthy capricious princess and became the ruler of the house!
She would cry to come inside, bully her big brother Pallu, who was triple her size, and be moody the whole day when the vet had to handle her. She became my joy and happiness. I understood the real meaning of pet love and started to be compassionate with other animals day after day.
My house was right on the backwaters where tiny strips of land were inhabited by fishermens' huts. I could often hear dogs barking and crying from the houses and with the help of binoculars I could see chained pets kept outside the huts. I could not sleep at night when the howling was too desperate or atrocious. I tried to ask for help in order to free the dogs, but there isn't a law there which protects pets...I tried to talk to those fishermen but as we could not communicate, I had to give up. All I could do was watch those poor dogs with my binoculars hoping to see the fishermen feed them or free them for a while.
One of them had a female dog with her pup kept on a tiny strip of land where he used to fish at night. Even if the mum and pup hadn't been chained, they could not escape from that strip as it was surrounded by water, they were prisoners for life...I was wondering why the fisherman was keeping the pup, as the mother was already guarding his "property" and he didn't really need a second dog...But at least they were together and did not suffer a lot in their imprisonment.
Six months had passed since I adopted Maya and one evening I heard a pup crying not far from my house. Fishermen used to abandon their unwanted pets in the area. I had already treated an abandoned pup affected with mange, who was luckily adopted by a local family once he recovered.
My heart started beating fast, I knew that somebody would have abandoned another unwanted puppy...I took a torch and went out into the deep vegetation, trying to locate the cry. It was coming from the river banks, and finally I saw the pup hiding and howling in fear in the bushes. With horror I recognized the pup, he was the fisherman's pup.
The fisherman had separated him from his mother, who was calling out for him on the opposite side of the river. He must have waited for the pup to be big enough (he was around three months), put him in his small wooden boat, ferried him across the river, and thrown him out like an old thing.
I tried to rescue him but he was too scared and wouldn't let me go near him, so I decided to bring him some food and wait for the following morning to have the daylight in my favour. Fortunately he must have fallen asleep soon after I left as I didn't hear him crying during the night...
At dawn I woke up and ran to the pup who was still scared and did not let me approach him. So I dropped him some more food and went to ask for forces. I called Maya, who immediately ran outside and went to rescue the little one!
The pup was a she. I took her in my arms and brought her inside the house.
From that moment I have never heard her crying again.
Maya and big brother Pallu took care of her from the first moment she stepped in the house and never let her alone for a single moment. I decided to name the little baby Chicca.
My happiness only lasted a few days as I could not keep her forever. I already had Maya and was going back to Italy one day, I couldn't bring two dogs with me for different reasons...So I contacted a local shelter that could take her in, and decided, heartbroken, to take her there.
When the day came I was completely devastated, my heart broke in two when I left her at the shelter. I could not eat any more and cried for days. I could not imagine her staying in a crowded shelter with other dogs, she did not deserve this kind of life. I had to take her back.
Ten days had passed but when we went to pick her up, she recognized us immediately and gratitude was written in her tiny black eyes.
Maya and Pallu were excited when they saw her and ever since she has been part of the family, the most joyful and happy being I have ever met, she has never been capricious or cried, as she could understand where she had come from. I always say that she is an ancient soul...
The stay in India is almost over, a few more months or maybe a year, all is still uncertain but all I know is that Maya and Chicca are coming back with me. I would never leave them here, they are part of my family and I would climb mountains and cross seas to bring them with me.
All is set and ready for their new life in Italy!
Story: Sara Casapulla
Photos: Sara Casapulla and Valentino Ferrignio