About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, I worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a spider enthusiast and amateur arachnologist.

This blog is for aboriginal dog enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah Dog) and INDog-mixes (Indies) are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive landrace village dog of the Indian subcontinent. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too. Also see padsociety.org

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Epic Saga

Epic is not only a stunningly handsome little INDog: he's also an absolute hero! 
His human Aparna Tiwari Pandey sent in his survival and rescue story. 

'Kindness' is a word that should be ingrained in every decision that a person makes. When we returned to India after many years abroad, the biggest shock was for my daughter Sakshi, who had been out of the country since the age of eight. Her initial reaction to seeing so many street dogs on Indian roads was horror and disgust at the callous treatment meted out to these creatures by humans - including people in our housing society.

She resolved to do whatever was in her control to help them. She spent all her pocket money feeding the dogs in our area twice a day. Although we initially viewed this with slight trepidation, as time went by we were bowled over by the intelligence, friendliness and protective behaviour of these street dogs. Dogs that were shunned by society and abused beyond belief, showed more humanity, kindness and love than most people we had met since coming back. They seemed to do it as their duty, accompanying us to rickshaw stands and trying to protect us and showering us with playfulness and love every time they saw us.

Over the years we befriended three generations of dogs living in our housing society, becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in the process, especially when we informed the management that under animal welfare laws they could not prevent people from feeding the dogs, could not relocate them anywhere, and could not kill them. All these are criminal offences and we would complain to the police or registered animal welfare officials if necessary. 

Some months ago the resident pack consisted of Bosco, the first dog we had looked after; her daughter Elsa from her first litter; Bosco's second litter now also grown up; and Elsa's surviving pup Spotty. (Their story is a long one: you can read it in my personal page)

Spotty as a puppy

The society people were getting increasingly paranoid about the dogs. One of the residents who works for an NGO, arranged for the municipality to pick up Bosco, her two seven-month old pups, Elsa, and a couple of other dogs living here, for neutering. When I came back in the morning after dropping off Sakshi, there was quite a commotion going on. There were two vans and groups of some ten or fifteen men running around with ropes and sticks. They were trying to corner the dogs and the dogs were squealing piteously as well as barking at the tops of their voices. In the midst of this I felt a furry body suddenly clinging to my ankles and whining. It was Spotty! He was hardly two months old and wasn't a candidate for neutering but no-one told him that! I pleaded with the people there to release Elsa as she had just delivered pups two months back, it was winter and puppies need to huddle with their mothers, and also that her other puppy had recently died so she was still grieving and in shock. But to no avail. They packed off all the dogs and took them to the municipality premises.

Some three days later the municipality people came and discharged the dogs back in the society. They had all been operated (their ears notched to mark this). They were still in quite a bit of pain and were famished and extremely weak. We did our best to nurture them back to health.

In their absence the nights were bitter cold and poor Spotty didn't know where his mother had gone. He would try to play with the society kids, try and avoid the cars...but he was so small and terrified. I convinced my husband to give him shelter. He was against it initially but reluctantly agreed. We brought Spotty home and kept him for the nights. We would feed him, give him water, let him sleep in warmth for the nights and then let him go downstairs in the daytime where he could gambol and play with the kids. 

When Elsa came back three days later we continued to feed both of them. We could see them running and playing with each other. It was a sight to gladden anybody's heart. 

Then one day we heard that a person from the neighbouring society meandered too close to a recently born litter of pups on the road. Two male dogs guarding the litter attacked him. This was just the excuse the society needed. Although our society dogs had nothing to do with the incident, all the societies wanted to club together and eliminate the dogs. They planned to either poison them or relocate them far away, or cut off their food supply forcing them to move away. We did some research and warned them of the legal repercussions of any of these actions. We were already popular with the other members but with this we became the celebrities of the society!

One day I came back after dropping Sakshi to college and couldn't find Spotty anywhere. Elsa, Bosco, and her pups Goofy and Dufus seemed dejected and forlorn. I asked the watchman where Spotty was and he was nonchalant. As I sat down to have lunch with my husband I could not swallow or chew my food. For some strange reason I was filled with apprehension and dread. I told my husband that I wanted to go down and search for Spotty. I was sure something nasty had happened to him.

So I went down, caught hold of the watchman and started searching the four wings of the society. After quite some time we found Spotty. Someone had dumped him behind some bamboo bushes. He was hidden behind them and when I found him he was lying in a raised area behind the plants. He couldn't possibly climb down neither could any dog climb up to reach him. He was calm, hardly whimpering, had two thick tear stains down his cheeks and looked utterly composed and resigned. When I asked the watchman to lift him up, he howled and screamed! That's when I noticed that Spotty's lower back seemed depressed and his leg had shrunk up so that it looked like a tiny stub. I didn't understand what had happened. When I touched the stub it swung as loosely as if it was just a piece of skin.

With my husband's help we gently lifted Spotty down. He was moaning and trying gamely to put his weight on his legs when he buckled and collapsed. He looked drained, exhausted, had cried all night and yet was calm and resigned. As my husband said, he was waiting for the end and hoping it was close by. I couldn't allow it. I would not allow it. It turned out after much questioning that the society chairman had asked the watchman to beat up and throw out all the society dogs. The watchman (probably drunk) tried to chase away the dogs. Spotty being a puppy misunderstood the man's intent and tried to play with him...The watchman hit Spotty three times with a stick. Then stifled the pup's screams, picked him up and threw him behind the bushes leaving him to die in pain, hunger and thirst.

Not trusting the local animal welfare organisation, we looked up treatment options and came across a rather upscale animal hospital not far from our home. We took Spotty home, cleaned him and tucked him up in a blanket, fed him and stroked him to sleep. Poor puppy went to sleep and woke up in severe pain. But there was a strength in him. He refused to howl or cry. He would just lie there stoically and tried to co-operate with us in everything we were doing to help him. For example when we took him to the hospital to be x-rayed, Spotty lay there stoically not complaining and in fact curious about what was happening. After x-rays as we sat waiting for the doctor, Spotty at our feet, a dog walked by and stepped on Spotty's broken foot. Spotty screamed in agony just two or three times but lay back moaning and looked at us calmly after that. He seemed to be a super-strong dog!

The doctor showed us in the x-rays how the back had been fractured. Then another blow had broken Spotty's femur into two pieces. A third blow on his tibia had shattered it to pieces. The doctor explained that the only option was amputation and then hoping for the best. She apparently did not expect us to spend time or money on a street dog.

But we decided to do the best we could for Epic. We decided to rename Spotty 'Epictetus' because of his stoic demeanour. 

Later the doctor called us to tell us that a famous veterinary surgeon was coming from Pune to operate on the leg of somebody's collie, and would we like to get Spotty treated? She figured with two dogs being operated one after the other it would work out cheaper for us. We were ecstatic! But on hearing the cost we started having second thoughts. It was prohibitively expensive and Epic would need to be hospitalised for a day. When I discussed it with Sakshi and my husband, we all decided unanimously that the right thing to do would be to get the best treatment for Epic and worry about the money later.

True to his nature, Epic was stoic and calm throughout the night. He had to stay without food or water in preparation for the surgery. All he wanted was to be petted and to lie there watching us calmly. He had also figured out a way to drag himself to the toilet (balcony). Imagine the intelligence, no need for house-training, the little dog figured out that the right place to 'go' was the balcony!

The night went by in a half-awake, half-asleep state...every time I woke up, Epic would wake and wag his tail. He looked in some discomfort but was being quiet, calm and docile as always.

The next day was a haze and a blur...get through all the chores, get through a rushed breakfast...then bundling up Epic and taking him a rickshaw to the hospital. At the hospital the surgeon was finishing up the first operation and we had to wait for an hour and a half before he was ready. During his examination of Epic's injuries, we forgot to muzzle the pup but in his trademark style he just moaned, licked his lips, shut his eyes and bore the pain...The surgeon had good news. Chances were that Epic would make a near full recovery, and he would put the rods in such a way that they wouldn't cause problems for the pup as he grew up. He also said that Epic would take about four or five days to stand up, and would start limping around in a week. Possibly taking fifteen days to run and be normal again. He wanted a commitment from us that we would tend to the pup for seven days before returning him to his mother. Feeling glad that Epic would maybe become normal again we readily consented to everything and also gave assurances that we would take care of Epic for a week and regularly bring him to the hospital for physiotherapy.

The operation took about two hours. The surgeon told us it had gone normally, that Epic would come out of anaesthesia in another hour or so and then we would have to start drips. This turned out to be a whole-day affair...with Epic waking up gradually, looking around, moaning and whimpering, but otherwise not creating any problems. It was around 6.00 p.m. by this time and Sakshi came directly to the hospital from college. As she came to the table where Epic was lying, on his second drip, she whistled in a low tone. Epic had been looking comatose but woke up and started wagging his tail vigorously! What a relief that was...and what a dog he is!

Epic was not going to lie around waiting for recovery. He was standing on his fractured legs the very first night, and wanted to urinate the proper doggy way! He was limping around in a day, and four days later he was running full tilt! During all this, along with physiotherapy, he figured out where to potty, how not to bother us, and how to ask for food. Never did he howl, moan or raise a ruckus. We were completely caught up in Epic's charm and his antics managed to bowl us over. No-one had ever waited for me, or greeted me in the morning as happily as Epic did. We were reaching a point when at fifteen days we needed to take a decision on when to release him back to Elsa.

Should we release him to Elsa? As the day came closer I was agonising with conflicting thoughts. 
What if someone hit him on the legs? How will he forage for food? Meanwhile just days before we had to make a decision, someone smashed Elsa's leg with a bamboo stick making her limp and unable to take care of herself. That did it! We decided we had come too far to do a half-baked job, and also, Epic had started making our lives brighter. He would wake up cheerful, greet us with tail wagging, want to be hugged, was a low maintenance puppy and essentially made our days a little bit brighter. Did we want to dim our days? We decided to not do so! 

And that's how Epic became a part of my family.


~ Today, Epic is extremely friendly, handsome, loving, a fast learner (he is so intelligent he has mastered more than ten words already), and super-resilient. He is calm most of the time, yet can be a handful when he feels like he needs to run and play. He suffered from severe dermatitis after recovering from his operation and we had to get that treated too. He has received his vaccinations. We wanted to give safety and a better life to this darling puppy whose extremely short life has already seen such an ordeal - lost three siblings and experienced so much pain. Each member of my family has been involved in saving the 'Last of the Mohicans' as we call him (all his family members are neutered and this puppy is literally the last hope for their family line). But Epic repays us every day when he looks at us with joy, begs to be rubbed and wags his long white tail exuberantly. We are so blessed to have him with us that we can't imagine what our lives would have been like without him.

~ I also wanted to dispel one notion. It might seem that ALL the members of our housing society are wicked, cruel, dog-hating people. Not so! When we got Epic operated we had to spend roughly Rs 25000. I decided to do a fundraiser and put up a message in the society Whatsapp group. I wrote the entire story of Epic and how he was battered and thrown into the bushes to die in pain. I didn't expect any response. But quite a few people stepped forward and soon transferred money into my account. At last count some ten people had contributed around Rs 16500 in total. So the good news is, there are quite a few good souls in the world, and then some people are misinformed and misguided. I hope the latter, the M&Ms (misinformed and misguided), update themselves and join us folks in a bid to co-exist with our dog friends and make the world a better place than it is.

~ Even today, Epic starts limping when he has overexerted himself or slipped. Sometimes he starts limping when it's cold. We want to ensure he makes a full recovery, so we would like to show him to a specialist as soon as we can. If my readers know of any good doctors/surgeons, please contact me on aparna0112@gmail.com


Story and photos: Aparna Tiwari Pandey

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