Saturday, July 25, 2015

There and back again – the loneliness of the long-distance dog

Something wonderful happened today, a very welcome and unexpected end to a matter that had caused us a lot of distress over the past week.

The back-story: for the past four or five years (at least), an unspayed bitch – an excessively fertile street dog who lives in our colony without being regularly fed by anyone – has been delivering one or two litters of pups annually, in large numbers, near our back-lane. The vast majority of them die, of course, succumbing to starvation or weather or being run over by callous or careless drivers; a few survive, growing into skinny dogs, scavenging for food, very rarely getting lucky and fed by one of the approximately 0.005 percent of neighborhood houses that are animal-friendly.

Most of these pups are born and grow up in the same place where Foxie and her siblings were born in mid-2008, and the sound of their mewling often gives me sleepless nights and keeps old wounds fresh. For reasons that have to do with emotional self-preservation, I have kept my distance from this situation in the past few years. But this time Abhilasha and I decided to be a little more pro-active: we took two of the surviving pups to Pratima Devi, assumed financial responsibility for their upkeep, and then set about getting the mother sterilized with the help of Ravi, an autorickshaw-driver who assists Pratima Devi and takes dogs to Friendicoes for operations.

After somehow managing to lure this scared, people-wary girl into our driveway, we kept her locked up there and then got her into Ravi’s vehicle with some difficulty (and this on a mad, mad, mad day where I had to rush back home for an hour or two shortly after getting my dadi admitted to hospital, yet again). The dog reached Friendicoes okay, the operation went off fine, she spent two days recuperating…and then, on the 21st evening, just as Ravi was going to bring her back, she bolted from a momentarily unlocked cage and vanished into some distant nook of Jangpura or Defence Colony.

The search that followed spanned days – with Ravi and his assistants travelling from Def Col to South Ex to Andrews Ganj in pursuit, catching sight of her and then losing sight again – and was always doomed to failure; even if she had been within catchable range, the sound of Ravi’s vehicle would be enough to send her into hiding. It was very upsetting. Here we had been congratulating ourselves for pulling off something important and hard to do, and now it seemed that we had not only separated a dog from her home permanently but also condemned her to being hunted by other dogs in unfamiliar territory. In between my hospital rounds, I kept calling a guilt-stricken Ravi for updates, or arranging for our car to be made available for another search. People who were trying to help would call up, asking me what the dog’s name was, because that might make it easier, and I didn’t know what to tell them: no one has ever given her a name, I had never interacted with her at any length myself; it was becoming hard to explain why I felt so responsible for her welfare.

And then, this morning, I got a call from the guard who sits at the end of the lane and occasionally looks out for the pups. She was back.

This scrawny, aging, mangy creature – weakened and unsettled by the surgery, bearing a very visible scar – had somehow, over a period of three or four days, found her way back to Saket, a good 8 or 9 km from where she ran away. And that’s only as the crow flies: the actual journey must have been a much more complicated one, with many stops and detours. Through the unfathomable traffic of two ring roads and numerous other thoroughfares, through other dogs’ territory, in a city that can be very hostile to strays. And at the end of it, she was reunited with her remaining pup, whom we have been fostering.

It’s one of those animal tales you sometimes hear about but don’t expect to see firsthand. I was looking at Google Maps earlier today, wondering which route she took, and marveling at the many potential hazards along even the easiest of them. What a heroine.


  1. Good job. Wish more people would step upto the task that lies before them they way you did. She will be okay now..the repeated childbearing that was quite literally draining her body has now stopped. She'll heal; the scars will disappear. Thank you

  2. This is indeed a miracle. Felt nice reading it. Thank you for putting it out here.

  3. It's a rare story indeed. Glad she has found her way back. And has people to watch out for her.

  4. beautiful story

  5. What an incredible story! More power to you and your wife for taking the time to do this.

  6. So touching.... Please, now that she is back home, give her enough food, so that she recovers fast... God will bless you...

  7. Dogs are the most amazing creatures on this planet

  8. Amazing story..hv been reading ur blog and i must say wish there were more people like you. God bless. If i may say since u feed stray dogs try adding a bit of turmeric and gandhak once in a while, i usualy do as it keeps many infections and stomach problems away