Thursday, May 07, 2020

Lockdown chronicles – a reunion of old foes: a man in a mask and a dog in a muzzle

More about animal-care. I wrote five years ago about the wonderful incident of the black dog in our colony who made it all the way back to Saket after running away from Friendicoes, where we had sent her to be spayed (the post is here, for anyone interested). This dog, who still doesn't have a name apart from a generic Kaali, is the mother of my Lara, and as a result I feel a strong connection with her – even though she only sometimes came to our lane and I didn’t see her for days or weeks on end. In the past year or so, now that she is very old, she has settled down a bit and is being looked after by a nearby resident; I give her some paneer and biscuits whenever I see her.

Kaali developed a nasty, festering ear injury a few days ago, and once I realised how serious it was, I called Ravi and Manoj, who do so much animal-feeding and rescuing for us during these locked-down days. With the help of a guard, we managed to get her leashed and into an enclosed space (which can be the hardest part of these missions), and for the past three days extensive treatment has been underway. Anyone who has seen a deep ear injury in a street dog will know what I mean when I say this was a touch-and-go case. The initial cleaning resulted in the evacuation of literally dozens of big dead maggots – a day’s delay and they would probably have burrowed into her brain. But Ravi, as usual, with limited resources, carrying his own very basic medical kit everywhere, did a great job. Chances are she will recover fully in a few days.

Two things about this: 1) When I was a child, probably right up to age 11 or 12, my stock answer to the question “What will you be when you grow up?” was “A veterinarian.” (Then, of course, I got older and wiser and the answer became “a chartered accountant”, which seemed the practical thing, and which is what I still tell anyone who asks me the question today.)

Very often in recent times I have felt like that childhood dream has been belatedly realised – that I have become, if not anything like a full-blown vet, at least an acceptable apprentice. (My most damaged and troublesome dog Chameli has usually been the conduit for this.) And never has this feeling been more pronounced than in the past few days: no surprise when one is administering various sorts of medicines at regular intervals, cleaning deep and ugly wounds, and assisting in the removal of clusters of maggots from delicate places. My mother, who smiled proudly whenever I said “a vet” as a child, would have liked hearing about these adventures.

2) As I mentioned in that old post, Ravi was Kaali’s nemesis in 2015 – he was the one who took her to Friendicoes for her operation, she escaped from him and would bolt, snarling, every time she heard the sound of his car when he tried to find her. Now, five years later, their paths have crossed again in unexpected circumstances, and it feels like things have come full circle – it’s a tale that has redemption, grace, forgiveness, all those grand and inflated human themes. She has been terrified during the treatment, but there’s a more resigned, senior-citizen look in her eyes when she sees him, as if she’s saying, “Well, I can’t run away from you all my life, and there isn’t much life left now anyway, so let’s get on with this.” (Meanwhile, Ravi tells her elaborate stories in a steadily comforting voice even as he does the treatment: things like “Haan haan, Friendicoes mein woh Chhotu abhi bhi aapke baare mein poochte rahta hai – woh kahin phirse toh nahin bhaag gayi?”)

Today, after we removed her muzzle and leash and set her free, I was surprised to see her walking back towards him and wagging her tail a bit, even though she had been shrieking in pain when her ears were being cleaned. Displays of trust like this make many of these situations seem worth the effort.
[More about Ravi and Manoj and their efforts here]

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