The broken puppy

I promised a post on the stray puppy we took in. I’ve been putting it off until I could bring you good news or any news rather, of his progress. I started writing this last week with a conflicted mind, hoping to poll readers on what we should do with him but as “fate” would have it our internet was shot the day I intended to post this. So here’s  the story of… the puppy with no name.

Two Sundays ago we came home from our inspiring trip to Bissamcuttack to find a stray puppy, emaciated, shivering, scared, with cloudy blue eyes, very hungry sitting on our welcome mat. He had three bite marks on his haunches. The position of the marks led us to conclude that he was caught in the jaws of another animal i.e a dog. This being mating season and dogs moving about in packs, quite out of control fighting over females,  I wouldn’t be surprised if the puppy got entangled in one such squabble. The result of the bite was not just deep ugly wounds but the blow had come to the periphery nerves radiating from the spinal cord that control the hind legs. The puppy could not move his hind legs and in a sitting position would drag his legs behind him.

First few days

He was living in our verandah/balcony under a little side table covered with a curtain, some newspaper and towels and old lungis on the ground and since it’s been raining he had a Russian army issue poncho covering his make shift digs. We took him to the vet the day after we found him. The vet was confident that Indian strays are so resilient that he would walk again. He was given painkillers, an antiseptic spray for his wounds and some vitamins/anti-oxidants. The spray did wonders and his bite wounds healed incredibly quickly. For the past two weeks he’s been eating well, seemed much more lively and even though his eyes are still clouded over (possible anemia, or caused by some trauma to the eyes) he is much healthier. He started to come out of his makeshift kennel and move around the verandah, even complaining when he was hungry or when Abroozi and I would go out. But as you can see in the picture below, his hind legs are absolutely stiff.

Well enough to venture out of his kennel

After 2 weeks he still couldn’t move his hind legs. We saw some improvement when he bent his “ankle” and was able to lift his haunches off the ground. But because he cannot move his hind legs we think it’s just the strength of his upper body giving him the ability to lift his haunches to assume a normal dog like stance, with his torso horizontal to the ground but without his hind legs taking the weight of his body. He only bent his ankle once and never again. Even though he sometimes assumes a normal dog’s standing position, he tips over very quickly. He moves around by dragging his dead legs and most of the time he sits on his bum and uses the strength of his front two legs to drag himself around. In the pictures below, the wound visible was a huge gaping hole which after a week healed remarkably well.

Bending the ankle – a huge but shortlived improvement

Bending the ankle

We noticed a real change in him when we put him out in the garden and even though he couldn’t move his hind legs he got around incredibly fast. I think being out in the open suited him better than staring at the high white walls of the verandah. It would be the same for a human being lying in a hospital bed staring up at a white ceiling all day. When he’s happy and being petted, his ears go long and sideways and reminds me of Yoda.

Yoda ears

When we took him in, we gave him two weeks. It’s a fair amount of time to observe any signs of rabies and would give us a fair assessment of whether he shows any signs of using both or just one of his hind legs. I’ve seen many dogs manage just fine wth 3 legs but never with 2.

So this was our conundrum that I had wanted you to weigh in on. We had two options, either we take him to an animal shelter called Vishaka Society for Protection and Care of Animals (VSPCA) where they look after hundreds of abused or abandoned cows, water buffalo, dogs, cats, cobras, monkeys and birds. They have a huge sprawling acreage but we had not actually seen the premises. They are funded by generous donors from the US, Canada, Australia and some Indians but receive no government aid. The second option was to take him to the vet and have him put down.

My main problem with putting him down was, what right do we have to take his life? Isn’t all life precious? Had we actually done enough for him medically? The rational scientific argument is that he is no longer functioning as a dog is supposed to. The job or natural purpose of a dog is to run around and hunt etc.  With 2 legs he will not be able to walk again or be a normal dog.  If we set him “free” out in to the urban wilderness he wouldn’t last a day. He’d either get mauled by another animal or run over. In the animal world there is no compassion for the sick, the injured or the slow. It’s very common in the natural world for animals to kill the injured or dying. I’ve seen a flock of crows peck to death one crow that had been electrocuted on a power line who was dying. In the natural world, unlike in the human world, if you can’t do what your body was made for, you die. But in the human world we show compassion for those whose bodies and minds no longer function as biologically intended. I write this as the paralympic games celebrates the astonishing abilities of those with physical disabilities.

The other reason for putting him down is the lack of facilities in India to rehabilitate dogs with physical disabilities. If we lived in the US, they would put wheels on his back legs and he’d have a nice hard surface in which to drag those wheels around but we just don’t have those facilities in India. Even if we did fashion wheels for him, where in India would he have anything but dirt tracks to walk on that would actually be more of a hazard if he tips over.

The other argument presented to me was that now that we have taken him in, he’s become ours and shouldn’t we do for him what we would do for our own? Even though we have no emotional connection to him (we hadn’t even named him) he was now under our care. So what would we do if our Abroozi’s hind legs were paralyzed. Would we leave him at some shelter/ farm, thinking about his welfare everyday. Honestly, I would put ABroozi down in this situation if he was in pain, rather than leave/abandon him somewhere out of sight but still very much on the mind. So shouldn’t we extend the same principle to this puppy as well? Others would say that any life is valuable and precious and even if it is dependent on others, one cannot just extinguish a life just because of a disability. They call it mercy killing. Would I want to be in this situation, with no one to love and take care of me, without being able to fend for myself? Definitely not.

But how can we put down a puppy that apart from not being able to use his hind legs at all or wag his tail, is otherwise healthy. Is it better to put him down because otherwise he will live a miserable life, unable to run and chase and be a dog? Or is it better to put him down knowing that at least he is not going to die alone, afraid, hungry and in pain but cared for as best as was possible.

I just couldn’t face taking his life without exploring all the options. After much debate we took him to the VSPCA, on NH5 outside of Vizag toward Vizianagaram. When I had called them they said they would have to see the condition of the animal before they could decide whether to take him in or not. What we later discovered is a wonderful voluntary animal shelter funded by some generous Indians. Americans and Canadians. A sprawling acreage, filled with trees, fantastic composting, biogas, rain harvesting and intelligent re-use of the waste produced to power the shelter. Dogs roam around the campus free during the day and sleep in their individual 2 storey cages (water bowls below and a sleeping platform above) at night. There are around 375 such individual kennels.

The head of the pack is Mrs.Sharda. A slight older woman who is kind, generous and definitely going to heaven. When I asked her why she set this place up she said she didn’t have a family of her own, she loves animals and so this is her family. The dogs clearly respect her and would not let us enter until we were accompanied by her. The residents are an odd ball motley crew of animals, each with their own problems but living in complete happy harmony with each other. We saw a beautiful Great Dane who had been abandoned by a Navy officer. When they got transferred to a new post/station, they left the dog tied to a tree in the garden. The dog, Tiger had beautiful black stripes along his shiny brown body (ergo the name) but both his hind legs had a bone deformity. He walked a little odd and had some swelling but he was beautiful, affectionate and happy. There is only one other dog there, Maria, who cannot use her hind legs and get this – they got her wheels and she loves it. She’s able to move around freely with them during the day and only at night are they taken off when she sleeps. I was amazed and instantly very hopeful for the puppy we had brought. We didnt’ get to meet Maria but this is what a dog in a wheelchair looks like

Dog in a wheelchair. Picture from consciouslifestylesradioblog.com

Mrs. Sharda told us the puppy would be kept in quarantine for the next 3 days as his condition was assessed by the vet,  after which she would call us to decide what could be done for him. We left feeling that we had done the right thing and that he was in the right hands. Being dog lovers we had to leave a generous donation and some other items like bed sheets,the lungi he had become accustomed to sleep on, towels, bowl etc for the puppy. Mrs.Sharda called the very  next day saying they would give him therapy, including daily B12 injections that would stimulate nerve growth for a month and observe his progress. Obviously, he was worth saving. I intend to call in a couple of weeks to check up on him and find out what they named the little chap.

I know that some readers will be angry with me for even thinking of putting him down because unless the animal is very sick or rabid there is very little support for euthanasia in the Western world. But consider the argument that given the lack of facilities in India to look after, let alone rehabilitate injured dogs this is an option we are forced to consider. It is easier when viewing things from a position of privilege. But the VSPCA has opened my eyes to what people and animals are capable of achieving. There aren’t many places like the VSPCA around but it gives me hope for humanity that people and places like this exist in India. If you are an animal lover it costs just US$20 to sponsor an animal at the VSPCA for one month. As for the puppy with no name, I hope that his broken legs will not break his spirit.

Picture from VSPA.ORG

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About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden. www.nonsensegirl.wordpress.com
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26 Responses to The broken puppy

  1. Tara says:

    realy happy forthat dog and all the other animals who are at VSPCA..hopefully someday i can also run a place like that-would be a dream come true!

  2. Pingback: Robo and Kali | nonsense girl

  3. Katie says:

    I only wish there was a way to get him to Northern Minnesota – we would welcome him with open arms!! He would be taken care of, given all needed medical care and loved, snuggled and spoiled. Lord bless you for you taking him in and doing all that you did!

    • gkorula says:

      Katie – that would really be a rags to riches story if he came to Minnesota! I’ll keep you posted on his progress and I think he’s in good hands with the VSPCA

  4. mnsteger says:

    Can’t face the day with complaints after reading this – what a wonderful story about life to tell! How serendipitous that he was drawn to your mat where he began the path to that particular future. The Western view on euthanasia unfortunately can and often does lead to continued suffering by extending life simply because the technology is there to do so. This is the downside to that privilege, one we have faced ourselves several times and have in each case respected the quality of life of our animals over artificial longevity at the cost of suffering. The most difficult commitment made from humans to pets is not the daily care for the years that you have them but for the promise of helping their lives end as humanely as possible. Thank you for your beautiful writing : )

    • gkorula says:

      That was very well put. It is this very dilemma we faced. Perhaps we made the wrong decision – but it was with good intention and only time will tell. And if we made the right one then it’s a celebration of life’s uncanny ability to thrive in the face of adversity. THank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I have no idea what I would have felt like if we had put him down…

      • mnsteger says:

        I would have done the same, which is why your story struck me. It was that he didn’t appear to be in pain but more so because of how he responded in the freedom of your garden. Glad to read that he may be responding to treatment, which is what your intuition may have been telling you when you decided to carry him to VSPCA. I have been wanting to visit India for quite some time, and if I had only one choice of a place to go it would be to see the animals in their home there because it’s animals that have made me a better person : )

  5. sankriti says:

    admired ur spirit.. thank you for helping an indian dog.. may you keep doing so!!

  6. Thank goodness for the rescuer, although I hope the rescuer will fund this poor dog’s life time care, the generous donors who fund VSPCA worldwide are not enough to keep it going. and several other pups like this needing help, please donate for his lifetime care , once you save a life it doesn’t end there: http://www.vspca.org/donate we will also post it to the http://www.facebook.com/vspca page, thanks very much Sue Norman for informing VSPCA of it and thank goodness the puppy is saved, blessings to all worldwide who care and have kindness in their thoughts and deeds

  7. Sue Bates Norman says:

    I have also visited the VSPCA and it is an amazing place! Have you posted this blog on the VSPCA Facebook page? I know that they would really appreciate that!

    • gkorula says:

      Thanks Sue. I’m not on Facebook so could you post the link to this write up for me pls? Thanks!

      • Sue Bates Norman says:

        I forwarded your blog to the woman who runs the VSPCA facebook page. I am sure she will post it there, but if not, I will. By the way, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your posts. I am an American woman married to an Indian man, and we live part of the year in Vizag, and part of the year in America. My husband is retired from the Indian Navy, and he enjoys your blogs, too. Thanks so much! Sue

      • gkorula says:

        Thanks Sue. I had no idea your husband was ex-Navy! How wonderful. He’s going to enjoy tomorrow’s post. Let us know when you are next in Vizag – it would be great to meet up with you guys (genuinely)

      • Sue Bates Norman says:

        We would love to meet you when we are in Vizag! Leaving for India a month from today! We will let you know when we arrive. Looking forward to reading your blog tomorrow. (My husband was the training commander of the shipwright school in Vizag at the end of his career. He was in the navy from 1962-2000.)

  8. Vikram Karve says:

    Well Done. God will bless you for your good deed.

  9. Leela Ramaswamy says:

    So moving! The world is richer for people like you and Shardha.

  10. StuPC says:

    My brother had a not dissimilar dilemma with his dog – koolaidrich.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/lennon-3/
    I’m full of admiration for the way you took care of your little foundling. 🙂

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