My phone rings. It is my neighbour.
“Poonam, do you know that there is a dog lying outside your house?”
I instantly got up from my bedroom and went to check at the door. Sure enough, there was a large black dog laying in front my gate. He had a huge wound, yet I could see he was breathing. There was also a huge odour. I silently closed the door.
I was soon on phone to find a vet. A colleague, R, who is also an animal rights activist, said she would get me some help. Actually this whole effort could not have been made without her help. First she gave me the number of a voluntary organisation called Paws.
Me: Hi, I have a wounded dog lying at my gate. He needs a vet. Can you please help?
Paws: Can you please describe the wound?
Me: Its about 6 inches circular wound infested with something like flies.
Paws: Does it smell?
Me: Yes, a lot.
Paws: It’s a maggot wound, which is very painful for dogs. Sometimes they are consumed within 4-5 hours. Can you bring the dog to clinic it is here and here?
Me: How will I bring the dog! One it’s huge dog and there is no help around. Second it’s injured. Third it may bite. And life is seeping out of him, he needs help urgently. Being new in city, I might take time in finding my way so far.
Paws: Just put it in an auto rickshaw and send it to this address. I will see if I can find you a volunteer. It is hard since it is Sunday. But I must warn you that our dog kennels are full so the volunteer will only help you with first aid and taking it to vet. Our volunteer will bring back the dog and then if the dog is still around, we can take to vet every day.
I hung up in dismay. Needless to mention, no autowallah agreed to carry the dog. To be fair to Paws, a very nice Paws volunteer Rishabh called me, but by that time I had had help for the dog. Rishabh assured me that dogs do recover from huge maggot wounds.
I recounted this to my colleague and searched Net for other animal rescue organisations. It was again my colleague R who then came up with a number for Animal Farm. They would send the ambulance, she said.
I called them, yes they were sending ambulance. Only two conditions: I must ensure that dog doesn’t go any more when ambulance arrives from so far so maybe I could tie it. And I should cover the wound with a cloth so that it is not infested with more infection.
Covering the wound was alright, but I was unable to tie the wounded dog as instructed. To be honest, much as I wanted to help, I was very scared.
My earliest memory of a dog is to be chased by one when I was 10. I let out horrifying cries while running with shopping bags in hand when the dog (or was it dogs) chased me around. It was a small lone stretch of ground I was running on, and it was dusky. Fortunately, a friend of my father had heard my cries and came running. While he shooed away the dogs (yes, it was a pack of dogs), I fell down to my knees on the ground with relief. That day uncle gave me an important lesson to deal with dogs. My first lesson on dog’s reflexes. Now whenever I see a dog on street, I do two things instinctively. I chant prayers in my mind and second pretend to stoop low as if I am picking a stone. It always works, even the growling dogs who have been dangerously eying, run away when they see you stooping to pick a stone.
Cut to Present. I asked for help from people to tie the wounded dog down, I don’t get any. People said it was stray dog, could bite. Maybe they were right. So I did the second best thing.
I kept my door open; open to bad odour from the dog. I plonked with my laptop in the living room to keep an eye on the dog while the ambulance arrived. I realised later that I needn’t have bothered since dog didn’t budge except when lights came on in the evening. Even when Ambulance arrived and the two men had to haul the dog in their lap since dog was too weak to even stand.
They said they would give him painkiller on the way and that judging by the condition dog will have to be put on drip when they get to their vet hospital.
The ambulance guy asked me to fill up a form and charge five hundred bucks for ambulance. I paid and asked for the receipt. (Later, when I saw the receipt it was a donation receipt and not receipt of services. ) To be honest I had planned to donate little more than this. After all, this was only organisation that agreed to send an ambulance. Yet I was flummoxed by being asked upfront for money.
I called my animal lover colleague and discussed. She agreed that services were meant to be free so that people would be more and more forthcoming in helping the mute, stray beings. So, I went on to speak to the proprietor of the organisation.
Me: Hey, just want to know do you charge for ambulance or is it voluntary?
Animal Farm Lady: Of course we charged. Ambulance came from far. Petrol charges. And I spent 3 lakhs from my pocket for the organisation to run. The least I can ask is to cover the cost of ambulance. We will provide medication and health care to so many other dogs and several other animals.
Me: I admire the work you do. I would love to be part of what you do. I don’t regret giving the money. I just wanted to be sure about the charges because I had this idea that you provide free, voluntary service so that more people would care and report about the animals. I wondered if it was error on the ambulance driver’s part.
Animal Farm: That’s not my problem, people’s problem. (Me thinking that was animals’ problem! For if you charge money, many people may turn a blind eye. ) And the driver gave you receipt so you shouldn’t worry about his mistake or money not reaching us. I have spent a lot of money and effort. Why don’t you come down and check out my facility? See our farm and then make up your mind.
Me: I sure will come down. Thanks again for taking care. Please do update me on the dog’s progress.
After the call, I decided that the lady was within her rights to ask for a small donation. No one else was willing to send an ambulance on Sunday to my area. No one else takes out their time and savings to start a NGO for the mute beings. They deserve more help from me. From us.
Next day, I received a call from Animal Farm. My dog hadn’t survived the night. They will arrange for a dog funeral, Yes, Animal Farm takes care of animal funerals too.
I had failed the dog, but I learnt a lesson in life.
P.S: Thank you, Animal Farm. I recommend them to animal lovers in Pune.