Thursday, September 17, 2009
I could hear the soft whimpering distinctly growing louder as the drizzle turned into torrential downpour. It was 5.00 am. Still dark and growing darker still by the second as black clouds kept on gathering and melting into opaque sheets of silver. The shadows of the tall trees loomed large and seemed to huddle closer as if to protect themselves from the onslought. The park was just ten feet away from my flat and looked ominous and unkempt inspite of the half hearted attempts made by our neighbours to give it a "tended" look.
The plaintive cries rose and fell with the increasing ferocity of the storm and gradually surpassed the cumulative cacoophony of rain, wind and lightening. For the first time in my life, I could not enjoy the long awaited monsoons or as the Meteorological Department had announced with suddenly-regained confidence, "an unprecedented reversal of monsoons".
It was impossible now to keep on listening to the steady drone of anguish. I felt disturbed and as the wail grew stronger in frequency and volume , disturbance gave way to helplessness and a growing sence of panic. I could not stand any more and opened the door and stepped out. The rains were like darts pricking my body with a rhythmic ardour. I headed towards the park. The curtains of rain closed in upon me making every movement difficult and time consuming. Who would say that the park was adjacent to my flat. It seemed as though I was slithering through drapes and drapes of water stretching endlessly in front trying to reach my destination which looked near at hand like a mirage but was actually miles afar.
At last I reached the gate of the park. The grounds had become muddy, soft and slippery; as I stepped in the soil caved in under my feet making me off-balance. I staggered in and almost fell. In normal times, the tall trees with their bushy foliage always kept the park shaded from sunlight and heat, but now with the downpour it was a shade darker inside and difficult to see even a few feet ahead.
The cries were louder here. But the source of the sound was not visible. Although I could make quite an appropriate guess as to where the noise came from. I followed the sound. Our neighbours had divided the park in half by growing a hedge in between which cut across the park. I had to be careful not to step on the same, so jumped over it. It was a mistake. The other half of the park more or less lay like a disused communal garbage bin; untended and dirty, it had almost turned into a quagmire in the rains. It was just my luck that I did not fall headlong into the mud.
I could not see anything still. I knew they were in trouble but where they were I could not make out. Our park had almost become a vet's nursery when two bitches who looked very similar to each other gave birth to nine puppies. The older one had six while the younger one had three. Now the two mothers helplessly looked around as the rains lashed and the wind blew with gusto. The younger one had her puppies with her. They were very recently born and looked like tiny tadpoles. The mother had dug up the ground before delivering and the puppies usually slept in the oval shaped bowel of earth ( a kind of earthy cot for the babies). They still had not got their vision(their eyes were shut tight) and could just crawl a feet at a time when hungry to reach out to their mother. The mother was always with them over protective and nourishing them with her milk. The older puppies were a little bigger in size but still not able to see. It seemed somebody had moved the older ones from the flower bed where they usually lay.
I was perplexed. The bowel wherein the younger puppies were huddled in was full of water. The mother not knowing what to do, would not move from there and kept sitting with her young ones hugging them with her body. I could see the puppies were drowning and would die if not removed immediately. I gesticulated to the mother trying to make her understand that I was a friend and had come to save her young ones. She did not budge but suddenly looked upward to the sky and started wailing loudly as though calling out to God Almighty for help. It was piteous to see how a desparate and inexperienced mother tried her level best to protect her children from inclement weather. I stood there drenched to the core not knowing how to help her out. There was nobody around. Obviously, the morning walkers, so punctual about their stroll, seeing bad weather, had decided against moving out and taken refuge in their beds.
By this time fear gripped the young mother. She jumped up suddenly and ran to the opposite corner of the park and curled in shivering. This was my chance. I moved forward and picked up the babies. They were slimy creatures and almost slipped out of my gasp. I took two at a time and ran towards home.
My balcony gate gave way to a few feet of cemented ground raised a little higher than the road to prevent water logging in front of the flat. I placed the babies on this cemented table below the kitchen window sheltered by the fibre-sheet awning on top and the pots of plants on the sides. I ran back to bring the third one. Their mother was still curled in the corner fearful and cold watching with helpless eyes. But her babies were safe now. Wet and hungry, they crawled around the plant pots to get familiar with their new surrounding.
I went back to the park. This was my third round. I had to find six more puppies, though invisible, could be heard loud and clear. I again followed the sound and came to the other end of the park. The older bitch looked indecisive as though not sure about the safety of her babies. I do not know it was her indecisiveness or to beckon me to the right spot, she moved closer to the rear end of the park and as she reached the rear wall I caught sight of the puppies. Some thoughtful person had placed a square piece of thermocol atop, but the puppies restless and frightened, were trying to move out of the temporary and inadequate shelter now. I picked them up. Two at a time. Their wet bodies found warmth in my palm. They lay still and stopped crying. As I moved forward, the mother bitch overtook me and ran out. I reached my flat to find that she was already there thumping her tale and giving me the "I-knew-you-would-do-the-good deed" look. It was not a surprise that she knew beforehand the destination of the puppies as they were rescured by my nephew and brother-in-law, on a similar occassion, not very long ago, and deposited here along with the mother.
It took two more visits to bring all the puppies to safe shelter. The third time I went back with the mission to somehow convince the younger bitch to come and feed her puppies. But she had absconded. I came back worried. Though the puppies were safe I did not know how to feed the tiny ones and keep them alive. They were too small for external feeding.
I found the tiny tots had slided behind the money plant. The older bitch sitting next to her babies were licking them fervently to perhaps dry their dripping coat. Soon she would start feeding them. I picked up one of the tiny pups and placed it near her with great trepidation and pleaded her to look after the abandoned one. I was scared if she bit the pup it would be difficult to keep them there. She looked doubtful knowing at once that it was not hers and then sniffed the pup hesitantly. I stood still. The pup crawled up her body and groped for her nipples. The bitch did not move and suddenly she was licking it. I was overjoyed. One after the other, I placed the destitutes in her lap and she licked them and allowed them to feed from her breasts. My worry was over. The bitch had accepted the discarded ones.
Thereafter, it became my moral responsibility to see that the nine pups were together, comfortable, well fed and warm. It rained incessantly for three days. The pups with their mother stayed there for all the three days. They crawled all over the place sometimes drifting away whereupon it was my duty to pick them and place them next to their mother. They pissed and soiled the ground so much so that my whole house stank and it was impossible to keep the front windows open. I fed the mother so that she could feed her babies sufficiently. Sometimes, the mother went gallivanting around and the babies whimpered together. The teeny-meenies cried more as they were always hungry. It was difficult to stay aloof inside the house when the babies were crying incessantly in hunger or being left alone right outside.
Mr. Snowboot (our pet) was very annoyed and unhappy with the whole situation. He could not understand how dogs could be so small and wierd in behaviour and looks. He would take a stroll outside peep through the balcony gate and walk away disgruntled grumbling softly under his breath. Soon he gave in to fate and came to reward the puppies and their mother with his royal ignorance.
The second day Ashwin and Didi told me that the situation was going beyond the bounds of health and hygiene. Maa said to look for some alternate arrangement as a few days more of the stink, the whole house would need to be sanitized by a full tanker of disinfectants. I was in a dilemma. Being their saviour, I could not throw them away. The rains made it impossibl to look for any other alternative. Clueless as to what to do next, my "puppy farm" stayed where it was.
On the fourth day, early morning, though still cloudy, I saw the mother bitch carrying away the tiny tadpoles in her mouth. I followed. Soon I found that she had found a better option under one of the trees in the park opposite to ours where the foliage was so thick that neither sunlight nor even rain could penetrate through. Surprisingly the absconded bitch was also loitering around that vicinity. One by one the mother carried the new borns to the safe shade under the tree. Then she came back and tried to pick up her babies. But they were now too big to be picked up by the mouth. She tried to drag them by the ear; the babies started yelping. I decided to help the mother and carried them two at a time to the other park. Interestingly, it did not rain again. This once again made me realize that animals are nature's children. The mother bitch knew by her own instinctive knowledge that it was safe to move out of the make shift kennel or whatever one would like to call that inadequate arrangement.
Weeks passed by. Twice I went round to see whether they were safe. In my second visit I could not find them. I was sad.
But not for long.
They have now come back. Seven out of nine. The cutest one( a white coated one with gray-green spots; happy and plump who slept with all four tiny legs spreadeagled) was picked up when the puppies were sheltered under my kitchen awning. I hope he has been blessed with a caring family.The other one contacted a deadly infectious skin desease and cannot be found anymore.
The saviours are always tormented by their self-imposed moral obligations. Now it is my duty to see that these seven are comfortable, well fed and medicated(I could not save the infected one but I managed to save the rest of the herd with timely dosage). And in return, the mongrels have taken a pledge to destroy my plants, break the pots, chew away the leaves and moss grass and generally wreak havoc in and around my house. If I am late in giving them their morning feed, which is between 4.30 and 5.30 am, seven pairs of clawed feet dutifully bang my gate to give me a polite reminder that I am forgetting my most important daily chore.
But their most perturbing play is chasing and teasing Mr. Boots during his morning walks which leaves us both panting and frothing and praying that these toddlers will have better sense of gaming pleasure than the bizarre sadistic glee they derive from nibbling and nosing Mr. Boots when he is in his most disadvantageous position. Obviously, Boots detests these interferences Most part of the walk is concluded in dizzying speed looking for a quiet corner where SB can relieve himself in peace. We are yet to find that spot.
Moral of the story "doing good does not always yeild good". On the contrary, it can sometimes boomerang. In fact, yes, most of the times. This is what I have inferred from my experience.