Sunday, July 12, 2009
Last week, a bedraggled little puppy struggled up Moy Moy's wheelchair ramp, pushed open the screen door and limped into our kitchen. She was filthy, covered with a flaking, unsightly rash and so infested with fleas she could not sit still without scratching.
I am not a dog person. I gave her a little milk and roti and hoped she would go away.
Of course, there was no chance of that.
I met her mother later that day - a wraith-like beast so thin every bone is visible - and it was clear she wasn't up to the task of nursing her. She seemed to be putting what little energy she had into her other pup, who is male and much healthier looking. Our little one had come to us out of desperation.
Five days later, she is still with us. Today I gave her a bath and picked dozens of fleas off her tiny little body. This evening the vet came, diagnosed the skin infection, gave her two injections and said he would be back tomorrow to give her more. We have named her Glenties (after my grandfather's village in Ireland - and in honor of my Masi's dog who was also named Glenties and who died the day this one arrived on our doorstep).
Pretty straightforward, right? Lots of people adopt street dogs. Here's the dilemma: when the vet came this evening, Glenties was miserable. She whimpered piteously when he gave her the injections, crept over to her bed and lay down trembling all over. He assured us that she would start to feel better in an hour or so.
Sure enough, an hour later, I went to check on her and discovered that she was gone. I went out on the street to look and there she was, cavorting with her brother as if she hadn't a care in the world. Her mother sat looking on, all protective and maternal. There was even a shifty looking father figure lurking in the background. The perfect little family. And there was me, the do-gooder missionary, bent on saving Glenties.
The vet had told us we needed to keep her in the garden and not allow her to go out at all or his treatment would be useless. Scabies is extremely contagious and if she hung out with her family she would surely be re-infected. So here's what we are offering her: life inside a locked garden, two injections a day until she is cured, a collar, a leash and plenty of food. Her mother offers scabies, a starvation diet, the love of a family and an early death.
Ravi, who is totally into this project, said I think too much. There's nothing to think about, he insisted. You're saving a puppy's life. You do as much as you can. So I decided not to think too much. I went and plucked her out of her family's warm embrace and took her back to our garden where I tied her up for the night next to a bowl of milk and chapatties. Her mother followed in a scolding rage, barking and trying to nip at my feet. I hardened my heart.
It was painful when the mother parked herself right outside our gate and was soon joined by the other pup. And then the father arrived!
It is now past midnight. Both the parents are still stationed outside the gate, whining and whimpering. The pup is trying urgently to get back to Mum. I feel like the judge in a case of child neglect, sternly refusing to allow a mother to be with her baby, solemnly intoning that it is in the "best interests of the child" that I take over where she has failed.
What would you do?