An Update to Buddy the Rescue Dog’s Story in Madurai

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March 17th 2020
Published: March 18th 2020
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I started the dog rescue story with hope. A happy ending uncertain. But there was hope.

So the following is the final chapter I will write while still in India.

Hope is still alive.

I rescued Buddy from death by tick fever, but found he has a chronic condition called mega esophagus. I could not return him to the streets as I had planned. I cared for him and sang to him and walked him and loved him, ever since he got back from the pet clinic and a temporary caretaker on January 24.

Buddy was my companion and best friend. During that time I just knew there would be lots of Indian homes wanting this loving boy. But my knowing turned to despair the closer I got to my exit date with no permanent home in sight. In desperation I extended my stay in Madurai two weeks, hoping that would buy me enough time to find him a home.

Those extra two weeks cemented my bond with Buddy. This street dog wanted to snuggle and walk and eat and lick his doggie lips and lean into my chest as I held him upright after he ate. I was focused on keeping him happy and getting him to gain weight, and I added a little coconut oil to his food and on some days gave him five meals hoping that would do the trick. He gained weight, despite the continued regurgitations, and seemed to be feeling better.

The veterinarian wanted to start him on medication to treat myasthenia gravis, a neurological condition that often causes mega esophagus. I thought he started puking more, so we cut back on the drug.

We had to keep adjusting the different medications—antacids, anti-nausea, viagra (yes—there is evidence it relaxes the valve between the esophagus and the stomach), and some other things to make him more comfortable. During all of this Buddy hung in there, continued to stare down cows on the street, lunge after food discards in garbage piles, and make noises at other street dogs. People continued staring at us.

And throughout this time I was trying to get a Bailey Chair made—a special box in which he would sit to eat upright, and afterwards sit upright for 20 minutes so the food could go to his stomach. I had a difficult time finding a reliable carpenter. I bought some plywood, thinking that would move things along. One carpenter came to the house, saying he’d build it that morning, but saw that I had purchased the plywood which he planned to sell me at a hefty profit. He said he’d return the next day. That’s when I knew he was done. The other five carpenters didn’t show up at the shop when we had an appointment, or never got back to me.

But finally, Thangaraj came to my place one night at 9:30 pm to discuss the project. He was recommended by a good friend. Something clicked. He said he’d return Monday to build it and my heart sank. But Monday morning he was at my place, ready to go.

The day of the full moon. Stuff like this happens on the day of the full moon.

Over the morning the chair came together, more or less according to my directions. Buddy watched Thangaraj as he measured and cut the plywood with his power saw, holding the pieces stable with his toes.

Then the power went out. Not in the neighborhood, just in my place. I called the electrician I knew, who was out of town. Thangaraj sped off on his motorcycle and returned with a small man who efficiently surveyed the situation, did something, and voila! The power was back.

Then I tried to stick Buddy in the half-made box, to make sure it was a good fit. I unhooked his leash and stuffed him in there, concluding we were ok. As I spoke with Thangaraj, I looked up and noticed Buddy was gone. Really gone.

“Where is he?” I asked the carpenter. He shrugged. The gate was open (the carpenter had left it open.) My gawd. Buddy had never gotten away before. I looked over the cement fence and saw him on the other side, happily snarfing up some old discarded rice on the ground.

“Buddy! Buddy!” He’s a street dog through and through. Paid no attention to me. The pathway to him was filled with rubbish and weeds so I couldn’t get to him.

I ran inside and got a bucket of water. He was close enough so I could toss the water on him. That got him moving. Really moving.

I ran outside the gate. “Buddy, come here!” Buddy could understand both English and Tamil. But he turned the opposite direction and dashed down the street with me in pursuit. The scene must have been hilarious to everyone.

Luckily he stopped at the corner snack place, where the man there had offered him biscuits and snacks in the past. He stood in front of the place, expecting a food handout. I grabbed his collar, lifted him in my arms, and carried him home, telling him he was a very bad street dog.

I secured him while the carpenter continued work.

“Wood screws?” He asked. He was supposed to get those. In my abysmal Tamil I was sure I had been crystal clear—I did not have wood screws, he needed to bring some. I gave him some money and he dashed off to a shop to buy some wood screws.

By 2:00 pm he was sanding the edges of the chair, making it ready for Buddy. I got really particular about sanding all the rough edges and Thangaraj complained with good humor. When he finished, he declined to pose for a photo with the chair and the dog.

“You’ll be famous,” I said. “The only carpenter in Madurai who’s made a Bailey chair.”

He told my neighbor who was translating that he didn’t want to be famous. It was his duty, he said.

The happy ending to the chair story is Thangaraj charged a very reasonable price and now Buddy has his chair. He didn’t like it at first, but he knows it means food, so he’s getting used to it. And the veterinarian even asked me for Thangaraj’s contact number so he could build chairs for other dogs who need it!

But the most hopeful thing of all is Buddy’s new foster home. Temporary, yes. The veterinarian, Dr. Kumar, had talked one of his clients into taking Buddy into her home, where she already has 14 dog rescues. She and her daughter love dogs and treat them as their children. They’re all well fed and beautiful.

Buddy will live there for two months. Then afterwards I don’t know. And to repeat from previous blogs, I did look into shipping him home, but he’s just too fragile right now and needs to be fully vaccinated. I told Dr. Kumar we must keep trying to find a home for him. He said he would try. Buddy was accepted for adoption at a dog sanctuary outside of Bangalore with 800 other dogs. But he needs a loving family in Madurai, especially one that is willing to accept his sweet nature and spend the time necessary with him.

I left Buddy recently in his new place. And of course I cried. I never knew a rescue dog could open my tender heart and fill it with such love and joy.

Additional photos below
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18th March 2020

Great story
What a good job...Hope you'll be able to bring him to see him!
19th March 2020

Indian Street dog in Aztec?
Thanks Jim. Don’t know what will happen. But it’s all for the best. Maybe he’ll bless the perfect Indian family.

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