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Published: January 1st 2017
I was visited by angels. Really. I was alone, feeling helpless, approaching panic. Then they came, the two young men, and they didn’t leave until things were right.
“We’re just people,” they insisted. Nope, angels, no doubt about it.
It all had to do with the puppy.
I had been visiting the puppy with the hurt leg for about five days. Every morning, after walking around the shady coolness of Lady Doak College, I would step into the noisy world outside and walk a short ways up the street. The puppy would be crumpled somewhere in a dark, safe place, and when it walked, it held its rear leg aloft and hobbled instead. His eyes carried pain, and the first day when his leg was freshly injured, he whimpered when I scratched his chin.
His mother, a dirty white skinny thing with milk heavy underneath, approached and allowed me to scratch under her chin. Her cinnamon colored eyes closed, and sometimes she leaned her forehead into me and just stood, feeling my touch. Human touch that she rarely experienced.
One day I watched a man with a shiny tiffin pail walk by. His face was all
smiles as he tossed biscuits to the mother and a male dog. That male dog growled at me the first time I saw him, so I never touched him. But he was always around, sitting on the street edge near the mother. When the happy man tossed biscuits, he and the mother waggled their tails, and followed him, watching for more flying biscuits. The man patted the mother on the muzzle—but it wasn’t really a pat, it was more like a slap, and she closed her eyes and lowered her head. Maybe she was just grateful for any human touch.
The day before the angel visit, I found the puppy with tail wagging. He was hopping and bouncing and playing with some strands of something. His leg was feeling better, and he was trying to be a puppy. Mom appeared and stood for chin scratches.
“Hello,” I said. “You’re a good mama.” The puppy suckled as I scratched.
But yesterday as I approached, the mother saw me then howled. And howled. I moved closer, and she jumped on me. This was strange behavior, I thought, I had only given her affection, so why was she howling. Something
was not right. “Let’s sit on this bench,” I said as she hopped beside me. “Where’s your baby?”
I looked for him in the drain hole underneath the walkway. As I moved closer, I saw just one thing. Red. Bright crimson red. He raised his quivering head, On the top, where the white furry stripe use to be, was a big gaping hole. His white skull was exposed in a spot bigger than a quarter, and was rimmed by pink flesh. The blood oozed.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no no no. Oh my gosh, what has happened?” The pup looked at me with glazed grey eyes. His whole body shook. I rested my hand on the trembling. He was just healing from his hurt leg, and now he had a fresh wound, and his life was streaming out of it. I flashed on a long painful death—infection, shock, sepsis, maggots crawling. I shook my head.
A foreigner in India, that’s what I was, who had become attached to street dogs. Flies hovered, several landed on the raw flesh, and I brushed them away. The mother stood next to me. Save my pup, she said. Do something,
she said. Help him, she said. She licked the oozing blood.
Could I walk away? No. Could I scoop him up and take him somewhere? Where? What to do? I called Jeeva, the young woman whom I had told about the puppy earlier. “I don’t even know if he’s going to live. He’s trembling. He’s suffering. Oh my gosh, what should I do?” She would try to find the phone number of a rescue organization in Madurai. I phoned my homestay host and briefed him. He said he would send the number of a rescue organization also.
I sat there, hand on the puppy, feeling powerless and so sad for this animal with no name and no home. He tried to lift his small head, but finally just put it down. People walked and drove and bicycled by. Some gave us a glance, all looked away. They had seen this situation all too often. What could they do? It was just another injured street dog.
They don’t want me to call them angels, but suddenly they were there. Gokul and Saruhasan were real and solid, sitting on a motor scooter, looking with concerned eyes at the puppy
and looking at me with my hand on the suffering young dog.
“What happened?” I shrugged and said I’d just found him this way; he was okay yesterday.
“There’s a hospital about three kilometers from here.”
“With a veterinarian?”
“Well, could you take him? I’ll pay for it.”
“Yes, we’ll take him. And the treatment is free—it is a government hospital.”
I threw my arms up to the heavens and cried out, “Thank you‼”
Angels, they were. Angels.
What would happen to the puppy afterwards? Would I need to take him? Saruhasan said he would take the puppy to his house after treatment, care for him during recovery, and look for an adoptive home for him.
This was not the first time they had done this. They assured me that they love dogs, and they’ve rescued many from the streets. This is what they do.
They found an auto rickshaw. As Saruhasan, the puppy with the hole in his head, and I drove off, I looked at the mother with the soft cinnamon eyes standing there, watching us. She knew. She knew things would be alright for her
“I love dogs,” Saruhasan assured me again.
While at the animal hospital, I learned more about these young angel-men. Saruhasan earned a degree in computer engineering, and Gokul earned a degree in electrical engineering and is studying for a masters degree in business. They searched for jobs for a year in Chennai, and Saruhasan found work for several months, but both wanted to pursue projects in social services. They returned to Madurai, where they started planning.They’ve just recently established a trust to help all kinds of animals—dogs, cats, cows, goats—and to help educate people about animal care. But they need additional funds to support their efforts. Their enthusiasm and commitment seemed so strong, I knew they would contribute much goodness to the world.
The veterinarian examined the puppy, and cleaned and sutured the wound. Saruhasan held the pup during the painful stitches, while Gokul went outside so he wouldn’t hear him cry, even though he had received an injection of anesthetic. The doctor was kind enough to allow me to photograph him and his assistants at work on the pup. Twenty minutes later the hole was stitched shut, a bandage soaked in antiseptic covered the wound,
and the pup was released.
Later that evening I met Gokul and Saruhasan. They brought the patient, who looked like a new dog, to reunite with his mother for awhile. When I saw her on the street, she immediately knew me and jumped up to greet me. I kept assuring her that her puppy would be alright, and she would see him very soon. She sat with me for a long time, until her baby arrived via motor scooter. He could not drink enough of her milk, it seemed, and she appeared excited to see him.
The two angel-men, Gokul and Saruhasan, petted the mother and watched the interaction.
“She doesn’t get love here,” Gokul said of the mother. “All she needs is love.” She closed her eyes as he rubbed her head.
Gokul and Saruhasan of Madurai are true angels to the animals of this city.
And they are angels to the foreigner who grew attached to a street puppy and his mother.
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