The Escape Artist: A Clever Mamallapuram Dog

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August 23rd 2019
Published: August 23rd 2019
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Saravanan had just arrived on his motorcycle as I was returning from dinner to his guest house. His face looked tense.

“You know my dog Daniel, he got in a fight with other dogs when I was away on vacation. For two weeks he was wandering around injured, but no one could catch him. So when I returned, I found him on the beach limping along with a huge wound on his neck. There were flies all over it, it smelled, and he could barely walk to me.”

His troubled tone told me things were not so good with Daniel.

“I thought he wouldn’t make it. But I called the doctor and she took him to a shelter and cleaned the wound and kept him there to heal. I had hoped that he would come back to me.”

My heart was hurting for my friend. He easily feels the pain of street dogs, and had vowed to be good to Danny, who had started out as a street dog’s puppy in Mamallapuram. Despite having allergies around dogs and cats, Saravanan nonetheless had adopted Danny three years back.

“Elaine the doctor said he was doing a lot better after a couple days and was very cute and active. But then she told me Daniel had jumped over the wall of the shelter and escaped. They’ve been unable to find him.”

His words dripped sadness. How could Daniel survive now? The shelter was 12 kilometers from the town. Danny was in strange territory, where other dogs ruled and would not take kindly to an unfamiliar dog. After all, that’s probably how he was injured in the first place, wandering into territory that was not his.

I gave Saravanan a hug, but wished I could bring Danny back to him.

Ten minutes later Saravanan came to my room wearing a smile.

“You won’t believe, but my family called to say they saw Danny on the street near their home!”

“Then go, go quickly and find him!”

The next morning Saravanan was beaming. “I didn’t even have to look for him. He was at my family’s home and came to me when I called. I tied him up so he wouldn’t wander away. It’s unbelievable! He found his way home even though he was so far away. How did this happen?”

I just kept thinking about a story from my childhood, The Incredible Journey, where two dogs and a cat traveled across country to get home after they were displaced. So 12 kilometers was not so far.

Even the veterinarian nurse who treated Danny, Elaine Philpot, thought it was an amazing story. She and the other volunteers working with The CARE Project for Street Dogs in Mamallapuram were sick with worry about Daniel. He was their first escapee, and they had looked all over for him near the shelter.

“When he came to us, the wound looked terrible and there were literally thousands of maggots. We gave him medicine to kill the maggots, but then we had to pick each one out of the wound. And maggots will eat not only the necrotic flesh but healthy tissue also. After treatment he got a lot better. We were so worried when he escaped.”

I watched her tell Danny he was a bad boy then tell him he was a good boy over and over again. He was happy to see Elaine, and seemed to know she was there to help him after his journey back to town.

She lovingly removed the filthy tattered dressing, applied ointment to repel flies and heal the wound, and wrapped a new bandage around his neck and head.

“Since I started working with dogs in India, I’ve learned never to give up on a dog. I’ve seen some recover from such horrendous wounds and conditions.”

Elaine’s passion lies firmly in her veterinary work. She sold her house in England and moved to India 14 years ago. She’s spent several years in Mamallapuram, volunteering for The CARE Project for Street Dogs, whose aim includes controlling the street dog population, vaccinating animals against rabies, and promoting responsible animal ownership and care.

“We have no veterinary doctor here, but I’m a veterinary nurse. We’ve vaccinated nearly all the dogs in Mamallapuram, and have spayed and neutered about 200 dogs. For the most part, volunteers pay for the supplies and medications that we use.”

After treating Danny, she was off to make more house calls for sick and injured dogs in the village. Danny was securely tied with two ropes so he’d be there when she returned in two days to change his dressing. That’s what everyone thought anyway.

By evening Danny had chewed through the ropes and was at large in the village. But he returned for some food after having a romp around town.

Saravanan did not tie him up this time because he knew it would do no good. The next day Danny was spotted on a cool pile of sand in front of Saravanan’s guest house, bandage displaced and dirty.

Elaine returned and changed his dressing, commenting that the wound looked good. Danny again was happy to see her, and patiently withstood the dressing change as Saravanan held him.

In the evening I found him wandering the street and gave him a scratch. “Come on, Danny,” I urged, and he followed me back to the guest house, from where Saravanan escorted him to a family member’s home for food.

His wound will need attention for the next few weeks, but if he doesn’t fight with dogs in the meantime, he should recover. Saravanan is very grateful to Elaine and her labor of love in Mamallapuram. Her Facebook page, CARE Project for Street Dogs, India, keeps readers updated on individual dogs and their treatments, and also tells how people can donate to support the project. Such a wonderful project with big-hearted and dedicated volunteers. Danny surely thanks them and his owner Saravanan!

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26th August 2019

I'm so glad Danny was found (multiple times), he's clearly a free spirit and can't be contained. I love his eyes. Projects like CARE do such amazing work on such a tight budget - blessed with so much love from the organisers and volunteers.
26th August 2019

A survivor
Danny is one tough boy, but couldn’t have made it without CARE. thanks for the comment!

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