In 2010, my family had the privilege of adopting a really sweet-natured, beautiful and faithful four-legged friend. She was just about six- or seven-years-old (about 42–49 years in human terms) when my family decided to give her home. It will be five years in July, this year, since she made herself at home with us. She has become an inseparable part of my family and has won a place not only in our hearts, but also keeps bagging the affections of all who meet her. There’s so much we have learnt from her and she never ceases to be an inspiration to those who know her story. Abandoned, beaten, burnt, tortured and starved, yet so sweet natured, she truly is an example of resilience and forgiveness. The details of who did all of this to her or where she came from are still a huge mystery. I don’t know where she is from, to me she was a gift under a tree in July waiting to find her home in my family; all I have is a newspaper report on how she was abandoned near Inorbit Mall, Malad, along with information from people who have rescued her and taken care of her.
You can view the report here:
After the rescue, she was granted a second chance at life, about which I am privileged to share with you in the lines that follow.
When we met Sally
On finding Sally (we changed her name afterward), who was bound to a tree on a short lease and unable to even sit, a passer-by Varun contacted Ruqsana (animal lover and rescuer), who also rushed to the scene with a few friends. The poor thing, all skin and bone, was in a terrible state after being abandoned in heavy rains for more than a day on June 24, 2010. She was rushed to a government hospital, which at first refused to keep her, as pedigreed dogs are not allowed at these hospitals (very obscure law especially since she was abandoned and didn’t have an owner). A few good-hearted souls took pity on her and secretly kept her in a ward where she was out of sight. Even with the weakness, sickness and pain, this resilient pooch kept her calm. She even licked a cat when she came across it in hospital (now that she’s back in form, she doesn’t mind frightening cats out of their wits and chasing them down the alley).
Ruqsana and a few of her friends searched every corner of the city to find a kennel that would serve as shelter for this fur ball, who was in a pitiful state. She gathered together a few numbers and among them was a lady named Meenakshi. Instincts told Ruqsana that she was the perfect one to take care of Sally. So Meenakshi it was! Meenakshi, God bless her soul, actually cut her holiday trip on hearing about Sally and came back to look after her.
‘Can our home be hers?’
The 26th of June, 2010, a quiet Saturday morning (quiet mainly as I was asleep), my mom jolts me out of dreamland and waves a newspaper right in front of my nose (she had just read the report by Alka Shukla in the Mumbai Mirror as given in the link above). She tried to shake me out of my slumber as she gasped, “Rita quick look at this, I think Lisa (our dog which had passed away on April 10, 2010) is trying to tell us something.”
My head still dizzy from sleep, thought, “Lisa, what about her?” There at the mention of Lisa, I jumped out of bed and paid attention to what mom was saying. I read the article. Tears fell from my eyes, while on the other end mom was sobbing bitterly. She looked at me and asked, “Will we be able to give Sally a home?” I was shocked, just a few weeks ago, I told mom that I really felt empty without Lisa (I actually said I needed her more than I needed anyone else). So after being chided by mom about how we shouldn’t even think of another pet because the loss of Lisa was unbearable, my first reaction was – “Mom are you kidding?”
However, I know now that the loss of a pet can be dealt with better, when you take on another pet. I would totally recommend adopting abandoned dogs and strays.
All I had to begin with was a news report. It had Varun’s email at the end of it. I emailed him along with a short introduction on my family and Lisa along with her photographs. Then I restlessly waited a day. I was very hyper checking my email every five minutes from my phone, laptop, PC and whatever device available. I went to church the next day and came back home, to my dismay no reply. “That’s it!” I thought. I scolded myself and mumbled under breath, “Why do I just sit and wait when I know people who could get me in touch with Alka, the reporter?”
So there I was, I dialled a journalist friend, who worked for the Mirror then, and asked her, “Can you please help me get Alka’s number?” And there I finally got her number. My excitement just increased exponentially by the minute, as I dialled the number. Much prayer was being offered up by mom and me.
So I dialled Ruqsana, but alas her cell phone was switched off. I felt like my world was crumbling. Then I pulled myself together remembering the prayer I lifted to God, and said, “Okay God, fine this is it. I am going to message this number and if I don’t get a reply, I will just leave this pursuit and never ever think of a pet again. ”
The message sat undelivered the whole afternoon. I tried occupying my mind with other things. Suddenly, a reply came in. I quickly dialled the number and got in touch with Ruqsana and told her about my intentions. She then passed me on to Meenakshi. I spoke to Meenakshi. She said, “There are many people who want to adopt her. We call her Milli now. You may come and see her, but we don’t assure you that you will have her.”
Meeting Milli (no more Sally)
There I was thrilled that I got an appointment to meet Milli, who survived all odds – torture, beating, burns, bad stomach, starvation, pneumonia, broken teeth, cuts and more. I got my whole household in a tizzy, jumping about saying, “Get ready we are going to meet Milli.”
With the address to Meenakshi’s home scribbled on an old piece of paper, armed with my mother, sister and thoughts of Milli, we caught a rickshaw and headed to visit her.
The moment I reached the floor of Meenakshi’s abode, she recognised me. Milli was there with her. There she was skin and bone, exhausted, and sick from the ordeal that had almost taken the life out of her. Even though she could hardly walk because of the pain she was in, she sat beside me and slowly crawled closer and closer, till her nose touched the sole of my feet. We had to be careful as one wrong move or touch would have been agony for her. She was drowsy, but couldn’t sleep as she was in too much pain. We all fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Milli.
Meenakshi explained that they had to change her name to Milli, as it was the only name she responded to.
The day mom and I heard Meenakshi say that Milli was ours and that they wouldn’t give her to anyone else, was one of the happiest days of my life. We would meet Milli whenever possible and spend as much time with her. We literally saw Meenakshi bring her back to life to the naughty bundle of joy that she is today. Gifts started pouring in for this heroine of ours from all corners of the world. She posed with her hampers and these pictures were sent across to gracious donors (God bless them!!!) who made Milli nothing less than get excited and jump around. They say—like owner like dog.
Colleagues, friends, neighbours and acquaintances could make out there was a happy change on our faces. I felt excited like a bird let out of captivity after years every time anyone would ask about Milli.
And finally… She’s home
It was a very difficult decision for Meenakshi to make, as she grew very attached to Milli. She packed Milli’s bags, got into a taxi along with Milli and her son. After a pit stop at the vet for Milli’s first bath after being rescued, Milli was home!!!
A teary-eyed Meenakshi kissed Milli and said bye. Milli sat looking at our door for ten minutes and then got enticed by a red cricket ball (her favourite). No looking back, she was so comfortable in our home, as if it was hers for ages. She even started bossing poor Bruce, a Labrador belonging to my neighbour. Bruce had come to our home a few weeks earlier as his owner had to make a trip and couldn’t take him along. So we spent two days, trying to keep Bruce and Milli apart and also tried to not make one jealous of the other. Phew, what a task!!! However, we enjoyed it.
After all that she has been through, there were times when the trauma would flash back and Milli would be afraid all of a sudden, but amid this fear, she learnt to trust us. The first few months were about building trust. She needed to trust humans again. She also knew not how to express affection or recognise affection. Unlike other dogs, she did not lick and allow anyone to pet her for too long. However, after a few months she began to become like any other normal dog—showing love, affection and excitement. The first time she licked my hand was a sign that she was improving and felt more secure with us.
Did the chicken run away?
The second day Milli was at our house, my mom planned to make some baked chicken with special stuffing. My sister and I wait for ‘baked chicken’ days with as much enthusiasm as a lost traveller seeing an oasis in a hot desert. So there was the chicken marinating in the sink, stuffed with spices and veggies. Mom thought it was well out of reach for our sweet little puppy. My sister was fast asleep in the bedroom and mom thought it was the best time to go out shopping, while the chicken was marinating. Milli was asleep like an innocent little angel right next to my sister.
Once we were out the door, Milli probably started to get bored and went on a little house hunt. My sister suddenly woke up to a crunching sound. Then, her eyes saw blood spattered over the floor. This really kicked her out of the bed. There Milli was chewing on some bones from the raw piece of chicken. She was spread on my bed like a queen. The moment my sister screamed in shock Milli realised–Oops I did something wrong! She was disciplined with a slight tap on her nose. So this is when we realised, let the training begin!
She was not difficult to train and came already with some basic training. Now with just one word she knows when something is not permissible.
What I learnt from the experience
Milli, through her recovery and sweet nature, has taught me mainly the art of letting go and how to forgive. She has been an example of giving human beings a second chance. Another major thing I learnt, as I interacted with those who care for and have adopted, is that when you go for a pet you have to commit yourself to it and never leave it or give it up, because this truly breaks down an animal. The one thing above all is that I have learnt that adopting is far better than buying from a breeder. The reason is that the dog breeding industry is uncontrolled and only causes more and more potential for dogs being abandoned, and being sold to homes not conducive for pets. There is a need for a body to work towards animal rights, not an organised private body but a public one. Most dog breeders produce litter after litter of puppies. They do so without much care for the animals and sell them off to owners for a price without much check on the well being of the dog.
I have come across a lot of people who have wanted to adopt dogs over the years, but they always ask for puppies. The issue here is that puppies seldom get abandoned. It is only when they pass the one-year age line do owners realise their inability to take care of a canine or some heartless ones lose interest in their dogs. According to my years of experience with puppies and adult dogs alike, caring for a puppy and an adult dog is not much different. Note here however, every breed has its genuine characteristics that you may only figure out from someone who has owned a dog of that particular breed for at least five to seven years or more. So if an adult dog needs a home, by all means go and see the dog for yourself. If possible ask for a trial run of a day with the pooch. Sometimes getting home an adult dog is better, as it may already be trained and you won’t have to go through the ‘how-did-my-shoe-multiply-into-ten-pieces’ phase. On the other hand, if the dog is not of any particular breed, you will just have to give yourself time to understand and learn about your four-legged friend.
With Milli, it has been very much like having a puppy. Having this fur ball has been an absolute joyride. Every day is a new day and highly unpredictable. I come home from office to hear the most surprising, yet always cute and funny stories about Milli, besides being loved and welcomed home in much pomp.
For now, it’s cheers from Milli and family!
A writer, blogger, poet, musician, and a lover of animals and life—these are not the only things that describe this Editor. She is also an avid reader, thinker, foodie, movie buff and storyteller. She has a lot to talk about and many interesting experiences to share with her childhood spent travelling continents and past job of crime journalist. Her motto in life is “no matter what, move forward, we’re on a journey, the destination is heaven.”
“You are in pain. It is okay to let go now. I will never forget you. You lived this life and survived so much before you came to me and while you were with me. Our mom left us and we had each other. You have been my true companion and in my loneliest hour, you held me. People say you were unnecessary and I should’ve given you up. I’m glad I never did. You were God-sent. When most people had no time to be there for me and ask me how I was doing. When all I needed was a hug and to cry on someone’s shoulder. I had no one but you to reach out to. Everyone else just made empty talk saying we know you are strong and no one showed up at my door cause they feared being around a grief-stricken person. They did not know how I was breaking inside and how my grief could’ve made me insane if it wasn’t for you. In my time of grief, it was only you who made it easier. So many even forgot that I was grieving and made it harder for me. You caused me to wake up and get out of bed everyday cause I had to care for you. When depression almost got a hold of me, you came and licked my face. I will always love you. You will always be the best dog there ever was in my life. Thank you for everything. I know this is not good bye but I will see you later. I know you are faithful to me and do not want to let go. Unlike everyone else you want to hang on to life for me. My dear lil one, you don’t have to worry, I am stronger now. Sleep well, and go if you have to. I will catch up with you when God calls me home too. I will meet you again. Now sleep well and leave if you must. I will see you again. Good night sweet dreams. We part for a little while, but one morning I will hold you again. I know that, because my Lord is love and He understands. When you get a chance to meet Mom tell her I love her, miss her and will see her again too.”
… I told her all I could, cos I did not know when her time would be up. Then I sang her a song and fell asleep by her side, she peacefully breathed her last in my arms. It’s been a year but I still miss her.
Forever grateful to God for her. Thank You Jesus for such beautiful creatures. Love you always!