It is nearly 3 months now since Jumbo was born. I’ve seen him since he was just a tiny little fur ball that fitted perfectly in the palm of my hand. One in a litter of four puppies born in a corner of one of our neighbourhood parks, his batch was last out of the three that were born this season.
Four, in fact, but that batch didn’t survive. But that is another story for another time and it involves me in a big way.
Anyway, three of these late batches survived. There were fifteen of these tiny little souls running free in the park, unaware of the big bad world that was awaiting them. Each time I met them my heart broke into a thousand pieces. What was I to do? They were, at least most of them were destined to a life on the street. A few probably won’t survive the harsh winter ahead. Those who do will make the park their home and then when they realise that they need human contact for basic survival needs – food, water – they will walk out into the road, unaware of what a speeding car means…
They were still too small to be removed from the mother even if someone wanted to take them home. The shelters, already brimming to capacity can never take in three families. Besides, the chances of survival in a shelter go down drastically due to cross-infections from older dogs. All I could do was wish with all my heart that they somehow survive the harsh winter and wait for nature to take its course…
Shadow didn’t quite like the arrangement. I don’t know if he could somehow sense their discomfort but after each trip to the park, he came back rather upset. Seriously upset. Tail tucked in, eyes sad and forlorn my jovial puppy boy would just withdraw into himself and refuse to be happy. Ginger on the other hand indulged them, letting them jump all over her and act silly while Buddy quite enjoyed jumping around like a pup himself.
But it was obvious Shadow was very disturbed.
We just had to shift our walks to a new park.
The pups, in the meanwhile were growing. Lovelorn, but just so full of life, so heartbreakingly adorable…
I just kept wishing and hoping at least a few of them – those who were the friendliest- would find proper homes.
It was agonizing and at the same time amazing to see how fiercely the mothers protected their brood. Eleven chubby little bundles of fur, squeezed tight in a gap underneath a pile of bricks. Four more bundled together inside a large deep pit in another corner. Each mother would scoop her babies into one pile and sleep on top of them, shielding them from the rain, fog and the chilly winter breeze.
The way they gulped down whatever food was offered always made me guilty I didn’t bring them a little more. Or didn’t feed them daily. I was scared I was getting too attached to them.
With each passing day the cold got worse. Ginger, Buddy and Shadow refused to sleep on the bed without a warm blanket spread out over the bedcovers!! The heating was almost always on, all windows and doors shut tight against the chilling blustery weather. And I couldn’t for one moment forget those poor little pups out there.
Slowly, they began disappearing. Were they dead? No, they couldn’t have been. I realised it was the healthiest and friendliest of them all that were disappearing. Also the ones with uncommon colouring. They were getting adopted!
Soon I discovered the mother had jumped over the wall and taken shelter near a roadside tea and snacks stall with a large bunch of puppies in tow. The prettiest of them were nowhere to be seen so I assured myself someone had indeed taken them home.
But in that large pit in one corner of the park, four little puppies survived the harshest of winter days. Now about two months old, they were the cutest things imaginable on earth.
Jumbo was the smartest, cuddliest and bravest of them all. Right from his early puppyhood, P kept drawing my attention to him. He was somehow different.
Rather unfazed by Ginger’s inquisitive sniffing, Buddy’s silly antics of rolling over and Shadow’s menacing growling, Jumbo would bound eager over to P and offer his tummy to be rubbed. Once that was achieved, he’d insist on climbing up P’s legs checking whatever he assumed needed checking. He’d play chase till his tiny little paws got tired and finally would insist on seeing us all off till the main gate of the park where our car would usually remain parked.
My heart just broke as I watched him and his siblings forlornly sitting there on the sidewalk as we drove away. I would keep worrying if they were safe till the next evening when I brought them their food.
Yes, I just couldn’t help but start feeding them again. Often I’d find them frolicking around in the sun – the winter was slowly making way for spring and every morning as the sun rose bright and early, I’d be grateful because those puppies would be warm - or huddled together in a heap, probably tired and hungry.
Jumbo was always different. Even as his siblings fell over each other trying to get their fill of whatever was in the two bowls I fed them in, Jumbo would first climb on to my legs, insisting on being picked up and cuddled. He would insist on a belly rub and a meticulous check of the bag I carried.
It was easier for me to walk away without the pups following me on to the main road while they were busy eating. Often I’d run hard so I’d disappear before they realise I was gone. But Jumbo always knew. And then one day, he just sat there and stared while I ran away. While his siblings were busy with their food, he just sat there and kept staring till I disappeared.
I knew he’d realised I’d never take him along however much he insisted on coming with me. He looked so small and so forlorn and yet somehow, he seemed a big boy that day.
I just had to do something to find him a proper home.
Calls, Facebook, e-mails.
A number of responses – ‘Is it a German Shepherd pup? He looks like a German Shepherd in that photograph.’ ‘Is he potty-trained?’ ‘No, actually we are looking for pure-breds. Since you were talking about adoption we thought you might have pure-bred pups as well!!’
And then one family wanted two puppies. They had a big house and a garden and were looking for puppies for their kids. I was elated. Anxious, sceptical but elated.
A lady who works with a registered shelter had very kindly forwarded me a form to be signed by anyone who adopts our mixed breed pups. Amongst other things, the most significant was an undertaking never to abandon the pup or use it for breeding.
Armed and ready, I brought Jumbo home. A visit to Ginger, Buddy and Shadow’s vet. My little boy was in perfect health. Vaccinated, de-wormed, cleaned and dressed up, Jumbo was ready for his new home.
The family never came.
Obviously I couldn’t let Jumbo go back to the park.
A quick introduction. Wagging tails, sniffing noses, bit of growling. ‘Yes, we know you’, my kids seemed to say.
‘How’s it that you’re here? Surely you don’t plan to stay?’
Buddy, after the initial excitement soon got busy in his own world but Ginger clamped up and Shadow seemed seriously upset again.
It was clear the little pup will have to sleep on it’s own. A hearty meal, a quick walk and he rolled up into a bundle of brown fur deeply asleep in his makeshift bed in front of the heater in the farthest room in our house. Many checks throughout the night and early next morning. Not a peep out of him. It was like he was sleeping off his weariness from the past two months.
I decided to call in sick. There was no way I could have left the four of them together in the house un-attended. Besides, obviously the pup would need to go out many a times for ‘his business’.
And of course, I needed to urgently find him a home.
Jumbo turned out to be a miracle pup! In the couple of days that he stayed with us, he never once pooped or peed inside! He’d actually sit down and resolutely howl,’ TAKE ME OUT’!
And once outside, he’d take his time to find a spot he likes almost like a fully grown dog with full bladder control. He was just too good to be true!
But he was very much true. A real wagging, jumping, nibbling, happy adorable little pup and even Heavens do not know how much I wanted to keep him for myself!
They say if you want something extremely ardently and wish for it with all your heart and might it actually comes true. And then I remembered Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
‘Only one who wants to find the stone but not use it for his own end can find it.’
I certainly wanted the best of the families for jumbo whether he stayed with us or not.
A family in our own apartment complex, P reminded me was looking to adopt a dog. A family with two teenage boys. They were quite eager about Ginger, Buddy and Shadow and would often ask how to go about adopting a dog.
No harm asking, I thought.
And last Sunday afternoon, Jumbo finally left for his forever home!
A shy teenager, staccato speech, a smile here and a nod there by way of conversation, Jumbo’s new brother however did not hesitate one moment to scoop him up into his arms.
‘I’ll buy him a new bed’, he told me when I offered him the pillows Jumbo was using.
I’ve met him twice since then and last evening when I called to remind about the next vaccination date, they told me he’s doing just fine.
Jumbo is home.