I was at a get-together with friends when I got a call from my mother. She was telling me that a puppy I had brought from my neighbour’s crawled into my room and fell asleep on my bed.
My mother did not want more dogs in the house. We already had two. However, the puppy won her heart, and she decided the puppy could stay if the neighbour was okay with it.
Until that day I had no idea who my neighbour was and what he did for a living. But then, I found out was that he was a dog breeder and a trainer. He had kept the puppy with him after selling all others from the litter.
He actually ran a ‘puppy mill’ where a caged German Shepherd, Kanchi, was made to give birth throughout the year. The little puppy was not sold because he wanted her to deliver puppies when she came of age, the same way her mother does.
I was furious.
I took the puppy with me without giving him any money. When I was home, I looked into her eyes, and we knew at that instant, we belonged together.
Her name is Maya.
I have had many dogs as pets in my life, but she has taught me the true meaning of giving. Once I had to go to Mustang for work, and left her with my mom for a week.
When I came back, she refused to look at me. She was adamant and looked extremely hurt. It took me three days of taking her on outdoor walks and few drives to get her to play again.
We share a bond that is beyond the imagination of many people, and they do not identify with it. I have always loved dogs. They are the perfect creation, purest in form.
However, it was Maya who brought me closest to the notion of unconditional love. Since she was a puppy, she would wait for me to come home; refuse to eat until she saw me, was exhilarated to greet me, and would get very sad if she didn’t find me for a while.
She still does.
She is nine now.
On the day of the 2015 earthquake, I was alone at home. I was five months into my pregnancy and was busy with house chores. When the earth started shaking, I sat down on the floor to avoid injury to my baby.
I ordered all of my dogs to go out to a safer place. While two of them abided, Maya refused to leave. I held her collar as we made our way downstairs.
It was a moment of revelation for me. That moment I was certain; nothing surpasses the love dogs have for humans.
About a year ago, she started having trouble with her leg. I noticed her left leg tremble whenever she tried to jump. Then she started dragging it.
She was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, a degenerative disease that will eventually cripple her permanently.
I have tried everything from medicine to homeopathy to acupuncture. It is not getting any better. I was told that as her mother was made to give countless births for long periods of time, she couldn’t provide required nutrition to Maya.
This is one of the many causes for her condition. She always has been one of those dogs who refuse to show pain. So, when she whines nowadays, I know that she is in lot of pain.
From the first day that she came to my life, she never did her ‘business’ indoors. She always peed and pooped outside even if it meant holding it until morning.
But now she can’t control her bladder and she hates it when she pees on herself. Her embarrassment is so clear, it even baffles me.
However, irrespective of her ‘condition’, she is a happy dog and lifts her body as high as she can to greet me whenever she sees me. She is extra protective of my daughter and at times leaves me to attend to her.
It, then, does not come as a surprise when I am moving around the city and see countless pet shops. I get utterly disgusted.
When dogs are bred for sale, they automatically become commodities. I can see dogs kept in small cages, suffering under the scorching sun or trembling during cold days. I have seen breeding centres swamped with countless breeds of dogs kept in unspeakable conditions.
Most of the pedigree dogs are brought from India and Thailand on trains and aeroplanes. The ones who are bred here are raised in confined spaces. These dogs are separated from their mothers too early on and as they are susceptible to diseases, they grow up sick. They are then abandoned on the streets.
It is now very common to find German Shepherds and Japanese Spitz in dire conditions left on the streets to die.
The people who demand breeds such as the Siberian Huskies and St. Bernard, along with other common breeds, have no idea how to bring these dogs up.
They don’t know about the necessary space, the right food, the amount of exercise and attention the dog requires. Without prior knowledge of these basic things, people bring the dogs home to find out later that they have problems.
There is an absence of guidelines in Nepal for the breeders and kennel clubs to abide by. We do not have a monitoring system to investigate the condition in which these breeds are kept.
Worldwide the whole concept of puppy farm is synonymous to cruelty. But in Nepal, especially Kathmandu, the situation is worsening for the dogs.
While stray dogs are suffering, the pedigree has a lot to be wary of as well. As this business explodes, the breeders can at least inquire about the condition of their sold dogs.
As I look at Maya trying to keep a strong face, my thoughts race to all those dogs who are victims of irresponsible owners and unquestioned breeders.
The human-canine bond is beyond words. It has been found that a dog can sense the owner coming home even before she has arrived. They can also sense when someone changes her mind to stay back in the office. These animals show unconditional love towards their owners even when they are tied or beaten or ignored.
These oldest companions of humans need more respect. They deserve much better.
Shristi is an animal lover, a writer and a dance enthusiast. She’s been campaigning for animal rights more than a decade. Also a fitness instructor, Shristi is a believer in equal rights for humans and animals alike. She is a mother of a two-year-old girl, the fuel that ignites her soul.