I've also been planning a very long Ladakh For Dummies post, a mix of what to do, pack, eat and what we did, and stories of travel. So keep an eye out for that soon.
I've been feeling domestic lately. Probably this is because the Good Thing has given up Bombay and moved into my lovely Delhi flat officially--our lovely Delhi flat now, I guess, and we have been in a whirl of decorating ideas. Specifically him. I'm more of the "oh, it's fine, we'll move it when we're moving" school of thought. But with a little nagging, we've been pushing furniture around, and examining our options, and the flat will soon look drastically different from what it did last week.
This domesticity in me, however, didn't come out in anything so tame as moving a couch. No, I wanted to go the whole hog. The full bananas. The complete picnic basket. I signed us up to be doggy foster parents on Friendicoes' programme. For those of you not familiar, Friendicoes is an animal shelter here in Delhi and they do a lot of work with stray and abandoned dogs. Specifically abandoned dogs. Delhi being the Land of Status Symbol, people buy pedigree dogs like they're on a Zara sale, and as soon as they're adults and boring, or have a little something wrong with them that a quick vet visit could fix, they dump them. Some of them dump them at Friendicoes, which makes them susceptible for a lecture, yes, but at least they've had the decency to leave their dogs in safe hands. Some of them just abandon their dogs wherever they can, and it makes me so angry to think of a loved pet just wandering the streets looking for the family it had before. Although how loved could a pet be if their owners were willing to dump them?
Certainly when I met the boxer, he was skinny and shivering, not really the picture of a spoiled breed dog. They had named him Quentin, and they called to say he needed a home to live in. Apparently, the other pedigree dog at the shelter, an absolutely gorgeous golden retriever called River, had suspected distemper, so they needed somewhere for Quentin to stay while the other dog recovered. His previous owners had left him tied to a pole for several long hours, despite people trying to reason with them to give the dog another chance. I did a little research about boxers while we were waiting for him to come over and they're very sensitive to temperature, having almost no hair, they could get heat stroke or catch a cold super easily. I was wary, because, I mean a boxer. I didn't know much about the breed but I thought they could be in the same category as a Rottweiler or Alsatian, big dogs that could turn menacing swiftly.
"You got us a what?" asked the Good Thing, his eyebrows raising.
"Only temporary! I promise!"
"A boxer? Who's going to walk it and feed it?"
"I will! I swear!"
He wasn't pleased, but I was all like, "This dog will die if we don't take him in" and "Temporary!"
"What if he doesn't find a home?" he asked.
"Well, I guess he'll go back to the shelter, and I guess they'll kill him." (Note: Friendicoes is a no-kill shelter, but I didn't know that at the time. Euthanizing sounds cruel, but I think it's for the best sometimes when you have more abandoned dogs than humans can take in.)
Another concern was the cat, but we were more worried about the damage a huge dog could do to the cat than the cat and dog getting along, so we decided to give TC the run of the house except the living room, and to keep Quentin only in the living room and attached balcony. When the shelter workers dropped him off, he only needed a wound on his butt dressed, they guessed that was why the owner's dumped him, because of his wound, and because he had probably been used as a breeder.
Oh but. His jowly face. His eloquent eyes. His stumpy tail that took a few hours to get used to us and then wagged away. He took his departure from the Friendicoes workers quite philosophically, gazing after them for a bit and then pacing the room. The Good Thing has never had a dog before, and I last had practice over seven years ago. We both watched him. "Ugh, he's drooly," said the Good Thing, trying to register protest, but half-heartedly. "Good boy!" I said, and watched his face light up, his stump like a metronome.
I renamed him Dobby that evening for his ugly face, but he didn't respond to that or Quentin. "You've got to have a name, dude," I told him, as he sank by my feet snoring. "What do people call boxers? Tyson? Caesar? Sheru?" At the last one, his head went up and his ears went back. His old life.
*wag wag wag*
TC was not happy with the situation. A couple of times we put Sheru on the leash and let TC come in, but it was only a matter of time before he started to strain on the leash and look at TC with anticipation and ol' TC rose up on all fours, arching his back and hissing and spitting.
"Why won't you let me catch a cat for you?" asked Sheru.
"Foolish humans! What have you done?" asked TC.
But at night we switched our areas, moving from the living room where we worked all day, to the bedroom. We turned off the light for the dog and left him with fans on and the balcony door open and he was a little sad that we were leaving, but he soon settled down. TC greeted us with a cold shoulder until we made a fuss of him and then he was just like, "Okay, okay, he can stay."
The first night, I got a call from my father in Kerala telling me that my grandmother had passed away. She was a really lovely lady, and I had to go for the funeral, and I was wondering if I should call the shelter and have them rehome Sheru for a few days.
"I'll look after him," said the Good Thing. (Do you see why he's the Good Thing?)
"Really? But it's not your responsibility! I can totally call them and have them bring him back only when I return."
"No, it's cool. We'll manage."
The funeral was sad, and we're not going to talk about it, except that when I returned two days and one night later, there was this whole Man and Dog thing going on in the flat. I had been reading some of that dog psychology stuff, you know, dogs are pack animals so you have to be the alpha and so on and so forth. I mentioned it casually to the Good Thing before I left, and he did some reading too. And oh boy. He was the alpha all right.
Sheru was delighted to see me again, but every time the Good Thing left the room, he'd stand and stare at the door. The Good Thing had also discovered that Sheru was reasonably well trained, he could sit and stay and shake hands every now and then. "Sit," I said when I got back, "Stay!" But he was so happy to see me he just kept offering me his paw over and over again, like a short circuit blew in his brain and he knew this would make me happy.
Here's when the nice thing happened. I posted a picture of Sheru to Instagram saying that he needed a home. And two of my friends, who have recently gotten hitched, got in touch. They loved boxers, they said. He looked just like their other dog who lived with his mum. Could they come over and meet him?
Obviously, anyone who liked dogs would like this one. I mean, we're more cat people, and we liked this one. He was eminently lovable. And so, we handed him over after a house check by Friendicoes who like to make sure their pets aren't twice abandoned. I knew that wasn't going to happen, because if you could've seen Sheru with his new owner. It was like click-click-click, all the pieces of a dog and a person falling together at exactly the same place.
We dropped him off on Sunday afternoon to his new flat, where he had access to every single room, not left out of the activities because of a temperamental cat. A full-time house help who loves dogs. A flat that's always full of young people, all of whom would make a fuss of him. In the living room, we made excuses not to leave so we could hang out with him longer. Sheru in his turn kept coming over to us to have his ears pulled, to sniff at our hands. But his new owners fed him as we were leaving and he didn't even look up when we left. It was nice. And sad. But mostly nice.
"Should we get a kitten?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
While we are decorating, and kitten-ing, we probably won't have another foster dog for a few weeks. "How can you say goodbye?" asked my friend, "It must be so hard!" But dogs, as lovely and enchanting as they are, are not the pets for us. We're Cat People. We like our independent lives, with a cuddly creature still there, but still independent. We're helping, in our own small ways, we're trying to home some of the many needy animals out there who need some love, some social media attention. Do I think Sheru would have still gotten a home if he had been at a shelter? Sure. But maybe not as quickly. And maybe not with his perfect family.
Here's my PSA: you should consider fostering. Especially adult dogs. They're delightful, already potty trained, and less demanding than a puppy. Being in your home will make it easier for them to find a new one because you can tell their new owners all about their quirks and habits. Even if you have another dog or a cat, it's really not that hard to keep them separate. And in your own small way, you'd be helping.