When I got back from my 2-month trip to Pune, a few weeks ago, I discovered that we had a dog, Spotty. I’d seen him before around the campus, all business like hanging out with the security guards ready to alert them of any passing snake or unknown person. He did like playing with my brother and would occasionally come home for a doggie treat. But while he wagged his tail at us from afar and let us pet him every once in a while, by and large he was not a people’s dog and lacked the general etiquette that most domesticated dogs take for granted. This, and the fact of his nondescript breed, kept me wary and unsure of how temperamental he might be. Needless to say, I did not pet him a whole lot or encourage him to spend time with me.
We adopted him when his previous owner left and he was bequeathed to us. He continued his lifestyle of wandering around the campus and then he’d push the front door open with his snout and try to snuggle up on the couch (He seemed quite surprised to learn that the couch was off limits to him). He adopted our home as his home and we adapted to the idea that Spotty was our dog and to buying doggy food and feeding him every day. But there was still an ambiguity regarding the relationship we shared. He was still fairly independent and did not like being petted too much. Sometimes we wouldn’t see him for hours on end because he’d be curled up in a hole he’d dug up in the mud, or outside someone else’s front door! But the ambiguity ended the day Spotty was poisoned.
Yes, Spotty accidentally stepped on some of the Phorate that had been put around our area of the campus to control the growing number of venomous snakes. It was a good thing that he came home immediately after, as soon as he realized that something terrible was happening. At first, when my mother and I saw him we thought he’d been cut. Only one of his legs was trembling violently and he was limping. However, when his eyes began to lose focus and he began to foam at the mouth a few minutes later, we realized it was more serious than a cut. We supposed it might be a snake bite or scorpion bite – both options equally horrifying. Regardless, Spotty needed a vet quickly.
The veterinary hospital seemed to be located on the other side of town. Also, Spotty had slipped away unnoticed by us. Fortunately, the security guard was able to tell us that he’d hobbled out towards the back of the house. And sure enough, when my brother went to get him he was curled up in a dark corner, shaking violently. He wouldn’t get up and seemed to realize that he didn’t have much time left. Siddharth, my brother, had to pick him up and carry him to the car. We were also grateful to find out that one of our hospital employees was married to a vet and that they lived down the road from our campus. (While we do live on a hospital campus, we don’t have proper facilities for animals).
I didn’t go to the vet (I stayed home and prayed worriedly that Spotty wouldn’t die. Also there wasn’t enough space in the car). But I was told later that the vet had immediately identified it as a case of chemical poisoning. Had it been a snake bite, Spotty would have turned blue, she informed us. We were able to identify the chemical only because my father had noticed a very strong and strange smell earlier that evening and had enquired about it. And while we wished they’d have informed us in advance about the snake repellant so that we could have kept Spotty with us, we couldn’t be terribly upset at the extreme measures taken when venomous snakes were being sited every day at residential areas.
It took Spotty an entire week to get better and many bottles of intravenous saline and intramuscular injections. The poor thing got so weak he couldn’t eat or drink. We had to feed him water with a spoon.
One of the major outcomes of this disastrous event has been to turn Spotty into a house dog. Where once he merely tolerated people, he now basks in the least attention they give him. It’s true. Before the accident he bared his teeth at me and tried to nip me once when I petted him too much. Now he licks me and rests his face against my palm while falling off to sleep. It’s also become difficult to get him to leave the house at night. He actually pretends to sleep at night while sneaking peeks at us! (Last night after we’d sent him out and locked the door for the night, he came back – just as I was walking up the stairs to bed. He stared at me for a long time and then stood purposefully at the front door waiting to be let in).
We can also say with certainty now, that any ambiguity about how Spotty felt about us or we about his has evaporated. He is our dog. He turns ferocious when strangers come home and investigates the creepy crawlies in our home when he hears one of us scream or gasp in shock (As an example, I accidentally picked up a tree frog that was sitting with the potatoes in the kitchen yesterday). However, we all agree with my father who says that if Spotty were a person, he’d probably be Huckleberry Finn. That’s very likely. The other day I saw him burrowed in the mud, curled around a bush, an expression of bliss on his cute doggy face.