Two weeks in the life of a street puppy

When it was about one month old it was separated from the mum and put in a cage with the rest of the brothers and sisters. From its cage it could smell and see other weird creatures in the neighbouring cages (it wouldn't be able to name them but we know that they were guinea pigs, rabbits, chicken, ducklings, kittens etc.). Everyday a lot of people would pass by the cage, pat it on the head, some would even hold and stroke it (that felt good!). Many days passed, the brothers and sisters were gone, and new small puppies arrived. And then a day came when it was too big for the cage and for the customers' preference. That's when it ended up in the street right next to the market where they'd been selling it for the past couple of months, alone and without the basic survival skills that it could have acquired had it stayed with the mum for long enough. Attracted by the delicious smell of roasted chicken coming from the other side of the road, it tried to cross this vast space of four lanes, but the road was full of huge metal monsters. Its fear was strong but the hunger - even stronger. In one leap of faith it tried to reach the other side as fast as it could - towards the smell which meant food which meant survival, but then when it almost made it half way through there was a hit and then a lot of pain in the rear right paw. Now the pain was stronger than both fear and hunger, so with an enormous effort and this time checking for the monsters it crawled back to the side of the road where it came from, back to hunger and desperation and now pain.

We found it on the Saturday it was hit by a car a few hours after the accident, as it was lying motionless next to a cement fence on a piece of ground which judging by the smell was regularly fertilized by passing-by men. We were heading for the market which was this puppy's first home and didn't stop since we were still empty-handed. On the way back, being four big chicken bones richer than before, we were distributing them among the street dogs but kept the last bone for this puppy. Very soon we solved the mystery of that puppy's unnatural inactivity during the street dogs' prime eating time: when we gave it the bone, it tried to change its posture in order to eat it and then gave a sharp cry of pain. That's when we discovered that it had a broken paw.

Now before we found that dog, we'd already had a painful lesson of trying to save a small street animal back in Indonesia, so we now knew that half-hearted approach doesn't work and that we needed to be fully committed to really save this little dog. Back in Jakarta we found a kitten in a parking lot. It was deserted by its mum, couldn't see anything as it had the eyes completely filled with greenish liquid and was dying from hunger. We brought it to the hotel, asked the permission to wash it and then kept feeding it for a couple of days during which it stayed in the yard of the hotel. The people in the hotel didn't want to keep it, the Jakarta asylum was overcrowded with deserted animals, so our only option was to ask locals if they could adopt the kitten. A nearby food stall had a couple of kittens so we assumed they loved cats and asked if they could have one more. They agreed, although without any enthusiasm, so in the evening we left it in a box together with the other two kittens, but when we came to check on it the next morning it wasn't there and after a search we found it close to a nearby canalization hole with the rear part of the body completely disabled through possibly a hit by a motorbike. In half an hour the kitten died, and we made a promise to ourselves that this was the first and last time that we'd try to share responsibility with people who weren't hundred-percent enthusiastic about sharing it.

This time to rescue the puppy we quickly discussed our options. Two things were obvious: we needed to convince the people in the hotel to let us keep it till we found a permanent place for it to stay (and by some lucky coincidence ours was the only hotel in the whole neighbourhood which had a small lawn in front of it) and that the dog needed a vet. The former got resolved pretty fast since the lady from the hotel turned out to be very kind, but the latter had to wait one day till Monday (trying to arrange an emergency visit wasn't very fruitful as the rate quoted by some vet who could check the puppy on a Sunday was far above our budget). Monday was an important day in the life of this street puppy as that was the day it got acquainted with the wonderful owner of the Pet Planet. The lady from our hotel knew this pet clinic from the day that she brought there her own dog, which had to be put to sleep after it jumped off the roof of the hotel terrified by the sound of fireworks. She accompanied us there where we all waited in suspense for the vet's verdict. As we all suspected, most likely the puppy had a fracture but to confirm it the vet asked for an X-ray. Luckily we were in some kind of medical neighbourhood with every single type of medical (and funeral) services available right around the corner. So a very short while later we had the black-and-white confirmation that the puppy did have a fracture. Now the time came to discuss the treatment options. Since the operation of putting the screws would be very expensive and would require a lot of subsequent visits and more X-rays, the best option under circumstances was to put a simple elastic bandage which according to the vet would require one more visit to ensure absence of excess/insufficient pressure and another one in about three weeks to take it off. We discussed it with the lady from the hotel who while being very kind was too busy running the hotel and had no time for the vet visits and reached an agreement that we'd stay till the next appointment and that she'd then keep the dog in the hotel till the bandage was taken off. After that point the plan was very sketchy but the lady promised that she'd keep feeding the dog although it would be best to transfer it from the hotel to the street where it would have more space and companionship. The same day the puppy got an upgrade in accommodation as it was moved from the lawn to the roof (the same one which the lady's dog fell from escaping from fireworks) and we all entered a period of life, a good title for which would be "It will be just one more visit to the vet".

Here we can fast-forward to almost the end of the story, as for the next two weeks we pretty much entered a routine that rotated around us taking the puppy for what was meant to be the last check visit to the vet and ending up either putting a new bandage, or taking it off temporarily, or loosening it up a bit etc. etc. After each visit another one was naturally necessary in a few days to make sure the paw looked right, so we ended up spending almost the entire two weeks in Arequipa (our first stop in Peru and the city where we found the puppy), with the exception of two short round trips to do a quick trek in the nearby Colca canyon and to visit the floating islands in Puno.

A typical day in the life of the puppy during those two weeks looked like this: we'd bring it breakfast (mostly chicken bones left from a bag of remnants we'd bought the previous day for 30 cent at one of the multiple roasted chicken eateries). Then it would be time to go to the vet so we'd carry it for a while till we'd reach a quiet path where we'd let it walk (being stuck on the roof for the whole day, even this medium-energy puppy wanted its share of exercise and was very happy to run next to us using its three healthy paws). Along the way we'd meet a lot of locals who'd all ask us what had happened to the puppy and utter the sympathetic "Oh, pobrecito!" (="Poor little thing!"). We'd ask them if they would adopt it and would always get something in the style "I'd love to, but I already have 5 dogs", or "I am not from here", or something of this kind. Then we'd reach a park where the puppy would drink some water and be greeted by all the "local" street dogs (one of them being a huge wolf-like dog with blue eyes and another - a big white dog in a smart grey jacket). Then we'd reach the vet where something new would be done to the bandage (either it would be taken off because the paw was too swollen, or a new one would have to be applied because the old one was too low and didn't support the broken bone correctly, or the bandage had to be changed because it was too dirty etc.). Then we'd have a walk back, with the same route, same sympathetic comments and same proportion between carrying and walking the dog. By then it would be lunch time so using the advantageous presence of the sympathy-enticing dog we'd ask for remnants (most of the first days we were getting them for free till the locals finally had the courage to tell us that they actually sold them). Then back on the roof the puppy would have its lunch and rest. We'd visit it from time to time, which would always result in a lot of excitement so we tried to minimize the number (although not the duration of visits) so that it would have a lot of quiet healing time. In the time between the visits, the little dog would pass the time collecting straw hats and as many useful household objects as it could, so on our visits we'd always find its place surrounded by pieces of brooms, hangers, brushes, sponges, pieces of cloth, empty bottles of cleaning liquids, as if the dog was planning to clean its place (funny enough, it is a female :-).

In the meantime we'd be busy with something in the room (like making the few previous posts or reading). A couple of times we found the puppy standing in front of our door where it must have crawled following our scent, using the "window (or in this case the door) of opportunity", when somebody forgot to close the door to the roof. When it became apparent that it grew much stronger (and bigger), we even started training it a little bit and in a couple of sessions it was able to sit down and give us a paw (although we didn't have enough time to progress all the way to "Down" and "Stay"). After a while we also started taking the dog to more places, like the market (which was its first home) and the nearby eateries. It would behave remarkably well for a dog of any age: thanks to its original long exposure, it would walk nice and quiet past pretty much any creature in the market (remarkably, the only time it stopped was when it once passed a cage with a puppy that looked exactly like a much smaller version of itself which made us think that it might have been the cage where it grew up); it would also sit very quietly next to our table as we would eat our lunch or dinner in some eatery and patiently wait till we would give it some remnants outside the eatery after the meal. In one word, it was a delightful and incredibly well-behaved puppy, and it brought us a lot of joy.

Two weeks passed like this and there was a day that the vet decided that during the next appointment he would just take off the bandage and let the puppy heal without it from then on. It was another Monday (exactly a fortnight after the first visit to the Pet Planet) and we were following our usual route to the vet. We were all a little bit down as it was supposed to be our last day in Arequipa and we were totally lost as to what to do. On the one hand, we got quite attached to this puppy and it had a great character so it didn't feel right to leave it to the uncertain future of a street dog. But on the other hand, we had never considered keeping it (that was the reason we never gave it a name) as we had thought about having a dog many times before and were quite settled on the idea that we needed a breed that could live in a flat, the main requirement of which was the absence of doggy odour. On top of that, our rtw trip was still on and it seemed impossible at that time to be able to travel with a dog.

The same night we needed to live Arequipa and we still had no idea what to do, so our only option was to ask for a sign from the universe... And while some might think it's a silly approach to problem-solving, it worked (just like it did many times before), as we did get a sign as big and clear as the universe could possibly draw it. God truly works in mysterious ways, and as we were walking to the vet for that last appointment, a girl appeared out of nowhere (neither me nor Jordi saw where she came from - almost as if she fell from the sky) and started asking us questions about the puppy. But this time instead of the usual "pobrecito" exclamations we heard her saying that she could take the dog! She told us that her father and her own family had five dogs and they liked them very much, that they had a kiosk at the market and the dog could stay either there with the other dogs or she could take it home. We agreed that we'd bring the dog straight after the vet appointment and a quick stop at the hotel to warn the lady.

The rest of the day was a mixture of joy and tears. A huge part of the joy came from the fact that when the vet took off the bandage the puppy immediately started walking using all four paws (the healed one - very gently but we could see that it wouldn't limp). The other part of joy came from meeting the girl's young family (husband and little daughter) later on who were all there to welcome the puppy and looked like really nice kind people. The tears came from having to leave the puppy behind and see it very sad when we dropped by to check on it a couple of hours later. The bus trip out of Arequipa was one of the saddest in our lives, but we knew that our emotions were selfish and in the end it all worked out remarkably well for the puppy. During these two weeks in the life of a puppy we did spent the money which was not in our rtw trip budget (the vet costs being the smallest part of the expenses and the major part of it coming from basic living costs), but there can't be a price tag for saving a soul. A week later we got an email from Delfina - the puppy's owner - saying that after the normal sadness of the first couple of days after the separation the puppy by then was absolutely fine, and that it was adopted well by its two cats and another dog living in her house. The puppy now bears the name of Paloma, which is a common name for a girl in South America and happens to be Jordi's surname :-). Such was the genuinely happy end of the story of two weeks in a life of a street puppy, and we hope that Delfina's wonderful family and Paloma live happily ever after!

We just found the puppy:

The first visit to the Pet Planet:

The puppy quietly passing its time on the roof:

Drying after a bath:

Lunch time:

Going to the vet:

The puppy's friends from the park:

It was a really funny coincidence that the puppy's broken paw was exactly the same one as on the vet's welcome poster :-):

Paloma's new family: