By Indra Lahiri on
This Dish Is
A rustle in the bushes caught my attention. Under Acapulco’s tropical sun near a beautiful, silver sand beach, a bony, filthy little creature dragged herself towards us. Her whimpers grew into howls as if she were calling out for me. Our eyes met and I was stunned with a jolt of Divine Recognition. I rushed over, her cries immediately subsided, and it was clear she knew me too.
The shock traveled from my heart into the pit of my stomach and then grew into conviction as it traveled through me and out my feet, rooting me to Mother Earth with the pledge that I would forever be true to this little dog, come what may.
The world narrowed to this single soul, and she was all that I could see. We stared at one another silently for a few moments. I felt great awe for her. This was no pathetic little creature, but a great soul filled with love and wisdom, trapped in a seemingly helpless and broken body. I spoke to her softly and ran my hands over her to get a sense of the extent of her injuries. She gifted me with complete trust, neither flinching nor moving away as I completed my initial assessment. She was burdened with fleas, ticks, mites and parasites and so she was visibly anemic. Every bone in her body protruded through her thin skin and grimy coat. I could see that she had had puppies several weeks prior, although I couldn’t imagine how she could have been able to care for them. I came to her back legs, splayed painfully on either side and unable to hold her up. Knowing that her injuries were severe, I ran my hands over her legs gingerly to get a sense of the nature of them. Despite the brutal pain, she continued to gaze at me with love and faith, never shrinking from my touch. I looked up at my two friends, who stood by with compassion in their eyes.
“What do you want to do?” they asked me.
“She needs a vet.” I replied. “You two go on to the beach, and I’ll meet you at the hotel later.”
“We’re staying with you. Tell us how we can help.”
They embarked on a mission of finding her puppies, yet their thorough search produced no trace. From speaking to nearby vendors, we learned that the little dog was homeless, perhaps abandoned or perhaps one of the thousands of stray dogs who scrape out a meager existence on the streets of Acapulco. Her puppies had disappeared the week before. A few of the locals came towards me to talk about the dog, prompting her to skitter back into the center of her bush and wait fearfully.
We hailed a cab and I marveled at the blessing of having friends with hearts as big as theirs, never hesitating to give up a day at the beach—or anything else—to help anyone in need. Unable to persuade the little dog to leave the bush on her own, I crawled in myself. She licked my hand gently and allowed me to lift her up and carry her to the cab. Her trust nearly brought me to my knees with gratitude.
I held her in my lap during the bumpy car ride, cooing softly in her ears. We had asked the taxi driver to take us to the nearest vet. It has been at least a decade since I’ve been in a Mexican vet hospital, and even then it was in a completely different part of Mexico. Remembering the unsanitary conditions and questionably trained vets I had worked with in India, I prepared myself for the worst—or so I thought. We were delivered to a tiny pet shop where I rushed her to the back to be examined by the “vet." Nobody spoke English, and our Spanish didn’t extend to these circumstances, so we used Google translator to tell the vet what I thought was wrong and what the little dog needed, while he spoke of nothing but money and barely glanced at her.
Still, he had medicine, supplies, and access to an x-ray machine, and I was in a foreign country where I did not speak the language and did not have any contacts. I knew her situation was urgent and felt it best to allow her to receive immediate care. He explained that he had to take her to another location to x-ray her and asked that we return in an hour.
Leaving the shop, I finally woke up to my surroundings and saw tiny puppies, far too young to be without a mother, in a filthy box. I raised my eyes and saw other dogs stacked in puppy mill-style cages much too small for them and with no water in this hot airless shop. There was nothing for them to lie on but metal grating, and not enough room to move away from their own feces, much less stand or turn around. I cried as I concluded that I couldn’t rescue all of them.
When we returned, they told us she was not back yet and asked us to come back tomorrow as it was past 6pm and they were closing for the night. With no choice and heavy hearts, we went back to the hotel to research better vets and arrange to move her the next day.
With translation assistance from the hotel concierge, I had a telephone conversation with the vile “vet” who had my dog, who was demanding more pesos with the veiled threat that we would not get her back without paying.
We got on the computer and found a well-trained, ethical, and compassionate vet who spoke English. We made an appointment and sped off to confront the evil puppy miller. Expecting us to arrive with cash, he had the dog ready. She wagged her tail and tried to sit up when she saw me enter the shop, and I fell even more deeply in love. I left my dear friends comforting her while I took our antagonist aside. This man, who must have seen from my demeanor that I had taken my power back, lost his threatening bluster. We left triumphantly moments later, dog and x-rays in hand, without parting with another peso.
As our valiant cab driver, Napoléon, sped us to the next vet, we named her Señorita Marisol Esperanza de Acapulco. Miss Sea and Sun, Hope of Acapulco.
Thankfully, the next vet was all we had hoped he would be and more. Dr. Eusebio Gómez Duque of Clinicas Veterinarias San Francisco (Saint Francis Veterinary Clinics) radiated kindness and compassion, along with keen intelligence. As we discussed her various ailments and developed a treatment plan, my heart lifted. Her initial blood tests showed her to be malnourished and fighting infection, yet the doctor felt her prognosis was good. He planned to start by first treating her infestations of parasites, giving her fluids and nutrition, and providing the proper medicine to keep her comfortable and fight infection.
Dr. Gómez Duque wants to allow her to regain strength before performing the surgery, which will involve resetting both femur bones using rods and external fixators to hold them in place. She will need 3 months of physical therapy after that. It is going to cost a lot of money to do all of this, yet I just don’t see how you can put a price on life. This is a brave, strong, loving creature who has had a terrible time in her short life. We needed to help her. And so, we are starting a fund drive and, knowing how many good people are out there who care about animals, we know that we will raise the money.
In the meantime, our love burns bright, undiminished by miles. I will always love her, and always be here for her, and she for me. Come what may.
Stay tuned for part two and three.
Indra Lahiri is the founder of Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, an all-species safe haven for animals that would otherwise have been euthanized or slaughtered. Indraloka is founded on two principles: 1) the earth itself and all life are sacred and 2) we are all related. Indraloka supports animal rescue groups by providing a lifetime home for animals that are otherwise unadoptable, and also rescues farm animals from cruelty. Indra has dedicated her life to helping previously traumatized animals heal and rediscover joy, love, and trust. In the process, the animals she set out to help have become her greatest healers and teachers.