I’d have never thought that my family would expand to include one more member in the summer of last year. What was even more exceptional was that it all happened in a matter of a day.
I first spotted Rudy in a pile of dirt at the back of a large cage in the shelter I worked at. I had come to finish a shift when I heard a soft whimpering coming from a corner of the ground. He was hidden behind a dog bowl, and he was unusually tiny. At first I felt a little apprehensive; there were flies that settled comfortably on his ears and his fur was matted with dirt. His eyes were large for his head, but perhaps it was those pools of deep chocolate that finally prompted me to pick him up. He stopped whimpering instantly and he nuzzled his head closer to my neck. At that moment, I realized that I wanted to take him home. I called my mother to ask for permission to bring him, but she refused. However, I pretended to not hear her at that point and promptly took him home after finishing the necessary formalities.
Nobody reacted to him the way I wished they would. While my mother shrieked and ran back towards the kitchen, my grandmother chose to stand with her mouth agape, and silently stare at the fur ball in my arms. My mother – 5 feet and 3 inches tall and a generally courageous person- protected herself with a mop against my 4-pound pup and demanded answers.
Although the first day was tough, I finally convinced her to let me keep him. Soon enough, my family eventually grew to love him over the next week. His soft whimpers to go outside the house in the early hours became our alarm and having one more child to spoil thrilled my mom. Our help’s children would come over every day to play with him and our house soon grew noisy because of him.
But in a month’s time Rudy fell dangerously ill. I’d walk into my room in the middle of the day and find him huddled in a ball in a corner, shaking violently. His ribs began to poke through his skin and he’d frequently vomit his food. His steps grew shaky, and he would collapse as he was in the middle of a run. It absolutely brought us to tears when the doctor said that he had a week or so to live. We spent every waking minute with him, and the noise that was in our house gradually diminished. I can’t remember a time when our house fell as quiet as it did then.
One day when I woke up in the morning, a week after he became ill, I found my mother huddled in the corner of the room. Her body curved around Rudy as he laid unbelievably still, a pile under the blanket. Expecting to see the worst, I peeled off the blanket shivering all the while. His body moved in a slow rhythm, as he breathed softly and calmly. His temperature had gone down, and it was the first time since he grew ill that I had not seen him shivering. He even let out a couple of snores.
When I asked the doctors how a puppy so close to death recovered in one night, they said that human connection plays a big part in the recovery of emotionally and physically weak animals. People often don’t factor in the animal’s own will to live in their recovery, and the lack of compassion in such times of weakness can often crush that will.
But I witnessed a two-fold effect. While our influence on Rudy helped him heal, I also witnessed that our lives now progressed differently. The fact that our house was now constantly filled with his barks was something I took comfort in. I’d take him on walks to parts of my neighborhood I had never explored before, and met new people everyday who stopped on their way to pet him. My mother who suffers from arthritis didn’t ever sleep in anymore; she’d wake up to take him to the beach and she seemed more energetic than ever. Our house itself seemed more alive than it ever had been.
In a way, Rudy changed the course of our lives. I’d always taken things for granted and raising a puppy challenged me. If you ever wonder why people veer towards those who are more positive, just observe how they act around animals. Why is it that people almost instantly fall in love with animals? What’s so attractive about them?
I put it down to their unquestioning acceptance with no preconceived ideas or biases. Letting go of social interactions with complex and subtle rules, not having to be awkward and being openly affectionate with somebody – be it an animal or a person- is one of the most freeing experiences that we can have. The act of being completely vulnerable with no fear of judgment is not only relieving, but also an act of bravery. Over time, I learnt to show the same vulnerability and openness I had with Rudy with my friends and family. I believe that I now have practiced this so often that it comes naturally to me.
Our lives turn at defining moments based on the choices we make. Finding Rudy at the shelter was one such moment for me, and I will forever be grateful for choosing to seek out the source of the whimpering that sunny day.