In July 2018, I was living in Nepal in a big modern house on a hillside overlooking the city of Kathmandu. From my window, I could see three giant golden Buddha statues that mark the entrance to Kathmandu’s famous Monkey Temple, about a mile away. During the days, I wandered along the dusty streets to the temple, where children play without supervision, and street dogs growl and posture for dominance or sleep in packs along the roadways. On one of these outings, I became lost, and I crossed paths with a puppy scavenging for food.
There are approximately 30 thousand stray dogs in Kathmandu; they are part of every community, so it was not surprising to see a sick or starving dog. But this one was barely conscious of his surroundings, and stumbling into traffic, and I felt alarmed for him.
He wasn’t like other dogs, whereby many of the street dogs are tough; he was gentle, I could see it in his eyes and his vulnerable demeanor. He was starving, so I fed him the only food I could find, raw buffalo meat. The locals assured me that all the dogs ate it, and he would be fine, so after seeing him eat a small amount, I found my way home again. But my conscience wasn’t clear of the image of the puppy alone on a step, on a busy street-side. I was scared I had made him sick with the meat and convinced two girls to lead me back to the place I had been. I could describe my surroundings, and they knew where to take me.
When I returned, I purchased a scarf from a nearby shop, wrapped him up in it, and carried him in my arms to a veterinarian clinic. I held him so close to me that day, a frightened puppy, starved to skin and bone, no more than two months old, and days away from his death. I whispered to him while we walked under the dry, hot sun, and dust from the street blew into our faces, that he would never be alone again.
I named him Battho, which means both street and wise in the Nepali language because he had survived on his own at a tender age.
He was infested with fleas and ticks and worms and other parasites. His little body was encrusted with dried feces, he was anemic, and he had lost large patches of fur. He was too weak to walk, so I purchased a small wicker basket in which the locals carry fruit, and I put Battho inside, and we walked to his vet and around the city this way every day.
I kept him in a spare room with no furniture where he cowered in the corner. I often left him alone to sleep and recover after administering his medicines daily and giving him food and water. Then, when he regained strength and became curious, I left his door open. He would peak his head outside to inspect the hallway, then run back into his corner again to cower. But his strength and bravery grew with constant attention, reassurance, and affection, and two months later, a healthy Battho was in a carrier case strapped across my shoulders on his way to his new life in Canada.
From the day we met, I loved him. His vulnerability and his gentle disposition won my heart before I knew him. Some people say that our instincts tell us things about those we meet before we are consciously aware of it. I believe in my case with Battho the same was true. I knew if I didn’t help him, he would die, and I knew somehow that the words I whispered the day I rescued him, “you will never be alone again,” were meant for me too.
It wasn’t merely that he was with me. I discovered something more — that love doesn’t have boundaries. When we love, we will stop at nothing morally permissible, to ensure the safety of those we wish to protect. That our own capabilities in trying times, when struggling in the interest of another, grow. In conflict and uncertainty, we begin to recognize the person we have always hoped to be, emerge.
Strife, created by the offering of oneself to the service of another, whether it’s a dog, children, parents, or anyone else, is blossoming up on our branches. That thing of beauty, that brings color to the world. The act of compassion of rescuing a dog that challenges your commitment to love will transform and inspire you, and every time you look into that animal’s eyes, you will remember where it came from, and you will see the strength of your love looking back at you.
These days Battho prances through the forest with his head held high. He whimpers with excitement when he meets new human and dog friends, and he wants to snuggle with all of them. He never lost his fear of busy places, but he has become a trusting and happy dog. I gave Battho a second chance at life, and he gave me the gift of seeing myself for who I truly am, someone who won’t give up on love, and that is my second chance too.
Battho the street dog as a baby
As a model for mytempledog
As the king of the forest
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