Life · love

on adopting a puppy in India

Everything is temporarily magical, until it starts to become real.

I overstayed my welcome by adopting a puppy here. I crossed the unseen bounds; I took one of theirs and she became mine. We walk up and down the beach and the other dogs growl and chase us off their respective territories. We have no territory; all we have is each other.

If you take a dog off the streets, best to leave quickly, before anyone has a chance to notice. Get on the first flight puppy is old enough to travel on, or ask the vet to lie on her records. Return as swiftly as possible to wherever you came from. Because the staying, that’s the hard part.

I serve an unintentional, visual representation of potentiality. Look at how her coat gleams, how her teeth sparkle, from just a little love. People pass and say, “Special breed?” The children ask, “How many rupees?” Most likely because their parents have told them they can’t have one of their own. Too expensive. I respond with a standard answer of, yes, she’s very special, now choosing to leave the rest unsaid. That there are countless others available where she came from. I’ve learned the painfully hard way, I’m in over my head.

She came free of charge, save for an investment of a lifetime. The return on which has served a lifeline.

She was found on the corner, crying in the rain after her mother rejected her, unable to produce enough milk for the litter. The small, weak ones become food for the desperates.

I don’t know that she’ll ever think of herself as strong. She’s still kind of a wimp. Last night she cried for ten minutes after tripping over a table while playing with her friend Charlie. I thought from the way she yelped that Charlie had bitten her or that her leg was surely broken. Turns out she’d only stubbed her toe.

But this small, weak one has a magic all her own. You can see it in her eyes. Her soul and mine are intertwined, I have no doubt in my mind. We belonged together before we met.

Right now I can’t stop listening to the Sylvan Esso song, “Die Young,” which goes like this:

I was gonna die young

(I had it all planned out before you met me)

Now I gotta wait for you, hun

(I had a plan, you ruined it completely)

I’ve always been a lyric girl. I listen to the same song(s) on repeat for a time and I usually don’t think about why or what they mean, I just know they speak to my soul. And then months later, I’ll listen to the same song again, when I’m in a new place and have moved onto a different stream, and it won’t have the same effect. Sometimes certain songs carry me back to times, states, or seasons. I hear a beat and suddenly I’m traversing a formerly glittering road. I remember the break of when he left. I start to feel stronger on my own.

I very rarely understand what the lyrics mean, exactly. Some things are too deep, too complex, too connected to be put into words. Like art. And movement. And lyrics.

Yesterday, while writing in my journal, I felt the rare strike of tangibility, why these particular words feel like they’re a part of me. She’s my you.

And we all deserve something or one that keeps us here.

It’s become exhausting. I place buds in each ear as a flimsy defence against the line of questioning. I know I stand out, with my clean puppy on a leash, her pink-heart name tag reflecting the sun. I remind myself, every day, that many are just curious.

Everyone wants to know, which country? Foreign dog? What will I do with her, when I go back?

People fling curiosities, judgments, and unsolicited advice at me like the stones some have thrown at her uncontrollably wagging tail in the park. She may be afraid of other dogs, but she hasn’t yet learnt to be wary of people. She loves us too much.

Out of the hundreds of questions and projections I’ve encountered, only one or two have told me I did a good thing. One person, in particular, emailed me, “You have saved a life.” Every time I read these words, I tear up. Everyone sees without seeing. Everyone sees the filter of what they wish to perceive.

I wrote back telling her thank you, that her words came at the exact moment when I needed it most.

Yet again, the most important piece, I left unsaid. Because social norm says you don’t always tell the whole truth over email.

She saved mine.

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