12 Dec 2018
Thor sat on his haunches and watched from afar, while the other dogs in the treatment centre crowded excitedly around us for cuddles.
Against the winter morning glare & dressed in a fawn coloured dog sweater for warmth, Thor’s crusty skin blended in with the sandy slope where he sat.
He was a recent arrival at the centre, skeletal and full of sores from untreated mange.
Besides medicating and feeding him, his rescuers/ caregivers also named him Thor, after the Norse God of Thunder. They wanted to imbue in him the much needed power to overcome his poor health.
Mange is a skin condition where parasitic mites burrow into the dog’s skin to feed on it. The disease is curable. However if left untreated, mange causes incessant itching, scratching, fur loss and open sores, while secondary infections set in to weaken the dog’s immune system further. Their deteriorating conditions make them look repulsive and smell terrible too. Death by starvation & organ failure is a fate that awaits mangy street dogs as they are less likely to evoke sympathy & get fed or helped.
As a newbie, Thor was the lowest ranking member of the dog pack at the centre. He couldn’t come to me even if he wanted to or even if I had called for him.
Panda, the alpha dog makes sure Thor knows his place & remains there. They will work out their dynamics in good time but just not at my visit yet.
So before we left the centre, I asked the carers if they could take me to Thor instead. I just wanted to touch him and let him know that I saw him and that he mattered.
“Hello, Thor!” I called out his name excitedly while moving in his direction with his carers.
Instead of sprinting happily towards me as I imagined, he got up to run away.
Luckily his carers were fast & caught hold of him before he bolted further. They assured him.
As he was brought to me, it dawned on me that it wasn’t me that he was scared of. He was afraid of what I had in my hand. My walking stick!
Living on the streets & scavenging for food in his conditions, Thor must have had his share of beatings from shopkeepers, hawkers, householders and even from those who felt justified to have a go at him just because of the way he looked and smelled.
And with my stick in hand charging towards him like that, I had all the visual cues of his abusers. From Thor’s point of view, what else could I be doing there except to hit him too?
I didn’t want to stress him further and decided not to get any closer. But his carers wouldn’t give up. They coaxed Thor and brought him nearer to me so that I could touch him.
I then had the honour of praying over this battle worn, terrified being by placing my hand over his gritty skin. I implored the elements to come to Thor’s aid and to remove all unpleasantness in his life.
At first he stood rigidly and I could feel him tensing. But as I lowered my face to his, and stroked his head while repeating my wishes for him, he began to understand. Peace.
How presumptuous I was in my initial interaction with Thor to think that he would know I meant to help him!
And how grateful I am to his carers that they wouldn’t allow Thor to stay frightened. They brought him to me so that he could see that not every human being who holds a stick will hurt him.
So may we cherish our hands because they can cause great misery to others.
And for all sentient beings that have been harshly treated, may they receive kindness even from those who resemble their enemies.
And may tormentors turn into friends.