The Year of the Dog (Babu)

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“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”  ~  Mark Twain

“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”   ~  Karen Davison

Once upon a time there was this dog. At that time he was called Babu, a Far Eastern term of respect for a gentleman, then his name was changed by his adoptive mom to BJ Raji. It’s a true wonder that he survived, to become by any means adoptable, to have his name changed, so any name would be a good name because he was there to receive it. Babu went home. That is the miracle.

I first met Babu when I was first hired at the shelter, as an animal caregiver for dogs. All of the boisterous dogs got my attention first, as I learned to handle them and even to nudge them, when possible, toward socialization. But then I got to the end of the rotation, in the back-most kennel in the isolation room, and there lay Babu, mellow as can be, upon a cushion of blankets to protect him from the chilly concrete floor. His eyes were bright and he used them to display interest at a new face. He occupied those blankets regally. I did not know his plight but he impressed a regal air upon my senses and mind. Yet he did not get up to express exuberance at the kennel door. He looked content to lounge.

I was told that he had health issues, as I slipped a lead over his head so that I could take him outside while the kennel was cleaned and sanitized. Later I learned why his gait was so unsteady. Babu had cancer, an external tumor, on his penis. The sight of it was unspeakable, and it made me cringe every time I saw it. And he was partially incontinent as well. He could have been euthanized and nobody would have doubted the action.

At that time we had an on-campus veterinarian, who paid special notice to Babu. Dr. Gene clearly saw the potential for a longer life for the pit bull mix. From the scars on his head, and the way his ears had been gnawed to nubs, it was pretty certain that Babu had been used as a fighter, or as a bait dog for fights. After such an atrocity I to this day believe that the doctor wanted to provide the dog with a gentle and loving life before his passing; that he did not want him to pass within the shelter wall. That was my impression, however accurate.

Dr. Gene first did one surgery, during which he removed some or most of the tumor. I never heard the degree, but I saw within days that Babu was rising out of his suffering. Wayne Dyer was the one who taught me how animals do not suffer the same way that we do, not even to the same degree of pain, because they are not inclined to resist the pain; it is simply a factor in their life. Pain resisted is pain amplified. That’s the lesson here. The lucky dog looked relieved to me. More smiley.

Doctor Gene did another surgery in time. And Babu seemed better still, yet his urination was still significantly hampered. But it was the third surgery that blew me away. In an hours long procedure, without a single break for anything, he rerouted the patient’s urethra away from the damaged area, and back toward his butt, so that Babu would from then on urinate like a female. The operation was a success. The patient lived.

The patient was pampered and showered with love. He was soon fostered most every night by an heroic volunteer, then returned to the shelter most every day. The dog had it good. He grew better, eventually to the point where he could even romp and run a bit. Most shelters, anywhere in the country, would have probably put him down. Doc chose otherwise, and endeavored upon the strength of a vision, a vision that became fulfilled. The doctor saved the dog’s life, and gave him greatly enhanced quality of life.

Babu went on to be adopted, and transported to Daisy Farm Sanctuary, where he led the good life, showered with love and impeccable care, for a little more than one year. Dr. Gene gave him that much more time to live life with as much quality as possible. That turned out to be a lot.

In the animal rescue and caregiving world it is said that when dogs die they pass over the Rainbow Bridge, then on the other side they await fellow travelers, to welcome them to their furever home in the world beyond. Yes, I grieve for the loss, for people who are so devastated at the earthly loss of a dazzling spirit, but I cannot help but smile. With my hand upon my heart, I nod, and bow my head to the dog, and the man who gave him what he had after an appalling beginning in life. It lasted a year. The year of the dog. Namaste, one and all.

Peace out. Goof gloriously.

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