Being a Surrogate Mother – I

It had been an impulsive thing on our part. A stray bitch in the neighbourhood had given birth to a litter of six pups. We learnt from our neighbours that their boxer had fathered them. The pups were very adorable – two dark brown ones and four jet black ones.

Come winter and you would find dozens of pups being born, half of them dying within a few days and some more a little later. It is only a very few that survive to roam the streets.

So this litter shivered in the cold and kept up a yelping racket through the nights. The L&M took some cartons and old sheets and covered them up. The next morning they had vanished – the sheets and cartons, that is. This went on for sometime, with one or the other of the residents in the street doing the good work. The bitch then carried them to a drainpipe and put them all there. Some kids built them a small shelter with bricks to stop the cold draught and lined it with sack cloth.

For my part, I fed enough rotis and milk to the bitch so that she could feed her litter. They survived and slowly the pups began venturing out and exploring the neighbourhood. One of them was very frisky and adventurous and when his (I don’t know why I had assumed it was a male, but I was right!) mother ventured to forage for food he ran after her the furthest.

We were told that the pups would be adopted by those who wanted to keep a dog and true enough people began coming to look them over. But none was adopted and they continued roaming the street and trying to get into houses. They were all shooed away, but one was persistent.

It was then that the idea struck me. We were going to be living in a house and the city was a den of thieves, so keeping a dog made sense. I had heard enough of the hassles of having a pedigree dog for a pet – its diet, its vet bills and pampering that it needed had put me off them. And I had also heard the opposite about ‘desi’ dogs or mongrels : that they were easy to care for, were very loyal and affectionate. And here I had the best of both – a half-breed pup that no one wanted to adopt!

Coincidentally the younger one was home on a holiday from his college and agreed most heartily with the idea. So on an impulse I asked the watchman to bring me the adventurous pup of the litter.

And that’s how the little one came home one evening. He was jet black, with a white patch on his little tummy and a spot of white on his lower lip! His eyes were bright and very intelligent.

The mother came  and stood outside the gate to make sure that it was being treated well. Her eyes looked sad and relieved at the same time. She quietly ate her rotis and left. I was petrified of touching the little thing. Fortunately for me, my son took charge and gave directions on how to care for it, including hunting for the right sized dish for his milk, which allowed the tiny mouth to lap it easily.

The weather was so cold that he put the pup inside his jacket and the little thing peeped out with its bright button-like eyes. “Look at him peeping like a joey!” , he cried in delight. And that’s how the pup got his name.

Joey was incredibly dirty with lice on his dusty coat that must have been shiny underneath . We were afraid that he might have some worms or have caught something, living on the streets and rushed with him to a vet.

The vet examined his teeth and declared that he was just about 4 weeks old.  He said that he was a cross breed with a lot of ‘desi’ blood.  Usually pups are given shots for rabies and parvo, (which is a virus that causes severe vomiting and dysentery) when they are three months old. But since Joey was a stray, the vet thought it prudent to give the shots earlier especially since he was not getting his mother’s milk and her antibodies. He embarrassed us by praising our efforts to give a home to a stray. One thing he said disturbed me though: pups are generally adopted only by the 10th week or so, by which time their mothers would have taught them social skills including their behaviour around humans and other dogs.

“Should I put him back with his mother then?” I asked uncertainly.

“Don’t do that! Strays die by the dozens in this weather and he would get a chance to live if he stayed with you,” he advised.

The bath the pup had the next day with the medicated shampoo the vet had given, brought out the sheen of his coat and he looked nothing like a scruffy stray!  The tiny thing that he was, he could easily hide in the L&M’s sneakers!

The vet had told me that I had replaced the little mite’s mother and so he considered me his ‘mom.’ It was a funny feeling but one that was quite exciting and scary at the same time. Would I be able to take care of him, toilet train, teach him social skills and generally care for him? It was a daunting proposition. The neighbours laughed at my trepidation at caring for a mere street pup. But to me he was almost a child – and someone else’ at that and so came with more responsibility.

Now began the real test. I took care of him by instinct but was clueless about the right and wrong of pet care. How I wished I could do what I had done with my brats! But they were human kids and I could rely on common sense and instinct to bring them up, though I went through a phase of doubt and uncertainty. There had been no pets in our family and so I had no idea about anything to do with them. Neighbours who had pets offered conflicting advice about everything.

Joey needed company and his street blood clamored to play with other street dogs. Two of his siblings had died just as the vet had predicted. Three more roamed the place, but I was afraid to let him play with them. They were not clean enough and I was afraid he would catch something. Also his mother growled menacingly if she saw him or when he whined at her sight.

I began having all kinds of guilt pangs about having taken him away from his family. I looked at the other pups from the litter and would see them playing, fighting and cuddling with each other.  Was I doing a service or was I sinning horribly? Was it like birds that do not accept their chicks if they are handled by humans? Had I cut off a baby from its mother thus committing an unpardonable sin? Would all the human love, care and pampering be replacement enough for his mother’s milk and love? I would lie awake entire nights wondering and fretting about it.

But the belief that there must be some divine reason for sending Joey to us was strong and got stronger.

And true enough we found out what it was a few days later – in the most ghastly manner …

To be continued.

19 comments

  1. […] figured in any of my posts, why his latest photos didn’t grace my blog. You can read about Joey here and here if you have not read the first two parts, in order to make sense out of the last one in […]

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  2. Pratibha · · Reply

    My son had asked for a puppy & promised to get a good class 10 result. He exceeded my expectations. But I am yet to get one to him, asI cannot bring myself to take care of it. I dont mind taking it out for walks, cooking its food, etc… But hugging it, no way.
    I am planning to give one to his wife, for her ‘moonh dikhaai’.

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    1. I was like that too, in the beginning. But it grows on you and when a life looks up to you for its care and is so affectionate, there is no way you can refuse to do it. For days, I did not lift him, but when the younger one went back, I began willy-nilly to do it and then it became a habit.

      When are you giving the moonh-dikhai? 😀

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  3. I have no idea why but i have always feared dogs,so personally i have never even thought of owning a pet but i sure do respect people who take great care of theirs and treat them like family!!!Waiting for the next part in anticipation 🙂

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    1. I had a lot of trepidations, reservations and reluctance before I actually started doing it. The L&M was the one who was scared of dogs, having been bitten twice! But he lost his fear after Joey came and now is cool around any dog!

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  4. Mami,I didn’t know that you had a dog. You should have asked Amma – she would have given you a lot of advice like feeding him thayir sadam:) Yes we even did that 🙂

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    1. Hey, nice to see you here! I didn’t know you read my blog 🙂

      I thought Vinni had given a lowdown on him to you all. Amma definitely knew about him!
      That’s exactly what had happened — everyone gave all kinds of advice and I was all thumbs. On top of that, he had a lot of desi blood and defied all stereotypes.

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  5. I adopted 2 black mongrels from the street but I had a very bad experience with them…no more of those for me!

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    1. They are not easy to keep, sure and they don’t come with a manual either. But they still grow on you!

      I have seen and heard people say that you can ‘adopt’ a mongrel by just feeding it regularly and let it roam about. Give it shots if you want to have safe street dog. It will guard you and your house still.

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  6. Aa nice tale with good finish and humanly touch- i would look forward for next .

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    1. These little mites are more human than the best humans 🙂 Loads of attitude too!

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  7. oh these guys have a way of stealing your heart forever. we have adopted a mongrel too. an integral part of our lives for the past 7 years. he even has a blog now at http://wingsandpaws.blogspot.com
    🙂 looking forward to the next part!

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    1. Oh yes. They firsts come into your house and then your hearts and then refuse to budge…

      Will check out the site. The second part is going to be hard to write. I am working on it.

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  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ritu Bhanot, Vineet Rajan. Vineet Rajan said: Being a Surrogate Mother http://goo.gl/fb/d6SL1 […]

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  9. amma this is not fair!! publish the next part now, or i ll haunt u like ghost!!!!

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    1. ha ha. come and haunt me! At least that way you will come to see me! 🙂

      No comments about Joey? 😦

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      1. hahahahaha :)ll come home soon, amma 🙂

        oh joey!! adorable he is.. i am so waiting for what he did next 😀 (errrm i am afraid of dogs… 5 of them chased me one early morning during school days and d fear is still there… will run off in the opposite direction if i see a dog coming near me, even if its a chihuahua or a Pomeranian)

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  10. I love dogs. As kids we had a pair of German Spitz and always accused our Mum of favouring them over us. Later after I got married my parents had a German Shepard (an alpha Romeo). Every time I came home he would pounce on me and slobber all over me! He could talk with his eyes, accuse you of ignoring him, nudging you with imploring eyes! He was such a drama queen!

    Joey looks so adorable, like a black ball of fur!

    Loved the way you ended it, leaving the reader asking for more!

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    1. It is always difficult to make children understand that for a mother all kids are the same, even a canine baby! And yes, they can be so affectionate that you end up talking about them ad nauseum to all and sundry.

      The post was getting too long and so I decided to split it and what better way than to have an suspense element?

      Do read the next part 🙂

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