Updated: Oct 19, 2021
For four years I have lived between Canada and Kathmandu in Nepal, in a modern house on a hillside overlooking the city. From my bedroom window, I see three giant golden Buddha statues, that mark the entrance to Kathmandu’s famous Swoyambunath Stupa, the Monkey Temple, about a mile away. During the days, I wander along the dusty streets to the temple, where children play games in abandoned lots, and street dogs growl and posture for dominance or sleep in packs along the busy narrow roadways. In the summer of 2018 during one of these outings, when I was relatively new to the city I became lost, and I crossed paths with a sickly puppy scavenging for food.
There are approximately 30 thousand stray dogs living 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 and stumbling into traffic, and I felt alarm for him.
He wasn’t like the other dogs, whereby many of the street dogs are autonomous and capable of surviving on their own, he was in need of help. I could see it in his eyes, and his vulnerable demeanour. I could see that he was starving so I fed him the only thing 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 dying puppy alone on a step. I was scared I had made him sick with the meat, and convinced two girls to lead me back to the place that 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 as we walked under the dry hot sun, while 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. When I found him he was without a mother and infested with every kind of parasite. 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 and I put Battho inside, and we walked to his vet and around the city this way everyday. I kept him in a spare room where he cowered in the corner. I often left him alone to sleep and recover, after feeding him and administering his medicines daily. 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 when he saw us. But his strength and bravery grew with constant attention, reassurance and affection. At three months old he came hiking up a mountainside with me, made friends with roaming cows and mountain dogs, 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 this 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 simply 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 from the offering of oneself to the service of another, whether it’s a dog, children, your parents or anyone else, is the blossom that grows upon our branches. That thing of beauty, that brings colour 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 animals eyes you will remember where it came from, and you will see the strength of your love looking back at you.