Monday, September 17, 2012

Say Hello to Angel

I can't believe I have gotten through four posts without introducing you to the newest member of our family. So without much further ado, let me present Angel.

Yes, we got a dog. Obviously, running a home and raising two bratty kids, with a domestic help situation that tends to range from unreliable to non-existent, was not challenging enough. So I brought in another creature that depends on me (and Jai) for food, exercise and love.

It wasn't really a planned move. Sometime in January, I happened to come across a tweet about an abandoned female Labrador that needed a home. Now if you are a Twitter regular, you would know that tweets of this nature are pretty common and I had seen more than my fair share of them in the past and never felt the imperative to act. For some reason, I decided to enquire about this particular dog. I was put in touch with the organisation that had rescued Angel, Caring Hands For Animals (CHFA).

I called them, my chief concern being the dog's comfort levels around children. I was told that she had an extremely gentle nature, and that had earned her the name of Angel at the shelter. We decided to go and visit Angel with the kids in tow. She was staying at the home of one of the NGO's volunteers. She was terribly skinny but very sweet and let the kids fawn all over her. As we were leaving, Jai and I looked at each other and said 'Yes'.

She came home a week after that, on 28th February to be precise (Ayaan has marked the date for future birthday celebrations). These are her pictures from that first day.

As you can see in the picture above, she was literally skin and bones. To give you an idea, an adult female Labrador is supposed to ideally weigh in at 30 kgs. She was just 21 kgs when she came to us, and this was after more than a month of rehabilitation at the shelter. I shudder to think what she must have looked like when they found her.

The back story on Angel is that she had been abandoned and left tied to a No Parking sign. By the time she was rescued, she was severely deprived of nutrition and hydration. Out of desperation, she had taken to eating mud and had more or less collapsed. When she was brought to the vet, they were less than optimistic about being able to save her. But against all odds, she survived. But thanks to her time on the street and the mud that she ingested, it has been a long, slow journey to normalcy. She could eat only puppy dog food for three months and suffered from extreme constipation. She is better now but she is still prone to frequent tummy upsets and is on an ongoing dose of probiotics. Her age has been estimated at 4 years and the vet says that she has had multiple pregnancies, leading us to believe that she was a breeder dog. (When we spayed her recently, she was found to have ovarian cysts so maybe her reduced reproductive capacity led to her abandonment?). She also has calluses on her elbows (or whatever you call the mid-leg joints that jogs have) which could have come from being tied up a lot on a hard floor. A pox on her previous owners and others like them.

Even aside from her health, her assimilation into our household has not been an entirely smooth process. About two months into her stay, she suddenly started snapping at the kids. There were 3-4 incidents in the course of a horrible week in April, including one where she bit Ayaan near his eye and actually broke through his skin. I called CHFA and they were very supportive. They offered to take her back but I didn't want to give up on Angel so soon. They had a few suggestions, revolving around teaching Angel that her position in the household hierarchy was below that of kids. This was because we all agreed that much of her behaviour could be attributed to the fact that she felt that the kids were competition for our attention (she only ever chewed their toys, ignoring shoes lying carelessly around and usually acted out at times when both kids were at home and awake).

In addition to correcting our behaviour, we also decided to get professional help. So after going through a couple of unimpressive candidates, we found a trainer to help us work with Angel. The training has been really helpful and is an ongoing process.

Soon after the biting started, she also went on heat. Once that was over and done with, she went back to being reasonably calm and we have not had any serious incidents so there might also have been some sort of doggie PMS at play.

Lastly, she has finally started bonding with the kids. She has developed a genuine affection for Ayaan and comes running to greet him when he gets back from school. He has gotten over his earlier tendency to pester her (that is a privilege he currently reserves for his younger sister) and is the biggest advocate for her being let free when she is tied up for being naughty. She returns the favour by barking at me if she suspects I am going to smack him. Tarana she, more or less, tolerates and is usually pretty good-natured about receiving her less-than-gentle ministrations and affections.

Health-wise, she is now largely okay and her current weight is optimal. Here's another aerial shot, where you can see how the bones are no longer visible like they were when she first came. (This was taken a couple of months back, she has got a teensiest bit chubbier since then)

She still has a tendency to get over-excited when the kids are being hyperactive. But I have learnt to identify the early signs I usually remove her from the situation and tie her up before things can escalate. As a result, we haven't had any biting incidents after she finished her heat. And we got her spayed last week so hopefully we won't have to worry about the increased irritability we saw in her last time.

I won't lie. There have been times that I have regretted bringing her home. The biggest of those moments was when she bit Ayaan but also during phases when I had absolutely no help and I felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew. But thankfully, these niggling doubts have passed and overall, I am happy with this decision. I always wanted my kids to have a childhood that included having a dog and overall, Angel is growing into that role pretty well.

Here's a parting shot. This is her favourite spot in the house - on the broadest step on the staircase. It's her vantage point from where she can keep an eye on what's going on on both floors.


  1. Awwwwwwww....just it! Love that you adopted a doggie into your lives...isn't it lovely to see the kids bonding with these amazing creatures! How mean for someone to not only abandon her but to tie her to a pole while doing so!!! Ugh!

    It has been almost 5 months since we got Simba home and my daughter is super thrilled every time she comes home from school and is all over him :-)

    God bless Angel (or Angie as we lovingly call another doggie whose name is Angel in our complex).

  2. COngratulation on your third one! :) You are indeed brave to take this on! But I can imagine how thrilled the kids must be...if KB read this post he woudl start begging me again for a dog. I love dogs but I just cannot have one at home. I love them from a distance. It is remarkable that you persisted despite Angel biting Ayaan. I would have been scared. It was nice to see the last two photos - you have literally saved her life and made her life so good. I will let KB read this post though I am making my own life difficult because I know they will both again start asking me for a dog.

  3. Look at that face! How adorable she looks! Seriously, what kind of people treat helpless animals so they ever get punished for their acts??

    Kudos to you and hubby for taking on Angel's responsibility especially when the kids are small and you have little help.

    From my own experience growing with a dog (his mother was abandoned by her previous owner when she was heavily pregnant, midst of monsoon season and my parents took her in and cared for her when she delivered and after)and cats (all stray, whome we adopted), I can say that it was worth all the hard work. Even after so many years when I look back, our lovliest and happiest memories revolve around our beloved Kingu and the cats. :)

  4. Wow!

    She is adorably cute..but I must admit I doubt I would have done and the family are incredibly sweet...I really admire the way you have accepted her :)

    I cant believe people can abandon dogs like this...

  5. From another mom with two kids and a dog, here is wishing you all the best and all the calm :-)

    But am sure you will never regret it, coz there is nobody who will love you the way a dog does.. Totally.. Unconditionally. Its worth all the hard work.

  6. It was a good decision, Ro. And I love her vantage position. :)

  7. Congrats! Love the pix :)

  8. Anonymous1:10 pm

    Loved the post and I am sure all your hard work will pay off.

  9. My daughter's been wanting a dog since ages and I m not too fond of pets but your post makes me re-consider..

  10. [Divs] You got a dog too? Cool. I think childhoods are meant to have pets in them :)

    [KB] DId you show it to KB? What did he say?

    [Kavs] Absolutely agree. I have very fond memories of the dog we grew up with too. His name was Bonzo.

    [R's Mom] It was funny because I have always postponed getting a pet but something made me decide that Angel was the one :)

    [Sher Khan] LOL at wishing me calm. Very apt and necessary :)

    [Sue/ Chox/ WHT] :)

    [A day...] If you are not fond of pets, my honest advice is to not get one. However much your daughter wants one and will love it, much of the work and responsibility will fall on your shoulders.

  11. You brave, brave girl you.

    The MIM and the EO have been wanting a dog for ages. I'm not too keen, but I don't know how much longer I can have my way...

    I just don't have the strength and energy to look after a dog (so says the person who secretly wants a baby #3!!)

  12. Anonymous7:42 am

    Hi, I am a Doctor and reader of your blog.
    I know your and kid's love for dogs.
    But I am concern about health.
    When you will meet Vet doctors next time ,please check with Hydatid diseace in Angel.

  13. Hey Ro, your post brought tears.... I just love that you adopted her, and how you shared your feelings about her....

    I have been wanting to bring up one too. No guts as yet, since my patience is low with my kids. And some one once told me, "Having a dog is like having a baby that will never grow up!"

    Maybe your post will re-ignite that feeling inside me, and we might end up with the third baby afterall.

    Her name 'Angel' so perfectly suits the look in her eyes....