Thursday, June 17, 2004

Scabies and rabies and bites, oh my!

If you’ve read Abez’s blog, you know that this morning I bravely battled a pack of wild dingo dogs…. Well, okay 4 of them (not 3 as Abez wrote) were just suckling puppies, but hey, I’ve learned the hard way that wild puppies can pack a punch.

Many years ago, a stray dog birthed a litter of puppies in the abandon barn at my parents house. The puppies were growing up wild and afraid of humans and my mother wanted to round them up, put them in a pen and start feeding them so they could get acclimated to humans. She was afraid to do it, but I bravely (read stupidly) declared that puppies couldn’t hurt anyone and I would do the task.

All was going well as I swooped the pups up by the scruff of the neck and dropped them into the fenced pen…. till one of the ferocious, snarling evil puppies twisted his head and slashed my hand with his evil little canine tooth, leaving a gash and a scar, still visible 25 years later.

Another nasty encounter with wild puppies happened here in Pakistan 2 years ago. We had adopted a street dog, our faithful Wafadar and we were very pleased with her. My youngest son, whose idea it was to adopt Wafadar, thought we should adopt another little puppy that was hiding under our car to avoid the tortures of the evil street boys. He brought me a filthy, little ball of brown puppiness and told me to “Work your magic, Mom.”

What mom can resist such a compliment? I promptly gave the mutt a bath, only to realize she wasn’t a brown dog at all, but a very filthy black dog with classic hound dog markings. But… as I washed away the dirt, her fur came away also. After her bath she was pink and nearly 75% bald, and scratching herself all over!

A few days later I started itching…. And itching… and itching. I went to a doctor and said, “I started itching a few days after I bathed a stray dog. I think I got something from the dog.” She prescribed nerve pills!!! Yes, nerve pills.

A few itchy days later, I went to a dermatologist and showed him my rashy arms and told him about the stray dog, he promptly diagnosed it as scabies, tiny skin mites, that animals tend to carry. The medicine for me and a trip to the vet for the dog cost several thousand rupees and took weeks to administer.

Another story of the dangers of stray dogs was told me by an employee of the American school here in Islamabad. It seems a few years back an American teacher decided to teach her students compassion for stray dogs by adapting, bathing and feeding a stray dog at school. One child was bitten, a rabies test was done and it turned out that the dog had rabies and the whole class had been exposed. They all had to be administered the scary course of rabies vaccinations.

So, the moral of the story is that it was an act of extreme bravery (and peeved-offness about having to hear hours of puppy yelping in the wee hours of the morning) that forced me to do battle with a pack of POTENTIALLY ferocious, man-eating, mite-ridden, rabies-infected wild puppies. No they weren’t but hey, they had potential.

With those memories fresh in my mind this morning I decided to do something about the endless yipping that echoed through my house. First, I stood throwing dirt clumps at them from a safe distance, hoping it’d scare them and they’d high-tail it out. But no, though the mom ran off and left her young in the lurch, the pups hunkered down and resisted my barrage. I had no other option now but to evict them by force.

I gingerly approached the dog den where the puppies were hiding and hesitantly poked them on the back to see if they would snarl and snap at me… no, they just whimpered. I grabbed each by the scruff of the neck and sent them flying pell-mell, hurly-gurly over the dirt hill and out of my “lawn” and collapsed the burrow they’d made or found.

But now I am a mass of confusion… I feel glad to be rid of the menace of wild dogs, but guilty that I had to be mean to the little mutts. This isn’t how the Pokey Little Puppy of storybook creation would like to have been treated.