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The girl with the dog

Nishtha Rampuria shares the fascinating and bittersweet tale of her pooch – Bira

I have spent most of my childhood being scared of dogs. I guess I acquired this fear from my dad. All of this changed for me on a trip to Rishikesh when I was 13. We met this Labrador named Olive. Over the few days there, his calming demeanour eased my fears. As the trip continued, we formed a strong bond and on our last day he jumped into our car to come with us. My dad watched in horror as Olive and I wept on our parting.

From that day on, I dreamt of having the beautiful companion of a dog. Soon I started feeding and playing with the stray dogs in my neighbourhood. My fondness and desire to help these wonderful souls grew over time. I began volunteering and advocating for adoption of abandoned or stray dogs.

My countless prayers, requests and fights were fruitful the day I convinced my dad to come to a dog shelter with me. Little did we know, this day was going to change our lives in the most beautiful way possible.

We made our way to a remote location in Manesar. Dad decided to wait outside as he was still very scared of dogs. The care taker I was corresponding with, brought out the first dog. He told us that Bira was abandoned a year back and had been with him since. Even before I met him, this little guy was so excited, he would not stop running. When he finally calmed down, I looked into his eyes and whispered, “hello little Bira boy, do you like us? Would you like to be a part of our family?”. He jumped to give me a hug. In that moment I fell in love with Bira. I knew we had to bring him home.

The next weekend, it was 17th August 2019, Dad was away to Kolkata, I decided to go and adopt Bira. I bought a blue collar and red leash for Bira and could hardly contain my excitement. It was pouring that day, Bira was drenched in rain water. He leaped into the car and sat right in my lap with his little muddy paws ruining my pants completely! We decided to take him to a spa right away. Funnily enough, after we got him cleaned, Bira stayed away from my soiled pants.

That’s when I learnt, Bira loves being clean.

The moment we got home, we learnt he was also toilet trained. It astonished me how careful he was with everything in the house and how well behaved he was.

Two days later, dad came back from Kolkata. I told him I had a surprise at home. I closed a glass door to show him Bira from a distance. Instinctively, dad jumped off his feet and screamed in fear. After a lot of cajoling, assurances and promises, dad agreed to give it a chance.

From the initial horrific reaction on the first day, we made progress as we got Bira (on a leash) and dad in the same room on the second day. Soon enough, dad and Bira began bonding. Bira had this calming, inviting, wise and respectful countenance that would ease the fear of dogs of many.

Eventually as we took him to vet, we learnt that Bira was sick with tick fever. The first two months were difficult for Bira and us however his strength and courage are like no other. He needed me by his side as he trusted me the most.

Despite popular opinion and advice, we decided to keep Bira on vegetarian diet. This would help him recover sooner (we thought). One night, Bira’s nose began to bleed. This was the first time I saw dad worried about Bira like his own child. We looked up an animal hospital online and rushed there. The doctor said Bira was stable but needed to stay under observation. The moment we were leaving, Bira started barking, thinking we were leaving him. To my surprise, dad decided and stayed at the hospital the entire night (in the lobby) to be with Bira.

With love, care, a family and lots of spoiling from dad, Bira was soon healthy and much naughtier. Dad hired a full-time helper, Damodar, for Bira’s care. The first day Damodar asked dad if he could give some paneer that had gone rancid to the dog. Dad glared at him and hollered to explain that Bira is his son and he would only eat what we ate. Soon, Damodar and Bira became best friends.

We started taking Bira on drives to parks on the weekends. This became one of his favourite parts of his routine. Running around in parks, watching us chase him – gave him a thrill, like no other.

In the summer of 2021, I left for Toronto for higher studies. I will never forget the day I left Bira. It broke my heart as I explained to Bira that I was leaving. I sat in the car and wept. I watched Bira struggle with Damodar to break free and come to me. He barked as loud as he could. But then, I had to go.

Bira loves tennis balls and soft ball. But more than anything, he loves to play with the cushions in the house. Whenever anyone comes to our house, it is customary for Bira to come wagging in with a pillow clenched in his mouth to greet them. Damodar and Bira’s favourite game together is tug-of-war with a cushion!

When I left, dad and Bira truly began bonding. He planned a schedule for him and fastidiously follows each and every care-guideline made for Bira (except the limits on the treats!!).

Bira starts the day with couple of Marie Gold biscuits with dad in the morning at 6.30 AM and has a bowl of papaya at 7 AM. He then has breakfast with dad where he eats fruits like apples and pears, and sometimes a toast. At 10.30AM he

has milk along with ajwain, haldi and makhanas. Bira is a thorough vegetarian and has never had kibble or packaged food. He only loves fresh homemade food. For lunch at 1.30 PM, Bira switch between rotis, boiled vegetables, curd, paneer, rice, dal, khichdi, salad, et al. Dinner is at 7.30pm for which he has almost the same serves as lunch, but starts with fresh vegetable juice.

Soon dad became passionate about dogs too. Now he actively participates in protecting the stray community in Delhi. He is particularly fond of a cute little girl-pup named Basanti outside his temple. He not only takes care of her food but also regularly takes her to the vet and gives her baths.

It is so intriguing and beautiful to see how time, acceptance and patience can change a man’s perceptions, help overcome his fears and have this beautiful relation with a man’s best friend. Bira has not only changed our lives; he has given us invaluable lessons. We as a family firmly stand by adopting dogs and not buying them from breeders. These beautiful souls need our help and we must extend a healing hand. To me, being a dog lover means to be able to appreciate and contribute to the welfare of dogs as a whole. While it may be a difficult journey, saving their lives is always rewarding. With the right love, care, respect, diet and play, any dog can be healed to live its life to the fullest.