A mother, her six puppies and their spiritual relationship

Their yelps kept me awake through the night.

Our daughter wanted to adopt them, but I had reservations — who will take care of them, who will take them to the vet when they’re ill, who will get the anti-rabies injections, food, shelter, hygiene? All those arguments dissolved in the cold February rain last week. Those yelps — helpless, soulful, weak — had me tossing and turning. I had just about had it.

The helpers around the house did what they could to keep the six puppies inside the storm drain in front of our house. I spoke to the guard opposite and he said, not a single pup has survived so far in the past five years that he’s been working. “All of them come under the cars,” he said.

It’s not like the neighbourhood is cruel. The mother dog is fed in various houses and gets by. But the pups, as soon as they are able to hobble out, stagger in front of drivers, some of who are rather rash.

Bleary eyed, the next morning I organised a small shelter with my highly-resourceful ‘bodyguard’ driver helping out. We put together some strong cardboards and sacks and created a make-do kennel. One by one, we called the pups out of the storm drain and put them in the shelter.

The mother dog was alarmed. We fed her, gave her milk and a lot of love. Called her to the pups and had her feed them. The pups were not used to the shelter and ran about confused but, I suspect, comfortable. The mother watched from a distance.

A whole new world opened up, with workers in the house feeding them, looking after them. I would find my daughter spending her evenings behind the house with the pups. Over the next few days, the pups began to grow.

A pattern began that we’re repeating every day. We hear the pups yelping. We step out. The mother is standing in front of our gate. We open the gate and let her in. She goes behind. We let the pups out. They rush to her and drink till they’re drunk. The mother goes back. We give her some food. This happens twice a day.

It’s been more than a week now and I am proud to report that all of them are alive and kicking. This is despite their getting stronger with each passing day and being able to jump over the shelter we’ve created. They give us a rare moment of panic when we see them outside the house on the road.

Over the next few weeks, the pups will turn stronger and be able to fend for themselves. That’s when we’ll let them go, though I suspect, our daughter thinks they’re already adopted. Last night we had a conversation about getting them the injections.

In all this, there are two things that I’m unable to figure out. One, what is it that binds these puppies to their mother? Food maybe the answer and I would go with that.

The other question is more difficult. What is it that binds the mother to these pups? An instinct, some might say. But the relationship, as I’m beginning to see, goes way beyond the physical instinct. The way the mother knows when her pups are hungry and feeds them, the way she stands outside the gate when other dogs go barking about in their boisterous ways. The inner preparedness with which she’s ready to fight them — all of them at least double her size and many times ferocious — tell me that there is something more than the physical instinct of having nurtured them in her womb.

Perhaps it’s something spiritual.

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