Three little puppies.

Actually, I first noticed them because one of them wasn’t moving, although the other two were playing around her, frolicking about, and being generally joyful. I was in a small shop on the other side of the busy road, so I crossed over, and squatted down near the dirty brown bundle. She looked at me out of watery brown eyes, barked a little wuff as if to say, ‘Well, hello to you too’, and wagged the tip of her little tail. Her other two siblings came rushing over boisterously – another little female, and the boldest and friendliest of the trio, a little male who tried to play tag with my foot.

I looked around for their mother, knowing that I was probably looking in vain. Street puppies in India are often abandoned by their mothers as soon as they can survive, and this lot, at about one and a half months of age, must have been deemed fit to survive by their mother. She’d abandoned them where she’d probably had them and raised them, and here they were, playful, joyous, exuberant – and riddled with mange.

The mange was a problem. I knew it would be difficult to get them the help they needed because a) there isn’t a single shelter in Chennai that is no-kill and b) everyone I know who rescues animals privately (like my mum) are filled to capacity, and unable to take on any more. I called around, even though I knew it was hopeless, and then decided to let them take their chances on the mean streets of Chennai. I decided I’d help them, and to that end I paid a couple of people to move them close to where they already were, but an inner road, where they’d be safer than on the main road. Then I brought the vet to look at them, and he prescribed deworming tabs and medicine for their mange, which he assured me was the non-contagious kind. I decided I’d feed them everyday, and give them their medicines mixed into the food.

It worked. It worked well. For more than a week I drove to them twice a day, with food, water, and medicines, and they ate and drank. They learned to identify my car and they’d welcome me with wuffs and yaps. It was working.

Then it all turned sour. I went one day to discover that only two of them were there. The puppy I had met first, the female who was lying down while her siblings were playing, was missing. I asked around, searched as well as I could, and drove around looking for her. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. She had vanished.

I continued to feed the other two, hoping the missing one had just gone wandering, and that she’d turn up. She didn’t.

Yesterday, I went there with their lunch, as I usually did, to discover that a bunch of people had apparently chased them away from where they were sheltering, and the boldest puppy, the sweet adventurous friendly little male, had rushed out onto the main road in a fright, and had been run over. I stared at the woman from the fruit stall nearby as she told me this, trying to stop the tears from leaping into my eyes. But they came anyway.

In an attempt to comfort me, she laid her hand on my arm. “Don’t cry”, she said. “They were just diseased puppies.”

I stared at her as I tried to gather my thoughts, and pulled my arm away. I walked down the little road trying to find the last puppy, but she wasn’t there. I looked everywhere; I even looked on a parallel road. She’s disappeared.

I sat in the car, staring unseeingly at the life that was going on around me. Yes, they were diseased. No, they weren’t particularly beautiful. Yes, their lives were probably worthless to almost everyone who looked at them.

But not to me.

I fought hard for them. I _wanted_ them to grow up. I tried to help. I believed then – as I do now – and as I always will – that they had a right to their lives. They wanted to live. They were full of life, and I respected that.

I went back today, hoping the last puppy may have wandered back. She was nowhere to be found. I asked around. Nobody’s seen her. She’s probably dead too.

I came away with tears in my eyes, because someone has to cry for these puppies, and it’s going to be me. It’s going to be the person who tried to help them to live; it’s going to be the person who tried to even their odds.

I’ll never forget them, because this is puppy love, and it lasts a lifetime.