Diwali is a nightmare in our house. We’re invariably under house arrest, unable to go out for days, and stuck holding on to this fella.
Okay, so maybe this is not Bruno’s most flattering look, but I need your heart to melt a little for me to make my point.
Bruno came to us on 5th June, 2003. It was the first day of 7th grade and I had just come home from school when one of my grand uncles dropped in with a basket. I was going in to call Amma when out popped a head! From that day onwards, we became the best trained adoptive parents in the world.
A tiny 3 month Dachshund, Bruno looked more like Jerry from Tom & Jerry than an actual dog. He loved running around in the backyard, circling the house with our underwear, being put in a box as punishment for displaying said underwear, and being chased (that’s right, he was the chasee, not the chaser) by our neighbour’s cat Lakshminarayana. He hated our neighbour’s bike, auto-rickshaws and, most of all, Diwali.
The firecrackers that our neighbours would burst every Diwali would scare him, and he’d look for tiny spaces between furniture to hide. Now, this is bad for all dogs, but more so for the tinier, longer breeds like Dachshunds. We would block all the diwans so he couldn’t go under them, but he invariably found a way to outsmart us. This happened every year, and in Diwali 2007, when he was just four and at the prime of his doggy years, he injured his spine.
It was a particularly bad Diwali and despite our continuous requests and pleading, our neighbours (one asshole in particular) burst crackers right in front of our house. Bruno spent days looking for places to hide and it didn’t matter that we were all at home, sitting next to him. A few days later, we found that his back was arched and we took him to the vet. He had hurt his spine from crawling under the furniture, and we had to give him steroid injections for him to get better. Just as he was recovering, on January 5th, 2008, he tripped while barking at an auto, and crawled back, squealing with pain, home. That was the last day he walked.
We took him to many vets in Bangalore and they all told us the same thing- we had to put him down. He was now a paraplegic dog who would never walk again. The paraplegia had also made him incontinent, and this was of greatest concern as it could infect his kidney, causing other serious issues.
We finally found a vet who, after watching Amma and I bawl our heads off (and Appa try to keep it together!) in his clinic, said that we might be able to find a way to make this work. We’d have to get him a cart so that he would be able to move around and stay healthy. Our biggest hurdle, however, was finding a solution to his incontinence. Luckily (for the lack of a better word), Bruno started to gain some control over his bladder a few months after his accident. In the initial days he’d pee all over the place and, worst of all, feel ashamed because of the lack of control. He’d hide his face under pillows after he had passed motion inside the house, and was generally depressed.
Things started to look up after seeing this particular vet. We were unable to find a single company producing custom-made carts for dogs in India, but did find one in the U.S. We sent them Bruno’s measurements and, in a few weeks, we had a dog on wheels!
It hasn’t been easy though. We learnt how to express him, figure out when his bladder was full, and clean him thoroughly once we had taken him out. Amma, who is his primary caregiver, deserves an award for the methodical manner and vigilance with which she has taken care of him. All our sheets are sanitised like in a hospital, and Bruno has NEVER had a urinary infection in the EIGHT years that he has been paraplegic (everyone reading this- Touch Wood!)
Bruno is now almost 13 years old. He has traveled with us on our holidays (which tend to be more like military missions), and when my cousin got married last year, my parents drove down from Delhi to Bangalore (and back again!) with Bruno in the car. As he’s getting older, he’s becoming a typical grumpy old man. This is making it more difficult to take care of him, since he doesn’t let us express him when his bladder is full. He is also becoming incontinent and we’re back to wiping our floor 3-4 times a day. All our furniture and beds have rubber sheets on them, something our guests get to experience as well! We have put our lives on halt to take care of him, but that’s what you do for family. We are, however, now having to slowly coming to terms with the fact that he may not be with us for much longer, and we might have to put him down eventually.
But the real hero in this story is Bruno. If anyone can teach us a lesson on how your attitude can change your life, it’s him. He’s spent 2/3rds of his life as a paraplegic but he seems to not notice most of the time. At home, he drags himself around with a swagger, sometimes at unimaginable speeds (if there’s food involved!). When we put him in the cart and he sits outside, he still loves to bark at the neighbours. His favourite place, though, is the hills. When we take him to Uttrakhand, he refuses to come inside the house and lies in the grass, soaking in the sun, listening to birds chirp, and licking pigeon poop! His front paws have started to give way as he’s spent most of his life dragging himself around, but that doesn’t stop him from jumping around, wanting to go for a daily walk down the road.
Sometimes we wonder what our lives would be like if it hadn’t been for those Diwali crackers, and then that fall. Maybe I’d be an aunt, and Bruno would still be stealing our bras, making us chase him around the house. We would have a lot more freedom as well, for we wouldn’t have to rush home to express him every time we go out for a couple of hours. The reason he’s survived this long is because of his resilient spirit, and my parents’ unwavering care. But this isn’t the case for most other animals that are on the streets during Diwali, unable to find refuge from the firecrackers.
I am writing this article because what’s happened to Bruno is not something many people know about or, if they do, consciously think about. I am also writing because Diwali is around the corner, and I can already see the fear in Bruno’s eyes when he hears the occasional firecracker.
Light diyas, wear new clothes, eat delicious food, and celebrate with your family and friends. Let Diwali be a time of celebration, rather than one of fear.
Article by Roshini Suparna Diwakar