Love and Death; or, Time to Go Home

Delhi, Hindustan 2:21 p.m.

It’s hard to write now, because the tears are still filling up my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. One of the many things left unwritten in recent days has been Sara’s, and to a lesser extent my own, adoption of a sick and tiny little puppy in Mazar-e-Sharif and subsequent adventure of trying to heal her up and bring her back to the states with us. She really was an amazing little pup: a sag-e-jangi, or Afghan fighting dog, she had already had her ears and tail cut off, while being bred to engage in the local blood sport of dog fighting. Yet she had a composure I’ve rarely seen in any animal, human or otherwise. When, after buying her freedom from the proprietors of the Mazar Hotel for the cost of 100 Afghanis (or $2 US, plus $2 for a little blue towel to swaddle her with), it was time to drive 10 hours during the heat of the day down into Kabul, she barely blinked the whole ride through—just relaxing and enjoying the ride as a chance to catch up on her rest and relaxation. Whenever she needed to do her business, she’d either give us a little whimper or just hop out of her little travel pouch and do her thing outside—and then climb back into bed.

Sara named her Shira, after shir which is the Dari word for “lion,” and shirac, the word for lion cub. The poor little thing was suffering from malnutrition, some sort of nasty intestinal illness (gastroenteritis, one vet said) which made her pass blood in her diarrhea, spent a fair amount of time either throwing up or otherwise writhing in bodily discomfort, and we picked more than half a dozen ticks off of her over 2-3 days—they just kept appearing. Conrad, and many others, were convinced she would indeed outweigh Sara herself within 2 years, and likely be close to as tall—these sag-e-jangis are huge, I guess. Meanwhile, she was the mellowest and most adorable thing that side of the Hindu Kush.

Shira died today, about an hour ago. Sara, miraculously, had gotten all her papers and shots and vet stuff in order, we flew her smoothly through customs from Kabul to Delhi, and it seemed like the toughest part was behind us. Just as we had gotten her to the veterinary clinic, figuring we’d check her in for 2-3 days of rehydrating and nourishing and medical attention to get her healthier and ready for the trip to the states, she passed away in Sara’s arms while I was across the road buying the medicines and supplies the clinic needed in order to treat her. Maybe… if the taxi driver had stayed and waited like he said he would rather than making us search 15 minutes for a new ride after dropping off our luggage at the guest house; if we hadn’t been the last people to get our luggage off the flight; if the vet clinic had had any supplies in stock, rather than making each animal’s parents buy and deliver everything necessary, including the IV tubes, the betadaine and every last item that took me 30 minutes to find and buy while Sara waited with Shira at the clinic—maybe; maybe, maybe, maybe she might have lived.

But, she did not live. While I thought she was with us for a period of healing and rejuvenation and new life, and saw her health challenges in that light, in reality I guess she came to us in order to die. After probably 4-6 weeks of mostly motherless infancy, eating bread and being eaten by fleas and ticks, losing her tail and ears at the hands of those who wanted to breed her into a fighting machine, she discovered us and we all fell in love. She came with us and had several days of love and snuggling and kindness and encouragement, and just when we got her from the vet in Kabul to the vet in Delhi, she passed away. Ouch.

Shir-e-Mazar, the little Lion Cub of Mazar-e-Sharif, has left behind her mortal coil. I’m more beside myself with grief than I could have imagined possible only a few days ago. I guess I haven’t really let myself begin to love a dog like this since Gemma, our beloved greyhound, who was like an angel incarnated into the hell of dog racing and rejuvenated by the love of my partner Caroline, and the love of my own heart. I feel crushed, Sara is crushed, and sadness fills the suddenly steamy air of Delhi.

I know life goes on, and there is so much to feel grateful for. But man, the last thing I want to do now is stay in Delhi for several roasting hot days and finish dealing with money and shipping details for getting my goods en route to the USA. I just want to be home, and take a bath and stare out at springtime’s renewal in a million shades of green, and roam barefoot in my back meadow, and see my friends and family, and rest. I feel like I’ve lived through several epochs in just the last two months. I’m wrung out. I’ve found some amazing items to bring home, seen parts of the planet never seen before by me, and lived through adventures large and small. Now, it’s time to go home.



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