Monday, 20 May 2013

Against All Odds

I remember the day Jimmy was born. Twelve years ago, in the quaint drawing room of our downstairs neighbour. Blacky was in labour, and in a matter of minutes a 13 year old bright eyed little girl witnessed the miracle of life for the first time. 

The bright eyed girl was me, and Jimmy is the youngest of three in my family. Jimmy is my 12 year old Dalmatian, my mum's only son, and fulfilling all expectations, her favourite (mum's always have a soft corner for sons!). About 4 years ago Jimmy developed his first tumor. A lump on his left front leg, the tumor was operated upon and found to be cancerous. However our vet, Dr. Prabhakaran and the entire team at Friendicos did a marvelous job and scraped out as much of the tumor growing on his bone as possible, but this did not stop stop the tumor from coming back. What followed was a harrowing 4 years in which the tumor came back thrice and removed twice more. 

When the tumor came back for the fourth time last April we made the difficult decision, in consultation with Dr. Prabhakaran, not to go in for another operation. The operations were very taxing on Jimmy, and came with increased delay in recovery each subsequent time. So we decided to weather the storm, as we prepared to bid Jimmy goodbye and make his last few months comfortable.

But the fact was, he WASN'T comfortable. The tumor was growing faster than a colony of rats, and had burst in two places, which necessitated it being bandaged constantly. Jimmy was also losing movement in the leg due to the large size of the tumor.

Soon daily fights became commonplace at home. Mum could not see him in so much pain and begged my sister to let us put him down. My sister retorted fiercely, "If he were a human would you have said the same thing? Everybody deserves a fighting chance. It isn't up to you to decide who dies."

During this time, Mani di (our resident superwoman, the lady who raised me from the age of 6, and my mum's oldest daughter, as mum call her) befriended another dog walker in our colony. The man recommended their own vet. 

Seeing a faint light at the end of the tunnel, Mani di rallied around and convinced everyone. Finally, we went to see Dr. Gautam Unny. Dr. Unny has a reputation for taking on cases that nobody else dares touch, and the more we spoke to him, the stronger the light at the end of the tunnel became. Dr. Unny took one look at the tumor and said it was a miracle Jimmy was still alive. He said that an amputation of the whole leg from the shoulder joint was the only option. As the date for the operation was set, he promised us he would do all he could. However at the same time, he also promised us that if he opened up Jimmy and felt that the tumor was inoperable, he would put him to sleep. Jimmy had suffered enough.

The next few days passed in a flurry. Soon enough it was time for Jimmy to go in for his surgery. Bidding him goodbye, not sure if I would ever see him again, I left for work....

That day I came home to find a totally dazed looking Jimmy, my little brother has survived. He was lying on his back with a heavy bandage where his leg used to be, but he was alive. As the night progressed, and the anesthesia wore off, Jimmy started howling in pain. I had never seen him cry so much. That night I remember sitting up at about 3, startled out of my sleep with Jimmy's cries and Smiti's sobs. My sister is one of the strongest people I know, but she loves Jimmy to bits, and there he was lying with his head in her lap whining away in pain, and I saw tears of utter helplessness and desperation in her eyes.

As I sat up she looked at me. Her eyes implored me to do something, anything. Doing the only thing I know how to, I sat up and started chanting next to Jimmy's face. Being a lay Buddhist practitioner, I whole heartedly believe in the philosophy of Buddhism and try to base my life on it as much as possible. To my amazement Jimmy stopped whimpering for the first time in hours. As I continued chanting he eventually fell asleep as we both (me and Smiti) exhaled a sigh of relief. 

The operation took place in the first week of March and to everybody's surprise, on the 9th day, Jimmy was up and hobbling awkwardly on three legs. During a subsequent visit, Dr. Unny told us that while he had been operating there had been a moment, when with 36 clamps on various arteries intertwined with the tumor and Jimmy bleeding profusely, he had thought he was going to lose him. In his words, Jimmy has a lot of fight left in him. He also said that Jimmy is lucky to have a family that loves him so, and this why he pulled back from the brink of death. 

Dr. Unny and his team of two assistant doctors were amazed at our love and devotion towards Jimmy, when he learned that we had been taking him for dressing for almost one full year before he was operated on, he said, the only reason Jimmy survived so long was because he had us. Anyone else would have given up long ago.

On later visits to Dr. Unny's, I observed him very closely. This post is as much dedicated to the man as to my beloved dog. Dr. Unny is, simply put, one of a kind. He zips past in an effort to see as many patients as possible simultaneously, putting his younger assistants and even the road runner to shame. His motto is, "I don't care if there are people waiting outside, but it is simply too hot for a dog!" So trying to minimize waiting time for the animals standing patiently outside his clinic, he zips past once again.

I remember the first time I went along with Jimmy to Dr. Unny's this was 4 days postop. Dr. Unny instructed his assistants to hoist the "bachcha" (child) carefully onto the table, and as I looked around for a child, I was surprised to see them lifting Jimmy onto the table. The love with which Dr. Unny treats his patients, is evident in how he addresses them. 

I am thankful to have Jimmy in my life. The look that he gives me when I walk in the front door, as if there is no one else in his world but me, is priceless, far more priceless than the mastercard ads. He has taught me so much. But more than that I am thankful to have a sister who is as stubborn, as a mule.

Finally some Gyaan (Moral of the Story): The amputation should have taken place four surgeries ago when we first realized that the tumor was cancerous. We should not have ignored the warning signs, and for that we will never forgive ourselves, for putting him through so much pain. However even though we figured it out late the important thing is that we did not give up. Everyone and I mean everyone has right to live. Everyone deserves a shot at life. There is nothing in this world that you cannot do if you have the grit and determination. There maybe a Dr. Unny out there who might be able to weave a miracle, but you will never know unless you try.

The story is truly close to my heart and I want more people to read it. Which is why I have entered it in a contest :)


  1. He has bitten everyone in family meaning though story maybe beautiful but jimmy cant say his part.........

  2. Thank you so much.... I had tears in my eyes by the starting on 2nd para... THANK YOU SO MUCH

  3. thanks a ton deepti, i love you all

    -- Mom

  4. It was really intense. Long life Jimmy!
    lovely post with full of love and care
    All the best Girl :)


    1. Thanks Jasmeet! yes finally now we all wish a long life for him :) but I'm not worried.. he's a fighter!

  5. Hello....this was such a poignant post....more so, because its ur true story.....good long life to that 'baccha' jimmy. :)

    1. Thank you Ritesh. :) We hope for the same too :)