Saturday, June 15, 2013


What kind of dog is she?

Nepali street dog. I have no idea what her breed/s is/are, but she looks like a standard Indian street dog. You see similar dogs all over Asia and South America. There is a native Nepali wild dog, similar to a dingo, called a dhole. Alice looks much like it, but she is slightly bigger and she has shorter hair.  Her papers say "German Shepherd mix" though, because German Shepherds are popular on the subcontinent and this makes it easier to cross borders.

How did she get her name?

Originally I called her just 'Pup' because I thought I'd find a home for her and didn't want to get too attached.  When we realized we were going to stay together, I began calling her Alice the Goon because she resembled that character from the Popeye cartoons. She had a long nose and she used to move her head back and forth when she walked like a Goon. I had tried many names with her and she didn't respond, but she answered to Alice, so Alice it was. She chose her own name.

How has she adapted to the coddled life of a Canadian dog?

It took her a couple of weeks to trust that vicious feral dogs weren't going to jump out from behind trees and attack her.  When we walked she prowled slowly, low to the ground, looking left-right-left-right, like she was on jungle patrol in the Mekong Delta. But once she figured out Toronto dogs don't lurk behind trees waiting to jump puppies, they get together in parks to play, she embraced it. This is the life! All the food she can eat, friends, belly rubs, bones, toys, a climate-controlled home, dog parks.

Most of the time she's like any other dog.  But she's terrified of bathtubs, rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, streetcars and the subway, which she had never seen before Canada.

How did she like her first Canadian winter? 

She got snow-drunk. She rolled in it, burrowed into it, bounced around in it, caught snowflakes in mid-air. She loved it. Lucky for us, Toronto has a milder winter than my hometown, so we didn't have to brave too many minus 20 days.

Did she wear a coat?

On the colder days I wrapped her in her thundershirt and put her coat over it. She has a dark brown doggie trench coat and blue booties.

How does she get along with other dogs?

She loves with her whole heart and is insanely happy when she sees her dog and human friends after even just a few days absence. There are only three dogs out of the hundreds we've met that she doesn't get along with. She's very popular at the dog park, where her friends include rescues from Turkey, Iran, Dominican Republic, and all over North America.

Has she lost her 'street' cred?

Not entirely. I can still see the street dog in her.  Just before dusk, she feels an urgent need to go outside and find food, no matter how much I give her to eat. Most dogs do this but not with Alice's dedication and fervor.  She can dig a two-foot hole in mere minutes, find a rotting piece of something, and eat it before I can stop her.  She never seems to get sick from it. A cast-iron gut is probably encoded in her DNA.

Any regrets?

No. I wasn't looking for a dog but it was as Rumi says, 'What you seek is seeking you.'  I can't imagine life without her now.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Alice in Photos

My camera broke in India in 2011, so I have had to rely on others for photos and artwork of Alice. Here are a slew.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Refugee Dogs: Rescuing Afghan War Pups

"Fred Armitage went to Afghanistan to protect people. What he didn't expect to protect was abused, homeless dogs left for dead in a war zone."  enRoute Magazine

This is a very moving story about a Canadian soldier and the street pups he has rescued and taken from Kabul to Canada.

This is their Facebook page, Get us Outta here! (Afghan War Pups).

Chapter Thirteen: A Crash Course in Nepali History

When Gyanendra was born in 1947, a court astrologer reportedly told his father, then the crown prince Mahendra, not to look upon Gyanendra because it would bring bad luck. The cursed baby was sent far away from his family and the palace to be raised by a grandmother.


Chapter Twelve: Murphy's Law

We had a workable plan…

…Until I got an urgent email from Sally, rescinding her offer.

“Do you know about the bandhs [strikes] that have been happening? Basically there are constant bandhs in that part of the Terai right now, and there will be until at least May 27, which is when the Constitution is set to be put into effect officially. We can't take the car out during a bandh (too dangerous), and you wouldn't want to get stuck in one.”

She added, “Boy, you sure lucked into a difficult time to try to travel!”

I’d been so consumed with looking after Alice and making our arrangements, I hadn’t been following the news. Now I got caught up. The west part of the country, which we would have to travel through, was closed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chapter Eleven: First Family

On a street full of motorcycle garages, Alice stopped and pulled me towards a tiny lane. I shook her chain to pull her back, but she was adamant. When I tried to pick her up, she nipped at my face, which she had never done before, squirming until I had to put her down. Whatever she wanted to show me was more important than smelling motorcycle tires and so deserved to be taken seriously. I gave up and followed her to a stretch of shops made of wood and corrugated tin, into a place that sold three disparate things--cellphone credit, bootleg DVDs from China, and homemade food, which sat on the wood counter in translucent buckets colored bright red and dull yellow by the curries inside. It was a humble place manned by one young Tibetan guy.