For Chandini and Muishkin
From Pakistan to Kazakhstan 2002 – 2015
The new additions – Chai Lai and Choo Chai
We recently adopted two rescue dogs from the streets of Bangkok. Our life with Chai Lai and Choo Chai has just begun. We adopted these puppies on August 21, 2017 – two years after our dog of thirteen years, Chandini, passed away in July 2015. Their Thai names begin with the consonant diagraph ‘ch’ in honor of Chandini.
Man’s best friend has been a significant factor in our lives, so this blog entry is in honor of two special friends: Chandini, and Muishkin.
Part 1 – Chandini
Chandini came into our life in Pakistan in 2002. Her name was a gift from our dear friend Shamsa Mirza. We wanted a name that would recognize her country of birth. Shamsa suggested the name Chandini which means ‘by the light of the silver moon’ in Urdu. Chandi for short.
Chandini had been adopted at birth by teacher colleagues John and Ann who had named her Phoebe. When they left Pakistan, Phoebe was taken in by Rose Puffer, who had adopted two of Chandi’s sisters. The three dogs were wild together, and Rose desperately wanted to find a good home for Phoebe.
If it were not for Rose, we would not have had a life with dogs for the past 17 years. We had all kinds of reasons not to have a dog: We are never home. What would we do when we travel? The dog would be home alone all day when we are at work. It just didn’t seem fair for the dog. Rose had a solution. Phoebe could have play dates with her sisters twice a week. When we leave for extended vacations Phoebe can move into Rose’s house. She added for our comfort that when we left Pakistan, she would take Chandini back. Who could say no to this offer? There was no downside. Chandini wasn’t with us a week, and she had won our heart. She was a permanent part of our family.
We thought we had to rename Phoebe, because our good friends Peter and Caro have a daughter named Phoebe. We thought they might be offended. Silly us! After Shamsa gave us the name Chandini, Caro told us she would have loved for us to keep the name Phoebe. Rose had named her two Muffy and Buffy, so Chandini is lucky that Rose hadn’t dubbed her “Chuffy”.
We happened to be cat-sitting the week Chandini came to live with us. Our friends Dave and Donna had left Pushok, their big Russian Persian cat, with us to send on to them when the heat of the summer dissipated. To be honest, I had a naiive vision of Chandini and Pushok taking to each other and playing together. We had set rules as to which rooms in our house would be off limits for Pushok. Within two days, Pushok was sleeping between our pillows. So much for rules.
Chandini, a hyperactive little puppy, arrived in a flurry of activity the first day, ran from room to room and planted herself on our bed, in Pushok’s place. Pushok immediately went into hiding and we rarely saw her for the remainder of her stay with us.
We got in the habit of using our driver Iqbal to bring Chandi to the school every day for a morning walk on the track. Then Iqbal would take her to Rose’s for a playdate, or back home to spend the day with Hafiz, our cook. One of our favorite Islamabad memories is of her play dates with her sisters. The three dogs would race up and down the stairs and play a game of musical chairs if Rose happened to have company. This game consisted of the three dogs jumping from lap to lap in a frenzy of love.
We moved to Johannesburg in 2004. Chandi flew with us through Dubai, but she was quarantined on arrival – standard procedure. She was released early before the standard two weeks, and there was every indication that she had enjoyed her stay there. When we took her to our rental home in Fourways Gardens, Chandini had a surprise. She had never seen a swimming pool up close before. In her excitement, she raced through the house, across the patio deck, and was halfway across the pool before she realized she could not run on water. We never could get Chandi interested in swimming, or even splashing in water.
In Joburg, Chandini became addicted to the Mug ‘n’ Bean breakfast of steak and boerewors. That happened regularly on weekends. But no more daily trips to school for Chandini. She was content to spend her weekdays days at home with “another” Rose, our domestic helper from Lesotho.
When we moved from Johannesburg to Sumatra in 2008, we had to take Chandini through Vancouver to get her health shots. The Indonesian government thought Canada had better health standards for dogs than South Africa. They don’t understand that South Africa is part of the developed world. This was a break for Chandi though. She got to spend the summer in Vancouver with her Uncle Norm and Aunt Marion. Daily beach walks in Kitsilano, and all the loving any dog could wish for.
Chandini’s next travel adventure was on to Rumbai, Sumatra. She stayed in doggie hotels in Amsterdam and in Jakarta, as she flew around the world to join us. When we picked her up at the Cargo building in Pekanbaru they had already let her out of the kennel and she raced across the floor into our arms.
Life in Sumatra was good for Chandini. She liked living in the jungle, keeping the monkeys and wild pigs at bay. She spent a lot of time on the golf course as I was newly retired and golfed nine holes every morning. She also became a school mascot as I could take her to school frequently during the day. School recess for Chandini combined two of her favorite past times: walk-by strokes of love from the students, along with accidental food snacks that dropped while the children were eating.
Another wonderful Chandini memory is the chocolate chip cookie incident. Tiffany brought her first grade students to my house on a field trip to see our First Nations art and artifacts collection. The students were each given a Beulah Chocolate Chip Cookie as a treat. Later that day as I was walking Chandini to the school, she suddenly ran into the ditch and in her fashion became obsessed with a finding there. I was surprised when she responded to my call. She ran up to me proudly with a cookie in her mouth. She knows I love my mother’s chocolate chip cookies. Chandi was delighted when I declined her offering and quickly munched it down.
Chandini always thought of herself as human, and had no use for other dogs. In our first year in Rumbai I took on a project to help Chandi be more dog friendly. Our friend Beth had a yappy little pugilist named Layla. Once a week, I would take Chandini and Layla for a walk around the golf course. I had Layla on a leash, so she wouldn’t attack the grounds keepers. Chandini was really pissed off that I brought Layla on “our” walk. She would drop back about a hundred yards and mope along in a sulk. Meanwhile, Layla was having the time of her life and rubbing it in. I would say that my socializing project was a complete failure. But Beth assured me that these outings were very important and that she could see great growth in Layla’s social skills.
Over our six years in Sumatra, Chandi developed severe arthritis in her joints. We put her on Hill’s Diet for mobility, and we got a baby stroller from our good friends Max and Lisa. So we could continue taking Chandini on our 4:00 am walks and letting her walk and run just as much as she wanted to. I even took her golfing with the carriage, sometimes hiring an extra caddie just for her.
In 2014 we took Chandini to our home in Koh Lanta, Thailand before we moved on to Atyrau, Kazakhstan. Chandi was in Koh Lanta for May, June and July – enough time to enjoy the experience of our new home. We took her for beach walks on Klong Dao, but I would sit with her at the Costa Lanta Resort while Lory did the full hour walk. Chandini didn’t mind.
We flew with Chandini to Kazakhstan at the end of July. Animal Welfare on Koh Lanta was great in helping us arrange the health shots and the flights. The Vet even drove us to Air Cargo to put Chandi on the plane. We had an overnight in Bangkok where we checked into a Pet Friendly Hotel. We didn’t realize how much more we would pay for having a pet with us. Oh, well.
Our furnished apartment in Atyrau was on the eleventh floor. It was not an ideal arrangement for dog care, but we were happy to have to have Chandi with us. And she was happy to be there. This was to be her first experience with a real winter. She did well though, and she enjoyed Kazakhstan. Highlights were our walks on the Ural River paths, and Sunday coffee at Booblik when weather allowed for outdoor tables.
The only coffee shop we could enter in the cold weather was a French Bakery called La Tartine. The manager was a tough Russian woman who loved Chandini. If customers complained, she would give them the Danny Jones.
Chandini was a big part of our lives for 13 years. Her passing was particularly painful because she suddenly fell ill after we left Atyrau for our summer vacation. We had left her in the care of our friend Assyl and her little boy Nurbol. Chandi was in good hands and got lots of love in our absence, and that made her passing bearable for us.
Chandini would have been 98 people years old on August 21, 2015. I report her age in people years because she always thought of herself as a small person.
Part 2 – Muishkin
When Lory returned to Atyrau, I was “stuck in Thailand” for the whole month of August, waiting for my trailing spouse visa for our second year in Kazakhstan. This was tough for Lory. Our apartment without Chandi was a lonely place. Every time Lory turned around or opened a cupboard, there was all of Chandi’s stuff, including a year’s supply of Chandini food.
At that time, we found a new dog friend. Muishkin was a river dog that we frequently saw on our Chandini walks the previous spring. She lived on the Ural River and was obviously river-wise, and a survivor. We believe she had been beaten because she wouldn’t let anyone near her.
Lory walked along the Ural River through August with Tam, a long time friend from Sumatra days. Muishkin, whom I named after the protagonist in Dostyevski’s novel The Idiot, made herself known to the ladies on a no touch basis. Lory started building a relationship with Muishkin by setting down a serving of Chandi food on the edge of the river path. At first she used one of Chandini’s metal bowls, which she left on the path for further use. The bowl disappeared the first day, but Muishkin quite liked eating the food from the concrete place setting.
When Tam’s husband Brent joined them on their walks, Muishkin kept a greater distance from him, suggesting that a human male had abused her in the past. Those damn human males! When I got back to Atyrau in September, Muishkin kept a distance from me, but got more and more comfortable with Lory.
When Lory and I went to Lucca, Tuscany for a week vacation, we asked our friend Carol to feed Muishkin for us. Carol discovered that someone else had been feeding Muishkin daily. Corrienne, who had lived in Dostyk Village for several years had made Muishkin, whom she called Lucy, a rescue project. We decided surprisingly quickly that we were very comfortable with the idea of Corrienne being Lucy / Muishkin’s new mom. We started to work together with Corrienne, supporting her efforts to rescue Lucy.
Time passed and we could see Corrienne’s influence in Lucy’s domestication. Lucy became much more demonstrative. Previously, she had waited at the gate for us to arrive, and followed us on our five kilometer walks. Now she was taking treats from Lory’s hand, and jumping up on us playfully as we walked.
One day in early November, Corrienne managed to get Lucy into a kennel and take her home. After a horrendous trip to the vet, which traumatized both Lucy and Corrienne, the long process of acclimating Lucy to her new home began. We were invited to visit and to take Lucy for walks. Lucy responded to us with great enthusiasm when we visited. She even made a fuss over me, which was new.
Corrienne and her husband Mark asked if we would take care of Lucy when they went on Christmas vacation. We were delighted with the idea. I met with Corrienne the day before we moved into their house to dog-sit. Lucy gave me a warm reception in Corrienne’s presence, but when I arrived on my own the next morning, she wanted nothing to do with me. She wouldn’t let me put the leash on her to take her for a walk. She did everything she could to keep us in separate rooms.
Fortunately when Lory came home for lunch, Lucy let Lory put the leash on her. Over the first week, Lucy gradually warmed up to me, to the point that I was claiming that Lucy loved us both equally. Over the next two weeks, Lucy and I developed a very comfortable routine. We would walk Lory to school after breakfast. Then Lucy and I would have a sniff and smell walk around the perimeter of Dostyk Village. Back at the house, I would give Lucy a beef bone to gnaw on in the back yard. Occasionally, she would dig up the flower bed and I would have to bath her in the utility room sink. We would take another walk to meet Lory outside the school and walk her home for lunch. She got so excited when Lory emerged from the school door, leaping high in the air!
Mark and Corrienne moved to retire in California that year. Lucy the Ural River rescue dog was to become a California girl. We enjoyed many river walks with Lucy. She enjoyed getting back out on the river path, but was always glad to return to her home in Dostyk Village.
We only had a short time with Lucy / Muishkin, but she was a great comfort to us as we adjusted to life without Chandini. It’s hard to believe that Lory and I lived without dogs for so many years. We are indebted to Chandini, Muishkin, and to Chai and Chewy for bringing so much joy into our lives.