It’s three am, Sunday morning.
At usual day, dawn will come in another hour, and I will be watching the sun rise through the kitchen window as I hustle around preparing the cats’ breakfast.
Actually, starting Christmas, I don’t have to, because I no longer bound to the long commute to the office, but the cats got use to have breakfast at wee hour in the morning.
But today is my best friend’s wedding. We know each other since Junior High School and she can’t pass one day without telling me that she wants me to come over to Jakarta. She is not an animal rescuer, though she does have one rescued dog as pet. However, an email I received last midnight about Charlie powerfully changed my mind.
In fact, Charlie has been drastically changed the way I lived since he enter the house on October. Charlie has been the world I go round aside from the cats. Charlie is the blessings that often gives me more frown than smile; but I love him none the less, and it’s not temporary.
I growled to the sting of the cold wind, the prince of the morning that I usually embrace with gratefulness for a brand new day, because the rain hasn’t stop since last night, and the long pour sent the temperature way lower. Some cats sleep longer, or so I think, because usually they will climb my bedroom window and never failed to wake me up. I peeked from the gaps between the window’s blind, but it still dark and the glass is foggy enough that I can’t see clearly. Those who are already awake, move about or choose to lounge at the edge of their baskets, holding on to the warmth of the cuddle of their sleeping mate, or shifting not to lose the comfort of the new heater I bought them from a generous grant of Animal Rescue Chase.
Several bumps on the room door told me that Charlie is awake, and he is probably playing around with the toddlers, who shares no fear toward him the way older cats does.
Sweeping my blanket aside, I remembered that eventful October last year, when I still have my day job. The bus ride always include passing this street, full of poachers selling exotic fishes in tiny plastic bags that hang loose in their packed and smelly stalls. These poachers know me, and they hate me a lot.
There was time when I spotted one of them selling sea tortoises, babies, tens of them, and some even put together with carnivorous Brazilian turtle (and be eaten alive). I kind of get the idea. For uneducated people like them, who don’t really care as long as they can get some money to buy some cigarette, or booze, or girls, or all of the above, turtle is a turtle. And they are poachers. They took from the nature for free, and and get bucks in return. Wonderful idea.
I asked them if they know what they sell, and what their merchants’ food is.
“Yeah of course! They eat rice!”, one said, “Give them rice and they will grow as big as your plate”, said the other. I just sent out a short huff and left.
But I sent some emails and the next few days come back with a bunch of wildlife activists, the big ones with dark skin and body full of tattoos. The ones that can crush their empty skull like crackers. One of their wives is a dog rescuer in Jakarta, and I know her since high school. The activists raided the stall and though the poachers are out on the street again within a few days (spotted them selling goldfish in the same stall).
The past two weeks that October, however, I saw something different than fish. A thin, fur-less white dog chained into a tree on a roadside and left there without roof or food, be it sunny or rainy.
I was wrong about the food. Someone gave the dog some food. Rotten rice and water from the sewer for drink.
At first I thought the dog will be gone in a few days, like the usual stolen dogs that got caught by street people, but this one stays there, and get skinnier. He does nothing but sit, but when I pass through him, however, he stands and moves forward as much as his chain allowed, managed to touch my swinging hand with his dry nose.
I wouldn’t be surprise. Bad food, no roof, this dog had been ripped off all his life.
That day, I kneel to God and be grateful that I don’t have a DSLR and left with only my cell phone, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to steal a click or two.
So I wrote an email again, to the same high school mate in Jakarta, with the pictures as attachment; And she duly replied with a bunch of $%#*@!!! in the email. She contacted her network, but no one stepped forward for a large dog.
That friend email back and ask “Can you foster him while I scramble about for another foster, or adopter?”
So he stuck with me, I guess, but I don’t think my finances can manage a stretch of an adult Labrador mix. I am going to lose a steady income within a month time (or two) and an additional large dog will be a hefty tag. Besides, the already noise-full cat sanctuary will be in riot. Most of the dogs here are trained to hate cat, thanks to some folklore, so it’s natural that cats hate dogs, the way rats hate cats. See the game? I didn’t reply at once.
One week after, he is still there, and he still wag his tail when I pass by every day, though I know he need more effort to do the same thing as day passed by, and the night too if he is not too scared of the thunder to crumple under the tree trying to fold himself as tiny as possible.
So I posted again to my high school friend, but this time with a little note below: “use your personal facebook”
That same night someone from her group, also a dog rescuer, contacted me and offered transport. She stop going underground – rescuing dogs – when she got married and now have a baby, but she remembered our guerilla days and wanted to help for the old time sake.
I took a deep breath, swear a lot, breathing out, and swear some more.
Three days after, there’s a dog in my house, and the Syndicate practically hate me for my infidelity.
This dog is ugly, full of mange, got demodex, worm, and whatever parasites in between.
My transporter agreed to bring him straight to the vet, and when I stay at the clinic, she went shopping spree in our usual pet shop, the only one in Bandung that promotes adoption and spay/neutering. I can’t answer when the vet asked who his name is, so the vet call him Gringgo. The demodex, said the vet, need three months to heal.
I gave my miraculous, animal loving mother a call, tell her I have tickets to Bandung, and she popped in front of my door again, special for Gringgo. I ask her to help me with him since she rescued much more dogs than I am and she knows first hand the magic of my grandfather in caring for dogs (in contrary she always ask me things about cats).
For the next week my house is full with the smell of traditional Chinese herbs that smells like eww and sometimes like ugh, but the eww and the ugh put Gringgo’s healing in fast track.
My eyebrow raised when one day my mother told me, “You know, for one moment there I forgot his name. So I just pick things up and call him Charlie and he came over”
Since then the dog won’t budge on “Gringgo” he only come with wagging tail with “Charlie”. And Charlie was as good as new in two weeks instead of three months.
Except for his Separation Anxiety that came when my mother go back to my home town.
Every single day, I come home to a wrecked house. Charlie is 16 kilograms (around 32 pounds) and he ripped everything no matter where I hid it. He even chew an edge of a plastic filing cabinet just to get to his brush and chew the brush into pieces. He put the cat cages in disarray with one hack, he pulls a cable with its socket from the wall, he pee on the house and play ski with it, he pooped and step on it and run all over places, he gnaw on my shoes, and within one week I spend five packs of large garbage bags just for his trash. Talking about cleaning up. I think I can rent him for house demolition.
But by cleaning up, he increase my spending because I have to buy new clothes, new shoes, new bag, new notebook… He can gnaw a can of cat food open and empty it without a single scratch on his tongue and the only evidence of his crime is a neatly flattened cat food can; and I am talking about 400g Friskies can.
The only thing he won’t touch is three baby cats that were born just a few days after he arrived.
I hid them in my bedroom, with their mother in tow, but even when I opened the door and Charlie barged in, his destructiveness stop dead and he turned into a gentle old brother, backing out to let me close the door and feed them in peace. (Their mother, Tamarin, is The Syndicate’s cat, but she has little milk that’s barely enough for the three babies).
I am human, by the way. No matter how deep my love is for animals, I got ticked off a lot by Charlie’s destructiveness. There are innumerable times when I regret my decision to save Charlie, and more times when I think of giving him up somewhere. Even my mother shook her head and told me honestly that she had never saw a creature so badly behaved in her entire life, especially when I told her Charlie was digging cat’s grave and brought the carcasses out and sent chills over my spine the whole week because of the view, and because I have to bury them one by one, all over again, including the suddenly awakened memories of each cat.
If you like horror movie and got scared by those human corpses that extend their hand and drool at you, it’s nothing compared to the gory view of my yard when Charlie gleefully “reported” what he had done.
My nerve snapped when I spent a whole Saturday trying to finish a side job and gone out of the room to find my spectacles lay in pieces right in front of my bedroom door.
I spent half a million Rupiah for that spectacles so I can stay on the computer longer, the whole day if necessary, and since I am resigning the company, the new boss blocked me off my facilities. Meaning I have to buy new one with my own money. Half a million Rupiah can feed 40 cats and I, and him for three days.
I still have two months to go with the office, so I had no choice but leaving him with plenty of toys in the front yard. I called my neighbour in the afternoon from the office to check on Charlie and my neighbours often said he is sleeping soundly on the carport, lulled by the sweet breeze of the mountain.
That’s something he won’t get at the roadside.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s appearance ward off evil spirit.
The house is located at the outskirts of the city, but it’s not a classy suburban. Years before developers start opening the then bamboo forest and turned it into a scenic residential complexes, this place was full of bad guys. You name their kind, they have at least one here. Now most of them had become merchants. Selling food, or food supplies, or bike-taxi driver that take people to nearby areas, but I still heard news and got some warning that they like to “test” people and make a “welcome party” by breaking in and took valuable things while the house is left unattended.
And those kind of people start to keep their eyes on me. The time I go out, the time I go home, the time I sleep, the time I wake up. Sometimes they deliberately lounged right in front of the fence so I have difficulties coming in and out of my own house, but Charlie, half a meter tall, with muscle and menacing big teeth, arrived and they are gone like smoke, when neighbours start talking about how the new resident now have a “large guardian dog”
Yeah right, though I won’t tell them he’s a wuss inside.
Even with all good things Charlie brought over the household, the demolition can’t go on forever, so after I quit I started open war. Every day the same routine. Walking out, stay in the front yard, while I am inside feeding cats, making lunch or whatever, but I keep myself hidden behind the closed door and pop my head on the window with piercing eyes whenever he start chewing something. He digs the front yard and kill my sun flower, tomatoes, lettuce and strawberry, but I just won’t budge. Charlie has to learn that I had to go to work and leave him alone for hours a day, and if he didn’t behave, no one would want to adopt him. And even if he got into foster home, it won’t be long before he either dumped back on the street or kill the owner out of frustration.
After one month he seems to start getting over his craziness. I continue to contact rescuers and ask if they have place for Charlie, and every time explain them that my house is a cat shelter.
And then, my rescuer friend in Jakarta broke news at midnight last night that there’s a family in Jakarta willing to adopt him, but I have to neuter him first, and pay for the transport to the vet, and to Jakarta.
Another sweeping breeze snag me from my floating memories and back to the present. The rain seems to get heavier. I push my legs onto the cold floor and peeked from the door. Charlie is laying down leisurely in front of it, with three kittens playing on top of his side. The same kittens that he seems to fall in love with, who are now weaned, though still keep inside until they can brace harsher weather. The house around him is clean.
He looked up.
“Just in time don’t you think, Charlie? I made my best friend disappointed today because I wanted to write your story and raise some fund to neuter you, and bring you to the big city. You score a home run”
Charlie stands up and wag his tail.
Charlie has been spayed last Thursday. We did not get the fund needed for the spay and transport, but I went forward anyway. He made us wait for four hours before giving up to anaesthesia and jump right down the table as soon as the vet finishes her stitches. The vet continue to shake her head, admitting that it is her first time seeing a dog just out of surgery and already jumped everywhere like nothing happened. Way to go Charlie.