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Mojo & the Tree of Life

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Mojo & the Tree of Life Introduction India has millions of stray dogs. For every dog that lives in a house with a family there are hundreds that live on the street. Many of them are hungry and dirty. A smaller number have diseases and injuries. Each day untold dogs are killed or injured when they’re hit by cars, and many more are injured in fights with other dogs. All injured dogs face a difficult recovery on the streets of Indian cities, with the traffic, heat, rain, flies, and garbage. This is the story of an injured dog that I encountered on the street in Jaisalmer, a desert city in the far western part of the state of Rajasthan in northern India. I had to do a double-take when I first saw Mojo, as he would later be named. I couldn’t believe that a dog in such terrible shape was left to sit there without anyone helping it, especially since there was an animal hospital right down the street. This began what would become a fairly significant focus of my three month trip in India, as I tried to get Mojo some medical attention. This began in Jaisalmer, at the well-intentioned but underprepared local animal hospital, and ended up at the Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA), an animal hospital and rescue center 500km away in Pushkar. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve always been a big dog lover, and although I’ve traveled in parts of the world with a fair number of stray dogs, I had never seen anything like India. The problem is overwhelming, and until I ran into Mojo I had walked past hundreds of needy dogs and felt like there was little I could do to help. Going through the process of helping just one of these dogs drove home the difficulty of addressing the problem, and the value of places like TOLFA. Not only do they provide medical care to save the life of a dog like Mojo and stop his suffering, they

(left) Compassionate care at the Tree of Life (above) The task of bringing India’s stray dog population under control is daunting.

work to address the problem systemically, through sterilization and vaccination programs. There’s a need to expand the operations of places like Tree of Life, and to establish similar new programs in many other parts of the country. I was careful to document the process of caring for Mojo in photos, video, and writing. This book follows Mojo all the way from his near-death condition sitting on the street, to his new lease on life at the Tree of Life. My hope is that by sharing with people a detailed picture of his story, I can convey the idea that countless other dogs are going though the same or worse, and need help. Please consider getting involved by supporting the work of TOLFA and similar organizations.

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Some of the images in this book show dogs with injuries, as well as surgical operations, and may be disturbing to some viewers.

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A Note Regarding Format This 162 page book is split into two sections. First is an exhaustive 15,000 word narrative covering every detail of Mojo’s story, followed by a visual telling of Mojo’s story with about 100 photographs and brief captions. It is an interesting and gripping story, both in pictures and words. You can choose to read first and then look at the photographs, or vice versa. The layout starts with the narrative. If you want to look at the photographs first, skip ahead to page 47. I strongly recommend reading first, as the text paints a pretty vivid picture that you will probably find yourself imagining, and it’s more interesting to then see for real the entire sequence of events as they unfolded. The photo captions also all refer to events mentioned in the text.

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First Contact Day 1 - December 23rd, 2010 Today I lost some faith in Indian society, to the limited extent that one can make such a broad generalization. As kind, generous, and friendly as Indian people are, qualities they possess in abundance, all of the friendliness and kindness in the world is of dubious value if you sit around and do nothing to alleviate obvious suffering right in front of your face. This is especially true when alleviating the suffering would be fairly easy. Even more, only a heartless person can take action to make that suffering worse. I was walking in an old market area in Jaisalmer, a desert city in far western India, after having spent the morning watching the sun rise at a nearby lake. It was about 8am and I had been shaking hands and taking photos of the friendly people in the market when I rounded a corner and saw - in a country with millions of suffering animals - a sight that immediately made my heart sink and my blood pressure rise. Sitting on a small mound of sand in the street, in the middle of a crowded group of shop fronts, was an adult dog, a mutt, with most of its scalp missing. Its head was a mass of infected tissue, and part of its brain appeared to be exposed, though I couldn’t be sure. There where maggots all throughout the wound. One of its eyes was swollen shut, and its head and face was stained from blood and dirt. My heart sank because I’m human. My blood boiled because I knew that this was not a fresh wound, and that the dog must have been like this for weeks if not months, ignored by all the people around it. As I talked to some of the people nearby and asked them why nobody was doing anything to help it, I watched it take its paw and gently rub at its head, wincing with each swipe of its foot. The environment in which it had to try to recover was filled with dust, garbage, sewage, swarms of flies, and droves of pigs, cows, and other sick dogs. The first few people I tried to talk to, nearby shop owners, laughed at me and said don’t worry about it. One guy waved his hand, spit on the ground, and shrugged his shoulders. I walked down the street a bit and was fortunate to meet a hotel owner who spoke good English. He informed me that there was an animal hospital less than five minutes away that opened in an hour. Over tea he said emphatically that Indian people simply don’t care, that they would walk past this dog forever and not think twice.

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He called over a friend, Amin, a 35 year old Muslim man, who walked with me to the animal hospital, where I showed the staff photos of the dog, and we arranged for men to try to catch it and bring it in. It was at this point that Amin told me the dog was somehow injured about two months ago, and that it had grown steadily worse as it lay around in the filthy streets of the town. So, this utterly pathetic dog, with an enormous gaping head wound, had existed for two long months among the same group of people, day in and day out, and none of them, not one, had done anything to help it, much less when there is a large animal hospital less then five minutes walk from the spot the dog was calling home. These same people, guided by what can only fairly be called superstition, might start a riot if I were to cause injury to a cow in the street. We walked back to town to find the dog so they could catch it, and a man from the hospital came out on his motorcycle, but by now it had moved. We enlisted the help of a group of boys to search for it, but it proved difficult. People in the neighborhood said it liked to stay hidden under houses and cars to avoid other dogs because they harassed it. I spent the next hour looking for it to no avail, as did the boys and Amin. Then I finally caught sight of it and started a 20 minute chase around town. I followed it through back alleys, on large roads, and into more than one person’s yard, where people reacted with uniform alarm and panic, in several cases scooping up their children, rushing up onto a step or bench, and screaming. The dog was indeed scary looking, and it smelled strongly of rot and death. You could smell it from five meters away (15-20 feet). It kept trying to go into people’s houses through open doors, something that most street dogs would never dare do. A desperate cry for help if I’ve ever seen one. Finally it went back onto the main street, where it slowly made its way from one storefront to another, seeking refuge from the heat and the flies I imagine. Over the course of the next ten minutes I followed it along this street, attracting a lot of attention as the only foreigner in this remote part of town, and because I was, in their eyes, inexplicably following this dreadful dog. Then began a series of events I can only describe as disillusioning and enraging. My experience with the Indian populace has been one of incredible friendliness, warmth, and generosity – to me, a foreign human being. But when this dog with its blatant and horrifying injuries approached their storefronts, one of God’s creatures no different than me or the sacred cow, almost all of the shop owners picked up the nearest object and threw it at the dog. In

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three cases this meant a rock from the ground. These rocks were thrown from a meter or two (5 or 6 feet), and thrown hard. Two of the rocks were the size of your hand with the fingers outstretched. One of them struck the dog on its rib cage. The other hit it on the side of its head, causing it to let out an agonizing yelp and fall over and hit the ground. In both of these cases I rushed over to the men and shouted at them at the top of my lungs – “hey, no, stop!” This caused a big scene, attracting dozens of people, all men, as is the case with anything like that in India. The shopkeeps said things like “the smell...” or “it’s dangerous” and I said “then you shout at it, you don’t throw a rock at a pathetic, dying creature.” They laughed, waved me off, and told me to leave, and the crowd mostly laughed, pointed at me, and waved me off. Several of the other shopkeeps also kicked the dog, one hard, nearly knocking it over. I then realized that for the past two months this had been this dog’s daily life – existing 24 hours a day with a horribly painful injury, with massive infection (think how badly it hurts if you leave an infected cut or even splinter untreated), infested with maggots and flies, its eyes nearly swollen shut – eating garbage and drinking putrid water from sewer drains, desperately searching all day everyday for somewhere to hide and try to get well, and all these Indian men could think to do was to kick it and throw rocks at it. For two solid months, not one person ever thought to contact the animal hospital, located almost within site of the dog. No one ever even gave the dog food or water from what I was told. Nothing but kicks and rocks. After the last rock throwing I got into such a protracted exchange with the guy that I lost site of the dog and it got away. I met Amin a few minutes later and luckily he said that he had called them to come get it when I first saw it, and that it had just been spotted and caught. The animal hospital is a government operation, and is fully free and has an obligation to provide service to animals in need. However, before heading over to see the dog I was promptly informed that just to get things started they wanted 400 rupees, about $10 - from me. If the doctor agreed to do something for the dog then more money might be needed. My faith and respect slipped some more. Amin and I went to the hospital and I arrived to find the dog sitting in a heavy steel cage under a tree in the shade. A group of men was standing around evaluating it, all veterinary staff but none of them doctors – the doctor was away at a local village. They came up with a large container of a thick yellow liquid, which I later learned was a turpentine solution, held in an old

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plastic motor oil jug, and poured it through the top of the cage onto the dog’s head and face. I was told that it was to kill the maggots. Now the dog’s head was stained yellow, and it sat in the cage motionless, its head hung low in utter resignation. I sat on a cement step a couple feet from the cage, and only then saw on the ground next to my feet a stillborn goat laying dead in the dusty soil, the umbilical cord still attached, the mother goat nearby on a short rope. A group of women and children from a nearby village had come with their own goats, and the children stood staring at this stillborn baby and the horrific dog with a look of considerable unease. We all discussed whether there was any hope of saving the dog, and I was told that if I gave three or four thousand rupees, ($75-100) it might be possible. Again, it was a free, government run facility. I asked if the dog could be given some food or water, it looked famished and dehydrated and was shivering, and a man came over with a piece of chapati (flat bread), which he broke into pieces and put in the cage. I asked several times for water, to no avail. I was told the doctor would be back later, and to come back then. I took a three-hour break and returned to the hospital around 3pm. I arrived to find the dog still in the cage, gnawing at the bars to get out, and a group of men sitting around having tea and smokes. I found out that two of them where visiting senior vets from Jodhpur, a large city several hours to the south. I coaxed one of the vets into having a look at the dog and we began discussing options for its treatment and long-term future. In his hometown of Jodhpur there is a large dog rescue center that provides permanent placement for problem dogs. We talked about the possibility of bringing the dog there. He made a few calls and we never made much progress on the issue, but after an hour or so two of the local vets finally arrived and we were able to start actually helping the dog. The first issue of discussion, which was of considerable interest to the doctors, was the 400 rupees that I had given earlier. They were distressed and upset, and said that it was improper for the staff and that I had made a mistake to give it. Oddly this never progressed into the return of the money. Even more odd, we then sat down in their office and they began to write up a list of all the drugs the dog would need, then handed it to me, as if I was (a) going to go get them, and (b) pay for them. I said in all fairness it’s not my dog, I already gave 400 rupees, and isn’t this a government facility that provides free care? He then said yes, of course, and promptly gave the list to an assistant to go fetch the drugs (from a human pharmacy). I would have been happy to pay for them in any case. The doctor wound up covering it out of his own pocket.

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We then went out to the cage and a total of three vets and three assistants went to work. It was a dirty and brutal affair, difficult for me to watch. I alternately felt sick to my stomach and had tears well up in my eyes. The dog was never taken out of the cage, and for ten minutes before it was fully anesthetized, the doctors were dousing it with liquids, cutting away pieces of scab and flesh with surgical scissors, and shaking its head vigorously to dislodge the maggots, which had been killed and brought to the surface by the turpentine. Within ten minutes the anesthesia had kicked in, and the dog was pitiably stammering about, bouncing off the walls of the tiny cage as the doctors poked and prodded it with forceps wrapped in gauze. As hard as it was to watch, within a half hour they had dislodged many of the maggots and cut away large pieces of putrid flesh and matted fur, albeit all with non-sterile tools in a dirty cage sitting in the middle of a dirt field. I videotaped the process, and a small group of local teenage boys had gathered to watch the doctors, holding scarves over their faces and alternately laughing awkwardly and then expressing appreciation for the serious state of the dog in solemn non-verbal gestures. As the doctor was wrapping up his initial round of work he told me that “the Gods can see what you did, it’s good.” I thought to myself who on Earth could walk by a creature like this and not do something. How heartless can people be? Far from extraordinary, it’s perfectly natural and unremarkable to help. After an hour I left, assured that the dog would be kept there as long as necessary, and I was told to come see it each morning and evening. It would remain in the cage, outside in a dusty field, the entire time, for a few weeks, and it would be given bread and water. I said I would come back in the morning with some chicken. I also said that I would prefer the dog receive a few days of care here, and then I would take it south by private taxi to the rescue center in Jodhpur, where it could live out its days in a clean, safe environment, among some 900 other dogs there in a huge courtyard, with regular food and water and a full-time veterinary staff. The doctors seemed to interpret this to mean that I didn’t think they were competent enough to heal him here, and they said no, we will treat him here, and he will go back out onto the street and be fine. I left without pressing the issue any further, and went back to talk to the hotel owner who had helped me in the first place. He said he was embarrassed, and he apologized on behalf of his fellow Indians. He said that the Indian people, “they just don’t care. They only care about Bollywood. A dog is nothing, maybe it doesn’t exist.” Despite the roundabout English, the point was well taken. Interestingly, he went on to further say that the only reason the dog was caught and treated at all was that I, a foreigner, had made a case of it. He said that if a local Indian

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person had made the same appeal, it would have fallen on deaf ears and nothing would have been done. In any case I said goodbye, thanked him for his help, and went back to my guest house for the night, glad that the dog was spending what would hopefully be its first night on the way to a recovery.

Day 2 – December 24, 2010 The following morning I woke up and went out on my morning shoot until about 11am. I then went back to the animal hospital. On the way I picked up two vegetable samosas, not really appropriate food for a sick dog as they’re greasy, but at least it’s something, and the hospital showed no signs of giving the dog any food or water. I arrived to find the same assortment of vets and vet assistants sitting around the porch having tea and smoking. The dog was in its cage looking passed out. I put the samosas in and pushed them in front of its nose. No reaction at all, and they were fresh and smelled good. Its eyes were both swollen shut now, and the ragged assortment of long gauze bandages that the doctor had stuck into the various crevices around its skull the day before had flopped down all over its face, stained dark brown from iodine. I went over to the hospital proper, a large open square building, and met Dr. Vasudev Garg, a young vet who had just transferred to the facility a week ago. Right away I liked him and could tell he would be an important player in the salvation of this creature. He was fluent in English, and we started discussing options for the dog. He said he couldn’t keep it there long enough for a full recovery, which might take months. We tried to decide whether to euthanize it or come up with some way to save it, but he would need to do “an operation” first. Given the fairly low standards I had witnessed so far I knew this meant an agonizing experience for the dog. But first I waited for about three hours while he saw various people with goats needing vaccinations. One family from a desert village arrived, and I watched in amazement as an 8 year-old girl climbed barefoot 20 feet up an acacia tree to snap off branches of foliage to feed her goats. Two assistants set about cleaning and prepping a couple of operating tables. They finally brought the dog in, woozy from sedatives but still awake, by grabbing it on the scruff of its neck and back and carrying it 30 feet or so from the cage. For the next thirty minutes the doctor vigorously scrubbed the entirety of its head with various solutions of iodine, hydrogen peroxide, turpentine (to dislodge maggots), and then a dirty bar of hand-washing soap. He did it with the same intensity that a hairdresser washes your hair in the sink as you lean back in your chair. It

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was difficult to watch. The dog was yelping and trying in vain to squirm around on the table. I was told that it might kill him to give him more anesthesia. After thrashing around and almost falling off the table they took him outside to a sunny cement ledge on the side of the building and continued there. Positioned at the edge of the wall, they continued with the scrubbing, then began washing off the disgusting soup of tissue and chemicals with water. After several repetitions the wound finally started to look considerably cleaner, though it was still foul and putrid. The dog was woozy but awake the whole time and in utter agony from what I could tell. Its mouth was tied shut with gauze, and it was twitching and convulsing and crying. Dr. Garg was putting forth an admirable and concerted effort, and he had already shown considerable dedication to the idea of helping the dog. The whole group seemed indifferent to the suffering of the dog though, and maintained a lighthearted mood throughout, laughing and smiling, as I was feeling regretful that I had even started a course of action that was now resulting in such agony for the dog, when it might just be euthanized anyway. At the end though, with a large iodine-soaked gauze wrap covering its head and the wound much cleaner, the maggots largely gone or at least dead, the dog was probably in the best shape it had been in the last month. It was still in horrible shape, but at least some progress had been made. We went in the clinic and the doctor was helping a group of people with their goats when the dog got up and started trying to walk around, stammering in circles and nearly falling over. It managed to urinate, and we tried to encourage it to eat the samosas and drink some water, to no avail. They quickly grabbed him and put him back in the cage, where he would spend another night in the cold desert air and strong winds, no blanket or shelter of any kind, no food or water that I could see. He hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in 36 hours. The doctor and I sat and discussed what to do, and somehow we both came to the conclusion that he should be euthanized, as they could not carry out the extensive treatment regime that would be necessary to give him a chance. It was 3pm and he said to come back at 5:30. He would put him down, then we would bury him in the sandy soil behind the hospital. I walked back to my guest house feeling sick to my stomach. I came back two hours later, sat down next to the doctor, and, as if he knew what I was about to say, his answer ready, I said “what needs to happen to give this dog a chance at a happy life?

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What would it take? I don’t want to kill him.” He said “I don’t either,” and then, in what seems to be typical Indian fashion, he brought up something relevant and important long after the point in a conversation when it would have been prudent to first mention it. Turns out there are a number of NGOs operating dog rescue centers in nearby cities, and two came to mind that he thought might be appropriate. It was the end of the day though, and we couldn’t get through to either facility, so we said goodbye and arranged to meet again in the morning. I walked back to my guest house thinking how this event had changed the course of my trip in India. With three weeks left in a 10 week trip I had planned to visit several more new cities, and now I may be going back to Pushkar, a city I had already spent 16 days in. It is helping others that gives new meaning and perspective to life though, and I became resolved to help in this one small way however I could.

Day 3 – Christmas Day, 2010 After considerable Googling I found a working number for the center in Pushkar, called Tree of Life for Animals. and I went out on my morning photo shoot at 6:30am, armed with a contact number that would hopefully move things along. I worried what would happen when the doctor here called them. Would they agree to take in a dog in this condition? I stopped by a taxi service around 8am and got a price quote on a private taxi to Pushkar, about 500km away. It would be Rs. 4000, about $90. Not bad for such a long trip. They were fine with the dog, although I didn’t elaborate on its condition or the smell. I made my way over to the animal hospital around 10:30, stopping on the way to get a couple more samosas in the hope that he would have an appetite. Dogs eat meat though, exclusively when in the wild, and I decided I really needed meat. As a Hindu city, almost all of the restaurants in Jaisalmer are vegetarian, and my Hindi is basically non-existent, so I resorted to walking around asking people “mutton, chicken?” and pointing, implying “where can I find some?” I eventually found a Muslim restaurant at the far end of town that had a chicken menu. I tried in vain to get the owner to bake some chicken for me, but he instead came back with a large plastic bag full of raw meat. There were some decent cuts, and some liver, at least a pound overall. I told him what it was for and he refused payment, saying “for good work no charge.” When I arrived the doctor was swamped with people and their goats, so I went over to see the dog. He seemed to be resting somewhat peacefully, his head still wrapped in gauze. I cleaned the

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day-old samosas out of the cage, they were hard as a rock, and broke the fresh ones into pieces and put them on the cage floor. I pressed one up against his nose and got no reaction. I looked closely and could see his whole body twitching and convulsing. His breathing was labored. Definitely not a happy guy. My main concern was getting him to eat and drink. I gathered the ceramic water dish, laying empty and overturned in the sand, and filled it with fresh cold water. I set it in the cage and pushed it up under his mouth. To my delight he started drinking, though even this seemed like a monumental struggle for him. Even better - he didn’t stop, drinking the entire bowl and another full bowl right afterward. He then flopped over and tried to eat the samosas, but just couldn’t manage the physical task of getting them in his mouth and chewing. Another ten minutes of trying, and I basically just shoved them into his mouth. I think the water and calories were a boost, as he definitely perked up a bit, from 99% lifeless to 95% lifeless I’d say. Then two of the assistants came over with the bag of meat and starting dropping selected bits of it onto the floor of the cage. This definitely got his attention, and he basically inhaled them as quickly as they appeared. Definitely a good sign. This was the first point at which I felt comfortable that he more or less had what he needed to rest and try to start some semblance of a recovery process. I sat looking at the cage, and where I had first felt bad to resign this creature to a metal box, I now realized that this was probably the most safe and worry-free time the dog had spent in ages - no other dogs harassing it, no people throwing things at it and shouting, and no constant wandering around looking for shelter and respite. Best of all, a considerable improvement in its wound. At least the maggots were mostly gone and it was covered in bandages and iodine. A family came by with their goats and I had a laugh watching a seven year-old boy struggling to contain his overenthusiastic baby goat. He had been given the serious job of keeping it under control, but the tiny goat kept biting at his clothes and basically trying to eat him, as goats are apt to do. It also kept charging around, dragging the boy with it as he held the short rope leash around its neck. Then came the moment I had been waiting for, a successful call to the center in Pushkar, and they agreed to take him. All that remained was to arrange a taxi, find a suitable box to put him in, and for the vet to spend some time the next day cleaning his wound and changing the dressings. So here, as I write on Christmas day in western India at 3:30pm, there is at least a chance for a brighter future for this creature. The center in Pushkar has good facilities, a large staff of employees and volunteers, and a history of taking on tough cases with good success. Tomorrow I will make the final arrangements, then the next morning we leave bright and early.

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Day 4 – December 26, 2010 A nervous and tedious day today as I tried to get everything together to ensure a smooth transition to the center in Pushkar. Every task is so difficult and time-consuming in India. Something as simple as finding a large cardboard box in which to transport the dog turned into a four-hour long endeavor, made possible at all though by the friendliness and generosity of the Indian people. India is special like that. Three days before I had met a renowned local tailor and his family while wandering in a remote part of town shaking hands and taking photos. I spent an hour with him and his lovely family, sipping chai on the porch of the their cubist sandstone home on a dead end cul-de-sac, bouncing their adorable 18 month old boy on my knee and watching the boys next door fly kites from the roof of their house. They were all wonderful people, and he urged me to stay in touch and come by for dinner sometime. Then yesterday evening as I left the hospital and started looking for a box in town, my lack of Hindi proving to be a major hindrance, he happened to pass by on his motorcycle and then acted as my interpreter as we inquired at several nearby shops. We had no luck, but he had me come by his shop today, and he and his son and his brother in law spent several hours looking for boxes. We finally found a suitable empty television box. They spent at least three hours on the task altogether, all without being asked, and asked for nothing in return. I went to the hospital again around 12 noon, stopping to get samosas along the way. I arrived to find the dog resting, his cage covered in blankets by the staff the night before to block the cold, windy night air. Next to the cage were the dying embers of a fire they had made in the sand. It was nice to see this level of effort being made to keep him warm. He didn’t have any fat on him to speak of, and his fur was pretty thin. He shivered in the day, and I could only imagine how long and unpleasant the desert nights were for him. I cleaned out the cage and broke up the samosas, discarding the chilies inside, and he eagerly scarfed them down, certainly a good sign. He drank another full bowl of fresh water, also good. He did seem a bit more energetic, and stood up shakily. He tried to pace around in the cage, which proved pointless since it was barely bigger than his body. He gingerly sat back down, a slow and awkward process that took a good 30 seconds, finally curling into a fetal position, his head tucked back behind his tail. I looked him over and noticed that his rear left elbow had a pretty big hole in it and looked infected. It seems impossible for these street dogs to ever heal

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such injuries given the utterly filthy human environment in which they have to live. A few minutes later he got back up and began biting hard at a small opening in the side of the cage, actually managing to snap a few small pieces of steel webbing off. His unhappiness with being caged for four days with no ability to move around was obvious. I tried to calm him, and I got a closer look at his head wound. It looked awful. There were huge amounts of puss running down into his eye, which, beyond being completely swollen shut, was now so covered in puss and god knows what that it was completely obscured from view. Poor pathetic creature. I wanted to get him to a top-notch facility immediately and have the doctors give him the full spa treatment, clean him down to the bone, fully hydrate him, give him more antibiotics, properly the wound, and finally be able to pet him, let him know that someone cared enough to lay a hand on him for some reason other than punishment or medical care. All of that would have to wait, as even the promised cleaning and redressing of his wounds looked like it wouldn’t happen. The doctor was working on his second consecutive “day off,” and he had been dealing all day with a colicky horse that was on the verge of death. I sat and waited for five hours as repeated assurances that the dog would receive another cleaning came and then went unfulfilled, though it wasn’t the vets fault. Finally as night set in I left, the dog no better than when he woke up, save for having some food and water in his system. We had at least managed to work out a plan. I would arrive at 6:30 am the next day, Dec. 27, and two of the vet assistants would be on site. They would give the dog 5ml of sedative to help make the 7 hour journey more relaxing and trouble-free. The assistants would transfer him into the TV box, the best we could do on short notice, and we would wedge it onto the back seat of the small Tata Indica taxicab. I would be given a pre-loaded syringe with another 5ml of sedative, with instructions to inject it into any suitable muscle tissue halfway through the trip. I can’t say that I was particularly comfortable with this assignment. The concern was that he would get restless halfway through and chew his way out of the cardboard box, which, although heavy-duty, was made vulnerable to being chewed open by the air holes we had cut in the sides. The top would be sealed tight with packing tape for obvious reasons. I left, nervous and anxious about the trip. I just wanted it to be over, to get him there and start some intensive treatment. I had mixed feelings about the hospital in Jaisalmer. I was somewhat amazed they took the dog in at all and gave it any treatment. I was equally amazed that they didn’t insist on euthanization,

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which I had thought would be certain given its grievous condition. In the end though, the dog sat there for four days in the cage, in a miserable state, and was only given a total of about two hours of treatment. He wasn’t given much food or water to speak of by anyone other than me, and the whole time a group of veterinarians sat and chatted and smoked nearby, doing nothing for the dog or any other animal. Meanwhile, in addition to this dog, there were strays hanging out on the grounds of the hospital itself that were in terrible shape. One large black and white dog that frequented the grounds had such a horrible eye infection it looked like it was going insane from the annoyance. It was such a bright red you could see it from a distance. Nothing was done for any of these dogs. The atmosphere was strange as well. I was laughed at by the various people on site more times than I can count, and when asking for translations as to what they were saying on a few occasions, I was basically told they are making fun of you because you are so interested in this pathetic dog. An odd and not very likeable vibe to receive from a group of veterinarians. The saving grace was Dr. Garg, who despite spending relatively little time actually treating the dog, at least did something substantial, and helped facilitate the arrangement to take him to Pushkar. His dilemma seemed to be indicative of India as a whole, he was overworked, underfunded, and mired in bureaucracy and paperwork, all of which was written by hand on papers that were filed on dusty shelves in a back room. I went back to my hotel and packed, ready to leave at sunrise, anxious for the trip to Pushkar.

Day 5 – December 27, 2010 What a day. I woke up at 5:30am after three hours sleep, took an icy cold shower, finished packing my bags, and went outside to wait for the cab. I was impressed that he was only 20 minutes late. We headed over to the animal hospital and one of the vet assistants came out to meet me, needle and sedative in hand. He gave the dog 5ml of the drug while I worked on readying the box, taping the sides well and making a nice little bed from the dirty old blankets that had been draped over the cage. I took the cut-out cardboard circles left from the holes I made the day before and taped a couple of them back in place. The vet said given the way the dog had chewed through some of the steel strips on the cage he would make short work of the box, particularly if given too many easy access points to start chewing it.

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Finally the moment came to start him on the next phase of his recovery, I hoped it would turn out that way at least. He looked woozy enough, and the vet tech hoisted him out of the cage by the scruff of his back and into the box. We taped the top up tight and crammed the box into the tiny back seat of the cab, and off we went. It was a 500km, seven hour (make that “seven hour”) ride to Pushkar, and the journey started well enough. Many of the highways in Rajasthan are bumpy and full of potholes, but the stretch leading out of Jaisalmer is quite nice, and we were making good time. Better yet, the dog was resting in his drug-induced stupor, and everything seemed to be proceeding apace. We were passing through beautiful countryside, where all of the romantic stereotypes of Rajasthani rural life could be seen in abundance: quaint thatched roof huts, people carrying pots and bundles of goat fodder on their heads, women in colorful saris working the fields. Granted, these romanticized notions ignore the fact that rural life in Rajasthan is somewhat difficult and austere. It was the first trip across Rajasthan that I’d taken by cab, all the others had been by train or bus, and I was able to really take it in the sights. It was immediately frustrating for the photographer in me, as we passed dozens if not hundreds of amazing photo opportunities, all of which would have to wait for another day. Now that I was thinking in terms of dogs, the trip also brought to light the incredible number of dogs killed on the highways in India. I think I stopped counting after 20 in just the first few hours of the trip. As we passed through some of the more populated areas there was a carcass every five minutes. My heart skipped a beat early in the ride as we passed a trio of tiny puppies and what I presumed to be their mother, all four laid in a row across the center line of the highway in an eerily precise arrangement. I looked over at the cab driver and we both sort of winced and shook our heads. Not much you can say about that. The dog was surprisingly quiet in his box, so quiet that I had the driver stop every thirty minutes so I could get out and look inside to make sure he was still breathing. I began to worry that I hadn’t created enough air holes. We made what turned out to be an hour detour through downtown Jodhpur, a city of a million people with hellish traffic, just to pick up the driver’s cousin and take him the rest of the way with us. I wasn’t told about this until we got to his house, and I was none too happy about the delay, or the fact that I was basically paying $40 for his cousin to have a free ride for 300km. I could barely contain my discontent as we sat in gridlock for the next hour, the dog shifting restlessly in the box in the stop and go traffic. Despite my admonitions, the driver kept slamming

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on the brakes, and it was making me sick as well as agitating the dog. By this point I hadn’t eaten in 18 hours, I’d only slept for three, and I had a splitting headache and nausea. I was worried for the dog’s well being. I just wanted to get there as quickly as possible with no delays. It was in this heightened state of tension that things began to fall apart. All’s well in India as long as you’re on a good highway. Granted, you have to share the road with ox carts, pigs, tractors, rickshaws, military convoys, bicycles, sleeping pedestrians, frolicking puppies, and of course cows, but you can still make pretty good time, especially in the early morning when all of Rajasthan seems to sleep much later than one would expect. But as soon as you start passing through smaller towns and cities your rate of progress plummets. The second half of our trip was a continuous crawl through such small towns, each one crammed full of so many people, cows, rickshaws, bicycles, and trucks that I doubt we ever went more than 10 mph. By my luck I also seemed to have gotten the only cabbie in India who wasn’t a cutthroat race car driver, and his timidity started to get on my nerves as we were passed by almost every other vehicle on the road. Three hours more and we were finally getting close to Pushkar. We were due at 2pm and it was already 4, but the end was in sight, and I was getting anxious and excited to finally get him there and into safe hands. He had been much less of an issue than I expected, basically sleeping all day, or at least sitting there quietly and wallowing in pain and misery. I never had to give the second injection of sedative, which was a relief for me. I didn’t want to do something wrong and harm the poor guy when we were so close to the end. The beginning of the end anyway - even if everything worked out he still had a long and arduous healing process ahead of him. The driver and I were both counting down the kilometers. Less than 30 to go, we’d be there in an hour. Then, as we approached a major intersection, I saw a barricade and a group of police officers. Oh no. They waved us onto a small side road and said the highway was closed due to strikes across the region. Striking workers were physically blocking the road, and it was expected to be closed for the next day at least. We took the prescribed detour and quickly realized it was a complete jam. It would be morning before we moved a kilometer. We pulled into a nearby gas station and started making what would become dozens of phone calls - to the driver’s boss, to the rescue center, to friends of the driver. A group of men and boys gathered around the car and were poking at the dog’s box, laughing at him and pointing at me and making fun. I was used to this kind of immaturity and disrespect by this point. I was annoyed and emphatically told them all to get lost.

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The owner of the cab company called and told me that they couldn’t take me any further, and that we would have to turn around and drive 8 hours back to Jaisalmer. I told him absolutely not and that they needed to figure out how to make it happen. The driver was making an admirable effort to come up with a solution, and after consulting with what seemed like dozens of random people, he finally had a plan. We would take the back-back-back way, through a series of small farming villages, about 60km on rutted singe track roads. It would take about three hours. Let’s go. Go, go, go , I said. It was the best option we had, although it meant a very bumpy end of the trip for the dog, which worried me since his head was in such bad shape. It turned out to be a spectacular route, with more amazing photo opportunities than I could keep track of. Another day. It was only on this final stretch of horribly rutted road, with a giant asphalt speed bump every 100 meters, that the driver inexplicably decided to become aggressive, lunging from one spot to another at top speed, and slamming on the brakes right before every pothole. I felt like I was on the teacup ride at Disneyland. I got tired of asking him to slow down and became resigned to the fact that we would get there when we got there and that he was going to drive the way he wanted to. I hoped to God the dog would be ok. The three hour detour turned into four, and as the sun set we finally pulled into Pushkar. It was a welcome sight to say the least, and I started to get excited. The rescue center was supposedly only 6km from town in a small farming village called Kharkheri. I knew by now not to believe mileages though, and it was only when we saw the first sign for Kharkheri – 6km indeed, that I felt at ease. I got my camera ready – I didn’t want to miss the moment we pulled up or when he emerged from his box. We finally arrived in Kharkheri and were told by locals that the center – called Tree of Life for Animals – was another 1 or 2 km up the road. I felt like I was going to have a nervous and emotional breakdown as we finally pulled up to the gate. It was 7pm, 12 hours after we left, and I was tired, hungry, and nauseous, with a pounding headache. I’m sure the dog felt ten times worse than I did. I looked back in the box once more to make sure he was still breathing. We had spent the last five days trying to get to this point, and now that we were finally here, I didn’t know what to expect. But as I mentally replayed my photos of him sitting on that sand pile in Jaisalmer, or when they first doused him with turpentine and hundred of maggots all came to the surface, I knew this would be better. It only took about thirty seconds to feel relieved. A group of people came rushing to the gate to let us in, and within seconds the founder and director of the facility was at the car with some assistants to get him inside. Thank God for competent, motivated people who are doing the right

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thing. Two young guys carried his box a hundred feet to the operating room of the clinic, and as they spun the box around I saw how big of a hole he had chewed in the side. Luckily It was on the side facing the seat of the car, so he couldn’t have escaped during the ride. The box was up on the operating table now, and it was through this hole that they pulled him out, and he finally saw daylight in his new home, 500km from the mean streets of Jaisalmer. I was immediately impressed with the level of care and attention he was receiving. Within seconds they were cleaning his head wound and snipping off pieces of putrid flesh, and he had an IV with antibiotics, vitamins, pain killers, and saline solution for dehydration. It’s not often that something you worry about in anticipation turns out just the way you hoped, and I was feeling a huge sense of relief. I had done my part in getting him here, and now he was in competent hands. They finished his triage per se, and assigned him a kennel space – A7. We put his box and blanket inside, and he curled up into a fetal position and went to sleep. I took a rickshaw back to Pushkar and checked into a guest house. I gathered up several extra blankets to fight off the cold night air in Pushkar, and laid down and passed out before I could get my shoes off.

Day 6 – December 28, 2010 I decided to name him Mojo, and I learned that he’s about 5 years old. Of course the dog probably didn’t know or care whether he had a name, but it helped legitimize him so he wasn’t just an anonymous creature. The name was a tribute to my older brother’s late beloved pit bull, who was himself a rescued dog. It also seemed to fit, as this guy needed to get his Mojo back. Maybe one day he would be able to answer to that name, but certainly not today, which was probably the most traumatic day for him since I found him. Until now he’d been miserable, but it was a kind of consistent misery, getting a little worse everyday as the maggots spread. Today was the first day where he had to undergo major discomfort for the sake of an eventual recovery. I got up early, glad to be back in Pushkar. There was a light rain, the only place I’d seen yet in Rajasthan where there wasn’t blazing sun all day everyday. I went out early to the mela (fair) grounds, a great place for random photos of interesting people. Five chais and 20 handshakes later I was in a rickshaw, winding through the beautiful 8km stretch of mountains out to Kharkheri village and the rescue center, which would be Mojo’s new home.

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I arrived just as they were carrying him to the operating room from his new space in the kennel, an admittedly small and drab concrete block, but four times the size of the cage he’d been in Jaisalmer, and sheltered from the wind and the brunt of the cold night air. It was a comfortable enough place to rest, and the kennel dogs were taken out for walks and sun each day. His box was in the back, complete with the big hole he’d chewed open trying to escape during the cab ride, and I brought him a new blanket from town to put in the box for a little creature comfort. In control now was Dr. Ashok, a 30-something Indian vet. He and a team of four assistants, all young Indian men, quickly went to work. It was a little hard to watch, as he could only be given limited amounts of anesthesia. It had to be done though, and now they were making real progress. First they shaved the fur from his neck and around his ear, which itself was in pretty bad shape. They then cut away a large area of hardened, putrefied black flesh that formed a rim around his entire skull. Next they cleaned the wound to a much greater degree than had been done in Jaisalmer, removing large areas of infected and rotten flesh, leaving most of the muscles around the skull laid bare and his head looking like a slab of raw meat. Much to my relief Dr. Ashok said that he was almost certain that the skull was not in fact open, contrary to the conclusions of earlier vets in Jaisalmer. A good development. Never good to have your brain exposed to the outside world. I had brain surgery after a freak diving accident about ten years ago, and I can say with certainty that I’m glad they put the skull back in place and cinched it up with fancy titanium plates. The team was making good progress. He still had some maggots, and they carefully plucked them out one by one with tweezers, using turpentine-soaked gauze to uproot and kill them first. They finally thoroughly cleaned his left eye, which had been agonizing for me to watch all along, swollen shut and covered in puss and dirt. It looked so much better now. They also went to work on the elbow of his left hind leg, which had a large hole right on the point of it, kind of like a knot in an old oak tree, and was itself infested with maggots. This was obviously a source of great pain, as he screamed and howled pitiably as they worked on it. I took a break from the operating room as it was a bit hard to watch, perhaps harder yet to listen to, and I wandered around the yard of the center a bit, petting the motley crew of rescue cases that made up the permanent population of 33 dogs. Many were missing legs, and some of those that still had all four legs wobbled and hobbled around. A couple, including a gorgeous little golden retriever type puppy, had hind legs that looked like spaghetti, long and curved,

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disfigured from being run over I assumed. Another 90 dogs were currently in the kennels, all of them strays with some type of illness or injury that brought them there. The center is a pretty major operation, and a very admirable accomplishment given that it was started just five years ago. The founder, a British woman named Rachel, was the first person to set hands on Mojo upon his arrival. She saved this dog’s life by taking him in. Dr. Ashok confirmed this fact halfway into his treatment session, saying that given the severity of his head wound he probably would have died within a week or two from blood poisoning. Now he was getting a full workover. They were treating his wounds, giving him intravenous vitamins and antibiotics, treating the lice around his neck, and treating him for dehydration and anemia. I was very happy that this was where he wound up. No more maggots, no more rocks being thrown at him, no more freezing windy nights outside, and the end to his diet of garbage and sewer water. He had a good place to sleep, good food and clean water, and people that cared about him. At the moment though he was lying on the operating table crying. It must have been incredibly painful. The worst injury like that I’ve ever had was being hit at high speed by a car on my bike on my first day in college. I was lucky to survive - had the car hit me a little differently I would have been run over instead of thrown from the bike. I still had pretty major bruises and lacerations to my head, face, back, and legs, and I had to recover for several weeks. It hurt like hell. Everything hurt – moving, not moving, it didn’t matter what I did. I had perfectly clean and bandaged wounds though, and an arsenal of creams and pain pills to help make it all easier. This guy was missing most of the top of his head and just got finished having this horrific wound cut and cleaned down to the flesh – all excellent work by the staff at the center – and for pragmatic reasons, he would have to simply let it air dry in the kennel. They let him come out of the anesthesia and he was very grumpy, which they said was natural, They finished a large IV bag with vitamins, and then released him into a nice little isolated outdoor pen to get some sun and hopefully some rest. He was stammering around in circles and bouncing of the walls, and the wound obviously bothered him tremendously. Despite my protestations, he keep scratching it and rubbing it on a burlap sack on the ground. I felt truly sorry for him. This seemed to be a case of no pain, no gain though. There was no way around it. I left hoping he could somehow have a restful, pain-free day. I walked the 8km back to Pushkar, having some fun encounters with people in the rural villages along the way.

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Day 7 – December 29, 2010 It’s tough to get a break around here. Rajasthan is generally quite sunny and warm, but, as fortune would have it, the day after Mojo’s surgery was cold and windy with heavy rains. Not the best environment for healing his wound. I spent the morning working on photos, as this detour in my trip had left me with thousands of unprocessed images, and I finally set out at 11am when the rain subsided. A few chores around town - getting some pants mended, fixing a zipper on my camera bag - and I was on my way to the rescue center, hopeful to see him in better spirits. I picked up another package of milk, wanting to give him some kind of treat. I would have loved to have given him a big juicy hamburger or steak, but Pushkar is an important Hindu holy site, and there’s no meat anywhere in the city. Milk it was. In liquid form it comes packed in a small plastic bag. It’s icy cold and the bag flops around in your hand like a pile of jello. I walked the 6km to Kharkheri and then two more to the center. I guess I was a bit of a celebrity from the day before, as I had a crowd of dozens of kids and adults following my every move, seemingly for no reason other than that I existed and I have a big camera. I don’t speak more than a dozen words of Hindi, so it couldn’t be the stimulating conversation I provided. I got to the center and made my way over to see Mojo. I hoped to be able to bring him out of his kennel for a couple hours to walk around in one of the small enclosed courtyards. I got the OK and we brought him out. I can’t say he looked very happy. He was shivering and scratching furiously at his wound. I’m not sure why I thought it might be any different. He was going to need months to heal. Right away I got a surprise. I turned my back for two seconds and he hopped up a series of ledges and bounded over a wall into an adjoining courtyard. It was good to see him full of such vigor, but he was now only one more hop away from the outside world, and he was in no shape to run away and be on his own. I think I would have had a nervous breakdown if he’d escaped. We got him back in and I had to stand guard at the critical access point from then on. I gave him the milk and he lapped it up enthusiastically. I was happy to give him something sweet to eat. He definitely seemed to be enjoying it. I don’t think being outside was doing him much good though. I wouldn’t say it was cold out, but it was overcast, with a bit of a breeze, and he was shivering intensely. He kept pacing and scratching his head. When he finally laid down he was shivering and convulsing, not really the pleasant outdoor time I had hoped for. He was still a pretty miserable guy.

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The little puppy with the spaghetti legs came up to the metal door and stuck its nose through from the other side. Mojo went over to investigate and didn’t seem too thrilled by the visitor. He let out a faint growl, the first sign of any bad attitude I’d seen from him yet. Adult males are often cantankerous around strange puppies though, a pecking order thing I think. When the puppy left I opened the door to see whether Mojo wanted to come back in. He came through and after looking for a moment like he wanted to charge past me and run around the facility, he went straight for the open door to his kennel, and curled up in his box. He just wanted to rest, indeed the best thing for him. I learned that he would be treated in about 30 minutes, so I went out to visit some of the other animals. The whole half hour wound up being hijacked by one of the few cats on site, one that I had earlier seen catch and kill a black and yellow bird. I was happy that he was friendly and liked attention. That’s an understatement really, as after a few minutes of cuddling and head scratching in my lap he wouldn’t leave me alone, talking up a storm and following at my feet everywhere I went. He was a beautiful kitty, with super soft black and gray fur. A real sweetheart. I was excited that Mojo was getting his second treatment. This time it was primarily a cleaning, and he would not be anesthetized. He took it amazingly well, barely moving as they rubbed and poked and prodded what was essentially raw flesh, all with no sedation. Dogs are tough, and he was certainly a fighter. Rachel said that after a few days they know you’re trying to help them, and I believed it. He was given some intravenous antibiotics and pain killers, and checked for lice and maggots, both of which were gone now, a tremendous improvement. His anemia was already improving, as evidenced by the color of his gums, and his dehydration had improved. His head wound looked much cleaner now than even two days ago, and even though he had to go back and wait it out in his kennel, I was glad to know that his medical situation was looking more positive.

Day 8 – December 30, 2010 A quiet, foggy morning in Pushkar, and I started the day walking the mela (fair) grounds, where I’d been a month earlier during the world famous camel fair. What was then a bustling scene with tens of thousands of animals and people was now kind of like Woodstock after everyone left, except here it looked like the trash would never be picked up. I walked back to

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where I had photographed a dying camel a month earlier. I stumbled upon it lying on its side, trying in vain to raise its head up and taking its last breaths. I had poured what was left of my bottle of water into its mouth, and it stretched its lips out to get a sip. A couple of hours later it was dead. It was one of the most poignant moments in the early weeks of my time in India. I went back to the same spot expecting I might see a camel skeleton, thinking it would make a compelling before and after photo comparison. To my surprise there was nothing left, not one bone. The desert is a harsh place, I guess nothing goes to waste. It seems now that no day is complete without drama relating to dogs, and I then turned my attention to a big pack of dogs that had gathered around what looked like the carcass of a cow. The mela grounds are a large expanse of rolling, open, sandy hills at the edge of town, and the area is like a wild West for feral domesticated animals. Huge numbers of pigs, cows, and dogs roam the area, and today I witnessed scenes that might as well have been from a nature documentary on TV. Before I could focus on the cow I saw a group of four dogs chase off a wild pig with five or six piglets. It was a pretty intense chase, lasting a good 20 meters or so at breakneck speeds. The dogs definitely had the upper hand in this one, although the pig was a big boar that could have killed any of the dogs in a one on one match-up. This was purely a matter of numbers. Next I saw something I’d seen a few times before – several dogs chasing two cows. You wouldn’t think the cows would be phased, they weigh at least 10 times more and could crush or impale the dogs if it came down to it. I imagine the sensation of having a bunch of dogs nipping at their heels just out of their peripheral vision must be disconcerting. They chased the cows down into a big trash pit full of plastic, where they joined several other cows that were happily munching away on garbage. I turned my attention then to the cow lying on the ground. There were no longer any dogs around it, which meant something was up. If it was dead they would have been tearing it to pieces. I walked over to have a look, shooing away a crow that was pecking at its face, and it promptly raised its head feebly from the ground, looked at me, and mooed. Oh god, I thought, this is too pathetic. This poor creature – a young calf - is laying here still alive, with birds and dogs taking bites out of him before he’s even dead. There was nothing I could do so I left to go the rescue center. I would go see Mojo and tell Rachel about the calf, maybe they could come see if he could be helped. I rented a scooter and

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rode the 8km out to Tree of Life, hoping to have a positive day with Mojo. I stopped by the store to get a couple packages of milk, putting them into the compartment under the seat. I got there and first spent a little time with some of the dogs that had recently come in. The center sees a never ending stream of wounded and sick street dogs, a product of the failure of Indian society to control the pet population, and of the harsh realities of dogs coexisting among millions of speeding vehicles, other violent dogs, and a filthy environment in which to try to recover from injuries. Among the recent arrivals were a dog that was paralyzed after being hit by a car, and a beautiful tiny puppy, also hit, who had major head injuries, among them the separation of his entire palate from the rest of his facial structure. The side of his head and his eye were badly swollen, and the inside of his mouth was a jumble of pieces that weren’t where they belonged. It was pretty damn sad to look at. I went in to see Mojo. The weather was looking up a little, it was at least somewhat warm and sunny, and I wanted to take him outside for a couple hours. He readily obliged, and we went out to the little courtyard. He seemed glad for the fresh air and sun, and I was trying to the think of some way to make him happy. I saw a broom - Indian style, made from stiff dried grasses and a light went off – of course, he needs a good brushing! I grabbed the broom tightly down towards the end of the bristles, making it more stiff, and started giving him a cursory brushing. He definitely liked the idea. I asked one of the vet techs if they had a real brush and was thrilled when he brought out a deluxe, proper dog brush, with stiff, sparsely spaced plastic bristles on one side, each with a little metal ball on the end, and a normal hair brush on the other side. This was going to be wonderful for him, I thought. I’ve always loved doing things like brushing a dog or watering a plant. Just the feeling that you’re helping another living thing, doing something for it that it can’t do itself, making it more healthy and content. I spent the next 90 minutes brushing him, pretty much non-stop. I think he would’ve been happy to keep it going all day. I doubt that he had ever been brushed in his life. He was almost certainly born a puppy in the street, and Rachel said he may never have even been touched by a person, at least in any positive way. There was no doubt that he loved and appreciated the brushing. The poor guy was still in wretched shape, and I think that the brush not only felt great, but it took his mind off his head injury.

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I must had gone over the same areas at least 500 times if not more, quite literally, and by the end he seemed genuinely happy for the first time since I had seen him. He had started to preen himself, which is a strong positive sign. A dog or cat that stops preening is one that is giving up. It was also the first time that he looked up at me, in the way that anyone with a dog knows, and said, without having to ask - “more please.” It was the first time he had made eye contact with me at all for that matter. He also responded several times to my call, and to my patting my hand on the ground. Both firsts. He had another big bowl of milk, and I learned that his cleaning would be in an hour or so. I put him back in his kennel and walked around the center for a while to see some of the other dogs. Up near the road was a nice large outdoor run for puppies. It was home to quite a pitiful menagerie of dogs, the kind where if they don’t tug at your heart strings you must have a lump of coal in your chest. Three of the five dogs inside had major issues with their hind legs. One was missing them altogether, one had them permanently fixed in an odd shape, and the last dragged his legs behind him. They were basically crushed and elongated, trailing behind him like limp noodles. They all seemed happy enoughthough. They had a nice safe place to be, plenty of room to roam, companions to play with, and regular food and water. It was a lot better than living on the street. Soon after I went back in to watch Mojo’s cleaning. It was so great to see him getting proper care. They cleaned his wounds and gave him antibiotics and pain killers, critical components of a speedy and comfortable recovery. It looked like he was getting some of his spunk back, as we all looked into his kennel to see that he had completely demolished his cardboard box, chewing it into little pieces. No small feat, considering it was a heavy-duty box for a television. I thanked the staff and headed off. It looked like another rainstorm was imminent. I left feeling good for Mojo. I hoped he could relax tonight, his coat feeling good and his wound continuing to improve. Then I rode back to where I had seen the calf in the morning, expecting to see it being eaten by dogs. To my surprise it was gone. I had told Rachel about it, and she said they were going out to see it. It must have been brought back to Tree of Life. I couldn’t help but feel good that I had saved this creature from such an undignified and miserable end. I rode back to town and had some dinner. The rain never really materialized, and I was walking off dinner when a group of girls around eight years old came up to me holding a beautiful little tan puppy, maybe two months old. I was petting its head and letting it kiss me when they pointed at me and held the puppy out. “You,” they said. I said “no, where is it’s mother, whose puppy is

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it?” They said “no, no mother” and then tried to sell it to me. “Ten rupees.” I said no and walked off after telling them “find its mother.” I’d had kids try to sell me puppies in Peru before, for 5 Peruvian Soles, which works out to $1.60 or so. 10 rupees is only 20 cents. If it seems like an anecdote too tailor made for this story that’s exactly what I thought, but it’s all true.

Day 9 – New Year’s Eve, 2010 I got up early and rode my rental scooter out past the center to see some more of the countryside. I would stop by to visit with Mojo on the way back. Even though there was finally some sun on the horizon it was still very cold, especially on the bike at 30mph. I passed some beautiful scenes just outside Pushkar, with the morning sun rays streaming through groves of trees and backlighting the cacti and wildflowers. I had hoped to use the bike to take some interesting photos of rural life, but I quickly realized that being on foot and actually interacting with people, my modus operandi throughout my trip in India, was still the best way to capture compelling photos. I did have a pleasant surprise as I rode out into new territory just past the center. Quite unexpectedly I came up a decent size lake with some wetlands in its fringe. Called Foy Sagar, it’s about 6km from the center and 6 more from the nearby city of Ajmer. The air was clean and crisp and it was a beautiful morning. It was a poignant moment, as I had already visited Ajmer, just a few kilometers away, and although full of friendly and generous people, it has environmental issues. Large parts of the city are basically an open garbage dump, including the main playground for children and the most prominent city park and waterfront area. But at Foy Sagar, just a few minutes away, was a beautiful lake and bucolic farmland. It was an incredible example of just how bad a mess people had made of India, a place so naturally beautiful. Anywhere there were a lot of people, most of India in other words, was basically a disaster from the standpoint of the natural world. The natural habitat and ecosystems are largely gone, the water is polluted, the air is polluted, the soil is polluted, and there’s terrible noise pollution. I got to the center around 10am and went right in to see Mojo. It was looking like this might be my last day with him for a while, maybe forever, and I was anxious to spend some quality time with him. It may be just my imagination, or wishful thinking, but he really did seem to be developing a bond with me. He was certainly happier. Even though he was still missing most of

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the top of his head, he was alert and curious and wagging his tail. What a trooper. When I get a headache I complain and can hardly deal with being conscious. He seemed quite eager to get out of his kennel space and move around. The little yard we had been going to was now full, with several of the sickest dogs from the center soaking up the newly arrived sunshine. We went instead to a new area, a long, empty cement corridor. The sun had just begun to seep in, and we made the best of it, sticking to a sliver of warmth along the wall. Right away I started brushing him again, and he was all too happy to oblige. It was the perfect therapy, and probably the best service I could provide to him other than my company and the chance for him to come outside. I was thinking back to the photos I had taken when I first found him. His fur then was dark gray and dingy, with tiny matted clumps of dirt on his head and chest and haunches. Nine days later it was a nice bright white, looking quite healthy except for some bald areas on his front legs. All furry and feathered animals are preoccupied with their coats. Dogs, cats, and birds, wild or domesticated, are constantly preening themselves. It’s a matter of comfort and health maintenance. This guy must have unbelievably uncomfortable for the past couple of months cold, wet, and dirty, in addition to his obvious injuries. Now he was looking pretty darn good. The fur around his head and shoulders, which I probably brushed more than any other part of his body, looked dog show-ready. If I felt like we were bonding it wasn’t for no reason. For the first time Mojo was coming over to me when I called him, and he was brushing up against me asking to be pet. It was quite heartwarming. I had to leave Pushkar though. With just two weeks left in my 10 week trip, I needed to continue to see some more of the country and do my work. I was torn between the desire to see him as happy as possible and the need to attend to my own affairs. My decision to leave the next day was made easier by the knowledge that several new volunteers would soon be arriving at the center, increasing the chance he would continue to get more outside time and personal attention. I said my goodbyes to the staff, then to Mojo. I told him to hang in there and that I would be thinking about him and pulling for him. It seemed kind of silly and hokey, but I actually spoke those words to him out loud, and I sincerely meant it. I really loved him. He was a sweet, gentle guy, and I really wanted him to be happy and get better.

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The time I spent trying to help Mojo made a big impression on me. I’ve always loved animals, but I’ve never done anything to help a specific domesticated animal in that way. It was a special experience that left me with several conclusions. First, India does not treat its dogs well. The people are warm and sincere, but the simple fact is there are millions of suffering animals in India, and it is the people’s fault. They have failed miserably to control the human population, which has led to widespread destruction of the natural environment, and they have failed to control the population of domesticated animals, which are a purely human creation. Religious beliefs have led to a country with hundreds of millions of cows, which consume vast resources and create immense pollution, yet are held in the highest regard. At the same time the millions of dogs are treated like cockroaches. There are dead puppies seemingly everywhere in some cities, people sell puppies for a few pennies, and people physically abuse dogs. The human environments the dogs must live in is also filthy. They are left to eat garbage and drink filthy water. Millions of dogs also spend every night shivering in the cold for hours on end. It’s tempting to chalk it up to poverty. “When so many people are poor you can’t expect much for the dogs.” But that’s a cliché. The fact is many (key word many, not most) Indian people just don’t care. A sick dog, a shivering dog, a dead dog, a dog with half its head missing and full of maggots - it doesn’t make any impression. They will throw rocks at it instead of taking it to the animal hospital right around the corner. The director of the rescue center told me that for a long time there was an elderly man on the street in the nearby city of Ajmer who had a massive head wound full of maggots, bigger and worse than Mojo’s, and that day after day people just walked by him and did nothing to help. If they won’t help him, then what hope is there for a dog? My experience with Mojo was a bittersweet one. He will almost certainly recover at this point, but it will take a long time, at least a couple of months, during which time he’ll be spending long cold nights in Pushkar. The main realization is that he is just one of millions of suffering creatures. The goal of a caring person is to eliminate all suffering in sentient beings, not just the few that we happen to come across. This goal of course is an overwhelming one, and quite unrealistic if looked at pragmatically.

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Despite the best intentions of individuals, and the extraordinary actions of a few who do relief work, there is no hint of a suffering-free world on the horizon, no more than there is of a return to a healthy, unspoiled natural environment. I think there is value in doing something small like I did, but I’m thankful there are people like Rachel from Tree of Life who are thinking and acting big.

Day 17 – January 8, 2011 I thought my time with Mojo was over, but after a week in Jodhpur I felt a strong pull back to see how he was doing. I sat in my hotel room in Jodhpur each night shivering as the temperature dropped almost to zero degrees (Celsius), and I had three heavy polar fleece blankets. I could only imagine how cold he was. Pushkar is among the coldest places in Rajasthan, and he didn’t have the luxury of blankets. None of the millions of street dogs in India do for that matter. Hellish summer heat, torrential monsoon floods, freezing winter nights, they must fend for themselves. I had walked the streets of Jodhpur at 2am before, curious to see the nightlife, and what I saw were hundreds of dogs shivering, looking absolutely miserable. My return to Pushkar became much more than another visit to see Mojo, and it drove home the importance and gravity of the work that Tree of Life was doing. I arrived back in Pushkar by train at around noon and checked into my guest house. One falafel and humus wrap later I was at the scooter rental office and on my way. I stopped by the shop of a tailor who had fixed a tear in my threadbare pants a week earlier, and I commissioned him to make a warm vest for Mojo. It would be double layer polar fleece and heavy cotton, and have leg holes and two drawstrings to tie it off underneath. He said it would cost about $3 and would be ready in about four hours. India is wonderful like that. I stopped by for some milk and it was off to Kharkheri and Tree of Life. It was refreshing to be back in the beautiful countryside after a week in Jodhpur, which is a busy city of a million people. I passed through Kharkheri to what I can only call a heroes welcome, with all the children running up the scooter and cheering for me. I had visited the village each day on my previous trip, and I’d spent time taking photos of people, buying the kids treats from the local general store, sitting in on local cricket games, and juggling for everybody. It was really heartwarming to be greeted so kindly.

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I arrived at Tree of Life to find a group of seven volunteers from Australia hard at work. Far from ordinary volunteers, they were all experienced fourth and fifth year veterinary students, and it was fantastic to see such a meaningful and productive volunteer program. An American volunteer who was finishing her stint filled me in one some of the new arrivals since I’d been there last: a paralyzed kitten that had been hit by a car and a slew of puppies with various injuries. I was told not to touch one chocolate brown pup that might be rabid. He sat howling in his cage on a sunny patio. Poor little guy. If he turned out to have rabies he was a goner. The center was busy with dogs receiving treatment and cleanings, and with the volunteers taking dogs out for walks in the farm fields across the road. There wasn’t anywhere free to bring Mojo out, but I went in to say hi anyway. This turned out to be a big mistake, as he had a lot more energy now, and he went berserk as soon as he saw me, howling and running in circles, wagging his tail and jumping up and down. I pet him for a second through the bars and quickly retreated. Half an hour later I was able to bring him out. His head wound looked much better now. The muscles and flesh were all much smoother, and aside from the fact that it still looked like a slab of raw meat and half his head was basically still missing, you could tell that it was going to be fine, though it would take a long time to heal. He was no longer hungry and dehydrated, no longer anemic, no longer had lice or maggots, and he was full of antibiotics and vitamins. On the mend and in much better general health, for the first time more of his personality became apparent. First off, he was sweet and playful. He came up and brushed against me. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and drew his head towards mine and he licked me on the cheek and nudged me with his forehead. He was nervously pacing around the rectangular courtyard, but now when I clapped my hands or beckoned him, he came right over and stood in front of me, wagging his tail and wiggling his hind quarters excitedly. It also became quickly apparent that he was a dominant male and more than a bit bossy. At the end of the courtyard was a metal gate door that opened onto the main grounds of the center, where 30 or so dogs lived permanently. Every time he caught sight of one he ran over barking. It wasn’t so much a “hey there, let’s play” bark - more of a “I want to fight and bite you” bark. Seems I had rescued a bit of a bad boy. To his defense he was a five year-old male stray who had lived a hard life on the streets, and was now in a new environment, captive, and surrounded by more than a hundred strange dogs. I started lecturing him though, telling him how he had to chill out if he wanted to fit in and be happy there.

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A little brushing and petting and it was time to go. I took him back to his kennel and gave him half the bag of milk. The dog next to him was meek and looking at me with huge sad eyes, so I gave him a fair bit of the rest. I took what was left and went outside to find the soft and friendly resident kitty. He came running and happily lapped up the rest of the milk as I left. The sun was setting and I had started the day at 3am in Jodhpur. I rode back to Pushkar chilled to the bone on the scooter, and quickly fell asleep at 7pm.

Day 18 – January 8, 2011 I spent the morning taking photos on the camel mela grounds, and I noticed the skies over Pushkar were filled with colorful diamonds. India’s national kite festival was only six days away, and hundreds of kids were flying kites from their rooftops. My trip was reaching its end, and I wanted to do some small random act of kindness, as so many people had been nice and generous towards me over the previous few months. I stopped by a kite shop with the intent of buying a few kites to give to the kids in Kharkheri. I figured the kites would cost about 15 rupees a piece (about 30 cents US). I arrived at the kite shop to find it mobbed with kids buying string, which was wound onto their own spindles from a wooden rack. To my surprise the most popular kites, made from stiff paper attached to a frame of thin bent wooden strips, cost only 3 rupees (about 6 cents US). A even cheaper version, made from a thin film of plastic, cost only 1 rupee, but I could imagine the whole town littered with the plastic, and I opted for 30 of the paper kites instead, along with two spools of string. Grand total for 30 kites – under two dollars. I went by the tailor to pick up Mojo’s “vest.” Hmm. Definitely not what I was expecting. It was basically a large rectangle, with four small holes at the extreme corners. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. Maybe it would work. Craftspeople in Rajasthan are very prideful in their work and seem sensitive to criticism, so I said it looked perfect and set off for Kharkheri, the vest in the compartment under the seat and my bounty of kites wedged awkwardly between my knees as I navigated the scooter through the crowded narrow streets of Pushkar. The kids did seem pretty happy, and within ten minutes all thirty kites had gone to children ranging from five to ten years old. I enlisted the owner of the general store to keep the spools of string and portion them out to the kids. I arrived at Tree of Life to find a black mutt on the operating table with a giant cancerous tumor protruding from its neck. Poor creature, the tumor was the size of a cantaloupe melon. It

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had just arrived, and I asked how it was and what the prognoses was... not realizing that it had just died. I went out the small courtyard outside the operating room and found a tiny kitten feebly drinking from a large bowl of water. It had been hit by a car and was shaking and walking sideways. It’s so easy to ignore the suffering of the creatures all around you when it’s not in your face. The exercise yards were all full again, and Mojo wasn’t yet ready to mingle with other dogs, so I put off saying hi to him for the time being, not wanting to get him all excited prematurely, and I went out to a long rectangular walkway to find a couple of adorable black and white fluffy furball puppies. They were climbing on each other and seemed to be in good shape. The same can’t be said for an adult dog that was standing behind them, emaciated and missing much of its fur on its front half. It was very skittish and recoiled every time I extended a hand to pet it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I turned around to find an even more pitiful guy behind me, the same in size and color, but even thinner. You could see all the contours of his pelvis as if he were just a skeleton. He had mange and sores all over his body and face. He sat curled in a fetal position, looking like some kind of wounded fawn, and despite my best attempts to offer him some sort of affection, he just lay there looking pitiful. How can we allow these creatures to get to this point before doing something? It takes weeks of misery to get to this point, and these dogs have territories, living amongst the same group of people every day. I spent the net couple of hours documenting various facets of the operation of the center. It was quite an admirable operation. Everyone there worked so hard, all day, and a lot of the work wasn’t terribly pleasant: cleaning kennels, carrying dogs around, mixing food and washing bowls. The dedication of the staff was impressive. And despite the obvious reward that comes with doing something positive to help others, be they human or not, it seemed to be a stereotypically “thankless job.” The dogs obviously couldn’t say thanks, and the work was relentless. Every day new cases arrived. I said to the director Rachel “it never ends?” “No, never,” she replied. I talked to one of the Australian volunteers about the possibility of taking Mojo on a walk, and before I knew it there he was, saddled up in a harness and leash, emerging from the side of the kennel into the outside world for the first time I had seen. To my surprise though, he didn’t seem too keen on the idea. He put on the brakes and wouldn’t budge, even when we nudged him from behind. Eventually the volunteer had to pick him up and carry him out the gate.

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Day 19 – January 8, 2011 What a day. I had seen a lot of new things during my time in India, but nothing like what I would see at Tree of Life on this day. I started the day early, picking up another round of 30 kites for the kids in Kharkheri. I realized that the day before I had given almost all of them to boys. I’m not sure why, perhaps they were just more aggressive in pushing to the front of the line. This time I gave out all but five to girls, including a few grandmas, and the other few went to kids at the rescue center. I arrived at Tree of Life to find a monkey sitting stoically in one of the dog kennels. It was a large male black-faced macaque, the main type of monkey found throughout Pushkar. There are hundreds of them in the trees and rooftops throughout town. This one had been electrocuted, something I was all too familiar with from my time working with baboons in South Africa. He had burns to most of the front of his torso and limbs. Upon closer inspection he wasn’t really sitting stoically but rather swaying faintly from side to side in shock. He died a couple of hours later, and it was probably better that way. The pain must have been unbearable. One of the vet students explained to me that electrocution not only causes burns to the skin and breaks bones, it actually burns tissues inside the body. The baboon cases I had seen in South Africa were horrible. I got to see Mojo right away. He was thrilled to get out of the kennel, running around in circles and wagging his tail. He was even more boisterous today, growling at every hint of motion from the main dog yard, then alternately running over to me for a quick brushing or petting. It reminded me of his namesake, my older brother’s late pit bull Mojo, who would explode with sheer joy whenever my brother or his wife would come home from work, running around the room and alternately grabbing and dropping toys and taking quick bites from his food bowl. He was a lovable dog and this was one of his many endearing behaviors. The staff came out to give Mojo his daily cleaning. I had been impressed at his toughness and level of cooperation from the day I found him. He rarely protested at any stage of the whole ordeal. I think as Rachel had said that he knew we were helping him. Plus he was just a sweet guy. I got to see the wound up close again and it was amazing how much better it looked. The surface was smooth and uniform, and there was very little puss and no sign of infected tissue. I was really happy for him.

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My time with Mojo on this day would be short, and I left for the operating room to see something I had never seen and may never again. Sitting on the table on a deep blue dropcloth, fully sedated, was a four or five month old puppy with light brown fur. His body was mostly covered, save for his right hind leg. Two of the veterinary students from Australia were meticulously snipping through the flesh in a circle around the limb, one tiny bit at a time. Doctor Ashok was at the next table over, working on a spaying that had run into complications, and would soon be over to amputate the leg. I had seen all of the dogs in the yard with missing limbs, most of whom had been hit by cars. They were almost all missing back legs. The car comes along and they run out of the way, but not quite fast enough, and it hits their hind legs. Some are able to keep the legs, though they may be deformed or largely useless, and some wind up partially paralyzed. For the others the limb is too badly damaged and it’s amputated, usually all the way up at the shoulder. This little guy didn’t know it, but in an hour he’d be waking up with three legs. It wouldn’t be too much of an adjustment I was told, since the limb had been useless, and he’d been hobbling around on three legs anyway. Still, it has to be pretty traumatic. For the next 30 minutes I watched, and took photos and video, as Doctor Ashok slowly clamped and cut his way through and around muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The assistants were constantly tapping the dog just below its eyelid and watching for a reaction, which is apparently the litmus test for whether more sedative is needed. By the end there were about ten different clamps on various arteries and blood vessels. I was amazed with the skill and proficiency with which he carried out the operation. When the moment came and the last bit of muscle was cut through, the limb broke loose, wrapped in blue surgical cloth, and the assistant pulled it free. You could see straight down into the ball socket of the shoulder joint, and all around it was a mass of bright red tissue. The whole thing looked amazingly clean and orderly though, a testament to the skill of the surgeon. It was bloody, but it really wasn’t disturbing to watch. Over the next thirty minutes the doctor sewed the wound – first the flesh and muscles and then the skin, pulling it together to form a neat finished wound, albeit Frankenstein-ish. The other team was finishing with the spay operation, which had been difficult but ended well.

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Day 20 – January 8, 2011 My last day with Mojo and I knew it for sure this time. My time in India was rapidly coming to an end, and I would be leaving for Delhi the next day. It was a day that I envisioned being mostly about Mojo. I wanted to spend some quality time with him, give him a good last brushing, and hopefully go for a walk. I started reflecting on my time in India and at Tree of Life though, and reminded myself again how much bigger it was than him. He was on the mend now, and in good spirits, and would do fine. Granted he would have been dead already if I hadn’t extracted him from his abject misery on the street and given him a 600km taxi ride, but he was in a good place now and healing well. He has a relatively young dog, and was strong and full of vim and vigor. I spent most of the day in the puppy yard, with a group of deformed and crippled pups, most of whom had been hit by cars. They were super excited to see me, hobbling over as I scaled the stone wall to their yard, wagging their tails and barking. It was really nice to see these dogs in a safe, secure environment, and it drove home the importance of the work the TOLFA was doing. I was leaving India soon and although I had never planned on it, India’s dogs had become a focus of my trip and would wind up leaving a big impression on me. The afternoon slipped away quickly and I said one last goodbye to Mojo and took the 20 minute ride back to Pushkar in the fading sun and chilly early evening air. I barely had time to think as I had to pack for Delhi, but already I was missing Mojo and all of the friends I had made at the Tree of Life. I left confident that he was in good hands though, and that he had the best chance possible to survive and live out a happy life.

The photographs begin on the next page. (Right) A woman chops goat fodder in a tree in the rural village of Kharkheri, near the Tree of Life Rescue Center.

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Some of the following images show dogs with injuries, as well as surgical operations, and may be disturbing to some viewers. It’s also strongly recommended that you read the text of the book first, as all of the photo captions refer to events in the narrative.

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THE PHOTOGRAPHS

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I found Mojo on the street in Jaisalmer, a desert city of 60,000 in the far west of the State of Rajasthan near the border with Pakistan. This is a view of the city from the Jaisalmer fort.

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Gadi Sagar is a local lake and holy site that affords the classic postcard view of Jaisalmer at sunrise. In the background is the fort. Much of Jaisalmer is constructed from golden sandstone.

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Jaisalmer is famous for its grandiose sandstone havelis. A haveli is essentially a fancy house or mansion.

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A statue to the Hindu deity Ganesh on the banks of Gadi Sagar

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Mojo was found just out of the frame to right of this photo. As you can see he shared his neighborhood with free-roaming cows and pigs.

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A boy flies a kite down the street from where Mojo was found. Kite flying is a national pastime in India.

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This is the very first photo I took of Mojo. I could hardly believe my eyes, as people sat around next to him joking and having tea.

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His eye was swollen shot and his head infested with hundreds of maggots. He was utterly pathetic. Shortly after this we began the chase around town to capture him.

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Several hours later we had Mojo captured and brought to the Jaisalmer animal hospital, which, as it turns out, was only a few blocks from where Mojo had been sitting for two months.

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Mojo gnaws at the metal bars of his cage. He would stay outside in this cage for the next five days, with little water and only the food that I brought him.

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This is the animal hospital in Jaisalmer. They mainly deliver vaccinations and other shots to local livestock - camels and goats and horses and cows.

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The inside of the main treatment area at the hospital

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The group of visiting doctors give Mojo his very first medical attention, pouring turpentine on his head through the cage, to kills and dislodge the maggots.

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Doctors sterilize their tools

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If you have a weak stomach you should skip over the next two pages. To do this type page 68 into the page counter in your PDF viewer, or just close your eyes and advance pages twice with your mouse or keyboard. Bear in mind that Mojo was still alive and awake when these were taken, and that he gets much better as the story goes on.

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These are important photos to illustrate what he was dealing with, and to show in general the problem that dogs in India face from so many flies in the environment. Scenes like this obviously make us uncomfortable.The best response is to do something to address the problem.

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The turpentine was very effective in killing the maggots and bringing them to the surface. For two months Mojo had been sitting on the street like this. All of the maggots wouldn’t be gone until he arrived at the Tree of Life for more treatment.

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Mojo rests as I make the first attempt to get him to eat some food - in this case veggie samosas. At this point he wouldn’t eat anything and was barely moving at all.

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A view looking out from the hospital

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Dr. Vasudev Garg, the resident vet, finally arrives back and starts to pay serious attention to Mojo in between caring for goats, camels, and other livestock.

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Hospital staff clean the operating table in preparation for Mojo’s first major medical treatment

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Mojo is carried to the operating room by the scruff of his back

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Hospital staff prepare to give Mojo his first major treatment

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Dr. Garg prepares for the surgery

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Mojo is brought outside and put on a ledge after he becomes too difficult to handle on the operating table inside. He could only be given small amounts of anesthesia, and he was thrashing around wildly.

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Looking more than half-dead, I was questioning my decision to being Mojo off the street at this point, seeing how bad this was for him. Doctors said he would have died within a few more days on the street.

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Dr. Garg washes up during the surgery

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Mojo lies in the sun after the surgery, his head wrapped in gauze. He was somewhat anesthetized at the point, but mostly just exhausted and too weak to move.

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The vet assistant tries to get Mojo to eat some samosas on his third day with no food.

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Mojo still wasn’t interested

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The kids with their goats at the hospital

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The girl who had the hard time keeping her goats under control

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The girl at right climbed the tree to get acacia fodder for her goats

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More than 20 feet up in the acacia tree!

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The vet assistant washes cars and Mojo sits in his cage

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Dr. Garg contemplates what to do with Mojo. This was the point at which we had decided to euthanize him. Hours later I returned for the appointed time, and we looked at each other and knew that we couldn’t go through with it.

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The tailor in Jaisalmer who spent the better part of a day, along with his son and other family members, helping to find a suitable box to put Mojo in for the trip to Pushkar.

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The tailor’s home and family

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Mojo in his cage on the night before we were scheduled to leave Jaisalmer for Pushkar. Vet staff put the blanket around his cage to keep out the cold night air in the desert.

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The ashes from the fire that staff built in an attempt to keep Mojo warm as night temperatures dropped to near freezing.

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The big day comes and Mojo is lifted from his cage into his box at 6:30 in the morning. The private taxi company was nice enough to allow a sick, smelly dog to ride in their cab all day, and provided a reasonable rate - $90 for a 14 hour ride.

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Mojo’s TV box, with airholes cut in the side. He was sedated at this point, and dealt with the long journey very well.

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We stop for breakfast east of Jaisalmer and Mojo is still knocked out in his box

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Veg seller on the roadside during the cab trip

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Sikh parade participants in an unknown small town on the way to Pushkar

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Desert east of Jaisalmer

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Construction in the middle of nowhere as we begin the approach to Pushkar

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Farming west of Pushkar; we were about three hours away at the point, and would soon hit the road closure due to strikes

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We finally arrive at the Tree of Life in Pushkar and staff are waiting, in the dark, and immediately pluck Mojo from the cab and bring him into the operating room.

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Almost there Mojo! I was basically about to have a nervous breakdown at this point from the stress of the past week and the trip to Tree of Life.

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Tree of Life (TOLFA) staff look on as director Rachel Wright prepares to let Mojo out for his first look at his new life in Pushkar.

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After 14 hours in his TV box Mojo emerges. His head is still covered in gauze at this point. The cab driver is in the background.

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Mojo is given antibiotics, vitamins, and electrolytes as the staff immediately begin his treatment. They also treated him for lice, seeing that he was anemic.

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Mojo settles into his box on his first night at TOLFA

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TOLFA staff work to remove maggots from another injury to one of Mojo’s elbows. Within a couple days of arriving at TOLFA Mojo was free of the maggots that had been tormenting him for weeks on the street.

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Mojo’s white gums signal that he’s anemic, the result of lice that he was promptly treated for.

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On his second day at TOLFA, Mojo begins his first major step towards a big improvement in his condition. Doctors shave much of his head and cut away infected flesh.

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TOLFA’s work is incredible. These dogs belong to no one. They have no one to help them unless people step in to do the right thing. It’s a thankless job, and the caseload never stops.

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Dr. Ashok Kumar, lead vet at TOLFA, checks Mojo’s vitals after his first major treatment there. At this point he confirmed that Mojo’s brain had not been exposed, which was a big concern.

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Mojo is taken to the courtyard for some sun after his first major treatment. Staff must muzzle dogs with their hands or some fabric to avoid bites, as rabies is a big problem in India.

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Mojo stammers around the courtyard after his first big treatment. The winter weather at this point was still pretty chilly, and Pushkar is colder than most of the rest of Rajasthan. Summer temperatures are scorching however.

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His head looking like a package of ground beef, Mojo is nevertheless looking a heck of a lot better already at this point. The infection that nearly killed him is starting to be controlled, and he’s receiving vitamins, antibiotics, and good food and water.

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TOLFA director Rachel Wright carries Mojo to his quarters at the kennels. Behind her is a dog with canine distemper.

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Two weeks after finding him Mojo was still looking pretty rough, but he was doing much better. His spirits and energy level were way up at this point.

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TOLFA staff apply ayurvedic healing ointment to Mojo’s wound

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Mojo enjoys the first of the bags of milk that I brought him from Pushkar

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Perhaps the most exciting day in my time with Mojo was when I first started brushing him. It was such a tangible, immediate result. I could tell that he was absolutely loving it.

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Mojo relaxes after a monumental 90 minute brushing. I think we emptied the brush at least 20 times!

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TOLFA staff give Mojo his daily treatment near his spot in the kennel

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His wound was cleaned daily

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Mojo enjoys his food, a welcome break from eating garbage on the streets of Jaisalmer. Pushkar is a Hindu holy city, and is completely meat free, so finding meat for the dogs is hard. They’re fed a rice mix supplemented by Pedigree dry dog food. TOLFA’s yearly bill for Pedigree is several thousands dollars. Helping pay for this would be a great way to support them in this most basic and crucial expense.

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TOLFA staff with Mojo after his first week there

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A TOLFA volunteer, a veterinary student from Australia, carries Mojo across the dog yard (he was bossy with the other dogs) to go for a walk.

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Mojo goes for a walk in the countryside near TOLFA. TOLFA is situated in a beautiful mountainous valley, and is surrounded by idyllic farmland.

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TOLFA staff give Mojo a hard-boiled egg treat. To say he was enthusiastic about this would be an understatement!

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Mojo showed more than a casual interest in TOLFA’s storeroom full of Pedigree dog food.

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Mojo is given a biscuit treat

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The last photo I took of Mojo before leaving India. This was taken about three weeks after I first found him.

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Mojo as I found him on the street

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An updated photo from April 2011, about ten weeks later

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Mojo and I at the Tree of Life

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Mojo and Tree of Life director Rachel Wright

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Tree of Life for Animals

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UK native Rachel Wright started TOLFA in 2005 and has grown the organization to more than a dozen staff providing care to more than 150 animals at any given moment.

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Dr. Ashok Kumar is the lead veterinarian at TOLFA

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TOLFA staff aid a paralyzed kitten in trying to walk

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Volunteer veterinary students work alongside TOLFA doctors and staff in a fast-paced, demanding, and intense environment.

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TOLFA staff walk an injured dog. They care for a variety of animals, but dogs account for most cases. At any given time there are about 70 sterilization cases and about 70 more injury cases.

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This puppy arrived at TOLFA after being hit by a car, and later died. Vehicle strikes account for the majority of injuries.

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One of the 30 or so dogs in the permanent population at TOLFA. Most of these are dogs with amputations, distemper, or other conditions that would make life back on the street very difficult. At TOLFA they have a large yard to run in and reliable food and water.

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The kitty and his catch, as mentioned in the narrative

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TOLFA doctors and a veterinary student volunteer sterilize a dog. Animal birth control (ABC) is the foundation of all efforts to control stray populations in India. TOLFA is authorized to sterilize 20 dogs per day. The nearby city of Ajmer is estimated to have about 15,000 strays. One female dog can produce 15 puppies a year.

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A dog with distemper stumbles past the entrance to the TOLFA operating room and kennels. Canine distemper is a virus, and causes debilitating neurological impairment.

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Children from the rural village of Kharkheri, 2km down the road from TOLFA.

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A boy transports goat fodder near Kharkheri

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Looking back towards Pushkar from the rural road leading towards Kharkheri and TOLFA

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Rock mining on the road leading to TOLFA

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Every day a rescue truck arrives at TOLFA with more injured dogs. This dog had its leg severed after it was run over by a train. The other dog had already passed away by the time it arrived.

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TOLFA doctors successfully amputated this dog’s right leg, and it was able to heal the left leg, which mostly just had damage to the toes. He made a full recovery.

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A frail and emaciated dog recovers at TOLFA, where it will get regular food and water. Weak and injured dogs are very vulnerable on the streets, where competition is fierce, and the environment is very unforgiving to an injured or sick dog.

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This dog in the permanent population at TOLFA has both of his back legs amputated after being hit by a car. He now uses his tail as a third leg.

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Dr. Ashok finishes amputating the leg of a puppy that was hit by a car

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Overcrowded Indian cities with chaotic traffic and a huge population of stray dogs means an enormous number of dogs hit by cars.

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Cows and dogs are one of the most omnipresent fixtures on city streets in Rajasthan. India has millions of stray dogs.

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A male langur monkey arrives at TOLFA after being electrocuted on power lines, a common problem with monkeys around the world. See the book Chacma from eNatureBooks for examples of this in South African baboons. This monkey died right after this was taken.

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TOLFA staff prepare food for the dogs

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Volunteers from around the world come to TOLFA. Many are vets, vet assistants, or veterinary students

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Organizations like TOLFA are tackling the stray problem in India head-on, providing sterilization for the big picture and compassionate medical care to injured dogs.

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I can personally attest the tireless efforts and the high quality of the work that TOLFA is doing. I strongly encourage anyone who loves dogs to support their work.

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Thank you for reading. Please support the Tree of Life for Animals Rescue Center. Learn more at www.tolfa.org.uk. Be sure to see eNatureBook’s Dogs of India, as well as Slum Dogs of India, by Eloise Leyden.

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Mojo & The Tree of Life, by Brett Cole  

Sitting lifeless on a street in the desert city of Jaisalmer in western India... follow Mojo's odyssey hundreds of miles to the Tree of Life...

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