Thursday, August 25, 2022

Alice Pupkin January 2012 - March 2022

Alice died in March. I haven’t really been able to talk or write about it until now. Just last fall, she had a full check up and was fine. Then, end of January, she suddenly became very ill. The vet said she had liver cancer but she contracted a virus before that. 

She was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was  my home and I was hers. Wherever we were, we were home if we were together. She was the love of my life.

In some ways, she was a delightfully normal doggy dog. But she was also a super smart street dog. She was quirky and moody, could be wildly independent or deeply needy and everything in between. She could leave me, to walk with friends or family, or escape through one of her houdiniesque schemes to go visit friends around town, which often led to her running into traffic with half the village on a merry chase to catch her.  But I could not leave her, not alone, not with anyone, without her howling endlessly in such heart searing pain that she brought two different dogsitters to hysterical tears when I had to go somewhere without her for even ten minutes. If I tied her up outside and went into a shop even briefly, she would watch the door intently, whining  and concerned until I came out. It wasn’t just wailing; she destroyed things and sometimes hurt herself.

A friend described her reaction upon my return from an attempt at dinner out, as, “You came back from the dead!”

I wish she would.

I used to tell her, “Alice, you don’t have to worry, I will always come back to you. You are the love of my life.”  Then I’d paraphrase a Gord Downie line, from a poem about a man addressing his child, “Don’t cry. If you cry, I’ll cry, and my crying will make your crying look like laughing.”

Her separation anxiety  is over. Mine will never end.

We all live in a world of grief now, and bad times are much worse for the weakest and most vulnerable.  There are a number of organizations in Kathmandu that work to alleviate the stray and abused animal problems, and these two do incredible work. If you want to honor dogs, you can donate to Street Dog Care or KAT Centre.


You can read more about Alice here: Dharma Pup

Saturday, June 15, 2013


What kind of dog is she?

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

How did she get her name?

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

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

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

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

How did she like her first Canadian winter? 

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

Did she wear a coat?

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

How does she get along with other dogs?

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

Has she lost her 'street' cred?

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

Any regrets?

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Alice in Photos

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chapter Fifteen: Not Without My Puppy

"You don’t have to go far in South Asia for a Reality Check.  Until his brother-in-law got settled in the Gulf and started sending money back, Lobsang was the sole support of his entire extended family, three adults, five kids, three dogs and a cat.  As a grocer, he could at least feed his kin with his inventory until his brother-in-law was able to contribute.  For so many others, not working meant not eating at all.  I worried most about the old ladies who picked and sold stinging nettles (which are used to make a cheap and nutritious soup).  They came in on foot from the countryside each afternoon, hauling huge loads of greens on their bent backs. They handled the nettles with rubber gloves, and sold them for a few rupees a bag. On a good day they could make five dollars.  How did these people manage to live during a bandh?  You can’t survive for long eating nothing but your own nettles."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Refugee Dogs: Rescuing Afghan War Pups

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

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

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

Chapter Thirteen: A Crash Course in Nepali History

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