Lost and Found

I started writing this the morning we found Hela. I haven’t changed it because this truly expresses the despair we felt. It was exactly 20 days since we had lost her. This was the first morning, that I woke up and told myself that I had to get a grip over myself. That no matter the time or cost we would keep looking for Hela, but it was time that I didn’t let the grief take over me, time I went to work, time my family could stop worrying about me and how inconsolable I was. As always I decided to start writing down what I felt to help me with the process, and then a few hours later I got the best call of my life. We found her! The first few paragraphs (in italics ) were written that morning and the rest after we found her. I am breaking down even now as I write it. They were the most trying 20 days of our life. I am going to be using real names here because well, I can’t thank you all enough for all the support and help we received. I am sorry for the ones I miss out because fortunately this is one of those rare times when the number of people who turned up in every way to help us was just incredible. Specially at a time when my faith and trust in people was at the lowest. I didn’t even believe in true friendship anymore, I believed that we as humans we were inherently absolutely selfish, mean, petty and heartless little beings. And then, YOU! Hundreds of you. Changed it all. We are indebted to all of you forever.

One little mistake and we lost Hela. We live in a house where some common space is shared between multiple people. Mostly renters. This also included the main gate. And someone’s carelessness with it, led to me losing my baby. I know who that was. We all do. And most times I am so angry at them. Almost hating them. Cursing them for what they did. But, I also know they didn’t intend to and it was a very unfortunate accident. Still, doesn’t make me feel any better. Constantly thinking of how I should have been more careful. Blaming myself for it all.

I quit my full time job last August and so I spend a lot of time at home now. And Hela, was literally my shadow. Now, how am I supposed to live in this house? There isn’t one place that doesn’t remind me of her. Every morning I expect her to nuzzle up to me and wake me up. Every time someone knocks, I expect to hear her bark. Every time I open the door, I expect her to come running, begging to go out. When I am on the couch, I expect her to come and sneakily sit in my lap, acting like I can’t notice it. Every evening at 6, I almost get up to give her food, and then realize she isn’t there. And then wonder if she has eaten, is she hungry, does she have shelter, is she safe? I dream of her every night. Dreaming of holding her and playing with her. And then I wake up with a startle, actually running up to see if she is sleeping in her spot. And then, it hits me. It was a dream. She still isn’t back home. I break down and sob till daylight.

Only a pet parent, not a pet owner, but a pet parent can understand this. They are part of your family, they are like your children. As I start writing this, it has been 20 days since she went missing. We haven’t found her yet, neither have we received any concrete news or information. We have done everything that we could think of. Things we didn’t even believe in. Things desperation and love drives you to. And, I know I will still do everything that I can. I keep looking up for methods to find a lost pet and I am heartbroken to see that I have done it all and still have no luck. Even done things which are not in any lists.

  1. Search parties
  2. Flyers in newspapers
  3. Posters
  4. Pet rescue teams
  5. Impounds/Shelters
  6. Cops
  7. Constant social media posts
  8. CCTV footage
  9. Praying
  10. Animal communicators and psychics
  11. Vowing to god, promising, bargaining.

The one thing left is newspaper ads, for which I have scheduled to meet someone later today.

Somebody suggested meeting a god man who can help in this. I am even considering that. It’s so funny because I have been one of those people who rolls her eyes at people who do things like these. Setting themselves up to be duped. But, I don’t care right now. I am constantly wondering what if? What if, I am wrong? What if, they can really do miracles? Despair and grief makes you question your beliefs and stand.

12th February 2019

I was at home in the evening, Hela was out in the compound playing around. My parents who live right upstairs called me and asked me to send my son, as my cousin and niece had come over. I felt it would be impolite to not go too, and decided to go up for 5 minutes. Every time I tried to walk out, the baby would coo , everyone would gush over her and I would stay back thinking it would be rude. I was feeling very restless and I wanted to get down back home. When I finally walked out, the opposite building’s watchman told me that Hela had run out on the road. I screamed for my dad and ran out. I kept asking people, describing her and followed her tracks but could never spot her. My dad was out looking too, but no luck. I had called Abhinav and he was on his way home. After a certain point, nobody had seen Hela and we were just standing in the middle of a crossroad not understanding which way to go. After a long time, we got back home and then we came to know through the watchman that Hela had tried to get back in the gate but it was locked. We were so frustrated that they hadn’t called us as soon as it happened and had waited for me to come out. We had lost a few precious minutes which could have made all the difference.

I told couple of my friends as we were supposed to go on a holiday two days later and they informed others. I told them cause they were discussing about the trip, mostly organized by me on the group chat, and I wanted to let them know the situation and hence my absence from any further planning. Abhinav came home and rushed to the local police station to look at the CCTV footage. He could see that I was barely 2 minutes behind her. But 2 minutes is a very long time when you are dealing with a fast dog like a Mudhol hound. Unfortunately, the CCTV camera coverage stopped at the same point we had got stuck at. Checked the cameras of the other lanes where it was available, but no trace. I posted on social media with her details, asking for people to help us. I got a call from a woman at around 9 saying she had spotted her at a point and time which was the same as the first few minutes. We knew she wasn’t there anymore. A lot of our friends and family members turned up and we were out on the streets till late night looking for her. Payal came home and babysat my son so I could go out on the search. A lot of residents in and around had seen her. I was very upset but still had hopes of finding her. I tried to go to bed, but would wake up multiple times and just run out on the streets looking for her. Running every time I heard dogs bark. If I did end up falling asleep, I would dream that she is back. And this was my regular nightly ritual till we found her. Running on streets, dreaming that she is back only to wake up and realize that she isn’t and then break down crying.

13th February 2019

We were out on the streets early morning. Basically we were out through the night and till morning. Got a call from someone that they had spotted her. Was the first of a long series of false alarms. I got the flyers printed during the day and we went out all evening till nightfall sticking the flyers on every street in a 3 km radius. Distributing in every apartment, store and house. Came across and spoke to multiple people and heard their stories of losing their dogs. Some had happy endings, some didn’t. People from my Father in law’s office, Tej, Haritha who was forever terrorized by Hela, Parmesh, Aditya and others went walking around and distributing the flyers. Someone got in touch with Abhinav and suggested us to go to the dog impounds. We googled it and went near Amberpet. We didn’t find a place like that and were on our way back home dejected when Abhinav got a call from Akash who had seen our flyer. He told us how his dog was napped 3 months ago and gave us a lot of tips for the search. He told us about some very active Dog mafia groups and suggested we look for Hela there.

While giving updates to my friends who were asking me about Hela, I shared this latest bit with Youhan. He offered to come and help. Go with us to these places and look for her. I declined the offer, we weren’t still sure of how real it was. Didn’t want to get people out for something which would probably turn into another false lead. Later in the night Youhan shared a few prayers his friend had sent it to him for me. Prayers that would help me guide Hela back home. I am not someone who believes in all this, but at this point I was ready to do anything.

We gave some flyers to our local newspaper distributor who was going to put it in every newspaper from the next morning. He told us of multiple dognappings which had happened in our area in the recent past, but he also told us about a happy reunion after 20 days. We were hoping we would have a similar story to share soon.

Night comes and Abhinav goes looking for her again, this time the places Akash had mentioned too. Nothing. The same dreams, the same heartbreak. My family by now was getting worried for me. I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was completely inconsolable. I held myself responsible for what happened. I hadn’t felt such despair before and I just didn’t know how to handle it.

14th February 2019

Somebody got in touch with me on Facebook that they had seen Hela near Narayanguda. We were told almost 2 hours after the supposed spotting. My dad and I went rushing, searching all over, asking everyone. Nothing. We distributed flyers all over that area and hoped for the best.

I did the prayers Youhan had sent me. Sobbing, crying. They were so painful. Praying so that she is fed, safe and finds her way home again. This kept bringing the worst case scenarios to my head. What if she is starving or hurt?

Abhinav and I did rounds of the impounds. First we went to the Begum bazaar impound. It took us more than hour to find it. It’s not on the map and we had to go to various government offices to find the way. Finally when we got there, the person working there had one look at Hela’s picture and announced that they would never touch a dog like that. They apparently picked only indies, vaccinated, sterilized them and dropped them back after 3-5 days at the same place. And Hela, clearly looked like an exotic breed plus she had a collar. They would never touch a dog like that. We still went in to have a look at the dogs currently in the impound. I ran out gagging. The stench was unbearable! 5-7 dogs in a small kennel, all huddled. Most of them crying and whining. They started creating a louder ruckus when we entered, begging us to let them free. This upset me so much more and I broke down again. We went to another impound, where they didn’t even let us in cause they were sure that they would never pick Hela. We shared the pictures and promised them the 10k reward if they ever come across her and help us get her back.

My friend Gayathri sent me an article from a newspaper featuring this lady called Sumathi Neelamegham who was a dog whisperer. She told me that something similar had helped her friend once and it was worth a try. Everything was worth a try, so I looked her up on Facebook and left her a message.

Abhinav had talked at the Kachiguda police station and they had agreed to let us sit and watch the CCTV cameras in the night. The plan was for some of us to scan the cameras in the hope that Hela would come out in our view, and a few of us would be out on the streets ready to follow our lead. Myself, my brother in law Pranav and Parmesh, a member of our office sat at the station while Abhinav, Ananth, Shoury and Nikhil were on the streets. Dogs are more active in the night and we were hoping we would finally catch a break. We saw a lot of stray dogs, realized how many cameras didn’t work, how little of the city was covered and how hard the cops’ job was. Still, no luck with Hela.

15th February 2019

We went distributing flyers to all vet clinics and pet shops in and around. Couple of places already knew about us. The post had been widely shared on social media now. I had been posting updates almost every day on various Hyderabad based animal and pet groups. And people had been resharing it widely. But, still we had no strong leads.

I was really desperate now and I tried looking up to contact Sumathi again. She hadn’t even read my messages, so I looked up our mutual friends and contacted Swati who was Abhinav’s manager years ago and was a dear friend of ours. She gave us Sumathi’s contact and spoke very highly of her. Unfortunately she was unavailable, but she got us connected to another communicator called Suraj. So apparently, animal communicators are pet psychics. They can communicate with our pets or any animals and pass on messages to and fro. Sounds like an absolute doozy right? Honestly, I would have laughed at anyone who would have told me about this in any other situation. But, now I didn’t care. I was ready to believe anything when it came to having a chance of getting Hela back.

Suraj asked us for Hela’s details along with 2000/- for his services. Picture, name and age. He had a call with us in the evening and told us that Hela was out in the open. He could see a lot of greenery around her. Then he said that he could sense that we didn’t spend a lot of time with each other as a family and didn’t give her any attention. That she left home on purpose. Well, every family feels they don’t spend enough time with each other and we know Hela ran out and wasn’t nabbed. He told me that Hela was connected to me and attached to me the most and could feel what I felt. So, I had to stay calm and positive. He asked me to visualize meeting her near the park close to our home and go for a walk. Hela would see this image in my mind and come there. I was too scared to even question any of it. What if all of this was true? What if she could really feel what I felt? After all, dogs are known to sense a lot more than humans can. So, I went along with it. Walk at the park done, still no Hela. But, him saying that she knew her way home and she was safe, kind of gave me peace and I actually fell asleep that night. Soon, it was back to those dreams and heartbreak again.

16th June 2018

Suraj didn’t respond to much through the day. Kept saying he was busy. We had no luck with our regular search parties either. My cousin Sunder suggested animal communicators and had shared my number with an acquaintance who knew more about it.

Vinnie, called me. She is from Bombay and works with rescues and other animals quite a bit. She suggested multiple communicators. Some were busy and some didn’t respond. Jyoti Ponnampalath responded and was ready to take it up immediately. Abhinav agreed because he knew I wanted it. He knew that I didn’t believe in all this either but I guess it was better for me to feel like I was actually doing something more than just despairing through the day. She was charging 4000/-

My brother in law Sunil came in that night to help us with the search. Jyoti messaged us at around 8:30 saying Hela was at a small market place near our house, at a 10-15 minutes walking distance. We rushed to the little market area under the Narayanguda flyover and started asking around, giving out the flyers. We got a lot of false leads. We sent the picture of the marketplace and Jyoti was very sure that Hela was around there. And this went on and took us through multiple locations. Then she said she can see an ice cream shop on the same stretch, next to a kirana store. We went on a wild goose chase searching for such a place and ended up at Venkateshwara colony near YMCA Narayanguda. There was an ATM out on the main road, the watchman there and another from the adjacent building claimed to have seen Hela a night before in that locality. This boosted my hopes and confidence. Jyoti said Hela was sitting inside a building next to a red car. We started entering whatever buildings we could, looking for a red car and screaming her name. Then Jyoti said she could see a building starting with the letter “S. We couldn’t find that but we came across people from a basti who said they had seen her. We went around that area for a long time and finally gave up and came back home.

17th June 2019

I did the prayers again through the day, this time in a much calmer state of mind. Telling myself she was safe and we were going to find her soon.

Nightfall and we were back following Jyoti’s leads. Took us through Himayatnagar this time. This was an emotionally exhausting night. She would describe a location, confirm it from our pictures and claim Hela was standing right there. But, she clearly wasn’t. The leads were very vague too. A building under construction, green flags outside a mosque, a school. These things were all over the place. They weren’t really one of a kind clue. At one of the basti we were asked to meet this man who has pets and people said he was a breeder. We met him and their son. They shared their horror story. They weren’t breeders. Their dog was stolen by a breeder and he got him out somehow. He gave us all the details and even told us the tricks we need to play to be safe, as this was a proper dog mafia we were talking about. We were talking about big money here, a situation where they wouldn’t mind hurting us.

After a very frustrating search I asked Jyoti why couldn’t she guide Hela home? If she could communicate with her and pass message to and fro, why couldn’t she ask her to come home? Jyoti claimed Hela knew her way home, but still asked us to make her a map and send pictures of some landmarks so she can ask Hela to do that. We drove back home, taking pictures along the way, quickly made the map and sent her. It was 1 a.m., and she said she needs to memorize this, clear her mind and then guide Hela. The time was fixed for 4 a.m. I was so excited, barely able to sleep. I sit up at 3:50 ready and waiting. At 4:15 I start texting Jyoti and after another 10 minutes, calling her. No response. She responds back next at 7 a.m. saying “Sorry dear, I slept off.” Then she is busy for the day and disappears.

18th June 2019

Abhinav and Sunil went to one of the breeder’s place, pretending to be a buyer. They talked random shop for a long time and then finally, indirectly asked if they could get a trained, year old or so Mudhol hound. The man said he could arrange but would take time. We knew Hela wasn’t with him but we were getting antsy now. A lot of people through social media were telling us how rare a breed Hela was and most breeders would want to grab her. My sister had a friend who was a breeder herself, and was our inside eyes in the breeder community. She was supposed to inform us if anyone got themselves a Mudhol hound.

Suraj finally started responding back today, and together him and Jyoti took us to the edge of our patience. At 5 in the evening they took us right in the middle of the main road claiming Hela was standing there. That was impossible! Even a stray which is used to being on the street won’t be there at peak traffic hour, forget a scared, confused pet! She said Hela was thirsty and we needed to carry water. That just pissed me off. Suraj did some “Golden thread” process. Asking me to imagine sending out a golden beam of light into the sky which would then connect to Hela and guide her home. I know. I know how whack ass crazy it sounds. But, I closed my mind, gave into it and did exactly what he asked me to. He said Hela would be back in 45 minutes. She wasn’t. I lost my temper. I asked a simple question. We all know that when it comes to hunger and thirst an animal would even put their life in danger to get to it. So Hela, who according to them knew the way home but was just out having fun, was not coming home when she was so thirsty? It’s simple. Suraj completely went AWOL after this and Jyoti called me to explain how Hela was just as “headstrong” as me and wasn’t listening to her because she could feel me questioning them.

For the next few days……

I decided it was time to put an end to this and for the next two days whenever Jyoti texted, I asked her to give me solid leads. Building with “A”, green gate, medical shop won’t work. I need names and exact location. This died down after a while.

We got a lot of leads of supposed spotting through social media and flyers. We spent a lot of time at Kachiguda, Narayanguda and Nallakunta police station CCTV rooms. The cops were so helpful. They proactively shared her details with their and other precinct. Apparently close to 300 police officers had Hela’s details and were looking out for her. Mr.Jagadish at Narayanguda police station would get upset seeing me breakdown like that and told us that’s why he wasn’t letting his kids get a pet. The attachment is way too strong. He told us how his kids were also keeping a look out for Hela and had shared it with everyon in their neighbourhood through Whatsapp.

I requested on social media, asking people to distribute the flyers in other parts of the city, as we could cover only a certain amount of ground at a time. A lot of people offered to do that on our behalf. Nandita, Anirudh and Yaqoob were one of them. I cannot express my gratitude enough for this.

Ms.Srilu Bhopal got in touch with me through FB and connected me to a pet rescue team member who was going to help us out with the search. She called me from the US to discuss it. She even put a missing ad in Hindu! Whoever I called, knew about Hela already and we reached a point where we knew we had explored every avenue and now it was a matter of luck. We were quite sure that Hela was taken in by someone and just hoped she was safe and taken care of.

26th February 2018

My mom suddenly fell sick and we had to rush her in to emergency. My friends, Payal and Akanksha came in for a bit in the night to give me company. I just didn’t know what was going on anymore. I broke down talking to my friend Vanita. It was like, I couldn’t catch a break. Like everything around me was going wrong and out to get me. Stay at the hospital all night and then rush back home for the early morning search for Hela. A day before a banana vendor had claimed to have seen Hela being walked by someone. We went asking around in that area, distributing flyers. We tried to look through the CCTV camera. It took 2 days for us to get permission to do that at Nallakunta police station and then intermediate exams began and we had to wait another day or so. Finally when we got access to it, we realized it wasn’t Hela.

Meanwhile Akash had found his dog who had been kidnapped. We begged him to give us the contact of the guy who had done it, so that we could subtly tell him that we were ready to pay anything if he had Hela. He refused to share it as he wanted that man to be punished and caught by the cops and didn’t want to alert him about it. The cops had already told him that there was not much they could do now as the guy had his own story and Akash had finally found his dog. We were very upset by this. He didn’t care to help bring Hela home, he just wanted revenge. He had already forgotten what it felt to lose your pet.

3rd March 2019

I just wanted to get out of the house. We had put a stop to our regular life. I wasn’t going to work, wasn’t working out, wasn’t eating or sleeping. Wasn’t leaving home except for looking for Hela. What if someone calls and we aren’t home? Our gate was always open. There was water and food kept out, in the hope that she would come for that. My t-shirt was tied to the gate, leaving my scent for her, to guide her back home. I needed to get out for a bit and take a break. I went out with Akanksha but kept breaking down through the night. Sometimes secretly but more often in public. I turned into one of those girls we see crying in the loo in clubs. I was an absolute mess and regretted coming out. I wasn’t ready for it yet.

4th March 2019

I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and I was in a really crabby mood. I decided to start writing down about what this ordeal had put us through. A few minutes in, I was overcome with emotions and couldn’t continue. My son was at home as it was a holiday for Shivratri. While he watched TV, I curled up on the sofa and dozed off. At around 3:30 I received a call from an unknown number and that person claimed that he had found Hela. He was barely 5 minutes from home. I quickly got up to go, but wasn’t excited. We had gotten so many false alarms like these that they didn’t really thrill us anymore. Then he asked me to stay put, till I was sure it was Hela. He sent me pictures.

It was her!! I was screaming, yelling, telling my parents and son that we had finally found her. I called Abhinav and told, who immediately started back for home. My dad took his bike and left with my son. My mom and me followed in the car. By the time I got there, my dad and son had already met her and she was thrilled to see my boy. I just stopped the car in the middle of the street and jumped out. I fell down on my knees and hugged her. She looked starved and was injured. Her leg was bleeding. She gave me a mini tail wag. I barely thanked the guys properly, gave my debit card to my dad asking him to give those boys the promised 10k reward and left with Hela in the search of a doctor.

Every place was shut, it being a holiday. I called my sister and some close friends on the way letting them know of her return. I wish I had recorded their reactions! So much happiness and joy! I remembered another clinic in Banjara hills where we had taken Reiko (our Great dane who passed away) and called them up. They were open, so we decided to go there. Before that, we swung by home as Hela looked so petrified, I wanted to take her to a familiar environment and atleast give her some water. She was overjoyed! Happy, wagging her tail, limping around the whole courtyard. She showed some real excitement when Abhinav got home, jumping all over him. The best was when she entered the house, she had a conversation with it! Or maybe with me, telling how much she missed it.

Ananth and Vasu joined us at Allvet clinic and we realized what a celebrity madam was! Everyone knew her! Other people coming in recognized her. A car stopped on the street and people came out saying, “That’s Hela!” That was social media for you. The only time I was glad for it.

My dad had had a talk with the boys who had found her. This was a Monday and apparently Nitin, the guy who had called me had noticed her on Saturday first and then rushed home to check the pamphlet we had sent out in the newspaper to confirm it was her. When he realized it was the same dog, he tried to catch her on Sunday and failed. At this point, he told about her to the watchmen and construction workers in that area and they made a plan to grab her the next day. More than 12 men strategized, made blockades and caught her Monday afternoon. They shared that she had been coming to eat scraps for the last few days. This was insane! We would have driven and searched those streets a thousand times!

The ordeal was finally over and along with Hela, we found a lot more.

  1. Humanity: I didn’t believe there was any left in the world and then comes this deluge of strangers all out to help me. People out on search parties, distributing flyers for us, sharing on social media, suggesting other methods, tips, sending prayers. The newspaper man not taking a penny for those 19 days of work. Some people actually did a prayer for Hela! You name it! Who does that?! Aren’t we suppose to be the shittiest species on this earth? Apparently, not. Not everyone. I am crying buckets right now as I write. Not just my friends, but hundreds of people on social media, people who didn’t know of my existence out there helping us to get Hela back home. So overwhelmed with the love and support. And if Karma really exists, each of these people deserve all the good that there is in the world.
  2. Cops: There are multiple reasons for it, but the bottom line is most people look at the cops as corrupt and lazy individuals. We saw another side of it. A completely opposite side. They were more than willing to help us, sitting for hours sifting through CCTV footage looking for a lost dog. So polite, so understanding, so gentle. Mr.Jagadish from Narayanguda police station, Mr. Raj from Nallakunta Police station and Mr. Lakshmaiah from Kachiguda police station were so patient and helpful. This also showed me how difficult there job was. Imagine searching for a human who has the intelligence to hide and be evil on purpose in this vastly populated city, where most cameras don’t work or record. I have intense respect for this profession now.
  3. My son: He is just 8 but behaved like a little adult. Took care of me for all those days, never once showing how upsetting all that was for him. He held me everytime I broke down, which was almost 20 hours a day, never letting us see how it all was affecting him. Just a day before we found her, he told me in a timid voice how much he missed Hela and that brought me back to my senses. I did lose one of my baby but I was completely ignoring the other I had with me. I am so proud of my boy who was strong through it all and kept giving courage to his mother telling how Hela was going to be home again soon. I definitely have done some good in my life to have him turn into such an angel.
  4. Strength: I have known pain before, like all of us have at one point or another. But, this was something else. Something I had never experienced. I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t found her. But since we did, I have found this whole new stash of strength and outlook towards life. It made me realize what my real priorities are. How things that have upset me in the past mean nothing compared to my family and specially my children (the two legged and the four legged ones:))

In my desperation, I vowed to visit both Tirupathi and Mantralayam. If you know me even a little, you must be laughing your head out. A borderline atheist going to god for help. But, that’s the reality of it. I wanted her home. I was ready to do anything. And who am I to say something exists or not. Just because I don’t believe in it, doesn’t mean it won’t exist! What if it does? What if I am losing a chance to get her back? We still have to make that trip and hopefully we would soon.

It’s been exactly 2 months since we found her. The first few days were very hard. To see her in pain, starved like that, covered in wounds all over. She would sleep for 15-17 hours and more every day. Her fracture has healed, the numerous scars on her body have disappeared but the scars and trauma on her mind are still there. She refuses to go for a walk, shivers if we try and take her beyond 50 meters from the house. She is super aggressive with strangers, something she wasn’t before. But, we both have regained the 4 kgs we had lost in those 20 days. 😀 And we are a happy and complete family again. For that, I thank YOU!

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