Phantom is a Super-Hero.
Phantom has saved the lives of thousands of other dogs, mules and horses. With time, the number of dogs, mules and horses he would have saved would climb into millions and more.
This is the real-life story of how he achieved this grandest of feats.
About 7 ½ years back, he decided to grace our home and arrived as a 15 day old Labrador puppy. Cute as anything, but frolicsome and playful beyond imagination. Nothing was saved if it was within his reach and he was awfully good at extending his reach!
The first day, he thoroughly explored his new abode; taking a particular liking to our shoes, slippers and socks. The video link below shows Phantom checking out thing and stuff on his first day.
And man, would he get hungry! He would tear into his food, gobble it up within practically seconds and in no time would be hungry again!
When Phantom got to be about four months old; then as per the advice of his vets, he was permitted to go out. He would love being in the open and would always be cajoling us for one more walk. It is another thing that – being inexperienced as I was in matters of taking pets out for walks – I had no idea how vulnerable one could be to attacks by other pets and stray dogs!
We got attacked a number of times by other pets whose owners, for reasons best known to them, would choose to keep them without any leash or barricade. And we got attacked at the same time by stray dogs. It was interesting how Phantom went through these attacks. He would hardly show any reaction. His attitude would be of a somewhat mildly interested spectator; laconically looking on while I would ward off these attacks.
But yes, I did find him jumping straight up with all four legs in air a couple of times at the sound of dry leaves rustling on the pavements!
At home, he displayed his considerable talent in taking on formidable foes like the four-inch diameter legs of our drawing room table and even electrical stuff that none dared trifle with. Within some months, Phantom had chewed and bitten right through one of the four-inch diameter wooden legs of our drawing room table and severely crippled the other three. In the same span, he managed to bite through the cords of a number of electric appliances that were plugged into their sockets. God knows how he survived while biting through these cords!
This video link shows Phantom when about four months old.
In the early months, Phantom dearly desired to sleep in the same bed as us and would bark and yelp like mad when denied. He had a particular penchant for Puja flowers and would pretend to be nonchalantly strolling about; but ready to surreptitiously pilfer them at first opportunity!
Phantom and I would play tug of war and would have numerous races, where he would invariably end the race by jumping on me. We got a trainer for him and for some months, he had a daily training session. The training wasn’t altogether wasted, but the trainer- qualified as he was – could not get Phantom to behave as trained dogs do. Phantom remains a baby – our baby – even when he is now seven and half years old.
When he was two and half years old, Phantom developed some swellings between the toes of his paws. We took him to the best vets in Delhi, but the exact reason for the swellings could not be known. But I had noticed, particularly in the mornings, Phantom urinating for abnormally long. Doing research on Google, it seemed as if he might be suffering from diabetes. This I voiced to his vets, but they remained noncommittal.
The spots between his toes worsened and we tried different vets and he would be put on strong medicine courses of about a month, which would check further deterioration of these swellings but otherwise the problem remained intact. We were advised homeopathy for him. For a couple of years, he had homeopathy treatment, but again the problem of these swellings between the fingers of his paws wasn’t checked.
About two and half years back, Phantom suddenly fell severely ill. For some months before, I had been suspecting him to be unwell; for he would be abnormally quiet and inactive, sleeping for long stretches.
We again took him to his vets, but again no diagnosis could be made. This time however I insisted that he be – apart from blood tests etc – tested also for diabetes. As soon as this test was done, it came out that he was suffering from severe diabetes. The doctors then were of the opinion that this affliction was congenital; but initially Phantom’s body was generating some insulin and was also growing relatively rapidly; but now that the secretion of insulin had stopped and Phantom’s body was not growing as before; the effect of diabetes was now far more aggravated and that’s why the sores between the fingers of his paws were continually deteriorating.
Phantom started losing weight. Despite having plenty of exercise, Phantom had been a record 45 Kg. Labradors generally do not exceed 35 Kg. Phantom’s weight fell to 35 Kg in just 45 days of his illness. He would urinate frequently and – not infrequently – vomit also.
Photograph of Phantom when 45 Kg and when he started losing weight.
But how brave he was. His handsome face, noble as anything, would be filled with love and affection, as before, whenever I would come in his sight. And his tail wagged as joyfully as ever.
If it had not been for Leena, my wife; I don’t think he would have survived. Initially some wrong advice was given to us and we were told that we would have to draw blood from his hind legs to test for sugar before giving him insulin injection and that this would have to be done twice daily. I just couldn’t, try as I might, get myself to do this task of drawing blood from his lower hind legs through a syringe. And I have to confess that fear was the strongest factor behind it.
Leena, my wife, tut-tutted away any risk or threat of Phantom biting her and was ready to do this task of withdrawing blood through a syringe from his hind legs for the purposes of sugar-level testing.
Luckily, we came across other vets, who told us how to draw blood from his inner earlobes through the same kit that is used for humans. But even here, I used to be nervous and it was Leena who would do the testing by pricking his inner earlobes and pressing out a drop of blood which then, when placed on the testing strip, would give the results. As per the sugar level found, the dose of insulin would have to be injected in. This commenced twice daily. But Phantom continued to lose weight. Within one year of his illness, he had lost nearly 20 Kg of weight and I feared the worst.
But Phantom remained brave as ever. And he remained affectionate and loving as ever; giving me still the most royal welcome whenever I would return home from any outing.
My heart went out to this absolutely magnificent and noble being. I took over the task of sugar testing and insulin injections and for the last two years I have been doing it regularly twice daily.
With dogs, the threat is when their sugar level falls too low. Unlike humans, they are unable to give warning when this happens. So with insulin injections, there is always extra risk attached to dogs. But over the last two and half years, we together fought against Phantom’s diabetes where, with extra walking sessions, we managed to not unduly takeaway foods that he had loved and drooled over.
Since the last six months, Phantom has stabilised and even slowly regained weight. He is now a healthy 30 Kg which his vets say is ideal for him.
This great and absolutely magnificent living being had touched our hearts and given us more love and affection than any other.
So when I read about the Indian Army putting their service dogs to “sleep” when they were unable, for whatever reason, to give active service for one month; I decided that we owed Phantom enough to try to do something about his fellow Labradors and other dogs who work as army service dogs. This link below has further details on the subject of service dogs being put to “sleep”.
We filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Delhi High Court last year and rather to the credit of the Indian Army; they straightaway promised to do away with this practice and to give proper retirement to all their service dogs. In fact they promised to give proper retirement not only to their service dogs, but also to their service horses and mules. For this they sought some time to build the required facilities and that is how thousands of dogs, mules and horses in the service of the Indian Army will no longer find death whenever rendered inactive for a period of one month and would instead have proper retirement when unfit for active duty for any reason. The link below has details on it.
The Indian army has about 1200 service dogs at present and after a long gap of 26 years; this year on the Republican Day, the Indian Army brought out a contingent of their service dogs in the Republic Day parade. And how absolutely magnificent these service dogs in the Republic Day parade looked!
Phantom has recovered!
Here are some recent photographs of Phantom.
He is as playful as before and because of him; thousands – and with time, millions and more – of other dogs, mules and horses shall have proper times of retirement and recovery instead of death.
Phantom the Super-Hero!