“Tommy forever our buddy and the heart of Bardia Homestay”
The five-day festival of lights, known as Tihar, or Deepawali has begun. Today is the second day which is dedicated to people’s most loyal friend the dog, called ‘kukur’ in the Nepalese language. A day to celebrate the special bond between humans and dogs. All dogs, whether pets or strays are offered treats and worshipped by placing a red powder blessing on their forehead and garlands of marigolds around their necks. Today, we do not only honour our dog ‘Harry’, but we also pay tribute to our dearest dog ‘Tommy’ who passed away at the end of September. She was loved not only by our family but also by our guests, whom she always welcomed enthusiastically. This blog is dedicated to Tommy, to keep the beautiful memories of her alive. Forever our buddy and the heart of Bardia Homestay.
What a sweetheart’ our guest Terry says. I look up and see a small black and white dog, about 6 weeks old, curiously crossing the bridge towards our yard. Over the past week, this cutie has made several attempts to come to us. I always brought her back to the neighbours where her mother and 5 brothers and sisters also live. Terry picks up the sweetheart and asks if I have bread or milk because she looks malnourished.
The next 5 days the cutie is flea-treated by Terry and her friends and extremely pampered. She can even sleep in Terry’s bed. The cutie gets the name Tommy after a friend, who couldn’t come along. The name appeals to me because if I had been born as a boy, I would probably have been called Tom. A name after my grandfather.
On the day Terry and her friends leave, we receive ‘Tommy’ as a farewell gift. We look under his tail. No balls to be seen. Tommy turns out to be a female. But we’ll keep the name. Tommy decides not to leave us and so she enters our lives on November 1, 2016. Unexpected and unplanned.
Tommy is having a great time and is growing into the sweetest dog in the village. She learns to walk on a leash, which produces many surprised looks from the villagers. I see them thinking: ‘Who walks a dog on a leash’? The residents of the street smile warmly at or about me.
Tommy sleeps in our room or sits outside on a chair, where she keeps watch. During wintertime, she likes to sit on a chair by the campfire. Many guests who leave their chair to go to their room, and come back, see that in the meantime their seat is occupied by Tommy. Every morning she wakes me up when the sun rises. Time for a walk! When we encounter other dogs, she wags her tail and other times she walks around them in a big curve. Rarely does she show her teeth. Tommy always keeps an eye on me for the rest of the day. When I leave the yard, Tommy follows me. We become famous together.
Tommy likes to explore the fields around our house. She is never far away. But one day when she is only 7 months old, she returns with a bloody left eye. I call Buddhi, ‘Call the vet, Tommy her eye is damaged’, I shout. The vet and Buddhi arrive quickly. Eye drops and an injection should help her eye recover. What happened? That remains a guess, but Nepalis quickly throw a stone at a dog to scare it away from the property. Poor Tommy. After a while, she refuses the eye drops. We cannot save the eye, unfortunately. Only 7 months old and she continues through life with one eye, but even with this disability, she is always cheerful.
Less than 9 months after Tommy entered our lives, she surprises us with 5 young dogs. The little ones are born in our toilet room and grow like crazy. But 6 dogs in the house is a bit too much of a good thing. We are making frantic efforts to place the dogs elsewhere. We relocate them to houses 500 meters and sometimes 5 km away. But the dogs know where they are good and are back on our doorstep a few hours later.
In the end, two dogs stay with us. Tiger is a brown and white dog. Budhi’s father’s favourite. The other one we call ‘Kale’ which means ‘blacky’ in Nepali. When Kale is about 4 months old, I find her vomiting in the morning. Blood comes out of her butt. By the time the vet arrives Kale has already died. The suspicion is that one of our neighbours poisoned him with meat when she entered the yard.
Tiger becomes the king of the village, just like a real tiger should. All the neighbour dogs have a huge respect for him. During the day Tiger is a cuddler and sleepy, but at night he goes hunting. Tiger does not like to sit in a crate or sleep on a rope. He rather goes for nighttime adventures together with several street dogs. And Tiger is the leader of this gang. Villagers regularly come by in the morning and place a dead goat or duck on our veranda. The costs for all these claims add up considerably. The vet has no experience with sterilizing male dogs (which often calms them down). After many months of deliberation, we must make a difficult decision. In August 2020, when Tiger is three years old, we say goodbye to him and put him to sleep. He gets a peaceful spot in the woods.
After Tiger’s death, Tommy feels lonely. No one left to play with in the garden. In December 2020, a boy cycles into the yard. There is a furry dog in the basket on the front of the bicycle. ‘I have brought him here, ordered by Uncle Buddhi’, the boy says. I am surprised. From Buddhi? When Buddhi comes home, he enthusiastically tells the guests they can keep this furry dog and take him to Kathmandu. A dog that resembles Tommy in colour, the dog they like so much.The guests leave without the furry dog and so Buddhi has managed to find a buddy for Tommy.
It immediately clicks between Tommy and the hairy dog which we give the name ‘Harry’, named after Prince Harry, who once visited Bardia National Park. But also named after Harry Potter with his black hair and the dog’s hairy appearance. Playful Harry doesn’t leave Tommy alone for a moment. Tommy loses weight but enjoys playing with Harry.
Harry regularly suffers from skin problems, which requires the vet to visit. As soon as Tommy hears the vet’s motorbike she runs away into the field. She is so scared of injections. Fortunately, Harry recovers every time. Whenever we call the vet, he knows we call him because one of our dogs is sick. The other people in the village will call the vet when their buffalo, pig or goat is sick. Most dogs just must survive their illness by themselves or die young. People just do not have the money to pay for the medicines. Luckily for our dogs, it is always ‘Kukur Tihar’. They are spoiled a lot compared with the average dog who lives in our village.
In September 2023, I have just returned to Bardia for five days after a 2-month stay in the Netherlands. Tommy and Harry are thrilled to see me again. The feeling is mutual. I spoil them a lot with delicious dog snacks from the Netherlands. I heard that week that more and more leopards come to the villages. Pigs, goats and sometimes dogs are killed by these big cats. The tiger population in Bardia National Park has successfully increased in recent years, but the tigers chase away the leopards and push them to live near civilization.
On Friday evening, September 22, we go to bed around 10 pm after a pleasant evening with friends. Tommy and Harry enjoy the left-over chicken pieces. Tommy decides to sleep outside and Harry inside. We feel safe. At 1 pm, I hear Tommy barking twice. I assume that it is another dog in the yard, which is chased away by Tommy. When I go to the toilet a little later, I don’t see Tommy. I call her name, but she doesn’t respond. Maybe deep a sleep-in in front of the guest room.
The next morning Tommy doesn’t wake me up like she always does. We find her death near the pigsty. Killed by a leopard. The footprints of the leopard are everywhere in the yard. And also a small pig did not survive the leopard’s attack. What a tragic and heroic death for our Tommy. Our faithful, cheerful, loyal, and vigilant Tommy is no more. I knew she wouldn’t always be with us, but her death was as unexpected as her arrival. When you live so close to the national park, nature is not only beautiful but also cruel and deadly for humans and pets.
Rest in peace, brave, and sweet Tommy. Thank you for all the great memories, joy and happiness you brought into our lives.