A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
Many of us would have got a pet home and would have loved it and got reciprocated with more love. A puppy, kitten or any animal is very cute to behold as a baby. As they grow older, animals earn their own share of injuries and illnesses: old age and genetic degenerative diseases could leave them paralysed or handicapped.
Some pet owners unfortunately get frustrated and go to the extent of euthanizing it or worse, abandoning it. However there are others who take care of their pet through thick and thin, no matter how difficult life becomes.
Dr Deepa Katyal is one such dog owner, who went out of her way to help her pet after his rear legs were paralysed due to intervertebral disc disease.
Not only did she train in pain management to help her dog, she also designed a wheelcart for all dogs that face similar situations and are unable to walk.
Her journey started when she was just seven. Deepa belonged to a business family and lived in a bungalow filled with animals, from dogs and cats to tortoise and ducks. She was the youngest of three siblings and always keen to take care of pets along with her father.
One Sunday morning while helping her father bathe their pet dog, Deepa saw a baby bird near their window. Her father rescued the bird but at the cost of its wings and foot. Deepa skipped playing with friends, to be with the bird and take of it. The bird continued followed her everywhere after it recovered. Tragically, one day the bird came under Deepa’s foot and died.
Deepa was devastated! Unable to let go of the guilt, she held the tiny bird in her hand and decided that she was going to be a vet and not let any animal die.
Deepa was immensely pained by the bird’s demise. She learnt to smile again when her father gifted a puppy on her eighth birthday. Deepa named him Rocky and it became her constant companion till its death at 18 years of age, when she herself was 24.
“Rocky made me understand what dogs are all about,” says Deepa. “He was an aggressive dog and my parents had to keep him in a cage. It took me lot of time and patience to make him understand that he is needed and loved. I would take him to my bed or sometimes I would sleep near his cage and slowly he became part of our family.”
Meanwhile, Deepa struggled with her family on her decision to become a veterinarian. But she kept the promise she made to herself and after a lot of difficulties, finally achieved her goal.
Deepa found her Rocky back, when she helped a bitch deliver eight puppies through C-section. The puppies looked just like her first dog Rocky and she told the owner how she wished she could have one of them. A week later, the owner gifted one puppy to her whom she named Rocky.
However, a few years later Rocky was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. Deepa had pursued veterinary sciences from Mumbai, but pain management was not—and still isn’t— a component of the curriculum in India.
Whilst pursuing her second Master’s from University of Queensland in Australia, she did dwell upon that subject. How was she to alleviate Rocky out of his misery? What could she do besides administering pain killers that did more harm than good?
In between her practice, she took time to pursue studies in pain management from various educational resources in the US. She could eventually administer pain management to Rocky through acupuncture, cold laser and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) which gave him relief from severe pain.
Unfortunately, after a few years he lost sensation in both his rear legs and was paralysed.
Deepa imported a wheel cart and tweaked it to suit Indian conditions so that he was able to roam about on his own, even take a stroll down the beach!
Not only just her pets, Deepa is compassionate towards all her patients, even wild and stray animals. Electrocuted monkeys, injured eagles, kites, owls, snakes, rescued exotics and even a python have all found place at her residence for treatment and rehabilitation. Having learned from Steven Irwin, the renowned Australian wildlife expert nicknamed Crocodile Hunter, she is able to handle wildlife with ease.
“Pain is a major factor when treating such cases. Take the case of the electrocuted monkey infant who had 60-70 per cent burns on both the limbs and the entire face was charred. One can imagine the trouble of handling such a primate,” she says
Her interaction with primates began when she rescued a palmed-sized baby monkey, whose paw had been bitten off by a stray dog.
She rushed him to her clinic and though she had to amputate his paw, she named him Baabuli and kept him with her. Baabuli even found a friend, a female monkey named Holika as she was rescued by People for Animals on the day of Holi. Both monkeys lived happily in each other’s company at Deepa’s house.
“One should not expect miracles in the field of rehabilitation, although miracles do happen and there are cases of pets returning back to complete normalcy” says Deepa, who is now planning to add hydrotherapy and physical rehabilitation in her practice.
Deepa also works with a technical team to offer affordable wheel carts and other prosthetic equipment, customised to the requirement and dimensions of every pet.
Deepa hopes that one day, there will be exclusive clinics in India for pain management and rehabilitation.
“I am willing to guide any veterinary professional in India, who is inclined to enhance their knowledge in this field. I want pet owners of such pets to be aware that there is hope and treatment for them out there,” she says.
You can contact Dr. Deepa Katyal at email@example.com.