The city is alive with the sounds of the traditional Newari New Year celebration. Thousands of people move through the streets of the Thamel tourist district dancing, laughing and shooting off fireworks.
Hillary and Guatam are out looking for stray dogs to feed, when suddenly they spot a group of boys on the sidewalk throwing something back and forth. At first, it looks like they are playing catch with some kind of ball, since people continue to walk by without paying any attention to what is happening.
Then Hillary spots two ears…followed by a tiny tail…and realizes that the "ball" being tossed around is a newborn street puppy, only a few days old!
As Hillary and Gautam move closer, one of the boys cruelly picks up the puppy by the tail and offers to sell it to them. But Hillary moves fast, grabbing the puppy out of the boy’s hand and putting it safely inside her warm parka.
The boy immediately demands money, "Otherwise you must give our dog back!" But Guatam had seen this trick before. "It’s not your dog," he begins to shout. "If it were, you wouldn’t be treating it like this. Even a tiny street animal like this deserves someone who will take good care of it."
As the boys slink away into the crowd, Hillary wonders what to do next. "If we leave it here on the street, it will be dead by morning."
But Gautam tells her he wants to take the puppy home even though his pregnant wife Manju, who needs complete bed rest, won’t be able to help him take care of it.
"If we can help this puppy live, it means that our work for the street animals is beginning sooner than I thought," he laughs. "Hurry, let’s go tell Manju."
After stopping to buy some milk to feed the puppy, they go back to Gautam’s apartment, where Hillary takes the tiny quivering body from her coat and hands it to Manju. "Never have I seen so small a dog and it’s a girl!"
Then Gautam warms some milk and feeds it to the puppy with a small spoon. At first, the puppy takes small swallows, but then begins gulping so fast that most of the milk spills onto Manju’s blanket. Exhausted, but no longer hungry, the puppy falls asleep.
As they look down at the little body, its tiny chest rising and falling with each breath, Guatam says, "This isn’t so bad. How much trouble can one little dog be?"
He decides to call the puppy Maili, which means "second daughter" in the Nepali language.
Days turn into months, and Gautam takes Maili everywhere as she rapidly adapts to her new life and he to hers.
You see, Gautam has never had a "pet". It’s a whole new concept to him that is culturally unknown to most people in Nepal.
Then one day, Maili becomes gravely ill, unable to eat or drink. So Gautam takes her to a veterinary doctor on the other side of the city. This facility is a far cry from the modern animal hospitals that are so common in the U.S. and so desperately needed in Kathmandu.
The Nepali doctor examines Maili in an outside courtyard. He says that Maili has eaten something poisonous and tells Gautam that she may not survive.She is so severely dehydrated that the doctor has to re-hydrate her with intravenous fluid. There is nothing more he can do. So he sends her home.
But little Maili possesses a remarkable will to live. At night, when Gautam is not at work, he sits with Maili asleep in his lap. Even during the day, he constantly runs home to check on her. Finally, she begins to get better.
Today, Maili is a joy to see. Upon returning home to the U.S., Hillary has sent a pink collar and leash, with a matching pink doggie coat to help Maili stay warm.
Now, when Guatam walks Maili on the streets of Kathmandu, people stop and stare and ask questions about her. "Is she a purebred?" "Does she come from another country?" "Where did you get her?" "Did she cost a lot of money?"
Guatam’s answer is always the same:
"Open your eyes! Maili was just an ordinary street animal. Go to any of the garbage piles where these poor creatures scavenge for food. Go to any of the alleys where they seek shelter. Go to any of these places and you will see a thousand forgotten dogs like Maili, just waiting for you to take them home."
UPDATE ON MAILI
Maili is still going strong. Living as a family pet with Gautam's Brother and family in a village just outside of the Kathmandu Valley. Maili is 11 years old and happy and healthy. She gets daily walks, guards her home and her family every minute of the day. Most of all, Maili is very loved!
MAILI ALL GROWN UP AND GOING STRONG AT 11 YEARS OLD!