Last year when the Kannada film '777 Charlie' was released, every pet parent in the country went to watch the movie to remember and kindle the bond of that one Charlie in their life. The film revolved around a factory worker who took his abandoned female Labrador puppy as his companion and set out on a gruelling road trip to Kashmir to fulfil the dog's wish of experiencing the snow. He calls her Charlie. And Pune-based Hitesh Yadav calls his female dog Aadira — a strong, noble, and powerful Boxer, who travelled with him to Lo Manthang, and the Upper Mustang region in Nepal from India in April last year — much before the film was released. She became the first dog to travel to these places to securing a place in the India Book of Records.
Roads less travelled and India Book of Records
Onboard a Suzuki Grand Vitara, Aadira and Hitesh rolled their wheels from Pune and reached Sonauli on the India-Nepal border, in three days and crossed into Nepal the next day. After multiple halts in Pokhara, Muktinath, Jomsom, and Lo Manthang, the two reached Kora La, a mountain between Tibet and Upper Mustang nearing the Nepal-China border. This restricted zone is untouched by tourists, making it the cleanest and most preserved region.
“Crossing the mountains covered in snow, beautiful caves, and monasteries of Upper Mustang was one of the most memorable times we spent together,” says Hitesh, who from eating local food, and playing in the open fields up in the hills to staying in Tibetan houses and crossing the borders with much difficulty with Aadira onboard, did it all to make the trip memorable for both of them. “Nepal-China border is just 17 km away and Indians are not allowed to visit this place. We requested local authorities to let us visit the place and they made an exception,” recalls the 36-year-old adding that travelling with the dog wasn't easy at the border land.
With two guides along, Hitesh and Aadira crossed some of the region's toughest roads. Braving cold weather with temperature dropping as low as minus seven, Hitesh says, Aadira proved to be the bravest of dog he has ever known. “Anyone who has breathing and heart issues shouldn't go there. During the entire trip, not once did Aadira feel uncomfortable. She was enjoying it more than I did. She was happy and wherever we would stop she would be friendly with the locals. There were no tantrums and behavioural changes during the entire trip,” says Hitesh.
A dog's winning expedition to remember
It wasn't the first time that Aadira had left the comfort of her home, in fact, Hitesh says, she never found comfort at home but driving around. Together, they travelled across the country with limited resources yet enough to have a fun time together including the recent one to Spiti Valley during Christmas for ten days. Hitesh tells us that Aadira has her bed arrangements in the rear seat and would take enough breaks during the journey for her food, walk and stretch. During the day, Aadira would pop her face out and enjoy the scenic view and at night she would fix herself in her cosy jacket. “But animals are warm-blooded so they don't feel much cold. I ensured to stay in pet-friendly homestays. I carried enough food for her on the journey and sometimes, she would also eat rice and chapati,” he shares.
Meeting Aadira after her expedition, we found her to be a beautiful and friendly pet, the one who loves to meet new people and impress them with her friendly nature. She loves playing and the majestic hills provided her all the space to play and meet children all the way, who would first be scared of her and later become friends with her.
Although Aadira travelled enough before taking this expedition with Hitesh, who is used to exploring hills, he ensured she had a comfortable trip. From her regular vet on call, warm clothes, to food, medicine and even medicine to save her from getting ticks from other dogs or a place, Hitesh had everything onboard. “Her vet provided all necessary medicines and pre-travel medication for fever, motion sickness, and vomiting,” he says, adding that before the trip he had to work on a lot of paperwork. Her adoption certificate, vaccination, vet, no disease certificate and many other border formalities were part of this three-week-long journey.
Gone too soon
Recalling one of the instances with Aadira on the trip as the strongest support Hitesh says when driving at the high altitude of 4,000m he felt dizzy with a headache. In the evening the temperature dipped and his skin started to peel off. The car was consuming more fuel to climb and the dust was blocking his car air filter. “It was Aadira who would jump in the front seat and keep her hand on my lap. I knew she understood that I was going through a tough time. I had many moments like this with Aadira,” recalls Hitesh as he informs us that he lost Aadira to Cardiac Arrest as we write.
“I am glad that I had that last trip with her. It may seem like an achievement to complete the trip in that extreme condition, but for me, it's the time spent with my three-year-old in the hills with no one but us together supporting and entertaining each other in every situation. I will cherish this trip forever and every trip that we had together and all the trips that we planned but never happened,” says Hitesh as he bids adieu to Aadira on a Sunday evening.
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