To dogs, with love

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The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

-    Mahatma Gandhi

In Nepal, many people struggle to enjoy their basic rights, or have their rights protected. There are ample examples of individuals fighting for justice. Therefore, talks about animal rights or animal welfare often raise eyebrows.
 
A few months ago, I and a friend happened to come across two puppies, both females and two-month-olds, near Satdobato. One of them was seriously injured with badly broken hind legs. Some reckless, ignorant biker had hit the puppy and not stopped to help it, the locals said. As they were small, we hoped it would be easy to get them adopted, so we picked them up. As we treated the injured puppy, we simultaneously began the quest to search for families that would adopt them. It took nearly five months for me to find a good family. Luckily, an expat and a group of like-minded friends in Nepal and abroad helped find a US family who would adopt them. This quest took me on a journey, one filled with both bitter and sweet experiences, exposing to me a world of street dogs, and how Nepalis relate to and treat them.
 
 
From my talk with many individuals who I thought would be prospective families, I felt that for many, domesticating any pet at home is merely a pastime. Many families happen to pick up stray dogs from roads when they are little because they are available for free and are “cute”, and keep them until they grow old or sick, or do the things that dogs are bound to do such as make litter or dirt around the house. In some cases, when their dogs give birth to newborns, they wrap them in plastic or clothes or put them in cardboard box and place them by the road or riverside to die. And many of those who continue keeping them do so merely for the sake of security of their homes. Owners keep them without vaccination and proper care, and keep them isolated by tying them in a dark place.
 
Another interesting revelation for me is that those who love calling themselves animal lovers too prefer to purchase breed dogs imported from foreign countries. This group of animal lovers preferably chooses breed dogs either to show off or with a motive of making money by breeding them and selling puppies just 30 to 35 days-old, separating them from their mothers. This has become an alluring and the fastest growing business in the city as owners earn generously just by selling a single puppy.
 
But I also learned about organizations based in the capital and some outside the Valley working for the good of stray dogs. Their work for managing stray dogs and sheltering the ill ones is praiseworthy. Organizations including Kathmandu Animal Treatment (KAT) in Budhanilkantha, Animal Nepal in Chobhar, Sneha’s Care in Chobhar and Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust (HART) in Pokhara are some organizations working for the rescue and treatment of stray dogs. Yet, these organizations say that they have not been able to manage and care for stray dogs as they would like to due to lack of space and fund for animals. Persons like Shreejana Thakuri and Romi Lama are individually working for the stray animals.
 
Many find talking about basic animal rights stupid when no basic rights of people are guaranteed. However, there are still few people who are aware how humane behavior has turned toward cruelty and indifference which can be vividly seen through the way street dogs and other animals are abused around us.
 
On this day of Kukur Tihar, as Nepalis devoutly worship dogs, we should perhaps reflect that a mere day of worshipping and offering food does not suffice. It is important for all to not abandon dogs or other animals in the streets, or harm them physically. The best we can do if we do not care about these animals is to not harm them, and just let them live their lives in streets.
 

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