Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Box of Puppies

One aspect of Suriname that I'm having a hard time understanding is why there are so many stray dogs everywhere. I don't think I've ever been anywhere with so many dogs in the street. I learned in Mozambique that you simply can't think of animals in the same way when in the developing world; if you do, you would walk around heartbroken.

In many places animals are not pets- they have jobs to perform. They may get rewarded with food for guarding the house or keeping rats away, but they are not considered part of the family. When a dog approaches me on the street here, my first reaction is not to bend down and pet it like I might in Audubon Park. My first reaction is fear; the dog could easily have rabies or mange. It could bite me or jump on me and I simply don't feel the love for these dogs. I don't have the energy to think about how sad it is they don't have homes or people to love them.

It hadn't affected me at all until a few weeks ago. My roommate Katie and I were walking back to our house at Masonstraat 4 when we heard a small sound coming from a cardboard box on the corner. We looked inside and found 5 extremely small puppies packed inside. Clearly, someone had put the puppies in the box and left it on the side of the road. I don't know if the person wished for someone to find them, or simply didn't think about what would happen if the puppies were left in the sun for very long. All the hardened feelings I had been having about Surinamese dogs disappeared. Katie and I both knew that to leave them there would be wrong and we couldn't do it. We went and told our other roommates. We asked our neighbors what we should do. They had this vague idea that there was a dog shelter at the zoo.

Another problem was that this was the last day at Masonstraat 4. We were packing and also getting ready to go to the Dengue Conference where our roommate Emily was presenting. It was stressful to say the least. We found a cleaner box for the puppies, called a taxi and piled in. The taxi driver didn't seem happy about having crying puppies in his car, but he was nice enough not to say anything against it.

The shelter was outside the zoo, but it was closed on Sundays. So we drove to the zoo where they told us they couldn't take them. Luckily we persisted a little and got someone to call the shelter for us. There was someone there who would take them. Relief, but only a little relief. The woman who took them implied to us they would probably be destroyed. There were very young and probably wouldn't live anyway; one had already died on the way. But at least they wouldn't die in the sun, suffering.

You can't ignore the dark sides of life all the time. If people had the knowledge or the resources to spay their dogs, there wouldn't be so many dogs eating trash and catching diseases and having puppies in the street. But what kind of program would teach people not to be cruel enough to leave a box of puppies on the street in the middle of a hot day?

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