Friday, May 02, 2008

Speaking of starving dogs...

I appreciate all of you who have fowarded the e-mail about the so-called "artist" who chained up a starving dog, refused to feed it, and let it die in the name of art. I really do. However. I wonder how many people would actually take a few minutes to feed a stray animal if it showed itself to them. Very few, if I go by what I see on the streets of Costa Rica every day -- thousands, hundreds of thousands probably, stray and starving dogs looking to us humans for a handout while most of us pretend (like we do with homeless people, I suppose) they don't exist. The worst of us humans go out of their way not to help but to hurt these animals who are in such desperate need (again, like homeless people, I imagine). Maybe, like the folks at the WSPA, the task of helping many thousands of homeless animals is just too daunting to tackle. But I say, bullshit. Take it one at a time. Here's what I suggest, if you really want to help:

1. Carry a ziploc baggie of dog food in your car at all times. If you already have dogs at home, this one is pretty easy to do. Even better is to carry a can of dog food, especially for pregnant and nursing homeless female dogs who can really use the extra fat and protein. Homeless dogs don't worry about a doggie dish, just dump it on the ground and it will soon be devoured. Often, pet food supply stores and veterinary offices will be given sample-size packages of dog food by dog food companies; I take as many as they'll let me carry and keep them in the car for strays. I tell the vet or salesperson what I'm doing with them, so they don't think I'm just trying to feed my own dogs on the cheap, and they're usually more than happy for me to take extra.
2. Carry a pack of disposable paper bowls and a bottle of water (tap is just fine, as long as it's clean) for the strays, too. With the crap (both literally and figuratively) that is dumped in the gutters here, it breaks my heart to see dogs drinking out of the gutters.
3. If you can get close enough that the dog will let you pet it, cut off any tight collars or wire that may be around the animal's neck. You might want to pack a pair of wire cutters and/or scissors in your car as well (these can also come in handy for the occasional car jacking and yes I'm being facetious!).
4. If possible, take the dog to the nearest shelter. Yes, they will probably ask you to pay to take the dog in. I know it's annoying (they should be charging people to adopt instead, IMHO). What else were you going to do with that money? If you can afford it (I realize not all of us can), save a life instead. Think of what your $40 or so will buy -- a loving and deserving dog the chance at a new life. If you're picking up a pregnant or nursing mama dog, please please please be sure to take all of the puppies, too, otherwise they will surely die on the streets without her.

I know a lot of people are going to say they just don't have the time to stop for every stray they see, and aren't there so many of them, what difference are you going to make anyway. To that, all I can say is this: I'd rather be the person who's five minutes later because I stopped to feed a starving dog. Let's face it, we're all on Tico time anyway, what's an extra five minutes? How sad this world would be if no one ever stopped to help anyone because we just didn't have time. And yes, it can seem an insurmountable challenge to help the strays in Costa Rica; perhaps the problem won't even be solved in my lifetime. That's okay. I once read a quote that went something like, you can't save every stray in the world, but you can change the world of every stray you save. So instead of forwarding on that e-mail about the one starving dog who is already dead and gone, sad and sick as that was, how about we all make a small commitment to help the strays that are here, that we pass every single day, as best we can?


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