In the old blog, One Bark at a Time, I used to publish letters from Cathrine writing about the rescue work she and others were doing while overseas. Recently, she's in Bangladesh and this is an email I received just a few days ago:

Five days ago, Rubhaya saw a very sick dog in front of the walls of Wonderland, a tacky amusement park, but could not stop because of the traffic. The next day, she went to see what she could do.

He was skeletal, covered in black scabs, his hindquarters and legs nearly hairless, his feet swollen and black, his nails full of pus. Deeply disturbed, she called me. We needed to do something, because the guards and local boys were tormenting the dog. But we were scheduled to go to Lawacharra National Park the next day with the Hands & Paws Club from the American International School.

We called Dr. Siamak.

Dr. Siamak and Rubhaya decided that this was a very old dog, dying a slow death in a very bad place. But where could we take him? The few places that shelter dogs are full. In the end, they made an arrangement with a cigarette vendor to watch over the dog, Rubhaya harangued the boys and the guards, and Dr. S. agreed to visit the dog daily while we were gone, feed and medicate him.

In the meantime, I talked to Ali, and, of course, he agreed to take the dog in for his last days. Never mind he has a wife, two daughters, a daughter in law and son, two cats, two dogs, two foster pups and nine goats to look after already. That's how Ali is.

So, today, we went to get the old guy. The medication had helped: his swollen paws were smaller, and he was better able to walk. When one of the local boys tried to hit him as we were struggling to get him into the car, he whirled and snapped at the little demon -- something he had not been able to do five days ago.

Once we had him in the car, I was better able to see him.

This is not some old street dog on his last legs. He is missing a couple of front teeth, including a canine, but the ones he has are in excellent shape, and my guess is that he is about 4 years old. He was extremely well-behaved in the car, and I had no problem stroking him and rubbing his ears - except the stuff that came off on my hands.

He sat on command. We took him to Dr. Siamak's apartment building for vaccinations, deworming, flea treatment, and prescriptions. Again, he was as well-behaved as a dog could be getting his shots and the flea spray.

Then we drove to Ali's house, where the pups were giving up their (very spacious!) kennel for him. Not that they minded: it meant they could go back to being in the house. We discovered very quickly that he really hates other dogs, and has clearly lived in a kennel before.

And he is not a Deshi dog. Once we got him out on a leash and collar, I could see that he was a Malinois: I say that with 90% certainty. The coat, the muzzle, the ears - there are just not a lot of dogs that look like that. I suspect, from the way he walked automatically to heel on the leash, and the way he challenges strangers, that he was intended as a guard dog.

His real problem is that some rich bastard imported him, at enormous expense, as a trophy animal, then for whatever reason, dumped him. Not being a Deshi dog, he had no idea how to survive on the street, and very quickly was starving. His immune system could not cope with the filth and parasites. In less than a month - the maximum length of time the street people by the park said he had been around, he went
from someone's pampered trophy to being nearly dead of human indifference.

I just got a call from Ali. Shaheb (we named him the Bangali equivalent of Sahib, or Sir) went through all the food supplied: Ali stopped feeding him until later in the evening, for fear he would explode! He is adjusting very quickly, but is a bit barky now that he is settling. I hope this is not a night time phenomenon, because if it is he will not be able to stay at Ali's place - the neighbours will be very unhappy.

This is all too common here, among the rich: all around them are these wonderful, well-adapted Deshi dogs, smart, social and beautiful. But they are 'local', and have no status. So almost every wealthy family buys a Western dog, usually a Shepherd or Doberman, for guarding and display. A few buy Shih Tzus or other similar toy dogs for their wives to take shopping and show off.

But, sooner or later, something happens. The dogs are not vaccinated, they get sick, they nip the son who pulls their tail, they get old, or the family just gets bored of them. And they are, if they are lucky, relegated to a kennel where they are ignored except when a servant is sent to feed them.

If they are not lucky, like Shaheb, they are driven to somewhere they do not know and kicked out of the car.

The plus side of this is that, because Shaheb is a 'breed' we can probably place him fairly easily, if he cleans up nice. The minus side is that he is one of thousands that will go through this. And most of them are not so lucky as to be seen by Rubhaya and taken in.



3 Comments to “Letter from Bangladesh”

  1. Vida says:

    I remember the posts from Bangladesh from your previous blog. Sad, touching and uplifting because of the animals that were rescued and those who are not.

  2. Deva says:

    Thank you for posting - that is a heartbreaking story. I hope your friend knows that malinois are a high-energy, highly focused breed, and for Shaheb to succeed in his placement he will need a job, or at least an active person, who can teach and interact with him. I am looking forward to updates on Shaheb - I hope he will heal and thrive.

  3. selkie says:

    The whole "dog as status symbol" that is prevelant not just in this society but in all makes me ill. And it seems inevitable that the same mindset that gets a living, feeling, loyal and caring creature as an "accessory" sees no problem in just discarding them like trash.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.
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