Come on baby, LIGHT MY FIRE

Citizen: I need to surrender my dog to the city.
City Employee: What’s the reason for your return?
Citizen: She keeps trying to get away from the house. She’s jumping the fence.
Employee: Please fill out this form while I take the picture of the dog.
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I walk in at this point and see a black female pit-bull tied to the abandoning-dog-hitch.
Me: Sir, what happened to this dog on her back?

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Citizen: Uh ! Umm! I don’t know officer. Officer…Sanhu…is it?
Me: Sandhu. Sir this dog has third degree burns on her back. Maybe she won’t try to escape the yard if you stop lighting her on fire, you fuckwad,dimwit, nincompoop.

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Citizen: Wait, maybe my wife knows more about those. Let me check with her.

As he backs towards the door he picks up the pace, spins on his heel and is out the door yelling at his wife to ‘start the car’ and ‘go go go’.
I’m not sure what out policy states regarding chasing cowardly citizens down the street, catching them and lighting them on fire.
But we’re never going to find out, are we?

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You’re AXED

I got a cruelty case today that made me question my belief in humanity. It made me question my constitution as someone who witnesses cruelty to animals every single day.

It made me want to ask all humans these basic questions;

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If someone came at you with an axe, what would you do?

If someone did this to your face? What would you do?

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If you were a dog, would you love humans still?

Would you respond kindly to their touch?

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…and give kisses to the human cleaning your wounds?

What will it take for us humans to be more like animals?

To love completely?

To trust completely?

Will we always remain like this guy?

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Or will we become….their voice?

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So that the bad guy doesn’t win…

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Bad to the Bone?

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Neglect?- Of property? Of Animal?

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Abandonment?

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Was this puppy in a dangerous situation?

That is a skull and pelvic bone of another dog

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A Puppy?

-It looks fat because its belly is bloated with round-worms.

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Thirsty?

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Hungry?

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Brought to shelter?

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Did it get its first bath?

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Did it get Spayed?

Is it ready for the BIG Adoption event?

Will it find a loving home?

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Compassion fatigue??-  NOT YET.

SomeBunny Loves You

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Four baby bunnies were learning about life. The warm sun, the fresh smell of the bugs and earth and the clear crisp air. Their mama had asked them to stay in their nest in a citizens yard.

But since when do kids listen to their mama? When the mama was away the baby bunnies stepped out of their nest; hopping away within a few feet of the nest, exploring , smelling, nibbling on the grass.

Along came a man with a big machine with a big blade, slicing the grass and spitting out the shards from the other end. A man in shorts pushed the lawn-mover from one corner of the yard to the other.

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……….Then he saw the bunnies.

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The next day I bent down by the empty nest squinting at the glob of red fur trying to make sense of what I was looking at. As I stepped back I saw more bits of the shredded baby. I removed my sunglasses and raised my eyebrows at the burly man.

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“I got that sucker good, din’ I?” He high fived his next door neighbor. They guffawed and sipped their beer.

I couldn’t believe how many pieces he had shredded the baby rabbit into. Why, goddamnit why?

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“These suckers are everywhere. I put out this other one in the empty nest so mama would come and get him- but she dern-near ran for her bloody life.” He toed another one by the fence.

This one had his body intact but his mouth lay open, parched. His lips yearning for that one drop of water that never came in the 100 degree Texas weather. He used a baby rabbit to bait it’s mama. My eyes well up with tears. A human beings ability to be cruel never ceases to amaze me.

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So I gave him a few tickets for cruelty and filed a case against him. This case I am sure to lose in the court of law. He laughed as he signed the tickets (This is not an admission of guilt, sir… It’s just an acknowledgement… blah blah blah).

Did these ten day old bunnies have a life worth saving? Did they have a voice? In those tickets that are sure to be thrown out- they will have a voice. It might never be heard but it is worth listening to.

In their ten days in this world- their mama loved them. In becoming their voice I promise to love them.

SomeBunny loves them.

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Can We all Just Keep Our Heads??

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What is the hardest thing you’ve done?

Witness cruelty?

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Killed an innocent dog who thought you were taking him out to play?

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Deal with a starving and abandoned dog, emaciated to the point of no return?

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Just when you think you have seen the pits of what animal control and cruelty investigation has to throw at you- You get a simple order in an email.

Animal ID-234487822,

Type K-9.

Breed- American Pitbull Mix

Sex Male.

Pls decaptitate and take head to Greyhound station to be shipped to 321 Main Street,–

 

Your throat constricts. All the rabies prevention classes where you read that the only way to determine if a dog has rabies is to decapitate and ship his head to a lab just became a naked, ugly reality staring you in your face.

But- I—Me—We— Why—

 

You read again- but there it is- Clear as day D-E-C-A-P-I-T-A-T-E.

 

You go to your supervisor and ask why is it necessary to decapitate even after the dog has passed the necessary 10 day quarantine. Is it not enough that he was euthanized despite not having rabies.

In response he point to page 866-B in the state-laws code book.

When he asks you if you have the ability to do it. You say you’ve never done it before. So he asks you to witness it so that you can do it next time.

So you and another officer retrieve a black garbage bag from the freezer and lift the frozen over dog to the metal table.

Then you take a scalpel and circumscribe a cut around his neck. The semi-frozen blood oozes out and you step back from the table.

“Just hold him.” Says the other officer who has done this a hundred times. Then he proceeds to sever the muscle of his thick neck one by one.

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You dig your nose into your shoulder and hold the dog from slipping off the stainless steel table. The open-sewer like stench urges your bile to throw up your lunch.

Then you see a spurt of blood. The jugular has just been severed.

As you beg your knees to not give way for 5 more minutes the other officer says, “We’re almost through. Lets yank the rest off.”

He digs his bloodied hands out of the dogs neck and tosses away the third blunt scalpel. I push on the dog’s torso while he uses the leverage to break off his head.

Sweat drips off my forehead despite the A/C blasting through the vents. I pray for more strength. 2 more minutes. Dear god, give me 2 more minutes.

When the head refuses to come off the officer starts twisting his head like a bottle cap to break it off. That’s when my will gives up. My mouth is now full of vomit. I rush out the door and fall to the curb- coughing up my lunch all over the pavement.

How much more is this job going to drain out of me?

What do I have that has not been taken yet?

I’m driving to the bus-station with an icebox on the front seat. I remove the lid and look into the dog’s glassy eyes staring back at me.

I pet his disconnected head.

I just have my love for the animals and my compassion left. And a promise to help as many as I can, to not meet a similar fate.

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Puppy, Puppy – Bang… Bang

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“Hi, World– It’s a beautiful day in sunny Como, Fort Worth and this is your friend and host, Memphis the awesomest Pitbull ever, reporting. There is fun to be had, trees to be peed on, sneakers to be chewed and cars to chase on this bright sunny–“

“–Wait a second… Sorry for the interruption folks. I’m being hailed by my owner. And when the master proposes; Memphis disposes. And that’s the law. So let it be written– so let it be told.”

I run as fast as my little legs can carry me to my owner.

“Here, Memphis, Here Dawwwwggg !”He reaches for my head.

I snuggle by his calloused hand and long fingernails. He reaches out for my collar and removes it and my favorite blue tag. “We’re going to have some fun with you, boy.”

I love the sound of the word FUN…It just sounds like a lot of — FUN.!! hahaha

He pulls a shiny thing from his back pocket and holds it up to my forehead. My ears are now fully erect. The thing has a handle and a long narrow tube to it. It feels cold on my fore-head but I trust my master. Anything that is good for Memphis, the awesome; he will do for–”

BANG !!!!!

A sharp pain sears through my head, the sound is deafening and I am thrown backwards. My world turns dark and my ears are ringing- but my head is on fire.

My lungs are exploding, I can’t breathe. What was that? It hurt and my master would NEVER hurt me. I love him so much.

The world I’ve known for a few months fades in and out of my eyes and finally into oblivion.

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The  pavement is very hot but my head is throbbing when I wake up. I can’t see out of my right eye. I’m on my back and a spectacled woman with big eye-glasses is poring over me. She covers my head in a towel and rushes me to a Vet.

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It’s been a few months since Molly saved me. My left eyeball has shifted and I am blind in one eye. Molly keeps on rubbing the scar on my forehead with her fingernail and kisses it every night, mumbling apologies on the behalf of humanity.

She tells people I’ve become a shy dog and I like hiding under the table at first when I meet someone.

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I spy with my good eye

I spy with my good eye

Memphis under the

Memphis under the

Problem is; who can I trust? Humans are so vastly different . We dogs have different personalities too but we all wear our hearts on our sleeves ; ALL OF US. Humans are diff- some of them kiss our boo-boos and some of them give us boo-boos.

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I’m just a silly puppy… can everyone just tell me which side they are on when they meet me…

Help me read humans better– PLEASE.

Yes- This is how I sleep...with my leg

Yes- This is how I sleep…with my leg…Goodnight !!!

 

 

ROAD-MAPS OF THE SOUL- August’s tale

A human’s journey is complete when there is someone at the door to greet them when they get home. What is an animal’s journey? Some unfortunate ones struggle through the ups and down of a horrific world that we’ve created for them.

Dinggg. The amber light glowed on my cellphone screen. New text message from the Mole. I pushed the green tab. “One male black puppy. 8-10 weeks old. Rail-yard.

I gulped and quickly checked my watch. 7:47 PM. The fading sunlight in the Texas sky stopped me in my tracks. I was planning to go to the scariest part of town for picking up the puppy. A neighborhood where drugs exchange hands and possessions of guns and knives was the norm. The brutal practice of dog-fighting and killing of the weak bait-dogs was an everyday practice and this remote rail-yard provided the ideal backdrop for it.

Yet the puppy tied to the railway tracks wouldn’t make it till the morning. He was deemed too weak by the dog-fighting gang so they had tied him to the railway tracks for the train to crush him. I must get him from there tonight. I wore dark clothes and armed myself with a flashlight, a bag and a knife for protection.

I crouched low to the railway tracks and whispered, “Here, puppy puppy.” I whistled and strained to hear a sound in the darkness. My fingertips rested on the tracks and the shiny metal felt warm on my fingertips Gosh, has a train gone over these tracks recently? Is it too late?

I crawled down the tracks as they curved by the bushes and vanished from the view of the road. The beam from my flashlight danced on the broad gauge sleepers hoping I wouldn’t be spotted by the gang-members. My eyes squinted to adjust to the all-encompassing darkness.

           Aooor.I strained to listen again. Aooor.

I sprinted towards the sound. There he was; a little black puppy tied so close to the tracks that he couldn’t move more than two inches away from them. Just as expected he was a Labrador-Pit bull mix. Blood still oozed from the scar across his face. His legs had scars and his fur was matted with crusted over blood.

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“Don’t worry, little guy, you’re safe now,” I cut the rope and lifted him in the air. He was cowering and trembling but the moment I held him close to my chest, he stopped wailing.

Next morning, back at the animal shelter where I volunteer the 8 week old puppy played with the Labrador Retriever, Chevvy. He had been fed, bathed, given medicine and a new name; St. Augustine A.K.A August.

August stood up to Chevvy and teased him into playing with him. Even when he was pushed to the ground, he never backed down from a scuffle. One day when he and Chevy were playing with a tug rope. August got a little too bossy and Chevvy lost his cool, grabbing one end of the rope he flung August about six feet away. August got up, shrugged himself off and was back bothering Chevvy to ‘do it again’……

St. Augustine had boundless amounts of energy and he ran around in his small cage at breakneck speeds, the centrifugal force propelling him higher in the cage like a motorcycle in the well of death. The motorcycle gets higher and higher, the faster it goes.  It made such a horrible mess in his cage, that everyone thought he was un-adoptable.

I knew he was just burning his energy and being a rambunctious puppy. One day I caught him trying to bite his way out of the cage to try and escape, so he could play with the rest of the dogs.    It’s sad to see such a live-wire spend his puppyhood in a kennel.  August’s journey wasn’t complete yet, he needed a new home.

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Week after week of taking him to adoption events, failing to find him a home and leaving him inside a small cage every night made my heart bleed. I spent several nights staring at the ceiling, imagining his sad empty eyes behind the cold stainless steel rods, wondering if the cost August was paying for being safe at the shelter with his puppyhood was a fair one.

My friend, Navnit met him on one of her trips to Texas, fell utterly and completely in love with him and decided to give him a new home and a new name; Augustus Maximus.

A month later when I visited Navnit, August ran to the door to greet me. His tail wagged merrily and his butt shook in glee when his tongue licked my cheek. ‘All dogs are adoptable’, I thought to myself. We just need to give them a chance to succeed.

Augusts journey spanned being a lone puppy minutes away from being crushed by a locomotive engine, to finding limited joy at the animal shelter and finally an overabundance of love from Navnit.

The warm Texas breeze tousled my hair when I drove back that evening, worried about when I’d receive the next text from the Mole; my informant within the dog-fighting gang. How many more puppies can I save among the sea of cruelty all around me? A new puppy would be starting his journey soon.

August’s journey is now complete – he has found his road-map; now I need to find mine.

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Fearless Nadia- Who’s scared of Whom- Animal or Human?

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“My god, this dog has either never seen stairs or is so afraid of climbing them that I’ll have to carry her.” I pointed at the golden-brown pit-bull mix.

“She’s got to be pushing a hundred pounds.” Tina urged the dog upstairs.

“This is the first overweight abused dog I’ve seen.”

Tina pointed at the bruises on her back, “We see well fed, but perennially shackled dogs all the time. She’s been hit repeatedly.” She rubbed the dog’s ear. “Don’t worry little girl, we’ll smother you with love.”

After we cajoled her upstairs and into my apartment she dashed under my bed. All the coaxing couldn’t get her out from under there. Well into the night, the dog’s water bowl and food remained untouched.

Then in the middle of the night I heard her creep out and go to the food bowl. Poor girl, she couldn’t take the hunger anymore. No sooner had she finished eating, she was back under my bed.

Tina called me next morning. “How did it go last night? Do you think you can socialize her enough to help her get adopted?”

I knelt by my bed. The dog’s empty scared eyes darted away from mine. “It’s not possible for me. She’s scared of everything. She cowers and doesn’t respond to anything. Somebody sure has done a number on her.”

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“Maybe I should take her.” Tina started. “She’d do better around my handicapped dog.”

“You’re the expert. I’ve never seen a dog this scared in my two years in dog rescue.” I laid out my palm flat.

“What should we name her on her adoption papers?” Tina was in her adoption and fostering supervisor mode.

“I have the perfect name for her. There were a bunch of C grade stunt movies made in India in the 1950’s they all had a female lead stunt woman by the name of Fearless Nadia.”

Tina guffawed. “Nadia then?”

“No. Fearless Nadia.”

Tina choked on her laughter. “You might be new at our shelter but you are the most optimistic guy.”

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Thus began the tale of Fearless Nadia. The endless hours Tina spent showering love and affection on her; the back breaking sit-ins with under Tina’s bed to help her come out from under there. Several times during the process I lost faith, but Tina’s dogged determination made her go on and on…and on.

            ..And on.

            Then one day I walked into Tina’s house and Fearless Nadia greeted me in all her glory; a wild wagging tail, an eager-to- kiss- tongue and an eagerness to be pet. In five months we’d just evened the playing field between her and the other rescue dogs and it still seemed like a long way away from finding a home. Both of us were concerned with how she would react to people she didn’t know.

I was at work one day when Tina showed up un-announced at my office door. “Somebody’s interested in adopting Nadia.”

My heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“Only problem is they’re in Utah and can’t get her.” Tina cupped her mouth.

“We’ll drive her there.”

“Inder, I knew you’d say this.” Her eyes smiled.

“You’ve done so much. We can’t let a few hundred miles snatch the only chance she might ever get at having a family.”

The landscape changed a few times from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. She lounged on the back seat; waiting, anticipating, hoping- enacting all the rituals of expectation that a migrant like me felt when I had moved to the US.

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Her new family loved her instantly. A little boy to play with, an adolescent girl that would care for her, a mother, waiting to dole unconditional love to the new family member. She couldn’t have asked for more.

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Tina stared out the window with her palm covering her face. Six months of loving Fearless Nadia had drained her. Her tears had not stopped for an hour. Every adoption tests a rescue workers heart. The joy and the sorrow, the elation and the loneliness push their heart to fluctuations my heart was not equipped to endure.

My trance was broken by the sound of a police siren. I hit the brakes and pulled over.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” The burly officer pulled up his pants

by the belt buckle. “Where are you driving from?”

When we explained the situation to him his scowl softened. “Thank you for caring

for dogs the way you do. What do you think makes Fearless Nadia so fearful?”

Tina wiped her cheek. “I think she was abused so badly that she forgot what it feels like to be a dog.”

The officer squinted. “And you suppose she remembers now?”

Tina sniffed. “Yes she does officer. Love changes everything, she’s joyful now and her new family will cherish her.”

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“I’m going to let you get away with a warning this time just because my partner Sgt. Scott asked me to.” The officer touched the brim of his hat. “Now you two be careful and drive slow.”

 

I started the engine and eased past his parked cruiser parked by the freeway. The red decal on the white door read ‘Utah State Trooper- K-9 Unit.’ And staring out the window with his tongue hanging out his mouth was Sgt. Scott.

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O My Indie Dog, How I Fear thee, Let me Count the Ways

-Inder Sandhu

             Aiiiiyiiiii.” The scrawny shirtless kid holds up two sticks in his hands and chases a dog. His ten-year-old legs allow him to catch up to the limping stray before I can blink my eyes.

“Whaaack.” A smile of triumph beams across the boy’s dark complexioned face.

“Aoor Aoor Aoor,” The dog lifts his injured leg higher and tries to scramble away. The boy raises his sticks again.

My body kicks into action. “Oye!” I charge the boy.

He drops the sticks and tries to flee.

Tadaak.

injured dogMy fingers sting from the pain. The boy is holding the back of his head. “Why are you hitting a defenseless dog?” I yell in Hindi. The onlookers at the Fatehpur Sikri surround us. The boy runs away. “How does it feel to be hit like that?” I shout at his receding figure.

The mosque has drawn its weekend crowd of visitors and devout locals. Merchants by the Kotah stone coloured forty meter high entrance gate, the Buland Darwaza, trade their wares in song. The mild wafting aroma of groundnuts roasting over coal saturates the air. The azaan (call to prayer) blares over the loud-speaker. “Allah-hu-Akbar.” Although not a Muslim, I repeat the phrase aloud. I’ve been taught as a child to respect all religions. I fold my hands in prayer and bow my head.  

              Ḥayya ʿala khayr al ʿamal.” (The time for the best deed has come) the Muezzin’s voice is crisp over the loudspeaker.

             The best deed? I slump. How does it feel to be the perpetrator of the crime you just accused him of? Hitting someone weaker than you is just wrong. I close my eyes. That kid hasn’t learnt his lesson and he never will. Where did we go wrong? When did it become acceptable for peace loving Indians to hurt defenseless animals? What happened to our concept of ‘be kind to animals-‘nahi to paap lagega’ (or you will be cursed by your karma).

A part of the answer is fear and the lack of education of how to handle the Indie dog; a stray of no particular breed. We see them everywhere and are indifferent to their presence. Their plight is so common that we’ve become immune to it. We Indians are experts at shutting our eyes and zoning out problems from our lives if they don’t affect us.

            We have no idea how to approach these dogs. We’ve never learnt it. We fear them.

            Imagine if you will the life of a stray dog. Born into scarce food supply and poor health conditions, they have ticks and fleas and no form of vaccination. Most of them in the litter die within a few days. Only the tough survive. They face other big, rabid dogs and children pelting stones at them.

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            Oftentimes, the mother is too busy searching for food or gets runs down by cars and trucks, leaving these puppies to fend for themselves. Like children, these puppies need the human touch, love and nurturing. A human that is orphaned and struggles for survival often becomes a criminal. These dogs are the outcasts of our society. They have very little in terms of orphanages or shelters.

         When we can show them love, we show them fear and hatred. Even if our children try, we’re guilty of shooing the dogs away and reprimanding our children for trying to get close. When these children grow into teenagers we offer them no outlet to quell the fear we instilled in their hearts. We offer them no opportunity to volunteer with these defenseless animals.

         When our children have children of their own- they propagate the same fear in them. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear begets more fear- until one day our society becomes immune to their plight. Then we are left with the only option of scoffing at our own country and the overpopulation of dogs. We cite examples of other countries, those don’t have these problems.

animal cruelty       The simple question is- Will we do anything to break the circle? Will we allow our children to volunteer with these poor helpless dogs and nurse them to health and love? Allow the children to ensure that our administrators have policies in place to control the overpopulation of strays? Or will we just sit back and make the circle of fear get stronger and stronger? Will we do nothing and then complain?

The child comes back with his father. “Why did you hit my son?” He jabs a stick in my pectorals. “You thought he has nobody to support him? Apologize to him” He looks over my shoulder at the growing crowd behind me.

I sit down on my knee and rub the kid’s head where I’d struck him. “I’m sorry I hit you, little guy.” I straighten up.

His father triumphantly twirls his moustache. He turns around and walks away.

I call out behind him. “Now will you ask your son to apologize to the dog he hit because he thought there was nobody to support the dog?”

He pauses for a while, then turns around. Tears have pooled around his now soft eyes. He loses the grip of his stick. I see it rattle on the bitumen and I would’ve heard it too- had the applause not drowned out the sound.

© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.