Growing up, we had the most beautiful Border Collie. Her name was Martha. My father had adopted her when she was just a puppy, and she had already lived the better part of her life by the time I was born. Although I was too young to understand the significance of the bond we shared at the time, looking back on the time we spent together and glancing at old photos now and then, I feel fortunate and privileged that she was a part of my early childhood. She taught me kindness, gentleness, and respect for other living beings – habits instilled in me throughout my life. As a result, I cannot help but feel a sense of responsibility toward the creatures in our cities and neighborhoods who are not as fortunate as those who have a home of their own. They deserve the same amount of love and care.
Often, in our day-to-day lives, we pay little mind to these creatures wandering about. A bark may capture our attention briefly, and we may even take a few minutes off our busy schedules to interact with them, but we quickly move on and do not give it a second thought. We regard it as routine and unimportant. We humans have a shared responsibility, something we often forget, to look after those stray animals. As aforementioned, I understand that it might initially seem a bit intimidating. Nowadays, people generally have relatively busy lifestyles.
Not everyone has hours of their days to dedicate to providing constant care to these animals, let alone adopting, especially since it adds commitment to an already potentially packed schedule. Trust me when I tell you that even the little things that you do, which will take at most a few minutes off your day, make a difference. Therefore, I would like to tell you a few stories about the fun characters I have met while attempting to help my city’s needy and less fortunate creatures.
Both my girlfriend and I are volunteers at a non-profit organization in our country that works with stray animals and focuses on trying to find them a home. One day, just as I got back home from work, I got a call from her telling me that she had received a call from a friend of hers that works at a construction site which said to her that while working, they had found a box with two newborn pups in it, who at the time were around one month to a month and a half old at most. They were just left there, and according to the description, they were both in bad shape – shaking, stumbling when trying to walk on their own, crying out for food, and dirty since they had been exposed to harsh weather conditions from the night prior.
As she told me all this, I knew I could not just do nothing about it after learning about their state; my consciousness would not let me, for I feared they might not survive much longer. After pondering for a few seconds in silence as to what course of action to take, I told her to do the only reasonable thing that came to mind at the time: bring them home. And as I waited for them to arrive, I proceeded with preparing to provide them with the necessary care.
I want to note that protecting yourself and remaining safe when overseeing stray animals is particularly important. Although they are charming, you must consider that they have been homeless, mostly under harsh conditions, and they might have picked up some germs or parasites. So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, do not get too eager to bring them up to your face and smother them immediately.
When my girlfriend came home with them, we first put on a pair of latex gloves and immediately checked them for ticks. To no surprise, we found a few of them. They were very patient with us as we removed the ticks for them; however, they were not very big fans of the bath afterward. Regardless, they braved through it, and once they were all clean, my girlfriend proceeded to dry them up and keep them company while I prepared their formula. The poor souls must have been starving, considering how quickly and greedily they ate. They were entertaining to watch, and as we admired them peacefully, we came up with their names – Hades and Rengar.
The first few days were the most challenging as the puppies were adjusting to their new environment and the routine we were setting for them. However, it was not anything unfamiliar for either one of us since, through our volunteer work, we had already taken care of stray animals before meeting Hades and Rengar. In the absence of a mother, they required a lot of effort. Puppies cannot urinate and defecate on their own when they are young, so they needed our assistance to stimulate them by using a cotton ball moistened with lukewarm water, and we fed them every 4-5 hours.
Since most puppies are born with intestinal worms, we also took them to the vet, where we were told they were in a healthy condition and were given their de-wormer pills. We knew from the start that we could not keep them long-term, and we usually would have started looking for a home for them right away, but since we both had a bit more open schedules at the time, we decided to keep them for a while.
They stayed with us for a month and a half in total. As the days went by and they were getting accustomed to their surroundings, we noticed their personalities shining through. Although they were both quite mischievous, as most puppies are, Hades was a lot timider and relied on us quite a bit, refusing to remain separated and on his own for very long. In contrast, Rengar displayed signs of independency very early on.
They were both also very playful. If they were not eating or sleeping, you could bet they were playfully fighting and wrestling each other or with us. Both were honestly such a pleasure to have around and although they required a lot of effort, watching them grow was so rewarding. I still remember the beams of joy and awe on my girlfriend’s face when we noticed they had gotten bigger and could adequately walk and run independently without stumbling over their feet.
However, as time passed, we faced the reality of the situation we had known from the beginning. Even though we had grown quite attached to the puppies, given that both of us were balancing our time between our day-to-day professions and studies, we were aware that we could not keep them for much longer and decided to start looking for a new home for them. This may very well be the most daunting part of the complete process, at least for me, since I am emotionally and very empathetic.
And I have been asked plenty of times why I keep doing it to myself and don’t get sad whenever I must give away the animals I have looked after. And the answer is always, of course, that I get sad. But it would be best if you considered that we do not do this for us; we do it for them. These animals deserve the same amount of love and care as everyone else. And with a slight chance of survival on their own, if I can’t provide them home myself, the very least I can do is try and find them a new one.
The rise of social media has made this process easy, as many groups and organizations, such as the one we volunteer in, have a broad outreach throughout our country. In a matter of hours after posting them in various groups on Facebook and Instagram and with the help of our friends and other volunteers spreading the word, we were swamped with messages from people looking to adopt Rengar and Hades. We spoke with everyone who wrote to us, and in just a couple of days, the puppies met their new owners and were welcomed into their new homes.
Another gentle soul I would like to tell you about is Kiwi. I met Kiwi at a megalithic observatory one night when a few friends and I decided to visit to look at the night sky. We had set up a little picnic, and as we were hanging out, listening to music, and observing the stars, we were approached by Kiwi. We could tell she was terrified as she kept her distance at first and was hesitant to join us where we sat, but thankfully, since we had brought some food with us, we put it on a plate for her along with a little container of water.
This kind of act alone caused an immediate shift in her personality. Who knew how mistreated this poor animal had been? All she needed was a gentleness to show her that she had nothing to fear. As soon as she had finished her food and drank her water, we immediately put out some more, but instead of going in for seconds, she prompted us to come closer, and after sniffing us out, she settled in the right with us. All she wanted was love and comfort. We noticed that she hadn’t always been a stray dog but a domestic one who had been left there as she had a collar with her name on it.
The amount above her vision posed a problem since none of us were neither equipped nor capable of treating it, so we knew we couldn’t just bring her home. To make matters worse, she also had a cut right above her left eye and struggled to see out of it as it had swollen up. We knew we couldn’t just leave her there in her condition, so when we decided that it was time to leave as it was getting pretty late and the temperature was dropping, we attempted to guide her back with us. But, that’s when fear settled back in and she refused to move.
We tried to call her, but instead of following us, we were met with her pleading cries. With no other options, I picked her up in my arms and carried her down the mountain, where the observatory was set, back to our car. We stopped at a veterinary hospital when we made it back into town. The hospital has a large open yard, and the veterinarians there provide voluntary care for many stray animals, so we knew that removing Kiwi from the harsh and hostile environment she was previously in offered the best chances of her survival. And to this day, whenever I pass by the hospital, I still see her running around the yard or interacting and socializing with the other dogs.
I know that not everyone has the conditions to adopt, permanently or temporarily, or dedicate many hours of their days to looking after the animals in their neighborhood. But you don’t have to go above and beyond to make a difference. Going to the local supermarket and providing some food and water for these helpless creatures or actively participating in groups and organizations through social media matters does make a difference.
And yes, I understand that maybe we can’t save them all, but every life is equally important and precious, and they all deserve to live. It takes a lot of effort, time, and commitment to dedicate yourself to such a cause, but it’s worth it because there’s nothing quite like saving even at least one life. Even now, as I try to put that feeling into words, I fail, for there is nothing like knowing that you’ve given these creatures another chance to live. And that is your reward.