Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two Ends of the Same Story

As we have moved through the ages together with dogs, our lives have become entwined and parallel. We have manipulated dogs into our realities and they have become mirrors of our psyches. In any region or country, the philosophies, natures and principals of its people are reflected in the lives of the dogs who live among them. I have observed dogs in the cities and villages in Nicaragua. So many people are poor, disenfranchised and uninspired. To eat, more seem to beg for cordobas than to grow their own food. In the villages, dogs are everywhere – lone scavengers who are chased off with sticks. They are everywhere in the cities too but rarely visible during the day. They hide to avoid assault and attack and banishment from the “territory” that feeds them. Most look hungry and unhealthy. In contrast, the dogs living in the villages and cities in Peru appear to be full participants in the society. Peruvian people grow plenty, both for sharing and for sacrifice to the Gods. Like them, free-ranging dogs look well-fed, healthy and happy. They make their rounds through the shops and stall vendors on busy city streets. They visit farms and homes and everywhere they go, people share meals with them.

Dogs show us what we value and believe in and in this country, they reflect our materialistic and anthropocentric views. We “get,” “buy,” “own” and “have” dogs and when they become inconvenient, expensive or problematic, we dispose of them. We can see evidence of this in some of the dogs available for adoption today at my local county shelter. Let’s meet a few of them now.

This is Corky. His origins are unknown and he needs a little fixing in the “man” department, which the shelter will probably take care of. He is six years old and I’m sure he will be very handsome when his eyes are attended to and he doesn’t look like he is in terrible pain. Can’t you just picture him with a smiling mouth and bright, happy eyes looking right at you?

How about this little cutie. Believed to be a Fox terrier mix, she is only one year old and a tiny nine pounds. She has no name and her photo does not show her in her best pose but she looks like she could erupt into whole-body-wagging joy to me.

Here is Nala. She is shown next to the feet that she has known for the past five years and the feet that will walk away from her, leaving her in the terrible situation of being an unwanted dog in Palm Beach County. Nala is a female Lhasa Apso and the woman with the feet did not have her spayed. She is a bit overweight at 15 pounds but will surely slim down with the right diet and care.

This is Weewee. He is a Rat terrier who has not been neutered and that may have something to do with his unfortunate name choice. He is just two and weighs 15 pounds. I’m hoping that he gets the opportunity to do what young terriers love to do until he is too old to do anything but reflect upon his former prowess.

Speaking of old, this is Oryo. He is a 14-pound Shih Tzu with a serious cataract in one eye. He has been neutered and groomed and he has a current tag. It looks like he was well cared for. Whatever caused the man in the blue shirt to give this 12-year old dog to the county shelter is unknown. Who will provide a comfortable, safe place for Oryo to live out his life?

Here is an unnamed four-year-old. He is listed as a "Parson Russell terrier," unsterilized and 27 pounds. It’s a shame that the camera flash prevents us from really seeing his eyes so that we can know without a doubt what he feels. I’m sure that our hearts would be so taken that we would weep for him in this predicament.

This is little 12-pound Lulu. She is an eight-year-old Pomeranian who looks very much like the first dog I ever lived with. She is anxious in this photo and I can just imagine what she is going through in the shelter cage right now. Oh Lulu, I hope you find a loving home.

These little beings are some of the lucky ones in the shelter today. By being declared “adoptable,” they have one more chance at life. Some are arguing that the lucky ones are the dogs who have already been euthanized. Will these little pups be saved, loved and cared for to the end of their days? And how did “pure-breed” dogs like Nala, Weewee, Oryo and Lulu end up homeless? How did they start out with people who would not keep them?

Perhaps we can begin to answer that last question by having a look at some of the small dogs being offered for sale in the classified section of the county paper on the same day.

These two ends of the same story are showing us how deeply detached we are from dogs, from each other, from the world around us and from the whole of our conscious being. We have objectified reality and become alienated from the most intimate aspect of the living experience. We have created artificial views of the natural world and of the dog, who was once a natural animal within it. And it seems that we are completely unaware of what we're doing and blind to the fall-out.