Again, out of sequence. This post is taken from my crowdfunding campaign page on Mightycause.com, but does belong here as it is the story of yet another rescue of mine who made the personal choice to be rescued.
She appeared out of nowhere like a white ghost, suddenly standing at my side in the middle of a huge open field where I had taken the puppy whom I had rescued after she had been hit by a car outside my apartment window and where, moments earlier, there had been no sign of any one else except for a few children playing in the grass some distance away. She was severely emaciated but the white fur on her head suggested that, bathed and well-fed, she would be an elegant dog. Her only color, beyond the tinge of brown dirt that saturated her fur, was the black spots on her oversized ears, the splash of black sweeping over the middle of her tail, and the black eyebrow she sported over one eye.
Although I usually carry dog and cat food to feed strays, I had nothing with me. She didn’t seem to care. She appeared to be just happy to see me and proceeded to follow me and the puppy I was with home, across a busy thoroughfare, and down a wide public sidewalks, as if she had done this with us many times before. In the parking lot behind my apartment, I offered her dry dog food, which she backed away from. She gently consumed the rice and chicken mix that I had prepared for the two puppies I was now raising until I could get them to the U.S to find forever homes without hesitation. She let me put a collar on her but when I tried to get her to climb the three flights of stairs to my apartment, she wouldn’t budge. And she was not a small dog. I removed the collar and let her be. As I turned to go up the stairs alone, I acknowledged to myself that the decision ultimately had to be hers and I told her this. I went home, leaving the door to my apartment open as I entered, and thought I could hear whining in the distance, but I could not be sure. Two minutes later I turned, and found her at my side in the kitchen. She had made her choice and, in so doing, she had made mine for me.
Malaika (Swahili word that means “angel”) is now the 5th puppy that I have rescued in Tajikistan, after rescuing and taking another 6 to the U.S. to find forever homes from Nepal last year. I am supporting a seventh in Nepal who had health problems that make it difficult for her to travel.
In Nepal, there are 26,000 stray dogs in Kathmandu alone. However, because dogs are revered in Hinduism as gods, most of the dogs in the city are fed by someone. This is not true in Tajikistan, which is predominantly Muslim. Islam does not value dogs as Hinduism does, and as a result, the few stray dogs who manage not to be euthanized when the city decides to reduce their numbers, have a difficult life. Unlike cats, they cannot climb in and out of trash receptacles to forage for food and, unlike cats, whom many will feed, people are, more often than not, afraid of dogs.
There is no animal shelter in Tajikistan, not anywhere. And there are only a few vets in the capital. So when stray puppies cross my path and invite themselves home, I cannot turn them away. I have already arranged to take three back to the U.S. in January, but Malaika and another younger black-and-white male, Samir, would also like to find forever homes and the airlines will only let me take three. So I would need to make a second trip.
I have, until now, been using personal funds to rescue these dogs. I have them all vaccinated, spayed and neutered, if age appropriate, and then I take them to the Humane Society in Brattleboro, Vermont, where they have all found lovely homes with rural families in the rolling hills of Vermont. They are all deeply loved and cherished as family dogs.
Malaika and Samir are boarding with a kind-hearted vet who has a large walled-in compound where she accepts dogs for boarding or for rescue in Dushanbe. Last week, 12 new puppies arrived of varying ages, two were only six-weeks old and had been left in a trash bin to die. Of the total 22 dogs now there, only a handful are paying guests.
Malaika and Samir would like to come to the U.S. and they wouldn’t mind bringing along another puppy or two. They need to be escorted out of Tajikistan; there is no way to ship an animal as unaccompanied cargo out of the country. They could be shipped alone from Istanbul.
I have decided to start a small rescue organization “Forever Homes for Asian Pups” in the hopes of raising funds to bring Malaika and Samir to the U.S. If enough can be raised, then I will bring others. One thing that I have learned from all my animal rescuing adventures is that there is nothing more personally rewarding for me than finding an animal on the brink of death and being able to offer him or her a second chance.