Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nepal’s Forgotten Dogs

Before I came to Nepal I had always heard about the stray dogs.  It wasn’t until I came here that I could fully comprehend just how bad the issue is.  Dogs are literally everywhere and they have varying degrees of ailments mostly brought on by hunger and pure neglect.  

This little pup was in Sankhu.

Dogs are a problem because people do not care for them or even consider their needs.  They do not understand that dogs are social creatures, which thrive on positive human attachment.  Even the ones that are kept as pets are often left tied up all day and night – consequently these poor animals spend a good portion of their time barking – for attention. 
This was a real cute stray.

Dogs end up on the streets as a stray due to people deciding that once the dog is mature – they do not want it anymore; and because none of the strays are neutered; so of course they will breed and add to the issue.  
Here in Changunarayan there are numerous strays.  They tend to hang around certain areas in the hope of a few food morsels.  Most are painfully thin, flea-ridden, some have weeping open sores, some have ticks, I am sure they all have worms and other parasites, some have mange and some are not too bad but certainly would deteriorate quickly if they did not manage to score a scrap of food everyday.

Two Changu strays. These two actually look pretty good!

One of the strays that hangs around the guesthouse. She tends to follow us as much as she is allowed to and is a real sweetie.

I heard travellers to Nepal say the dogs were not to be touched or petted due to the rabies problem.  I have also heard them say the dogs will attack if you get too close.  I have seen one rabid dog since being here – in Sankhu – the poor thing could barely stand it shook so much and walked as if it was brain-damaged. There was no way that poor thing was up to taking a chunk out of anyone.  I did not get rabies vaccinated before I came to Nepal, and after seeing the dogs and being around them I think it is over-kill to suggest the rabies shots are necessary. Prophylactic treatment is available if a bite is sustained but it is more likely to be from a monkey than a dog.  I have not had any dogs snarl at me or display body language suggesting that I keep my distance.

Another small pup in Sankhu scratching an itch.

This poor dog in Sankhu really upset me - it was so thin it was disturbing.

One of the most disturbing aspects for the strays is the way Nepali treat them.  These dogs are mostly scared of humans enough not to chase or hassle them.  This is because the Nepali are very abusive towards them – kicking them, throwing rocks at them, and I even saw a person beating one with a stick yesterday.  They give dogs no love, attention or care (unless they have a dog as a pet which is not a common occurrence like in New Zealand), and yet they do not actually understand that dogs are so loyal they will protect any person who shows a bit of kindness.
When in Kathmandu last week I saw a noticeboard advertising photos from an organisation that is attempting to protect the stray dogs. 

It is such a monumental task, because it is Nepali who need to be made aware and take responsibility for how they (mis) treat these animals; on the whole from what I have seen it is a generational attitude towards dogs that prevails, and sadly the pups learn from a very young age to be fearful of humans as they beat, kick and throw rocks at them right from the start of their lives.  The mere movement of bending down and pretending to pick up a rock to throw will send a dog running.
Here at Starview Guesthouse there are four “regulars” that hang around.  They are so excited to see us come back in the evening from a day in Sankhu, and are so loyal they follow us down the hill – in fact we lost one of the strays a few days ago – a painfully thin dog that just did not come back at the end of the day even though the others did.  

Strays coming along while we check shelters in Changu.

One of the guesthouse strays asleep on the step.

These dogs get some attention, a bit of food and Amanda even bought flea and tick powder – but we need to initiate a team effort to apply it.  They are sweet little dogs that just want human company – because that’s what dogs do – they wait for a bit of love. They are not allowed in the house though even though they sneak in; but they are not pets of the guesthouse - simply strays that hang out there perhaps because they know the foreigners will treat them well.
Chris surrounded by the guesthouse strays.

Even as I sit in my room now writing this blog, I can hear an orchestra of dog barks in the distance.  I think of all the strays curling up for the night on some cold doorstep that is not their own and I think of the poor dogs who are on the verge of death because no one will even throw them the smallest mouthful of food.  I also imagine the earthquakes really shook things up for dogs too.  Perhaps a new age of Nepali can lead a change in attitude towards their dogs; to take responsibility for ensuring they neuter their pet (if they can afford to; at least if they do turf it out onto the streets after it matures it will not add to the dog problem); and to develop NGO’s which create an awareness about the value dogs can actually add to ones life if treated properly. 
Sadly – I do not think anything is going to change anytime soon.

The guesthouse dogs come out for a walk with us to the bus stop. We lost one in the process sadly.

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