My Starfish Story

As I walked home from work a couple of days ago, I saw a dog dragging itself across the cobblestone streets – bloody legs, its ribs poking out, shallow breaths.  Living in a developing country requires you to get somewhat accustomed to dogs without legs, or dogs with no hair, or dogs with one eye.  In a country struggling to grow food and find clean water, animals are the last concern.  I have come to accept this fact over the past year and a half, and other than occasionally putting out food or water for a dog, or giving a dog a quick stomach rub, I go about my business – attempting to focus on “bigger” projects and realizing I can’t save all the stray animals.

Yet, something about this dog tugged at me.  She was by far the most helpless dog I’ve ever seen in my life.  As soon as I bent down to examine her broken legs, she snuggled up to my side and let out a whimper.  Barely able to walk or breathe, she put all her effort into coming to me.  As I sat for over an hour stroking her nose and telling her it would be okay, neighbors came out of their houses and students walking home from school stared curiously, wondering why the branca was not only petting this mangy dog, but talking to her.  As I continued to ask people for a local veterinarian’s contact information, I received responses like feed our kids, not the animals.

As I later found out from curious neighbors, she was hit three weeks ago by a taxi and now she crawls from place to place and whimpers throughout the night.  As we dropped her off yesterday so that she could be put to sleep properly, I cried.  I felt silly crying for this dog I met just a couple of days ago, but sometimes it’s just too much.  I can’t live here every day and not be affected by cows eating out of garbage cans and puppies eating old diapers.

I know it’s one dog, but it’s one less dog that has to suffer.  It’s showing my neighbors that we can care about both people and animals.  It’s showing my community that we can work together.  It’s showing compassion for beings that can’t speak for themselves.  It’s doing small things with what we have, and not getting overwhelmed with the vastness of it all.

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One Response to My Starfish Story

  1. Eder Semedo says:

    This is so true! All of it. It’s one of those things that have always bothered me, much more now, since returning from Portugal. Even if I know there’s a relationship beetween poverty and the way we (don’t) care about animals, I wish we could something about it – there isn’t even a non-profit Organization for animals’ rights or laws that punish people who mistreat them.

    But the same happens to endemic birds and turtles. Cape Verdean biologists have been strugling for years and years to teach people why we should protect those endangered species – not destroying their nests, not shooting at the birds, not eating turtles (actually, a law was aproved during the nineties who criminalizes the comsumption of turtle meat, but to the day I don’t know of anyone who has been convicted – even government officials have turtle meat on their menu!)

    Well, I guess we must keep trying, and especially with children. Try, and try, and try.

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