I spent a lot of summers in Lebanon as a kid. A good number of homes in villages had dogs. Large dogs that were never vaccinated and lived on their owner’s doorsteps or caged in the back yard. They’re main purpose was to deter strangers or thieves or entertain the household’s children.
It’s a very common arrangement here, the kind where the family claims to have a dog but under no circumstance whatsoever would that dog ever be allowed to set paw in the house. The dog slept outside, ate outside, played outside and died outside, come rain or shine.
I always tried to secretly sneak the dogs into the house, would spend all my pocket money on buying them canned corned beef while everyone laughed at me, some even told me to go feed the hungry children instead. I had to get treated myself after I attempted to shower Whiskey, the village’s alcoholic’s dog with the garden hose. You see Whiskey had never had a shower in his life, he was flea-ridden much to my mother’s dismay.
I fought other kids when they threw rocks at the poor dogs or tormented them. When I asked adults why kids in Lebanon hurt animals I was always given the same absurd answer along the lines of “ Lebanon went through years of civil war were people killed each other, we have more important issues than animals rights”
Well, kids the war is over, and guess what, it ended in 1990 so some of you don’t even recall it, and even if you did, how on earth does that justify animal cruelty? Really?
And why can’t we multitask? Why can’t we deal with ALL our issues at once, why does it have to be either/or? Why can’t I have compassion for both animals AND humans without feeling guilty?
I write this post after we rescued a cute dog we named “Lucky” from a dumpster next to a residential neighborhood last week. She was a sweet little soul who was clearly starving with protruding bones and weighed no more than a kilo despite her medium size. It was obvious Lucky wasn’t always a stray; she looked like an older dog that wouldn’t have been able to survive in the cruel cold Lebanese streets on her own.
We gave Lucky a hot bath and her own little blanket while she cuddled up next to the heater and wolfed down 3 bowls of food. The next day I reached out to Animals Lebanon who told me to put her in a dog motel and pay for it myself since all their fosters “who are expats have traveled”, while the amazing folks at BETA (Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) told me to drop her off at the Animal Hospital where she was examined by the vet and then handed over to BETA.
Turns out Lucky was indeed an elder dog (10-12 years) and like many cases they have seen she was most likely abandoned because of her old age and all the “nuisances” it ensued.
So many Lebanese kids are going to receive pets as gifts this Christmas. By new year the novelty will wear off when they realize that the pet is not that cute anymore and will have to be housebroken before it serves it’s “purpose”, as a result most of these pets will most likely get abandoned. Please don’t get a pet if you aren’t 100% certain. BETA’s shelters are at over-capacity and they need all the help they can get.
And please don’t lecture me on where I should focus my compassion and instead redirect that energy on doing some good this Christmas.
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