One of my friends has on her Facebook banner the following, “If you don’t like seeing pictures of violence towards animals being posted, you need to help stop the violence, not the pictures.” This message caught my attention as it reminded me of something else I’d read earlier in the week. In an email I was told that a veterinarian in Thailand recently volunteered his time at the animal shelter in Bangkok that SPCA International has been working to improve. He graciously gave his time and sterilized 69 of the animals at Dog Condo which is greatly appreciated. However, before he left, he made the comment, “If the conditions don’t improve at Dog Condo, I won’t come back here again.”
There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to go anywhere near Dog Condo. I used to have my head so deeply buried in the sand, only choosing to know about well cared for and loved animals. I did my best to avoid anything that showed an animal in pain. Seeing a tiger chase down and kill a water buffalo was too much, even though a part of me knew that’s what happens in nature. On the few occasions when a horrible image caught me by surprise, the face of that animal stayed with me for a very long time in spite of my efforts to erase it from my memory. It was an unfortunate chain of events in my life that finally forced me to begin to learn how not to look the other way. From time to time I’m asked how I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer run away when I learn of a neglected or abused animal. I quickly assure people it’s not because I’ve learned to turn off my emotions. They’re still very much present as I struggle to comprehend what I’m seeing. There are still tears shed and anger towards those responsible for harming an animal, but I’ve come to realize these reactions won’t make things better. Since I was a child I’ve been drawn to animals. I had myself convinced I’d do anything I could to help them, but I was not fooling myself. There was an imaginary line I would not cross. The first time I stumbled across that line, I had a choice to make. I’d either keep going or retreat even further away from the harsh realities. I chose to push ahead. When I stepped into Dog Condo last February, I was confronted with some of the most horrific conditions I’ve ever seen. The suffering was the kind that does make you want to run away and never look back, but I made myself keep putting one foot in front of the other as I came face-to-face with one dog after another that was dying, skeleton thin, injured or scared to death. It was the ones that had given up, that had no fight left in them, that really got to me. As I looked into their lifeless eyes I whispered, “Why hasn’t someone helped you?” I knew the answer. It was too difficult. Old Man is a resident of Dog Condo. When I first saw him, I didn’t consider erasing him from my memory. Instead, he’s constantly in my thoughts. He’s there to remind me that no matter how much I hurt, what he’s going through is a lot tougher. What it’s come down to, is that I’ve gradually proven to myself that I can endure the pain if I know that a dog like Old Man will be able to finally know what it feels like to no longer suffer because I did something to make it stop.
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