The truth that we ignore- Strays in Sri Lanka
Todays blog is written by volunteer Natalie on why she supports Dogstar’s work in Sri Lanka
Earlier this year I visited Sri Lanka for the first time. After speaking to many friends, and reading many blogs online, I was prepared for the inevitable onslaught of confronting sights in the form of stray cats and dogs. As an animal advocate, I knew that Sri Lanka had issues with their stray dog population, and I also knew that their were vast differences between how Western and Eastern civilizations deal with animal matters.
Nothing could prepare me for my first introduction to the life of the stray in Sri Lanka. The streets were littered with dogs; flea ridden and emaciated, their starved frames lugging huge milk fed teets- a result of either having their pups stolen from them, or simply not being able to support their pups in their peril.One morning I made a journey at 5am to Yala Safari, where I was driven through miles of undisturbed landscape. Being so early in the morning, I bore witness to the lives of the stray before they were shooed from sight by humans. It was shocking. Hundreds upon hundreds of dogs lay still along the road, moving their bony bodies surprisingly quickly once they saw my driver barrelling along the road. Young puppies sat lifelessly on the side of the road, their playfulness forgotten in their dire pursuit of survival. We couldn’t drive 100metres without seeing a stray, and they all sported a bone-chilling array of illnesses that left me feeling sick to my stomach. Malnourishment and mange, infected testicles, huge oozing tumours, severed tails and ears, among many others- the streets that I drove along for less than an hour, showed me more of this cruel world than I had seen in my 24 years. These dogs should have been broken; their bodies shutting down, yet as I got out of the car to buy some water, I recognized a glimmer of hope in their eyes- a small tail wag, a hopeful glance up at me- one was as bold to run up sniffing at my pockets for food. I had nothing for them, I felt utterly helpless. My driver walked through them the same way he drove- as if they didn’t exist.As I was returning to the car, I was stopped by a stray dog that came bounding up to me. Of all the dogs I had seen, this was the most disturbing. As it came closer, I realized in horror that this dog had mange- the worst kind. The kind that has caused the dog to eat away at its own flesh. Not a hair remained on this dogs body, and bloodied flesh was visible along his flanks and shoulders. Bugs hovered around all his orifices and his paws were bloodied, presumably from scratching. This was indeed a severe case of mange, but I had become accustomed to the degenerative state of animals in the last hour- the horror of this particular case lay in the undying hope that this dog had. Despite the neglect and cruelty that he had endured, he still embodied a friendly nature, and hopeful stare. That was the saddest of all- like he didn’t know that his future was full of abuse, neglect, disease and finally, death.
Sadly, this is the case for so many of those dogs that I saw in my travels throughout Sri Lanka, and until I came across Dogstar, I felt as if these animals were doomed. As soon as I heard about Dogstars program, I wanted to become involved. They mirror my views, that it is worthwhile and necessary to help these dogs one by one to improve their quality of life and lessen the severity of any illness. When my travels brought me to the region that Dogstar was located, I noticed a vast difference in the landscape. Fewer dogs cluttered the streets, and the ones that did seemed healthier, hairier and happier. Dogstars kind work had swept clean the streets, ridding it of degeneration and disease, and creating a safe home for dogs who can go about their lives without perpetual pregnancies and disease.