It starts with a nuzzle, then a pet then a look into the eyes. She is not pretty. Evidence of a hard life is literally etched into her emaciated body. Hip bones and ribs protrude from thinning charcoal fur. Scars from past battles over food and territory litter sagging skin. She smells of sewage, is flea ridden, worm infested and mud caked. But her kind eyes and sweet demeanor easily overcome those shortcomings.
When I first saw her two months ago I tried to ignore the dirty animal; reasoning: “There is nothing I can do, besides I’ll soon be gone and then what?” But that first day, despite many futile attempts at shooing the worn-out Labrador away she continued to follow. Half a kilometer later I stopped and turned. She abruptly halted just out of reach, focusing intently on me. Finally I yelled “What do you want!” Her head cocked to one side while working out the answer to my query and then all at once she ran towards me. I jumped back with thoughts of rabies and other potentially harmful pathogens in mind. It only took a second to realize there was no ill intent to the docile approach as she buried her head between my legs. This dog (like most in my opinion) just wanted to be loved. Since that day I see her a couple times a week. She waits for and walks with me to and from work. Efforts that are rewarded with leftovers and sometimes treats bought along the way. Admittedly I am an easy mark when it comes to K9 companions. I have two dogs at home both of which were adopted with their fair share of medical issues.
Strays are everywhere in Nepal, some rove in packs, some wander alone, some are lucky enough to find homes. But for the most part they are ignored. Forced to scavenge and fight for the scraps of consumption. Unclaimed animals are kind of a defining feature here; a part of the scenery just as common as the majestic rolling hills and mountains. Each day I pass goats, cows, chicken and dogs scattered randomly about the road. Much of the trash that litters the streets is not from irresponsible disposal but from these animals rooting through and scattering about this refuse.
Not a problem that I see a solution to in the near future. It’s not that Nepali people don’t care, (actually most put their leftovers out for the animals) just that they have bigger problems. If constantly concerned about where my next meal was coming from, the health of my family or any number of things a small town Nepali family may worry about, I wouldn’t be so troubled about the health of a dog either. This less than ideal situation (in my mind) serves as a regular reminder that “Culture is King”. What I may see as a problem may not even register to another group of people. It all boils down to priorities. Whether in the corporate or non-profit world, focusing on the right priorities makes all the difference. I can’t think of a single successful company that doesn’t focus on the client’s needs. By aligning organizational goals with client needs, everybody wins. I believe this is why CARE’s SAMMAN project is successful. It fills individual, community and governmental needs which increases the possibility of sustainable success. All that being said sometimes you have to focus on your own needs and right now I need to go feed that dog some doughnuts and bacon. Why doughnuts and bacon you ask? Because apparently it’s not a town priority to sell dog food!