“Oh, that’s not right…”
We had spent the night with new friends and were returning from a visit to a beautiful farmhouse when down the road we saw a disturbing sight. Three young ladies had happened up on a very small box on the side of an uninhabited road. They had opened the box, probably to determine what was crying inside and found eight tiny puppies. The girls tried to leave but the puppies, maybe seeing them as family or just survival, tried to follow. The girls ran.
Of the eight only two could keep up but only made it about a block and realized they were on their own, four more huddled together consumed in panic and the confusion of abandonment, in the middle of the road. The final two, probably the weakest, stayed near the feces stained box, unsure of where to go, too far away to possibly see their brothers and sisters and seeking any measure of security they could find.
From the desperate attempt of the two runners to the pathetic hidings of the two at the box, the fear, panic and confusion was intense. It was survival at its most primitive, it was shocking and it was in babies. The scene playing out in front of us seemed sick and disturbing and while I have seen death, starvation and the impetuous behaviour of humans this was by far the saddest thing Deya and I have seen on our trip to date. When people have more mouths than they can feed it’s a tragedy but when their pets do it and people drop the children off in a closed box to starve to death or be crushed by a vehicle, it’s just sick.
Carmelo had spoken first saying, “Oh, that’s not right….” “I don’t like dogs but that’s just not right”. We came to a stop so we didn’t run over the four pups huddling together for security in the middle of the road and Deya got out of the car. Deya walked over to the little creatures and began to pick them up, holding all four in her one arm with ease. The puppies looked relieved and didn’t struggle or move in her arm, sinking in as if to take comfort from Deya’s warmth, or the beat of her heart or maybe her smell. They simply don’t have the capacity to face the world alone, unprepared, weakened and malnourished, with little or no skills to survive in a desert environment and they instinctively knew it.
I walked back and picked up the two at the box, I noted the condition of the box. Once closed, the box was barely big enough to hold eight puppies and was messed with urine and feces. The size and consistency of the mess did not suggest they were well fed but the smell was enough to suggest the hell they would have endured sitting in the sun, wanting for breath, even for just a moment.
The two were somewhat pathetic, malnourished and insecure. I thought logically for a moment that these two were the weak ones in the pack, not going far from the box knowing they cannot compete, likely the first ones to die in the group. They seemed as though they were too afraid to move, possibly too weak to move far and they seemed as though they looked 1000 miles into the distance without seeing anything. They seemed to have that desperate feeling as though a death sentence had just been handed down and they were alone to abide it.
By now the trunk of the car was open and Deya had placed the other four in the back, I placed the two runts with them and noticed how they seemed to sense some level of protection. I looked briefly, marvelling at how helpless they were, believing that they would have done anything just to have a warm hand put beside them even for an instant. Deya began to look at the sad scene in the back of the car and I told her to close the truck, we still had two to pick up.
The two runners were not far away, they were looking for anyone to help them, as we approached they came out of the side of the road and ran to us. They were all happy to be with some one, anyone and together. The smallest of them was now eating the cardboard in the back, they were not old enough to be teething, this was pure hunger.
Now that we had picked them up the real problem started, what to do with them? Deya wanted to keep one, I get it but it was not realistic given our situation. Both Carmelo and Cody where leaving soon and could not care for eight little starving puppies. So, we decided to try to give them away. Carmelo drove around offering a puppy here, a puppy there but no one wanted another mouth to feed. They were cute and we thought we were in luck when we stopped by a soccer practice played by teenage girls. The girls all ran screaming to see the puppies and pick them up but at the end of it, still eight puppies.
I can’t speak to the thoughts of the others but since no one wanted them, life would likely come to a hard and cruel end and since there are no resources or animal shelters, my mind went to killing them. I said out loud, “We should have just driven by” and thought about the very sharp hatched in my pannier back at the house. It would be quick and efficient unless I slipped at which point it would only be a moment of sloppiness. Would this be a better, more compassionate fate for these abandoned little kids? I know I could have done it but I would hate having to do it and felt some of that hidden anger and shame for the way we humans manage this world we call ours. I’ve hidden that disgust a long time and don’t want a reason to open that door in case I can’t shut it again.
Carmelo suggested dropping them off in the square, Deya said we should get some milk and Cody agreed it would at least get them a shot on a full stomach. It was decided and we went about abandoning them again, possibly in an area where people would pick them up, with some food in their stomachs and maybe, just maybe a chance.
All but the two runts ran to the milk and I had to place them in front of it or they would have been left alone. They all drank without recess as if it was their first and last comfort of food. We took the chance to leave while their backs were turned, comforting ourselves that we did just about as well as anyone could have but knowing secretly that we are still a part of that group that didn’t do enough. They may be just puppies but the quandary was one of human proportions, of education, of mortality and humanity, of something we still haven’t found.