By Sonya Rehman
She was spotted by my mother in FCC Park, in Gulberg, Lahore. It was early August during Ramadan. An emaciated dog, curled up in one of the green belts – she was fatigued due to severe malnutrition and starvation, too weak to lift her head.
A man in the vicinity had walked up to my mother’s car (as she fed the dog biscuits) and told her that the dog belonged to a family residing in one of the house’s in the area. Unable to keep their pet (for God knows whatever asinine reason), the dog had been thrown out of the house. However, the man refrained from pointing out the exact location, possibly out of a sense of fear.
A few hours later, I posted an SOS message up on my wall on Facebook, subsequently messaging PAWS (the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society) to do the same on their Facebook page. They did. The action that soon followed left me speechless, overwhelmed and choked up. Concerned animal lovers made immediate trips to the location to rescue the dog, but the animal couldn’t be found. A few hours later she had eventually been identified.
Nuzhat Saadia Siddiqi (an employee at WWF-Pakistan) and Chemaine Majid (a resident from Lahore) were instrumental in the dog’s rescue. The very next morning, with the help of two WWF-Pakistan employees (Babar Masih and Shahid Ali) and an official WWF-Pakistan jeep, the animal was transported to the Veterinary Hospital in Lahore with Chemaine, her assistant Imran, Babar and Shahid.
Spending a week at the hospital under Dr. Asim’s care, the dog – later named ‘Miracle’ by Chemaine – was diagnosed with an extreme case of malnutrition, an intestinal infection, and a deep, frightening wound full of maggots. Miracle would certainly have perished had she not been rescued right away.
The cases of animal cruelty in Pakistan are astounding. There are countless, horrifying stories of abuse, neglect, brutality and a complete lack of empathy displayed by pet owners who spend thousands of rupees on breed dogs and cats and then fail to look after their animals. It is repulsive.
For some within Pakistan, pedigreed pets are bought as ‘fashion statements’ and ‘status symbols,’ if you will, and then a few weeks down the line – once the owner(s) have ‘enjoyed’ their ‘purchase,’ the pet is discarded and left to the servants to feed and look after. Funny, because then careless and negligent pet owners wonder why their beloved pets become sick and die terrible deaths, get run over, or, even worse – are stolen.
While some may argue that in a country where there is an absolute lack of human rights, it is futile and silly to worry about animal rights and animal cruelty in Pakistan. While that argument may be compelling to a certain degree, it is ludicrous to turn a blind eye to cases where animals are abused by ‘educated’ and financially stable families.
Chemaine speaks vehemently about animal abuse at her residence in Lahore (where Miracle is currently being looked after till she is found a nurturing home). Having rescued about fourteen stray animals over the years, Chemaine remains intolerant of people who mistreat their pets.
“People here aren’t true animal lovers – they love breed animals because they lack pedigree themselves. They think they become genetically more superior when they buy a breed animal,” she states vehemently, “You can have any dog you want, but if you don’t love an animal and take care of it properly, it will suffer. For Pakistanis who like keeping pets, wake up, be more humane to not just animals, but to human beings as well.”
My heart is in knots as I try to cajole Miracle into letting me pet her. But she is timid and untrusting of strangers. I don’t blame her. Six years ago when my family rescued a stray puppy in Lahore, it had reacted the same way. But now, Moose (literally, a big Moose!) remains one of the most loyal, joyful, beautiful dogs I’ve ever had. One really wishes people would quit placing so much emphasis on pedigrees, and instead, nurture true feelings of empathy for animals – irrespective of their ‘breed.’
Compared to a month ago, Miracle is almost unrecognizable today. At Chemaine’s house, I see life and light in her shiny black eyes as she bounds around the porch. It’s almost as if she has tiny springs attached beneath her paws, while she jumps on Chemaine, licking her feet and barking deep, throaty barks of excitement. Rocky, another one of Chemaine’s rescued dogs looks on at Miracle with amusement. He’s a massive, light-eyed beauty, resembling a giant Labrador. Unfortunately, Chemaine is unable to keep Miracle and is currently on the look-out for an adoring pet owner to adopt the rescued dog.
With a few biscuits in her hands, Chemaine feeds Miracle an afternoon snack. She laughs and tells me that Miracle has a massive appetite.
It is evident. Miracle practically inhales the biscuits. The dog is a joy to watch because she not only reinforces one’s faith in people, but also makes one aware of what it takes to be a ‘humane’ and empathetic human being at the end of the day.
The Friday Times