How My Dog Saved My Life

Previously published on Egyptian Streets.

I remember how I wrote my suicide letter and had the knife to my wrist. My beautiful gorgeous dog walked in and kissed me. He starting weeping and I understood he didn’t want me to go through with that. And just for that act, I didn’t kill myself.

As an animal’s rights activist and a person who suffers from depression in a country that has no respect for animal life, and sometimes even human lives, I gave up. The more I saw what was happening, the more depressed I got. I stopped caring about what people did or said. I stopped caring about my life and how it would affect my loved ones and I ended up with a massive meltdown. Something I am recovering from, to this day.

Since 28 October 2010, Chiko, my dog, helped me throughout my depression, barking me out of jumping off a window ledge, slitting my wrists and hanging myself. He saved me and for the life of me, I don’t see why or how a normal person would actively seek to hurt an animal. Why would you demolish innocence?

As you can tell from this, I haven’t had the easiest of lives and I have battled depression for a long time. But I am here now because of a soul that is often harmed by human beings. I am still here today because if it weren’t for his compassion, his love, and his care, I would’ve been long gone by now. But for some reason, most people in this country do not understand how wonderful all animals are. Instead, they poison and shoot them. They breed and they kill them. They rape and burn them. All because we think we’re above them.

We are not, and we definitely are not worth more. If anything, the human species have proven otherwise on constant a basis.

Human beings, who consider themselves as humane, are the farthest thing from that. We do the most inhumane things ever recorded and we live to use and abuse. I saw cats being poisoned because it unsuited the rich. I saw dogs being shot and poisoned because they were inconvenient for the people living in the neighborhood. I saw horses with legs tied up unable to gallop along the highway. I saw how we, humans, manage to abuse the life of another and it’s utterly wrong and damaging.

If we, as a “civilized” society, do not change our ways and work effectively to address this issue of animal cruelty in Egypt, we will be doomed. We will be teaching our children that it’s okay to put puppies in a bag and kick away at them. We will be teaching children that it’s okay to kick cats on the streets. We will be teaching our children that not only is it right to abuse an animal but it’s their right, their duty, to abuse them.

We will be raising a generation that lives off violence and breeds hate. We will be raising a generation that is vein and egotistical, and we will raise a generation that will be unqualified to handle a life of a human being, let alone an animal.

Writing this, I found myself thinking about all those gracious souls that died in vein by mankind, on the hands of ‘humanity’. I couldn’t help but wish Chiko knew how thankful I am he is in my life.

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Stop Killing Egypt’s Animals

Previously published on Egyptian Streets.

His name is Chiko, a five year old who was found in a cemetery. His beautiful golden hair had fallen off, and with little to no food, Chiko could not fight the horrendous infections he had in his eyes and was left with multiple burns on his bare skin. He was frail and weak but had the personality of a devoted angel.

Yet, he was just yet another case of an abandoned, abused, and forgotten dog at ESMA’s (Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals) shelter.

It was around that time my younger sister was begging my mother to get a dog, and after multiple sit downs and discussions, she finally agreed. A few short days later, Chiko became a part of our family and even though he is a feisty little fellow, we cannot imagine our lives without him.

The reason why I felt the urge to write this article was because no matter where you go or what street you are on, there is always some sort of cruel act directed at an animal by someone. Whether it is kicking or flipping a cigarette at them, it is something that has become so common that it has become the norm. It is the norm to dismiss, injure or physically harm an animal.

In 2007 and early 2013, a mass shooting of stray dogs took place in Egypt. With hundreds of animals dead and their blood left to rot on the streets, the Egyptian government decided to look for other alternatives. Consequently, the government as well as large groups of the Egyptian society has found a ”cleaner” way to eliminate those stray animals by using poison instead. This does not only cause untimely deaths of countless cats and dogs that belong to numerous families and individuals, but it also causes the suffering and incredibly painful deaths of innocent animals.

People have become so egotistical and vain to the point where they do not only dismiss innocent beings that are hurt, but are also actively participating in the harm that is being afflicted on them. Who cares if a cat is kicked so hard it limps away? Why slow the car when a dog is crossing the street? Who cares if a dog is distressed from the heat and is in desperate need of water? It is just an animal at the end of day, right?

People within the animal rights community always hear the same excuses and arguments when they try educating the public on animal rights and welfare. We always get the “when we help the poor we’ll think about the animals” argument, or the ”they’re everywhere and they’re over populated, so what if we kill a few” argument.

These common perceptions need to change for a variety of reasons. For starters, a human life is no greater than a non-human’s life. Life is life, and like human beings, animals have the ability to think and the ability to feel – they have a real comprehensible understanding of feelings on an emotional level. Meaning, like humans, animals can experience negative and positive feelings and are able to develop thoughts and retain memories.

Second of all, killing stray animals is a ridiculous solution to the problem of overpopulation. The human race is over populated so why not just ”kill a few”?

The solution to the over population is to neuter and spay those animals. Multiple well respected veterinary clinics and active members within the Maadi community have come together to resolve the issue without the needless killing of animals, which is how the Maadi TNR Initiative (Trap, Neuter, and Release) was born.

This program is a community based initiative that is not sponsored by the government and is solely run by active members within the Maadi community and veterinarians. The ultimate goal of the Maadi TNR Initiative is help capture stray animals. Veterinarians then neuter/spay them, provide the needed medical care and then release the animals. Perhaps other communities can come up with similar programs or at the very least, take on this one?

There is a common belief among animal rights activists that when you rescue or adopt animals you are rescuing them when, in fact, it is the opposite that is true – you are the one that ends up being rescued. Letting go of the social stigma that accompanies stray animals is another needed change.

Rather than buying animals from pet shops and breeders, visit shelters and adopt instead. After all, if you are looking to include a family member or welcome an addition to your family, the breed of the animal you are rescuing should not be a factor in your decision making process. You are rescuing a soul not buying an expensive watch.

Educational reform is an initial factor and if focused on, animal rights in this country will actually be addressed. Children are tender and instinctively compassionate and curious about all living beings around them. Yet, at a young age, we disconnect those feelings by allowing them to see the disturbing slaughter of animals and encourage them to play with the blood of what was, a few seconds ago, a breathing, living life. Therefore, they grow up to be disconnected, apathetic and oblivious to anything else that is not a human being.

ESMA is currently running campaigns to try to change that perception in our youth. They’re going to schools and enabling children to once again connect with animals and see how innocent and harmless they really are.

esma

The public as well must take on a similar approach to animals and let go of the common fear that all stray cats and dogs are diseased and are bound to hurt us. Rather than being so hell bent on getting rid of them, why not strive to help them?

Many shelters, like ESMA, are now closed and can only accept urgent cases due to the lack of funding and resources because they have no sponsors or endorsements from the government, major companies or corporations, and as a result, they rely merely on public donations and support.

For this reason, we cannot neglect and overlook a problem that is undeniably clear and existent in our society only because the targets of the problem belong to a different species than us. Non-human species are at the mercy of human beings – they are not inferior, they are only different than us and that does not and should not diminish their rights.