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ISSUE NO. 01 DECEMBER 2021There’s a dog in all I do for GodWritten by: Pamela Tosh – Dog Guardian 20 November 2021 The more I have worked with dogs over the past six years, between such unreal circumstances in India and now here in the Western Cape during lockdown, the more I understand ‘man’s’ most vital connection back to nature is our relationship with animals.I had recently returned to Cape Town amidst increasing global panic. With the looming ban of international flights and travel I had to accept that the intentions I had for Rishikesh Animal Welfare, my service to humans and animals in India, and my work with partners to introduce volunteer programmes in rural communities, had come to an official and abrupt end.
The importance of introducing dog guardianship to children in underprivileged communities in the Western Cape has been the highlight of my experiences during lockdown. However, my intensive work at grass roots level with the community of Flamingo Heights has come with many unfortunate sacrifices. Classed as an informal settlement for over 15 years, this city development project to rehouse many homeless across the Western Cape has presented radical environmental issues due to overpopulation and bad infrastructure. Not to mention a breeding ground for criminal and violent behaviour. I accepted a calling to serve in whichever capacity I could to help uplift a pocket of people that were severely disadvantaged during lockdown, only to uncover a stewing pot of toxic activity and a long list of urgent concerns across all levels of welfare. I was horrified at the condition I found many of the dogs. My first rescue was stomach wrenching as I watched the malnourished dog on a short lead devour handfuls of pellets in a frenzy. I looked around the dark and filthy shack trying to find some form of hope that could have kept this dog alive, but it had been here on its own for almost a week growling at anyone who came near the door, scared of humans.I have since had to swallow surrendering severely malnourished and wounded pit bulls, parvo puppies and senior dogs with a heavy heart. Is it fair to say that I have not counted … that a record of that would serve its purpose only to reconcile a short period of time that I have been able to involve myself in eradicating extremely severe cases with the assistance of Grassy Park SPCA, Bridgetown PDSA and smaller organizations like Rescue Obsessed.
I was witnessing conditions vary contradictory to the lives and relationships humans had with dogs in India. In many instances stray dogs are neglected, wounded usually by a traffic accident, tick ridden and abused. But, there is a place where ‘man’, dog and nature all comes together and where I was having the most blissful and magical time living so closely to hundreds of dogs living along the Arambol shoreline. Spending time working with the packs of dogs and living on the beaches of North Goa came to an end when I frantically boarded a plane back home due to COVID-19 in March 2021. Thankfully I had the unconditional use of a friend’s bakkie for some months, which aided in my ability to transport goods, and which has been sorely missed by both myself and the kids since being returned. It soon became the perfect emergency vehicle for animal rescues, and I accepted that all the circumstances in my life had ultimately led me to this.
However, the realization that this could be all too much for me weighed me down.
I started representing Lansdowne Homeless Community and had counted up to ten dogs in the vicinity of Lansdowne Railway Station, as well as up to forty at Flamingo and the occasional gangsters with their Pitties from Hanover Park, ‘dogfighting hell’.
In my attempts to help the street people stranded without income, essentials and food, I began transporting empty water bottles and cans to the nearest informal settlement just over the railway tracks, one kilometre away. It was here that I met the children who stole my heart. It was their over enthusiasm and willingness to help me in any way that they could that I began mentoring them. The Flamingo Boyz Adventures became an initiative which involved taking teen boys and a dog or two to the park, forest or beach, and the drives were amazing. To be able to take on the responsibility of caring for animals one truly needs to have their own needs met. Here in Flamingo the abuse of drugs and alcohol has directly affected the growth and development of families in devastating ways. The children face the most horrifying emotional and physical abuse and neglect.This has to put into perspective for you what I witnessed, which catalyst my involvement into helping to feed and care for the dogs, many whom have since passed. It is at this part of the story that I begin to sob.
It is extremely difficult for me to express the suffering and agony that I have so easily detached myself from as the months have rolled over. But it is that nagging feeling of regret that forces me to reveal these truths, fearing that so many more dogs will suffer if we do not do something.
I was just one person trying so hard on many various levels of welfare to bring justice to these animals. I was frustrated that our communities had fallen into a crevice during lockdown, and we were not able to get the resources we needed, that I needed.Very quickly my Facebook page became the most efficient way to communicate the essential needs of this community; campaign for food and donations; spreading a word of compassion and kindness through spiritual activism and sharing my devotion to service, Karma Yoga.
Due to the over population and current infrastructure of the small township nestled in an industrial estate in Lansdowne, one roomed shacks can be inhabited by a family of four or more at any given time. Grey, chemically polluted and sewerage water lies stagnant in front of shacks, lining the narrow roadways in the settlement. Thirsty dogs and children playing are exposed to this filthy sludge creating eye infections, septic wounds and general illness. In many instances when I have wondered why a dog has died here, I can believe that is has been poisoned this way.
Emergency rescues have involved a dog that was stabbed and needed emergency surgery; another whose left hind leg was ripped to pieces by three dogs, later amputated; severe starvation; dog fighting wounds and other sad stories of abuse and neglect.
Now we are heading into summer, another festive season during lockdown conditions and a need to raise concerns. There has been a noticeable increase of new dogs being adopted by teen boys who take no accountability for the health of their pets, as well as three new litters of puppies in the past month. Educate and sterilize is the moral of the storyTo truly see the change that is so needed in our country we would have to reorientate our mindsets to approach the welfare of our animals and our environment in conjunction with social development. So that the solutions we present become synergized and sustainable across more than one level to balance things out. So that individuals can be empowered through a process which can help them define their worth, a hands-on example approach needing more guardians on the ground.
Advocating for the lives of any animal, to be able to live in a healthy and natural environment, is justifiably applicable to us as humans.
Caught in the clutches of what is morally right and what I am able to do, I continue to be optimistic that my shared experiences and example will be valued enough to educate and inspire others.INDIPAM ANIMAL OUTREACH PROJECTSFLAMINGO DOGZ PROJECT – Cape Town, South Africa RISHIKESH ANIMAL WELFARE – Rishikesh, India ARAMBOL BEACH DOGS – Arambol, Goa, India