When you are from one country and live in another one, you find it easy to make comparisons between your two homes.
That doesn’t mean that one is better than another, it just means that they are different. As in all things, one place may be better than another in some things while the reverse is true for other things.
In America we belt out “Hell YEAH” in a parody of the Rebel Yells of old in the face of danger. In India, they yell out “Jai Hind!” in a show of united solidarity.
And I do find that I make comparisons. Nor is the word play lost on me. I know that I say “we” when referring to America and “they” when referring to India.
Maybe it’s because while India is my physical home and she is a part of my soul, she is not my emotional home. My emotional home is still Virginia or California.
This difference is sometimes daily driven home to me.
Dealing with stray animals is one example.
In America, there is an estimated 6-8 million animals entering shelters each year. Out of those, 3-4 million are humanely euthanized. Another 3-4 million are adopted into homes. These were just the numbers for America, where seeing a stray dog is a rare occurrence and you would call the Animal Control Officer for your area for the animal to be picked up.
In America, our shelters are clean and spacious and the animals receive care in the form of medicine, food, clean water, shelter, hygiene, and love.
In America, once an animal is brought to a shelter, it is seen by a Doctor and treated for any issues. If it is unaltered, the animal is spayed or neutered.
In America, if you bring a stray in, they will see to its care and keep it until it’s healthy enough to go home with you or be put up for adoption.
In America, there are adoption drives and Public Service Announcements and the local News Station do a weekly piece with the shelter to highlight animals in need of good homes.
In America, the shelters have both employed workers and staff and volunteers.
And this is what I know about American Shelters. Of course, there is always going to be a bad apple, but we never let that apple ruin the whole bunch. We root it out.
Here in Pune India, there are four shelters for a guesstimate 41,000 stray dogs. I say it’s a guesstimate because no one knows for sure how many stray’s there are in Pune. No official count has been done.
In Pune, most of the shelters are small, overcrowded and dirty.
In Pune, the workers at some of the shelters seem to be goons, as they are always playing at cards when you come, smell of cigarettes and booze and say “No Cameras!”.
In Pune, there are scandals of dead and dying animals being found and Government workers being turned away during inspection.
In Pune, the people who disdain and hate the stray animal far out-number the vigilant saviors of the same. In Pune, the people protecting the animals, sometimes needs protection themselves.
In Pune, a few shelters are NGO and not for profit, they work tirelessly to care for too many animals but there only two of them and they can only take in the most sick, abused and hurt animals.
In Pune, if you take a dog in for sterilization, they complete the surgery and the dogs vaccinations and then hand the dog back into your care. The same day. Usually within 1 hour of the dogs surgery. They just do not have the space or money to care for the dog further if you can care for it yourself or if it has a safe spot on the road to live.
In Pune, there are five stray dogs for every street corner.
In Pune, people poison the dogs to be rid of them. They stone them. They hit them with their cars and leave them to die, alone, on the side of the road or in complex parking lots.
In Pune, your neighbor becomes your enemy if he finds you feeding the local dogs.
In Pune, YOU can be stoned or threatened for caring for the animals as it “encourages” the animals to stay.
In America, I was raised to love our Country’s uniqueness. Our Rebel qualities are instilled in me. I live and breathe the need to protect those that cannot protect themselves.
In India, I will continue to raise my Rebel Yell and in the words of Elizabeth Bennet,
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Especially when it comes to “stray” animals.