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Tag: strays

Dogs help heal wounds in war-torn Uganda

Eleven years after a civil war in Uganda, many are still coping with the scars it left — inside and out — and some are finding that a dog can help them do that.

That was the case with Francis Okello Oloya, who in 2015 started The Comfort Dog Project to help people in Gulu town, especially those who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

At age 12, Okello was blinded by a bomb blast as he worked in the family garden. At a boarding school for the blind, Okello found it difficult to find the toilet at night.

“I had to navigate my way from the sleeping quarter to latrine and that was not easy,” he told the Voice of America. “And these dogs came to know that I needed help. And they began the practice of helping me from the sleeping quarters to the latrine.”

Now 29, he’s in charge of a program that matches street dogs with war’s victims, providing comfort to those victims, homes for those street mutts, and adding to a growing recognition in Uganda of what dogs are capable of.

Traditionally, dogs have mainly been used for hunting in Uganda, or for security.

The Comfort Dog Project is an offshoot of Big Fix Uganda, a nonprofit working to improve the lives of dogs and people in the impoverished and war-torn country.

As explained on the Comfort Dogs website, dogs in need of homes are rehabilitated by a team of trainers, temperament tested and spayed/neutered. They are then placed with war trauma survivors who agree to care for the dog for its lifetime and go through a week of training.

uganda2After graduating, the dog-guardian teams become project ambassadors — visiting villages and schools to
educate others about the importance of being kind to animals, teach them to use positive reinforcement training techniques and “serve as testimony of the healing power of human-dog bonds.”

In the aftermath of the civil war in Uganda, tens of thousands of people still struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health practitioners estimate that seven in 10 people in Northern Uganda were traumatically affected.

Philda Akum, 35, is one of the 29 beneficiaries of the project, Voice of America reports.

In 1997, she and her four brothers were abducted by those rebelling against the government and taken to Sudan.

One brother was captured and killed, Akum says. Another brother was selected to go to the battlefront and was fatally shot. Two days later, her youngest brother contracted cholera and died.

She returned home and joined group therapy, which is what led her to be assigned a dog.

The Big Fix operates the only veterinary hospital in northern Uganda and works to achieve a sustainable population of dogs and cats and control the spread of rabies and other diseases.

(Photo: Francis Okello Oloya, founder of The Comfort Dog Project, with Binongo; Philda Akum, a former war victim, with her dog; by H. Athumani, Voice of America)

What’s turning dogs blue in Mumbai?


The Mumbai Blue Dogs may sound like a minor league baseball team, but they are real dogs who, thanks to chemicals dumped in a river in India, are really turning blue.

“Handfuls” of blue dogs — all strays — are appearing on the streets of Mumbai, local animal advocates report.

While we can’t vouch for how authentic these photos are, or if they’ve been doctored, we can confirm that the news is real.

Jayavant Hajare, an officer with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board told the Hindustan Times that five to six dogs entered an area along the Kasadi River that was cordoned off to the public and emerged with a blue cast to their fur.

Industrial waste is regularly dumped into the river in Mumbai, whose waters have long been deemed unfit for human consumption, but the latest surge in blue dog sightings has prompted animal advocates to urge the government to take action against companies.

The pollution control board says it is investigating.

“Allowing the discharge of dye into any water body is illegal. We will take action against the polluters as they are destroying the environment,” a spokesman said.

The spokesman said one company, which uses a blue dye to make laundry detergent, has been given seven days notice to cease dumping the pollutant into the river.

Studies quoted in local newspapers show pollution levels in the area — home to nearly a thousand pharmaceutical, food and engineering factories — have risen to 13 times the “safe limit.”

Last week, animal advocates officers took pictures of stray dogs who had turned blue and forwarded them to the pollution control board.

bluedog3(News reports don’t indicate the original source of the photo above, or the one at left, so it’s not clear if they are photos supplied by the animal protection group. At least one news organization describe the photo at top as a “representational image.”)

“It was shocking to see how the dog’s white fur had turned completely blue,” said Arati Chauhan, with the animal protection group. “We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.”

“We have only spotted blue dogs so far. We do not know if birds, reptiles and other creatures are affected or if they have even died owing to the dye discharged into the air,” said Chauhan.

A flurry of news reports has called attention to the blue dogs in recent days, but they are not a new phenomenon.

Here’s a photo that appeared in a 2013 entry on this travel blog. It was taken on what’s known as Blue Dog Street.


Dumping their dogs when they depart Dubai


The sort of people who go to live and work in Dubai are typically not seeking a forever home.

They’re generally not long-range planners; they’re more like get-rich-quick-ers and what’s in it for me-ers.

Given that, it’s not surprising that Dubai — a city where 90 percent of the population comes from somewhere else, and most of them move on after a few years, and many of them often leave their pets behind — there’s a growing homeless dog problem.

“I believe a lot of people just think, ‘I’m going to be in Dubai for three years so let’s get a dog for three years,'” Fiona Myers-Watson, a volunteer at the Stray Dogs Centre, told The Guardian.

“You see people coming here and buying into the lifestyle,” she added. “You get a nice villa that you’d never be able to afford at home, get a Porsche on credit because the bank will easily give you a loan, spend AED 600 on brunch every Friday, and get a cute little dog to go with it all.”

dubai2Despite the financial prosperity they’re enjoying, and the riches they may depart with, many of them don’t see fit to bring their dog along when they leave.

Some of these abandoned dogs end up in the Stray Dogs Centre, less than an hour’s drive from Dubai’s pristine gated communities.

The rudimentary shelter operates at maximum capacity, with 123 dogs, about a quarter of which are believed to be abandoned pets.

It’s not unusual, Myers-Watson said, for a dog to simply be left in the home being vacated, such as one left last year in a villa in Jumeriah Islands, where rentals cost about AED 250,000 a year.

As summer approaches, Dubai’s animal shelters brace for a seasonal surge in dumped pets.

“Summer is our worst period because there’s a mass exodus of expats,” said Alister Milne, manager of K9 Friends, the United Arab Emirate’s longest-established dog shelter. The rate of abandoned dogs doubles or even triples most summers.

Mahin Bahrami, founder of the Middle East Animal Foundation, estimates that at least 40 percent of Dubai’s dumped dogs, cats and small pets are the result of owners leaving the country.

“The expats here often don’t think or plan ahead,” she said. “It’s just about what they want right now: ‘I want a cat right now, and then we’ll see.'”

The Guardian reports that unwanted cats, dogs, rabbits and birds are often left to fend for themselves, locked in empty houses, dumped on the street, or driven out into the desert.

The Dubai government has taken steps to encourage expats to bring their pets with them or find them new homes when they relocate.

Dubai has effectively eradicated rabies, and pets can be exported to most countries, including the UK and the US without a lengthy quarantine.

(Photos by Hannah Bass / The Guardian)

Bachelor party goes terribly, terribly … right


When eight men gather in a cabin in the woods for a bachelor party, you can expect some memories are going to be made — the kind they will share, or hide, for the rest of their lives.

For groom-to-be Mitchel Craddock and his friends from Michigan, there was no choice but to share them, for they ended up bringing home the female who showed up at their cabin door — and her seven pups.

The mother dog showed up at their door one morning as they were making breakfast, drawn most likely by the scent of frying bacon.

She wouldn’t come through the open door, so they brought her a plate of breakfast leftovers, after which she became less timid and let them pet her.

“It took a few minutes for her to gain our trust but from then on she was our best friend,” Craddock said.

It was then they noticed that, judging from the size of her nipples, she appeared to recently have had some babies.

denScouting the area around the cabin, they found, just down the road, a den containing her seven puppies.

“We could hear them whimpering,” Alex Manchester. “Mama showed up and was actually helping us get the dogs out. One by one we grabbed them and handed them out.”

They brought the puppies — about five months old and in good health — back to the cabin, bathed them and started pondering what to do with them.

“Once we got the puppies out of the hole, we knew we couldn’t just leave them, so we started figuring out where they would go,” said Craddock.

He already owned a chocolate Lab, but when he called his wife-to-be she insisted they take a pup for their new household.

His grandparents volunteered to take Little Orphan Annie, the name they gave the mother dog, into their family — along with another one of the puppies, according to the Nashville Tennessean.

cabinAnd the rest of pups were taken home by the other partygoers, all of who’d gone to Tennessee to do some four-wheeling and bid farewell to their buddy’s bachelorhood.

“You think of a bachelor party, and that’s the last thing you think of,” said Craddock. “Eight guys go down to go four wheeling and come back with eight dogs.”

Craddock, 23, and his bride, Kristen Olson, also 23, were married on Oct. 8, after a rehearsal dinner the night before that all the dogs attended.

“They were all playing together and glad to see each other,” Craddock said. “I’m sure they’ll be life-long buddies. Just like all of us.”

(At top, the party boys and their pups after they returned from the trip; lower, the den the pups were found in; and one of the pups getting comfortable at the cabin; by Bryan Bennett)

When one lost soul bumps into another

Two lost souls coming together isn’t exactly a new movie theme, but it still works, especially when it has a twist like this one.

“A Stray” is about a young man whose refugee family fled Somalia and relocated in Minneapolis. He becomes sort of a double stray when his family kicks him out after he gets in some trouble.

At a mosque, Adan finds shelter. He gets a job, delivering food, and seems to be pulling his life together when his delivery vehicle strikes a dog.

Adan, at the urging of a bystander, hesitantly loads the small white mutt in the car and takes him to a vet, who pronounces the dog OK. It is then that Adan learns he must take the dog with him.

That’s a problem because, on top of being homeless, Adan is Muslim. Under Muslim law, dogs are considered dirty. Many practicing Muslims, like Adan’s family, forbid them in the home. When he arrives back at the mosque with the dog, he’s told to leave.

What happens next — when a man raised to have nothing to do with dogs ends up with a stray, when his God and his Dog are seemingly irreconcilable forces — makes for a thought-provoking and magical movie.

It premiered earlier this year at the South By Southwest (SXWS) Film Festival, and had several screenings last weekend, introduced by writer-director Musa Syeed, at the Film Society of Minneapolis and St Paul.

The human star of the movie is actor Barkhad Abdirahman, a Somali refugee who lives in Minneapolis.

Director Syeed, in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, said he was intrigued by the idea of combining the archetypal American/Western man-and-dog story with Muslim sensitivities towards dogs.

“What was interesting to me about a Muslim kid and a dog was that these are two entities that seemingly are not able to reconcile, or that are so different,” he said. “And I think that’s the way that maybe a lot of people see, you know, Muslims in America … there is some inherent tension or something like that.”

He said he hopes that the story of a man and his forbidden dog shows that there is room for compassion, understanding and a connection.

Pregnant bitch boards train in Moscow, gives birth to nine

Moscow’s stray dogs, as we’ve previously reported, make good use of the city subway system — and authorities and residents generally tolerate it.

But this week when a stray, apparently seeking a warm place to deliver her litter, boarded a train to give birth during rush hour, they were even more cooperative.

Passengers got off the train and put up with hour-long delays so the train the dog was on could be sent to a depot for a more private birthing experience.

As you can see in the video above, a number of people volunteered to help.

At the depot, under the supervision of metro workers and a vet they called in to supervise, she gave birth to nine pups — and the metro administration has started a campaign to find homes for all of them, Sputnik News reported.

trainThe dog boarded a metro train on the Koltsevaya line, as stray dogs do daily in Moscow, but after her condition was noted, metro workers were notified and the train was declared out of service.

After the births, they were all taken to a shelter.

Dogs boarding trains and taking seats is a fairly common sight in Moscow, where strays are plentiful and steps to shelter and find them homes are not.

In fact, the stray dogs of Moscow are a true social phenomenon. Some of them commute from the suburbs by train because it is easier to get handouts from humans in the city.

Foraging dogs have long been part of Moscow’s landscape, but they stayed mostly in the city’s industrial zones and lived a semi-feral existence. They mainly relied on discarded food and kept their distance from humans. But with old factories being transformed into shopping centers and apartments, strays have learned humans have the food and the inner city is the place to beg.

It’s sort of a small scale reenactment, with a twist, of the whole domestication of the species — dogs turned feral returning once again for a human handout and, in the process, learning big city ways.

The strays have learned to cross the street with pedestrians. Some believe that, even though the color difference is not noticeable to dogs, they’ve learned to understand the walking man signal.

As a country, though it has made strides, Russia doesn’t exactly have a shining reputation when it comes to an animal welfare. Remember Sochi?

But, as a people — even though they are often depicted as cold and hard-hearted — they have some compassion for dogs.

Maybe that’s genetic, maybe it comes from knowing how cold cold can get, maybe, in the case of Moscow, it intensifies when you’re sharing an urban area — the streets, the sidewalks, the train, your lunch — with them.

When is a hoarder not a hoarder?


If you were to pick up Jung Myoung Sook, her 200 dogs and her ramshackle hillside compound and plop them down in rural America, she’d be consider a hoarder for sure.

But in South Korea, where the dogs she’s caring for might well have otherwise ended up as meals in homes and restaurants, she’s really more of a saint.

Her neighbors don’t always feel that way, but I do.

Jung, who was featured on NBC Nightly News last week, has had to pack up and relocate seven times in the more than 25 years she has been rescuing dogs, due to complaints from those living nearby.

Jung picks ups strays living on the street, and she has also bought dogs that were headed to be sold for their meat.

The AP article said all the dogs in the compound appeared to be healthy.

While a small minority of South Koreans eat dog meat, dogs are raised on farms for that purpose, and can be bought, slaughtered and butchered at open-air markets.

While it has been six years since I visited one there, while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on dog cloning, I haven’t been able to get those images out of my head since.

Seeing Jung’s smiling face, and reading of her work, helps some.

“My babies aren’t hungry. They can play and live freely here,” said Jung, 61. “Some people talk about me, saying, ‘Why is that beggar-like middle-aged woman smiling all the time,’ but I just focus on feeding my babies. I’m happy and healthy.”