Day 72: have I done the wrong thing?
Ann and I arrived at the kennels by nightfall with our camera and torches.
The rumours about this government sponsored ‘sanctuary’ were horrendous: disease, rats, death, misery. But I needed to know for myself. I had no intention of breaking in but if I could get round the back in the darkness, peer through the fences, perhaps I could see something for myself.
We waited a few minutes behind a bush.
‘Let’s keep our helmets on’ I said to Ann in a whisper.
‘I have no idea’
It seemed a good idea.
We crept towards the kennels in our enormous tourist scooter helmets and the cacophonous barking started up. Were the dogs laughing at us?
At the front of the kennel, in the dust and darkness a single dog was chained up. He lunged at us, snapping against his leash and snarling. We stepped back.
Ann waited on the side of the dust track to keep look out. A small light flickered from inside the kennels from a tiny hut, somebody was there. I followed some metal fencing down the side and pushed my way through ever-thickening undergrowth. Dogs jumped up against the other side of the fence barking. Above me were lookout towers made of wood but no-one was guarding. The ceaseless noise put me on edge and brambles cut my legs.
At the end of the fence i found a clearing and shone my iphone torch into the pens. I could not risk a flash camera. Inside I saw row upon row of ramshackle metal caging, each about 6 foot by 6 foot and inside each of these some very elementary wooden housing for the dogs. Most cages contained two large dogs and a large white bowl filled with some sort of light brown/white paste – likely rice and water. I couldn’t see puppies and I coudn’t see any obvious sickness but it was very unclear how any of these dogs got exercise.
My big mistake
Then I saw it .A few meters away. A small dog, not a puppy,with long white/brown hair and floppy ears. It stared at me from behind the metal webbing, its eyes glinting in the torch light. It looked out of place -a long haired pedigree of sorts wagging its tail amongst the short haired street dogs barking. Was it someone’s missing pet? Would it ever get out of here?
I imagined myself rescuing it, driving it back on the scooter, it’s fluffy ears flapping in the freedom of the evening air. I saw the dog on a flight to Germany eating wurst sausages.
This was a mistake. I had made a connection and now my compassion outweighed any sense of danger or legality.
I came here with no intention of breaking the law but now that I had seen the dog’s face I eyed the nine foot high fence and considered my options.
I waved my light for Ann to come over. She fought her way through the brambles.
‘I’m going over the fence to get the dog’ I said
‘What!?’ she whispered back. ‘Where will you put it?’
‘in my arms whilst driving’
She let out a screech
‘Shh!!!’ I whispered.
‘oooohhhh myyyy gaaawwwdd’ she whined, ‘what just went over my foot??’
‘No way! I just – Ah!!! There’s another!!’
‘pleeeasse! Keep it down,’ I implored.
‘I’m gettnig out of here, these rats are HUGE’
‘Stay. I’m going over.’ (It’s a bad boyfriend that leaves his girlfriend standing in the dark amongst rats)
‘Go! Quickly…Go!’ she said.
I bent down to take another look at the dog before climbing over. Ann was now seriously freaking out. The poor dog had retreated under its wooden hut in fear. I zoomed in with my camera and put the torch on its face and took a quick shot.
‘Oh shit….’I said
‘…there are two of them. Are they brothers for Gods sakes??’
‘We HAVE to go..now!’
And then I made a decision which I may regret for the rest of my life. However stupid it sounds, however mad I am at myself for this, for some reason I couldn’t rescue just one dog and leave another by itself – and we only had space to carry one. The scales of action were tipped.
I took another look at the two sorry creatures. I rushed off back through the bushes with this image burning in my mind.
I had come, I had seen, I had abandoned.
I felt awful.
I hadn’t broken in, and I have to say I hadn’t seen anything as devastating as the rumours said, but I had seen a dog in a very cramped pen that I was fairly sure would never be released. And I could only guess what happened deeper in the kennels.
We got back to the bikes and ann filmed my response … I spent the rest of the night in fitful sleep, waking four or five times with a sense of sour guilt. Had I done the wrong thing?