Kukur Tihar is a special festival celebrated in Nepal to thank dogs for their loyalty and friendship. It is the only day in our country where most people set aside their differences about street dogs being inferior to pedigreed ones.
Yes, we are so grateful that people are tolerant towards strays at least once a year. But why is that? Why just one day? Because religion tells us to do so? The dogs face a different story of agony for rest of the year. Many live a life without food, shelter and love. Just because we set our differences aside for a day, doesn’t make our everyday wrong doings against these dogs okay.
Please don't let religion bind you to show compassion to the helpless just once a year! It takes nothing from a human to be kind to an animal. Let this Kukur Tihar mark a change in our hearts and minds. Lets speak for the animals who can’t speak up for themselves! Let's give them the love and care they deserve, all year round. We wish you a very Happy Tihar and Diwali from all of us at Project Humane Nepal! May your days be filled with joy and laughter!
P.S.- NO TO FIRECRACKERS, PLEASE!
We moved to a new neighborhood last year, and that’s where I met Shiyu for the first time. A shy, fearful stray dog, Shiyu lived in the locality. His home was under parked cars when it rained or, outside the gate of a kind colony resident’s house, who fed him often. I too started feeding some rice and lentils to him and his two friends, which soon became a routine.
Shiyu started showing up outside my home every day and would greet me with a couple of happy barks, probably a hello gesture from him and a wagging tail. It didn’t matter to him if it rained or if it was too sunny out there, he'd always turn up to see me. More than the desire for food, it was for the love and attention he received that he came and waited for hours. It broke my heart to see him struggle for food and love every second. Besides Shiyu's usual story of neglect and hunger, what happened with him in the next few weeks left me heartbroken.
I started to notice the abuse Shiyu faced daily. Local children found it fun to chase him on their bicycle to try and hit him, and a security guard enjoyed throwing stones at him. The guard’s excuse, "Oh, it's fun to see him get scared." For Shiyu, the worst was yet to come.
In the days to follow, I saw my neighbor, an old man, strike Shiyu repeatedly with a stick as he yelped for help. His explanation for his action, "This stray dog jumps over my vegetable garden’s fence and digs up the ground. So every time I catch him doing this, I’m going to beat him to death for he is just an unwanted stray and needs to learn a lesson." How cold and heartless can one be to inflict pain and cruelty on a voiceless being?
In spite of several efforts to persuade the colony residents not to harm him, the beatings and abuse continued. Life became so harsh for Shiyu that the old man would often wait for him to pass by his house in order to visit my house. When the man saw him, he would beat him brutally. He would hurl big stones and bricks at Shiyu even if he was playing with the other dogs, scaring them all away. Can you imagine the horror Shiyu went through every day, much less experience it?
Now Shiyu would then disappear for days. Then one day, he arrived at our gate, but with a big wound on his forehead, from the old man's heartless attack. This time when I confronted the man, he warned me that he intends to poison and kill Shiyu saying he had the approval of all the neighbourhood residents.
There is a limit to any animal’s capacity for suffering. Without any further delay, I brought Shiyu inside our home and promised myself he would never have to suffer such ugly abuse from such inhumane human monsters again.
Finally, Shiyu had a home after years of suffering. Now, he could eat without searching for his next meal and sleep without any fear. At first, Shiyu was nervous, but my other dogs, now his new friends, helped him ease into his new home. So now I had five dogs at my place and it was beyond crazy! Nevertheless, I was happy and relieved for Shiyu. For the first time in two months, I slept well that night.
We went for a quick walk the next morning. Shiyu’s first ever walk on a leash! I still remember that he had no experience of walking with a lead. But gradually with some reward treats, and lots of patience, he learnt how to walk correctly with confidence and without any fear at my side.
With time, I recognized that Shiyu was different from my other four dogs, in many aspects, perhaps due to his past torments at the hands of so many humans. While on the streets, he was abused so much that when we tried to pet him, he’d become petrified. Even a gentle, loving touch seemed like a threat to him. He maintained a safe distance from us for a while. It was just so rare to even see him play with other dogs. He would isolate himself in one corner and sleep mostly. Gradually, he started to make contact with the other dogs, especially with Lucy who happens to be his BFF now. Lucy is another dog whom I rescued from the colony too.
Shiyu gradually learned to trust humans again with us. He made an incredibly heartwarming transformation from a shy, fearful dog to a calm and a happy one. All it took for the change was some love, care and patience.
He stayed with me in Nepal for six months. In May 2017, Shiyu flew to his forever home in Virginia along with his best buddy Lucy, where they now live happily with their new human friend, Roy. Although, Shiyu still gets frightened of noises and becomes anxious and maintains distance. But he is getting more confident day by day and is learning to relax from the fear of the unknown.
I often receive photos of Shiyu and Lucy sleeping on their cozy bed, playing with new toys, enjoying delicious home cooked meals and getting spoilt from all the love and attention from Roy and his friends who visit them often. They now live a new life, with caring people, in a new place when they can call it home.
Reflecting on Shiyu's journey from the streets of Nepal to a home in Virginia, it reminds me how challenging and heartbreaking a street dog’s life can be. However, it has also taught me optimism, knowing the positive power humans have to change the world for dogs like Shiyu.
Roy tells me how Shiyu follows him everywhere in the house, wherever he goes, room after room. How safe he feels to be with a loving human and how much he loves to be around his human companions.
Every dog in our world deserves love and a home ….. purebred and mixed breeds alike. Many people feel that stray dogs are meant to live on the streets, that the ‘mutts enjoy it’, enjoy the freedom. But I beg to differ. If Shiyu had loved wandering on the streets so much, he wouldn't have come back to me, every time he left our gate. He could have left, but chose not to.
I really hope that you will consider opening your home to adult homeless dogs and not just puppies. The love and gratitude you will receive from them is indescribable, and you will be saving precious, innocent lives and have a loyal companion for life. Dogs deserve no less than humankind’s very best. I hope and pray for every stray dog to have a happy ending like Shiyu and Lucy.
Edited by: Kerry Ecklebe and Linda Sherpa
COPYRIGHT © 2017 Project Humane Nepal. All Rights Reserved.
about thE Author
Angeela Shrestha is a communications and research graduate from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She currently resides in Kathmandu, Nepal with her two rescued dogs Miyu and Rajoo. Angeela is the founder of Project Humane Nepal, a humane education non-profit organization. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org