I’ve been thinking lately about India. I wrote of her awhile ago. India was a street dog, a “perra callejera” as they call them here. She must once have been beautiful with her dark yellow eyes and thick shepherd coat. I first saw India sniffing around an informal market, looking for food scraps. She was ragged, starving and terrified. It took her awhile to find what was to become her permanent spot—a bit of pavement outside a disco. During her search for a safe place, she was hit by a car. For the rest of her life, her left rear leg hung limp from the hip joint.
India was my friend as much as she was able to be one. She knew my car and came as near to me as her fear allowed. She needed food and I brought it to her almost every day. But India never let me touch her. She trusted me but knew nothing of love.
For nearly two years, India lived on that little piece of pavement beside a busy road. Each day on my way up the mountain, I prayed she’d still be there. And she was. But I knew it wouldn’t always be this way.
About a month ago, I began to see the anti-rabico (anti-rabies) truck in the area. (I might add that rabies is very, very rare around here). The anti rabicos are the government’s answer to the city’s street dogs. Dogs are grabbed with a noose on a long pole and thrown into the back of a big caged truck. Sometimes the men who catch the dogs smash them into the concrete to stun them. The dogs are taken to one of the city’s many anti-rabico centers. These places are jammed with dogs, packed by the dozens into cages. They wait, in their own excrement, usually without food or water, until they are electrocuted. The methods of electrocution are so cruel and inhumane I don’t want to describe them in detail. The images haunt me everyday.
After I saw the anti-rabico truck, I feared for India. Then she was gone. I looked and looked but I knew what had happened. This was a dog who sought each day only to be alone, to stay away from humans. I can hardly breathe when I think of her terrified in an overcrowded cage… until she was killed.
I wish beyond words that I could have saved her, given her a spot in a meadow under a tree like Ferdinand the Bull, a gentle place to live out her days. But I couldn’t. My guess is that India had never known kindness. She’d given up on people long before I first laid eyes on her. But she wasn’t harming anyone. If someone approached, she ran away. She was worn out and tired and wanted mostly just to sleep.
In a way, India was my touchstone. As long as she was there, I could believe dogs that didn’t bother humans could actually make it in this city. Maybe they’d just be left alone. Now I know now the truth. Most street dogs get caught, sooner or later. It doesn’t matter if they are purebreds or mutts, friendly or terrified. In the eyes of the city, they are all the same. They’ll have left behind litters of pups to take their place on the streets, but they will eventually die. Some are hit by cars, many succumb to starvation, most get electrocuted by the anti rabicos. Street dogs do not live long lives.
I understand that places like Mexico City need to control their population of street dogs. What I cannot understand is why it is done with such cruelty.
There is an American vet who works up on Mexico’s northern border. She’s started a campaign for “humane euthansia.” It’s such a small thing to ask for. This is my wish for Mexico City– that people here will begin to understand that compassion extends to all creatures. If the dogs must die, if the city cannot organize an effective sterilization campaign (which it seems it cannot) then let them die with a degree of kindness. We humans are the stewards of this earth, we can do better than cause more pain to those who are already suffering.
I miss India. I miss her presence in my life. I miss the bond we had, frail as it was. It’s hard for me to accept that India is dead. Harder still to accept that she died in agony. And so, these last few days I’ve been trying to form a new memory of this dog, one not of her past but of her future.
I like to believe that India is now far, far away from a world that offered her nothing but misery. I like to think of her soul flying free, rising like a kite above the anti rabico, above the cars, the dirty air, the garbage and the cement slab in front of her disco. I like to think of her sailing away into a deep blue sky.