|Pema and the shelter caretaker, "Uncle"|
Last weekend, my friend Pema and I took a walk down the valley from RTC into Ngabiphu, the scattered village below the college. She was taking me to the dog shelter to spend some time with the animals and just see what was what. Pema is doing her capstone project on the treatment of stray dogs in Thimphu and on RTC campus. The dogs are a big "problem" in the eyes of the administration and the staff of the mess (dining hall). There are a dozen or so dogs that live pretty full-time on campus, in various states of health, but who are generally regarded as pests. The dogs of RTC are consistently well behaved and friendly compared to the packs of dogs that roam Thimphu-town, many of whom are very fierce looking. I actively avoid the dogs in town, but have befriended many of the campus dogs. My favorites are Roger, a mange-y tawny-colored old boy in sore need of attention, and a tiny black and white half-blind but eager and affectionate girl named Henry.
|looking down at part of Ngabiphu|
These kinds of incidents are a big part of Pema's research. She is a big animal right's activist, and tells me she is motivated by her views that animals experience feelings and pain just like humans do. This stems from Buddhism, and the respect and empathy extended to animals because of their position in the wheel of life as sentient beings. She explained to me that even the tiniest fly tries to get away from you if you swat at it because it is afraid that you will hurt or kill it. Animals, she says, may not express pain the same we do, but they do experience it, and we should do our best to help them, or at least not harm them. It is the Hippocratic Oath of kindness.
|Nado shaking his ears|
|friendly dogs at the shelter, |
the black and white one is named Meto (flower)
The blood-hound and one of the bigger long-haired shelter dogs began barking fiercely and followed me along the road, barking and snapping at my heels. I was afraid to run or pick up a rock to throw at them (as I"d been instructed to do in such a scenario) in case this would make them more aggressive. So I hollered at them and tried to hurry away until I was past the farm gate, but before I could escape, one of them did bite me. Luckily, it got a mouthful of pants, and didn't break my skin, and when I was able to shake him off, I got past the gate a moment later and was able to get away, adrenaline pumping and swearing worse than a sailor.
Since that day, it's often taken a self-pep talk to walk past the farm, and I've taken up the habit of either carrying a stick or rocks, just in case. I hadn't had to use them until yesterday, when again on a return walk these same two dogs came after me. This time I decided to stand my ground and face down these spawn of Cerberus instead of trying to get away as quickly as possible. I held up my rocks and did my best to shout over their low bellowing barks. The same culprit as last time came closer to me and I stomped forward toward him, rock held high and ready to be launched. And the coward stood down. The tag-team kept on barking, but I stared them down and with a few more threats of a rock to the head and assertions that I wasn't afraid (even though I was), they backed off, and I walked off, this time swearing in triumph rather than anger.
When I have gone to the meditation session held on campus, Lama Shenphen has discussed how quickly emotions pass through us and fade away. While I cannot get behind this sentiment completely, these scary encounters with the dogs on the road have reinforced this lesson that negative emotions really can be fleeting. The day that I was bit was also the first day that I found ripe wild strawberries in the woods. With a mouthful of tart, juicy, hand-picked strawberries, you really can't stay mad.
|feeding time at the shelter, a joyful time|
Your charo (friend),