Friendship. Companionship. Loyalty. Trust. LOVE. Dogs bring so much into our lives, without even uttering a single word. Just being around a dog is therapeutic. Pure joy. We’ve all heard the stories about dogs literally and metaphorically changing people’s lives. We’ve all gotten misty-eyed at the stories of dogs traversing thousands of kilometers to be reunited with their humans. They are, as a species, our oldest friends. Even though we cannot hope to measure up, this International Dog Day, let's vow to give back. How can we do better for the dog(s) in our life?
Educate and Learn. Raise awareness among children, people you live with, your friends, and your co-workers. Whether it is how to best care for a pet dog, why it's a bad idea to ask your veterinarian for free advice or medical treatment, why it's never a good idea to self medicate (or even worse, follow the advice of Dr. Google without consulting a veterinarian first), how to properly care for free-ranging community animals, when to sterilize and vaccinate pet and stray dogs. Not everyone knows the best course of action to follow and if you are in a place where you know better, show them the way. Everyone starts from zero.
Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Rehome. Our hearts go out to the animals in distress we see. Even if we can't keep a dog at home, sometimes especially because; we want to help any other dogs on the street if they are ill or injured. If it is within your means, work with volunteers or NGOs to improve the quality of life of the ill, injured, distressed, or abandoned dogs on the street. If you have the time and the inclination, learn basic first aid under the guidance of a veterinarian so that you can administer basic medication or first aid for your own pet(s) or for any stray dogs you feed regularly.
Adopt. Don't shop. It's the hashtag that's been done to death. But it's high time to stop propagating and start 'adopting' this 'dog'ma in our lives. There are thousands upon thousands of orphaned, abandoned, and disabled puppies born on the streets who are worthy of homes and our love. Not only that, there are hundreds of unscrupulous breeders who exploit dogs to produce puppies to meet the demand for "purebreed" dogs. Learn to follow your head when your heart yearns for a 4 legged companion. Do your research. Enquire with local shelters or fosters if they have dogs or puppies up for adoption. Open up to the possibility of bringing home senior dogs or dogs with special needs. And if your heart is still set on purchasing a puppy of a specific pedigree, look into licensed and ethical breeders to buy from.
Nurture and be kind. If we showed dogs even a fraction of the compassion they show for us, we truly believe that the world would be free of so much suffering. Dogs on the street do what they can to survive because they are on the street out of fate, not choice. I do not discount anyone's traumatic experience with dogs in the past, but we need to learn and grow as the "evolved species". There are people in the world that don't like dogs or are apathetic towards them, and that's okay. Deliberate violence and cruelty never is.
So for the sake of those melting eyes, floppy ears, and those wet sniffy noses, do better this International Dog Day. Be the person your dog believes you to be.