The longer I live and the father out I venture, the more I realize that there is a lot of needless suffering experienced by people and the animals who depend on them. This had never been more apparent to me until my boyfriend and I traveled to the Flagstaff, Arizona area.
We left Colorado and drove down through New Mexico, took a right in Albuquerque and headed towards Flagstaff. Somewhere in between I started noticing a lot of trash along the highway. I knew by looking at the map that there was reservation area around. We began to see a lot of run down mobile homes, trailers, and shacks (very small sheds that actually looked like people were living in them). No wonder there was so much trash. Poverty in this area seemed obvious.
We stopped to have lunch quickly at a Golden Corral in a small town along the way. There was beggars on almost every corner who looked to be of Native American descent. We pulled into the parking lot as the only non-locals there. We got out of the truck, walked toward the door as two beggars asked us for some spare change. My boyfriend gave them the change in his pocket. They shook his hand and thanked him.
While standing in line I heard an old voice directly behind us say “do they have meatloaf”. I turned around and looked into the most desperate set of lifeless old eyes I’ve ever seen. He looked as if he definitely couldn’t afford to buy lunch at a restaurant but stood in line anyway. I said “you like meatloaf do you? I really don’t know since I haven’t eaten here in a long time but I guess that they might.” He nodded his head in agreement and gazed off into the air as if dreaming about the possible meatloaf ahead or some from the past.
We paid, got our drinks and tray then looked for a place to sit. Meanwhile the man behind us leaned in and said something quietly to the staff member then they handed him a glass of water. He took the first available seat ahead and slowly sipped his water while staring at the enormous spread of food that lie before him. As we went up to make our salads we saw a staff member carrying a plate of meatloaf from the kitchen to the old man, sat it down in front of him and said “here’s your meatloaf sir”. We wondered what was going on and if perhaps we had missed something. Regardless, it was nice to see him get the meatloaf he was hoping for.
The next day we met up with our friends we came to visit, ate breakfast then left town to see The Grand Canyon’s South Rim. We were just a few miles out-of-town and they explained that their was reservation land nearby. That’s when I started noticing more run down mobile homes. Then I heard one of them gasp as the other said “oh my”. We looked ahead out the windshield just in time to catch a glimpse of a dead puppy laying along the highway.
The rest of the afternoon and the following day were wonderful and couldn’t have been better. We had a lot of fun and unique experiences with our friends, saw The Grand Canyon, a concert, and watched the Superbowl together. However, I couldn’t help but think about that poor dead puppy from time to time and how tragic it is that its life ended so short. I also couldn’t help but wonder if it was somehow better off now rather than to suffer through a life in poverty’s misery.
Monday morning came and it was time to head back home. We decided to take a different route so we could drive through Monument Valley and visit Arches National Park. We left town and drove by the same area where we had seen the puppy hit on the highway a couple of days earlier. Just up the ahead we saw an animal control vehicle pulling up to a group of mobile homes where a puppy stood all alone in the side yard looking out towards the highway. As we drove by I silently said a prayer for that puppy and hoped for a good outcome.
A couple of hours down the road it was time to stop for fuel in the next town. We pulled into the gas station, got fuel, used the restroom, and decided to grab a snack to hold us over until we got to Moab, Utah. We chose a bag of several large chicken strips and 4 small breakfast burritos.
We got back in the truck and parked on the side of the station. Immediately I noticed what looked like a stray dog sniffing every inch of the pavement around the parked cars. I looked away and then it disappeared. We each took a bite of the food and when I looked out the window again it was sitting just a few feet from my window watching me chew and swallow my first bite.
As if that weren’t bad enough, two more stray dogs came over from behind the station and joined the first. We quickly figured out that one was female and the other was male, who appeared to not be neutered and was more interested in breeding than our food. The female stared at me in desperation and licked her lips looking hungry.
I apologized and said that there was no way I could enjoy the food as these hungry stray dogs watched so intensely. He agreed as another male dog who was also not neutered crept closer, exposing himself but keeping some distance from the others.
I kept telling the other male dog to knock it off when he would get behind the female. I couldn’t stand to think about how the female will surely be pregnant soon if not already and how the outlook for their puppies did not look good, to say the least. As I told the breeding male to knock it off again someone walking by said “yeah good luck with that”.
We started tossing the rest of the food out to all four dogs. Honestly, it wasn’t good anyway and we knew the poor dogs needed it more than us. When the food neared the end, the other male dog sitting by himself came closer to the group. That’s when the other male launched towards him as if going to attack but instead stopped within inches, showing his teeth and growling fiercely.
After the food was gone the dogs continued to sniff the pavement and lick the spots where the food briefly made contact. It was a very sad sight and I was eager to get out of there. I had experienced all the heartache I could take in the last couple days from seeing so much suffering and desperation first hand from the people and animals living in that area.
When people can’t afford to take care of themselves the animals suffer too and are the last ones to receive food or medical attention. We agreed that this was the most poverty we’d ever seen before but also recognizing that this probably didn’t even compare to the poverty outside the USA in developing countries.
I couldn’t stop thinking about those dogs. I remembered the female licking her lips and wished I would have given her more food since she would need it if she were pregnant. I also regretted not thinking about going back inside the station to look for a bag of dog food. While I’m sure the gas station owner’s wouldn’t have wanted us to feed the dogs right outside their station like we did, maybe we could have left the food in piles for them in a nearby area. Alas, it was too late now.
Luckily I remembered about 600milliondogs.org just in time to ease my mind enough so I could take in the sights as we drove through Monument Valley. It is estimated that at any given time on this planet there are over 600,000,000 stray dogs living in desperate conditions who give birth to between 1 and 3 billion puppies each year! Millions are brutally killed each year for population control especially in countries with no animal cruelty laws.
600milliondogs.org’s mission is simply to end the needless suffering and killing by developing and distributing a pill which would safely, economically, and painlessly sterilize stray dogs. This will reduce the rate of reproduction while controlling stray dog populations humanely. Once they accomplish this they’ll develop one for cats too!
I made a promise to myself that when we got back I’d donate to this cause and I did. It’s the best shot we have to overcome dog and cat overpopulation because it’s so out of control. Please join me and support their mission too. This solution is long overdue and they need you and I to help see it through.
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