I had never worked with animals before, but I’ve always been drawn to them and they always incite my curiosity. There aren’t very many creations that I would deem ‘ugly’ in nature and even if a being is aesthetically displeasing, once I find the purpose of their existence they immediately become beautiful to me.
Pets on the other hand are a different matter entirely, they don’t further the ecosystem and most cultures find it rude to consume them- their only reason for existence is to love us and vice versa. The beauty in flowers exists just to caress us visually and in much the same way, pets (even the stray ones), are an emotional luxury. A balm to our intangible wounds and a source of near-constant delight (if loved and raised right). When I first visited the shelter it was overwhelming, the dogs barking at the excitement of a new guest, some coming up to me to get a cheeky sniff, the paralyzing heat, the smell of medicine (and hence life for the inhabitants) and Shadow, the onyx bear-dog, being majestic but intimidating in his rainbow colored enclosure; I was admittedly apprehensive of my surroundings. But then Azeem bhai introduced me to the residents of the shelter, furry and otherwise. I immediately began to find favorites among the cats and dogs (I know, totally wrong of me), and suddenly the heat and strangeness mattered so much less almost within the first 5 minutes of being there. I realized then that there is a cemented sincerity in animals that we yearn for but hardly ever find in our fellow humans.
All those animals- they just wanted me to pet them, especially the dogs in the enclosures, they got so excited and sniffed my open palm (as Azeem bhai instructed) and nuzzled closer to get petted on the maximum amount of surface. Canines are extremely tactile animals and are best raised with lots of physical affection and socializing, hence I was happy to see that loneliness was not a problem faced by the dogs here.
Then I was introduced to Jenny, possibly the bravest dog I had ever met till that point. Her injuries paled in comparison to the betrayal I saw in her eyes, and believe me, the injuries upon first sight reduced me to a blatantly crying mess. We did that to her, human beings, how could she ever trust us again? Her eyes so wide and scared and gorgeous just broke me, they wiped humanity from my mind completely, but only temporarily. Because in the end it was a human being who suffered all the bureaucratic hassle of getting her to the shelter in Karachi all the way from Islamabad, just to save a stray dogs life. Plus all the people around me were fixated enough to save her- to help her through this, to do whatever was best for her.
In that second of living in both the realities of human behavior I decided I will be on the side of humanity and in the past week or so of me visiting ACF, I have come to find that working with animals is a strange merger of humanity and divinity. Working at the shelter has already given me a kaleidoscope of perspective and every day when I wake up I can’t wait to see what else this little sanctuary for the unfortunate and forgotten will teach me next.
Mehar W. Khursheed