I would not wish this on my worst enemy: To be forced to go under the cover of darkness and slink in the shadows like a cowering stray mutt.

I don’t know if I am doing right or wrong. I only know that I have to do it. And I can’t help it.

I wear a black outfit: Black shirt, black pant, a black cap and a black surgical mask. My skin colour also helps me in this nocturnal adventure.

But, it is hardly an adventure. This daily night effort is fraught with a type of fear; a mixture of reserved shame and a heart beating in tandem with the quivering steps that I take.

Man with plastic bags

Some of the neighbours have not switched off the lights of their houses. I curse them. A scooter suddenly appears out of nowhere and I try to pull my cap to cover my eyes and as I fiddle with my surgical mask, the plastic bag in my hand dash on my face, spilling some of its contents on me. I shake my head at my own foolishness.

I don’t want anyone to see me. Tomorrow, when the remnants of the ‘deed’ are found on the streets, this scooter man will remember a lanky middle aged man, his arms rendered helpless and weighed down with two full plastic bags.

Neither a thief or a murderer

I curse under my breath again as I see the lights streaming out from yet another house. But, somewhere in the distance of the street, I see some forms and figures slowly take shape, metamorphosing into four-legged beings.

I am neither a thief, murderer, or even a black magician. In reality, I carry no ill will in my heart (or so I say), save for a major wound that I try to hide but at the same time, try to fill, with these type of nightly tasks.

‘Scum of the earth’

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel: pexels

I am a streets’ dog feeder. For many, that is roughly translated as the scum of the earth; a nuisance; someone who is solely responsible for the increasing number of street dogs on the roads of my hometown.

Many reserve an unusual kind of hatred for me; an extension of the same hate they have against some skin-and-bones four-legged souls who have nothing, no one to help them, support them, or give them the only thing they desire: a bit of love and a bit of food to fill their narrow, fast dwindling bellies.

Today is a lucky day

Those shapes and forms in the near distance slowly stir and move rather hesitantly towards me. Despite feeding them for over three years, they are still wary. Not because I harm them or hurt them or shout at them or throw stones at them or try to run over them with a vehicle. None of the above. But, not a day passes by without some acts of violence against them and if -- by virtue of some miracle –- it has not happened to them today, mind you, it could happen. It would happen. Maybe not today though. Today could be a lucky day for them. They have survived the ugly rain-splattered morning and evening till now, and if, I succeed in my efforts, I could give them a morsel (or more) to fill their burning stomachs.

‘Illegal’ acts

Another curse spits out from my dry lips as yet another vehicle cross my path. If you have read this far, you will understand that I am doing an ‘illegal’ (according to my neighbours and the many passers by who not just glare at me but also stop their huge vehicles to complain to me and threaten to ‘report’ me). Why shouldn’t I feed some poor little hungry souls? Because they “pose a threat to the population around”. They “can bite”; they “can suddenly leap over some old man or woman or a young kid and they die in fright” ; they “can suddenly jump on the road” or they “can chase after a car or a bike on these pot-ridden roads and cause terrible accidents”. I have been ‘stoned’ with bitter words hurled at me for feeding them before their homes and I have been ‘beaten’ up by many with their animosity, hardly mincing words and demanding that I better stop feeding these “dirty, filthy, disease-ridden dangerous creatures or else…”

Covert abuse

Or else what? That is the prime issue. Not that I care if they report me. For no one is going to hang me for feeding a hungry dog/s. But, they can harm these poor creatures. They can hurt them. They can poison them. They can kill them. And many among these poor streeties display telltale signs of such covert abuse: some with scars and open wounds; some with limps; others with signs of food poisoning…

Heart-stopping moments

Several heart-stopping moments pass as I quickly empty the contents of my plastic bags as the poor creatures quickly gorge on the food; they also know instinctively that they have to rush through the food as some dog hater is bound to appear from the darkness and hurl abuses (on me) and stones (on them). Already, a window opens from one house and I hear someone distinctly tell their family members that the blamed neigbhour guy is feeding those dirty mutts again tonight. So, I quickly dump the rest of the food on the road for the street pack and disappear into the darkness. One spot covered, now I need to go back, refill and repeat this ‘cowardly’ performance where an other bunch of hungry dogs are waiting in the darkness.

Born on this cruel planet

Now, I am not completely alone. There are others who share my passion and some who have dedicated their whole lives to the welfare of these poor darlings, who have done no wrong except to be born on this cruel planet.

Good souls exist

There is one pure soul who has nearly 50 dogs at his small plot and house and lives only for them -- and is even ready to die for them. There is a lady paediatrician who, after her stress-laden and busy medical practice, still finds time to devote her efforts for the welfare of these poor four-legged souls in town. Then there is a group that sources chicken waste and remains from butcheries and drives around town and feed the hungry streeties at special spots. Then there is a friend of mine who tries to fund feeding drives in his own humble way. There is another poor lady who herself has very little to call her own, yet takes a bus from a long distance and comes to town to feed the streeties waiting under bridges, shops and street corners. She also collects waste from butcheries.

Opposition on the streets

I do it differently. I make a concoction of chicken bones, fried meat, bread, rice, boiled eggs, porottas and also take many packets of biscuits as ‘dessert’. It is a task and one that consumes time and effort. But what is disturbing is this sheer opposition that I meet on the streets. Almost everyone I meet look down on me, and others share their dislike openly and vehemently, sometimes puncturing the little confidence that I have.

Two-and-a-half hours vain effort

Now, I am sure there are many others, most of them hiding their passion and compassion, for these dear beings, from the spotlight, but silently, secretly helping them in their own way.

The man who cares for 50-plus street dogs at his home and is also an expert rescuer visited the house I am staying in the early hours of a morning recently. I had desperately reached out to him to help a poor six-month old stray puppy, which I feed, that had fallen into a large (nearly seven/eight feet deep), slightly water-laden, ditch near my house. I had tried in vain for nearly two-and-a-half hours, from 1.30am to 4am, to save it but it was frightened out of its wits and kept on biting me when I tried to lift it.

No rescuer – just a feeder

I am no rescuer. I am only a feeder and a covert one at that. When he (this man with 50 plus dogs) came around at 5am, the dog was helplessly holding on to some wood piece that I had dropped into the ditch. I mean, I had no clue as to what to do. It was a deep ditch and there was no light, save for the light from my mobile phone. Like I had said, I tried for nearly two-and-a-half hours, but this man had a device for such purposes and he brought the puppy out in less than 15 seconds. As it scampered away, my heart leapt in joy and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I did both.

These poor souls need us

The rescuer pacified me and gave me a lot of advice on how to be calm and strong in such situations and told me not to give up on feeding these hungry souls. They need every bit of help from whatever sources possible. I was totally in two minds before he came as I am not strong like him and get weakened by the dreadful opposition that I face on the streets. I was almost ready to give up, throw in the towel and pretend I don’t see these helpless beings. But that night, this man not only saved a poor, desperate soul from dying, he also saved my drowning, cowardly, heart. I am still gasping for breath at the sidelines of the morass of fear I was drowning in, but I guess, I will still continue. Yes, I will. These poor souls need me. They need YOU too. 

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