Sunday, May 4, 2014

Walking the Walk

I’ve wanted to do something to help Adopt a Dog Sri Lanka for a long time. Every time I see a posting on Facebook to adopt a dog or a puppy, I’ve wanted to make room for another pet here at my house. Except Toby is a one-dog kind of dog. He’s not been socialized because of the diseases that so many dogs here in Sri Lanka have. We’ve kept him away from the mainstream and now he thinks he’s king of the castle.

But there are other ways to help Adopt a Dog Sri Lanka; as a photographer I could take photos and put them in LucysBuzz to get some attention.

I read once that there was a man in the outskirts of Colombo feeding street dogs. I wanted to meet him and go on his feeding journey. His name is Nihal De Silva and every day for 12 years he has fed 120 or so street dogs. EVERY DAY! He first began with feeding just a few that he recognized in the area near his home. He took several of them home with him and he now has six that live with him. The money to feed the dogs in the beginning came out of his pocket and as that pocket began to empty Nihal began to get donations to help continue the feeding.

Each morning, he wakes at 5AM to prepare the food for the dogs; a mixture of chicken livers, rice and dog food pellets. He cooks it in a giant pot and puts the finished meal in the back of his beat up pick-up along with plastic feeding bowls and jugs of water.

I joined Nihal in Pellawatte at 11:30AM sharp, when he begins his feeding. I went with him in the truck and it so happened to be another one of Sri Lanka’s blistering hot days. Since the passenger side window didn’t work, it got pretty hot in the truck. Lipton followed us in our car as he, too, wanted to do something to help the street dogs.

Now, you might envision a nice roadside spot where Nihal feeds the dogs, but that’s not the case. It’s just barely off to the side of the road, with traffic, buses, tuk tuks and people walking all carrying on while he pulls up to each location.  Dogs recognize the sound of his truck and automatically come out from under cars and other places where they rest, wagging their tails. Nihal then blasts the horn to gather the rest of the dogs in the area. The first stop produced five dogs, all happy to see him. Nihal fed each dog the mixture he’d made up at his home, in separate bowls. There was no fighting among the dogs. Some did ‘talk’ to him, as if hurrying him up to give them the food.

It was a joy to see. The dogs seemed pretty healthy. Some had skin issues. One was blind in one eye. But they weren’t starving. They had that one big meal a day, each and every day, come rain or come shine. And they were so happy to see Nihal. Wagging tails and I think I saw a couple of smiles!

Nihal also gets them sterilized and has their medical issues dealt with, through donations. It takes him RS 100,000 per month to feed all 120 dogs (not including medical). He survives on donations as he has gone through all his own money taking care of the group.

Each stop we made, around five dogs came to be fed. There are many more that who need feeding, but Nihal can only do so much as he is a one-man team and so he sticks to ‘his’ pack of dogs and doesn’t feed the newcomers.

There was one newcomer, however, that he fed. Actually he gave the bowl to me, and I fed her. A brown, small dog, who was frightened to death of any movement, or people. I kept following her, placing the bowl of food near her, because she had a broken leg. Her rib bones were showing and she was very, very malnutritioned. After a small feeding, she hid underneath a betting booth and wouldn’t come out for more food. Nihal said that she had been dumped there the previous week and it would take money to get her the attention that she needs. It broke my heart. But then, I expected my heart to be broken on this journey.

As Nihal said, the dogs need to be cared for, otherwise they’d have to hunt for their food and water. We’ve all seen them doing it. We all feel bad. But with Adopt a Dog Sri Lanka, there is something that we all can do. We can donate to their cause. Donate. Donate. Donate. They make it easy. They are totally transparent in their financial dealings and donations can be made online or deposited into their account. They show you how the money is spent. I gave Nihal the money for one feeding (RS 3,500) and if I were rich I’d give them a ton more. But we all do what we can. And we can do it!

It’s no wonder that Nihal is single. He works for the dogs from 5AM until 5:30PM. As I said, every day. He makes 22 stops throughout the day. Twenty-two!

He’s given them his total dedication, love and commitment. Even when people ask him if he’s mad, he doesn’t react. People ask what he gets out of it. ‘Yes, there should be a purpose’, he says, ‘and that’s to quench the hunger in the animals who have grown dependent on humans for their health and well-being.’

I say bless him. He’s walking the walk. Let’s all walk with him and give what we can to Adopt a Dog Sri Lanka.

The dogs recognise the sound of his truck
and quickly come to greet him.

Each dog politely waits their turn to be fed.

This mother was frightened of the noise and
wanted to get back to her pups.

She finally settles down to eat.

But then the mother dog wanted to take her
bowl to her pups.

Nihal put food in a plastic bag for the pups
and the mother took it and trotted off.

She's heading for her pups with the food.

She turns the corner and goes to where her
pups are hidden. That's why Nihal blasts the
horn so dogs like the mother dog can hear that
he's there for the feeding.

The dog on the left is blind in one eye.

The pot of food.

The one-eyed dog just drank water from the green

These 2 dogs were fed separately as they were from
a separate pack.

These two dogs get feed next to the small business,
where the owners give them water.

Another stop, another 5 dogs.

A stop (on the wrong side of the road - but
police allowed it. They know Nihal and
his work.) This stop was outside a bank.

I was just so happy to help.

See the car coming towards, Nihal's
truck? It's not easy to find access and
a place to feed the dogs. They are
street dogs and live on the street.


The dogs know Nihal and even let him touch 
their food bowls while they're eating.

Each dog gets a petting. They need love, too!

Even the birds know the sound of Nihal's truck.
He feeds them too! They come flying to him!

This dog was too shy to come out, so Nihal went
to him.

The birds getting their share.

A good petting.

More petting!

At this place there was grandmother (who didn't show
that day), a mother and a young one. This is the young one.

At Malabe. Sometimes Nihal takes
a quick nap under this tree. It's a
long day for him!

So gentle.

Look at those sweet eyes.

The dogs get 2 of these bowls full.

At the Malabe temple. This man, who suffers
from cancer of the mouth, takes care of
the temple dogs.

The Malabe temple.

This was at a round-about, under
the watchful eye of the police. It's
where I saw the little one with the
broken leg. I hope she gets the
help she needs.

Nihal gives all the dogs water, but these two
went to the tank for their water. Some drink out
of mud puddles.

This one, at another stop, was very shy and barely ate.

This dog is Nihal's favorite. We stopped at Parliament
Grounds. It was May Day, full of buses and people.
Enough to scare the dogs. People are often not
very kind to street dogs.

Here's the link to Adopt a Dog Sri Lanka. Do what you can. Please help them 'walk the walk.'

Note: to feed all 120 dogs for one day, it only take RS 3,500.

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