A heartfelt call to be kind to stray animals, especially during the nationwide lockdown due to the global pandemic, when these poor animals suddenly find themselves without their usual food sources in the suddenly empty roads.
The outbreak of COVID-19, the coronavirus has led to a global pandemic, killing thousands of people worldwide, with the mortality numbers increasing everyday. India started a nationwide lockdown since March 2020. Amid this continuing lockdown, while humans are grabbing their essentials with both hands, stocking up on items at home that they deem to be necessary for their lifestyle, there are many who are starving on the roads unnoticed. And I am not even talking about the migrant labour or the poor. The Government and NGOs seem to be doing a decent job of looking out for them.
Human beings having a voice can cry out and have other humans hear their cries for help. I am talking about those without a voice or a humanly decipherable language – the stray animals on the roadside. These strays are dependent on us to feed them. With restaurants, markets, fresh food vendors shut since the lockdown started, stray animals have lost their regular food haunts. The Animal Welfare Board of India has issued an advisory to all, that food for companion animals and strays is an “essential service” and be kept operational during the lockdown.
I speak for myself and other like-minded people around me. As a community, we aren’t very different from the average human being, nor do we have a fancy moniker – as a ‘feeder’. I researched on the process, applied and procured my ‘essential pass/id card’ to continue to feed the animals on the road, as I have done now for several months. These poor strays have hunger pangs too and they don’t have the ability to stock up. Us ‘feeders’ are acutely aware of this.
Every morning I step out at 6:30am and follow my pre-ordained beat, feeding the fur babies. They await their morning food in their respective locations/points everyday at the specific time they know I will reach. They eat their food with full satisfaction, more than usual, as they probably doubt when next they would be able to nibble some food. But we, the ‘feeders’ ensure that they get food twice a day. Our repertoire has also increased from just stray dogs, to include cats, bulls and even birds. It’s not only food that we feed everyday but we take care of their health too. There are lots of senior dogs, cats, bulls who are given medication on the road to take care of their illnesses and the accident injuries inflicted upon them by some callous motorists; we also give them supplements so that their immune system develops further and they can survive on the busy, ruthless streets.
At times, their immune system doesn’t help their cause and it’s not their fault when some inhumanly callous people drive their fast cars over them while they were peacefully napping on empty streets. Within this lockdown we have had 5 hit and run cases in our locality alone, it’s so traumatic to see when a ten-year-old healthy dog who has lived all her life on these streets, succumb to death due to human carelessness.
It breaks our heart to pick their dead bodies but still we find the courage to bury them and give them a farewell with dignity. They deserve it. We cry and cry everyday that it happens.
But every morning when I get up it’s a new beginning. There is hope that after every darkness there is light. I repeat my mantra to myself to “forget the past, there are 104 souls waiting for me, to get their daily sustenance of food and love. Forget the grief and move on.” And so I do. As do the other likeminded ‘feeder’ friends.
Bring positive energy as that’s what these strays sense from us when we go near them. They are happy when we are happy. Food is not enough, the smile while feeding, the love which one gives, a little belly rub, a ruffling of their fur, makes their day and adds another day to their lives. There is no end to it but a belief that your karma speaks for you. Keep on doing your duty. Spread awareness as the world needs to know the basic concept of coexistence. Today nature has shown us that it has had enough of human dominance and encroachment, we can’t do just anything against Nature and as per our whims and fancies.
I request anyone who reads this to please feed these voiceless souls. They need us. Be kind. Don’t lock your love or emotions during this lockdown. Remember, it is only with humans that we need to maintain social distancing, not with animals.