WARNING: THIS STORY IS VERY SAD (and a little gruesome)…please read no further if you aren’t prepared for a sad, but true story about how bad things can happen to innocent puppies.
Here’s an adorable gif of a snow leopard (this is your opportunity to escape)
We had three station dogs at our research camp…their names were Winkie, Tsavo, and Socks. They each had their own personality for sure…Winkie was a total ham, sweet and loving and attention-seeking. Tsavo was partially blind, and maybe a little mentally disabled…he was often confused and frightened (poor thing), but he loved love too. Socks was a sweetie, but he wasn’t neutered and every night he would run out and meet his lady friends all around the farms. A couple of other dogs that did not belong to us would show up around breakfast time and learned to recognize me quickly because I’m a pushover. Frequently, I would leave camp with 3-5 dogs trailing me (a fact which annoyed me because dogs are not great to have around when you are sampling bees or watching birds).
Camp dogs…Winkie and Socks behind her on the left, Tamu lying in the middle (not one of our dogs, but one who frequently begged for food), and Tsavo staring into nothing on the right
Winkie bravely survived a baboon attack…you can see her leg is still bandaged
Our camp dogs were healthy, and, well, fat compared to the dogs at the surrounding farms, which were often skin and bones.
A nearby farm dog, Ricky…I periodically sneaked biscuits to him
The farmers had no desire to neuter or spay their dogs, because the puppies could be sold at 50 shillings (about 50 cents) a piece…if they survived. The main problem was that this was not a healthy environment for puppies and most of them died horrible parasite-infested deaths. Their main enemy was a horrible maggot called a Mango worm (Cordylobia anthropophaga). Mango worms are a type of blowfly, the adults lay eggs in feces contaminated soil and the larvae crawl across the sand until they encounter a mammalian host. They crawl under the skin and develop there, feeding off the host until they become large enough to leave…they drop to the ground and pupate out. I’ll leave you to look up photos for yourself if you so desire.
We also had a vet in camp at the time I was there. She hated to see animals suffering so when she saw three puppies with particularly bad infestations, she borrowed them from their owners for a few days to try and help. These three came from a litter of nine puppies, and they were the worst off, although all of the puppies were infested with parasites.
These puppies stank horribly, so we washed them first
With medicated soap
You can see how dirty the water is on the second rinse
Second washing with shampoo
I love the suspicious look on this puppy’s face
Some cuddle time post-washing
Parasite removal process
We tried to feed them, but they couldn’t eat much
All told, we removed over three hundred mango worms from these three puppies…that’s a hundred parasites from each puppy (our camp chicken, Matilda, devoured all of these tasty parasites, then wiped her beak in satisfaction in the sand…I’ve never seen a chicken eat that much that fast before). And that’s just the ones we could remove.
I wish I could tell you that this story ended in a happy way…but every one of those puppies died, despite our efforts. Not just the three we tended too, which were the worst off, but the entire litter of nine puppies.
It is a brutal world for a puppy when not even the humans can find enough to eat or drink. My Kenyan friend said the dead puppies are not even buried (of course not, when you think about it), but their bodies are just tossed into the bush.
The vet at our camp later neutered Socks…and I helped her, believe it or not! I never thought I’d be helping to neuter a dog in the African bush, but the girl who was supposed to help passed out, so my help was suddenly necessary. Thank goodness I’m not squeamish (I’ve watched them stitch my own knee before).
It made me think back to how well-treated dogs are in the United States. They are tended and cherished and cared for every day of their lives (well, most of them are). Even the dogs at our camp were babied. We spend so much on our pets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that there’s a fat, happy Rascal waiting to see me when I visit New York…but of course it is hard for people to value the life of a puppy when their own children are hungry.