May 30, 2011

Wooti: Part 2 (still more coming)

So.  Here’s Part 2.  It probably won’t make as much sense if you haven’t read Part 1, but that’s a lot of reading, so your call.  It’s longer than the first, and I don’t think this one is as “riveting” as my last one (thanks, ladies of Facebook ;o), but it is what it is… Also, sorry for another “cliffhanger” ending—it just felt like a good stopping point.  Also also, sorry for the boring, boring, boring details…I have to confess that a large part of writing this is the catharsis, and this particular day is one in which each of the minutes felt like hours, so I kind of can’t help but to tell it that way, interesting or not.

Because I hadn’t slept that night, I was dressed and ready for action before dawn, but lingered in the darkness of my compound until that quiet moment, just before the sun wages its fiery war against the night, using the sky as its battleground for the onslaught of a new day.  Though I had the entire night to formulate a plan of action, no magic bullet or shining beacon had come to mind, and I suppose a part of me was hoping for a last-minute epiphany; besides, it would not have been safe wait alone for a minibus on the dark street, nor would it be useful, since I couldn’t begin my search until daybreak anyway.

Armed only with the note in Amharic from the veterinarian, which explained what I was trying to do, I set out.  Fortunately, I caught a minibus easily—which is not always the case, since the part of town I was headed towards was on the far, far outskirts of town, which means fewer busses travel there.  Also fortunately, since it was still quite early, my fellow passengers weren’t feeling especially chatty, so I had a few more moments to pray and prepare.

As I departed the minibus and set forth down the dirt road, I was relieved to see that despite the early hour, it was already buzzing with activity—I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ethiopians are some of the hardest-working people I’ve ever encountered, and this is particularly the case in the agricultural areas, where farmers work their crops by hand in what appears to be a 12-month growing season.  This was good news for me, as it would be easy to conduct my search to determine if the dog had a guardian.

Initially, it was a little tricky—since dogs are not especially highly regarded, the first several people I spoke with, while perfectly happy to chat, did not seem to understand at all, even with my note, and I found myself spending more time talking my way out of generous coffee invitations than making any headway with the dog.   But, as luck would have it, as I was speaking with a kind elderly woman who ran a small market out of her house (and insisted on giving me a lollypop, which she had seen the students share with me in our earlier walks), I heard a familiar voice from behind, and turned to see one of my students beaming back at me, “Hello Chelsea!  You come to class?  Class at 4?  Yes?” he asked, visibly concerned that he had somehow missed our class, or that we were having class early that day.  I dispelled his concerns, and showed him the note.  “Ahh, this is the dog with the—“ he gestured toward his leg, “burning leg.  From yesterday.”  He then began speaking with the elderly woman and then told me that she said she had seen the dog around, but that he had no owner, and should probably be killed because of the pain.  Finally—an answer that I could use, without the concern that I was misunderstanding (and with the added bonus that it was the answer I wanted—this would be a far simpler process if it dog was, indeed, a stray).

Despite the fact that the boy was only 14 or so, I knew that his time was immensely valuable to his family—most farmers barely make enough money from their crops to provide basic necessities for their families, and most children’s morning chores are of immense importance—for example, making the several mile walk each way to get the family’s water for the day.  So, despite the fact that my student was of enormous help, I did not feel it would be ethical to ask him to continue.  But, fortunately for me, once again, Ethiopian hospitality came to my rescue, and the student insisted on joining me until my quest was complete (it is an extreme insult to decline such an offer in Ethiopian culture, so after checking several times to be sure it would not cause problems for his family, I agreed, secretly incredibly relieved).  Thanks to his help, we knocked on steel gate after steel gate, mud wall after mud wall, and kept getting the same answer—essentially, the dog is a stray; kill him.  After about a mile’s worth of questioning, I felt confident in this answer, thanked my student profusely, and told him that I was done searching. 

As my student began walking home, I was once again overwhelmed by a sort of aimless anxiety—I had no idea where to begin looking for the dog, or what to do when I found him.  Clearly, if I found him, I couldn’t carry him all the way to the main road, but this part of town was so remote, there was no public transport, and even if there was, even most tame dogs would not put up with being held that long, and I had no idea if this dog was even really tame.  So I started to turn around, scanning all directions of the cactus-dotted countryside and mud house-lined street, and (I swear, this dog is magic), at that very moment, the dog came limping around a corner.  He did not approach me this time—he was more concerned with trying to find a morsel of food left on a pile of bones—but I walked towards him, and he remained at ease. 

As I was nearing him, a man dressed in a business suit—extremely out of the ordinary for my village in general, and Debre Zeyit in particular—asked me what I was doing with the dog, and spoke in very good English.  I felt a pang of anxiety—what if everyone else had been wrong, and this dog was “owned,” and his “owners” wouldn’t agree to my assistance?  So, rather than show my hand, I asked if the dog was his.  Thanks to all that is holy, he told me the same thing everyone else had.  He said he was just visiting the area, but that his family there had actually expressed concern about the dog, and he felt it was best for me to end his suffering.  Of course, I had no intentions of taking that course of action, but nonetheless, it was a huge relief to have one final confirmation—in a language that I, myself, could understand—that there would not be any repercussions for taking the dog. 

(Writer’s interjection: Perhaps it seems that I dwelled too long on this particular portion of the story, but it actually becomes very relevant later, so I wanted to properly set the scene.  Or perhaps I’m just toying with you all by making this extra-tedious to trudge through… :oP)

So.  Now I had sufficient evidence that the dog was stray, and I had the dog.  But what next?  The sun had climbed the sky quickly, and was beginning to bear down, squelching the morning cold, so I took off my jacket, and kept an eye on the dog as he continued stumbling through the road, searching for food, and I continued stumbling through my sleep-deprived-mind, searching for a plan.

I was momentarily distracted by an elderly man, who saw me eyeing the dog, and, without even looking at me muttered “give him bread” as he clutched his cane and walked slowly past me.  For some reason, this struck me as strange, so the words stuck in my head, until I heard something I never imagined: the sound of a motor.  Not a large truck motor (the road was near a military base, and large military humvees would occasionally woosh by with the thunderous noise of their engine), but the slightly higher-pitched-almost-going-to-break-down sputtering noise that could only come from a bajaj.  And there it was, maybe 200 feet away, racing by, on a small path that crossed with the main road.  I immediately began yelling and waving my arms in the air like a total nutcase.  Fortunately, I had already made enough of a spectacle of myself, that the whole neighborhood instantly surmised what I was trying to do, and, though I was too far away to catch the drivers’ attention, one of the residents of the area was able to stop him. 

I ran to him, and asked if he could return to this spot once he had dropped off the people he was transporting, and take me and the dog to the veterinary college.  Before he could say no, I offered him more money than he would probably have thought to ask for the ride, so he agreed.  To my dismay (I hate reverse-racism), the people already in the bajaj said they were very close to their desitnation, and insisted on getting out so I could have the bajaj right then.  I tried to dissuade them, but, once again, Ethiopian hospitality far exceeds the comfort levels of many Westerners, and I had no choice but to oblige.  The driver immediately started off towards the dog, and I rather frantically yelled for him to stop (since my reputation as a lunatic was already fairly solid, no harm in sealing the deal).  I feared the noise would scare him off or cause him to become unhandleable—and as it was, I was extremely anxious about the prospect of picking him up. 

With the bajaj at a distance, and the entire neighborhood watching me, I walked toward the dog, reasonably convinced that in the next thirty seconds I would either faint, or be maimed to death.  But the dog soon to be known as Wooti was hardly ferocious.  He had plopped himself down near a wall, and slowly stood as I approached him—but not in a threatening manner, as he was slowly wagging his big poofy tail.  It was clear that he knew the whole neighborhood was watching, and since everyone had been staring and pointing at him all morning, he seemed to be quite aware of that fact.  Taking a deep breath, I asked him, out loud, whether I could pick him up.  I told him, again, that I was going to help him, and that it was going to be scary, but he needed to be brave.  I know it sounds crazy to talk out loud like that—in fact, probably this whole thing sounds crazy to a lot of people—but as with the first time we touched, I was taking a leap of faith for him, and I needed him to do the same for me. 

So came the “now or never” moment.  I reached out and pet him on the forehead, then slowly leaned over him, and grabbed his waist, careful not to touch his wound. To my astonishment, he didn’t struggle in the least, or even make a sound.  Shaky with relief (day two of stupid adrenaline rush), I speed-walked to the bajaj, and clung tightly to the dog (unfortunately this particular bajaj had no doors, so in addition to the obvious risks of transport, came the risk of him slipping out the side).  For the first time, I felt his bones protruding into his chest—his fur was quite long, and concealed just how emaciated he was. 

A strange man had decided to accompany us, and, though I would have much rather gone alone (I suspected he was trying to get me to pay him for his “help”—my suspicions later proved to be true; all he got was cab fare home, though—Ethiopians find it just as insulting when their fellow people try to fake hospitality for profit from “rich Farenji,” and it is beginning to be a large problem there), I didn’t have the time to object so he sat in the front with the driver, and our trip commenced.

To my surprise, once it became apparent that the dog was not going to struggle during our twenty-plus minute journey along bumpy, bumpy, BUMPY rocky roads, the doorlessness of our bajaj turned out to be a blessing.  In addition to inviting a cool breeze in the usually greenhouse-like passenger area, it also failed to keep out the obnoxious noise of the engine, which, in turn, allowed me to once again forgo the socially obligatory small-talk with the stranger who forced his way along.  (For the record, I typically enjoy these sorts of interactions—indeed, they are actually among my favorite things about traveling in Ethiopia…just not when I’ve got a wounded dog on my lap, and the other party to the conversation is unquestionably creepy.)

Instead, I was able to focus on the gentle creature in my arms.  The extent of suffering he was experiencing was slowly becoming apparent to me, making my soul feel as limp and ragged as his leg.  Though functionally dead—muscles dissolved, and totally stiff—his leg was still oozing a small amount of reeking puss, which covered the fur on his chest (when he lay down, his leg was frozen into a position where it rubbed that spot), and the stench was so immense that even the wind from the bajaj did not make it dissipate—and it was all concentrated right beneath his beautiful black nose.  He was filthy and covered—covered—in fleas and ticks, some of which I began picking off, and some of which decided I was an incredibly inviting piece of fresh meat. 

Drowed in my thoughts of what agony this poor creature must be in, I was shaken as the bajaj lurched to a halt.  We had arrived at the arched entryway of the veterinary college.  Because we had an animal, we were instructed to use the back entrance, where the horse and donkey hospital is located, so the driver diligently drove around, and our trip was completed.  Wooti and I disembarked, and I paid the driver the promised sum, as well as enough to cover the stranger’s ride home, and we parted ways, as the dog and I entered the back of the campus.

Now, dogs aren’t kept as pets in Ethiopia, at least not at all in the same way they we keep pets here in the US.  Things like collars and leashes and muzzles…well, they’re not easy to come by, to put it mildly.  So though I had been lost in the quiet moment, of processing Wooti’s suffering, I quickly found myself once again forced to use “creative problem solving”: how to contain an unfamiliar dog with no restraint devices in a large field, while simultaneously searching for the doctor.  So, I hovered over the dog, and herded him towards the concrete office building 50 or so yards away.  We found a spot of shade, and sat in the gravel, and I held one arm over his body, keeping him close to my hip.  As I pulled out my phone to try to reach the doctor, an onslaught of flies—literally dozens—came out of nowhere, and immediately began preying on Wooti’s arm, unmercilessly swarming him as he panted, and half-heartedly licked at his wound, trying to keep them at bay (I say “halfheartedly,” because, as terrible as they were, he seemed defeated by them—he had clearly been fighting so long, he knew there would be no relief.  He was here with me, and I knew he wanted to go on.  But it also really, really seemed that he had lost hope.).  As the ringing sound from the doctor’s line persisted in my ear, I plucked a long weed from the ground, and began fanning Wooti’s wound—he may have surrendered to the flies, but I couldn’t.  The robotic voice of the automated phone message began chiding me, alternately in Amharic and English “The person you are trying to call is not answering.  Please try again.” 

I tried several times, but the only answer was the condescending phone lady with a British accent.  We had been waiting for nearly twenty minutes, and I began to worry—the doctor had sounded incredibly compassionate and credible, but sometimes, just as students say “yes,” when they really mean “no,” because they don’t want to disappoint, people make promises that they cannot fulfill—what if this was just another one of those?  I couldn’t bear the thought, and dismissed it immediately.  So we waited. 

May 29, 2011

Wooti: Part 1 (more coming)

For those who don’t know, thanks to the work of some astonishingly giving friends, both old and new, I brought a dog, Wooti, back to the US from Ethiopia.  I’ve been aching to tell his story, but it was one of the most intense experiences of my life emotionally, so in the months since my return, I’ve made a habit of putting it off.  But I think it’s finally time.  So here goes...Part 1 of a still-to-be-determined number of parts.

It is easy to see how light distorts the world around us and toys with our impressions of it: the darkness of night contrasted with the flickering of sunlight through trees is the very difference between an eerie, predator-filled forest, and a wonderful place for a picnic (or in my case, as a true Pacific Northwesterner, real comfort lies somewhere in between, beneath a comforting blanket of clouds and fog…but that’s neither here nor there). 

Just as light alters our perception of the world, emotions have the capacity to warp our experiences and memories, burying them beneath darkness and shadows, or painting them in bright hues, keeping them at the forefront of our minds.  Despite the enormous amount of support and help I received with Wooti’s, and despite the fact that our effort to get him safely to the United States was successful, for me, the memory of the weeks leading up to his rescue, is one tinged in darkness, which is why it has taken me so long to tell his story.  Even though I know that Wooti and I had so many people sending thoughts and prayers (and money, and logistical help), there were many long nights spent holding him and crying, terrified of defeat, and overcome by a sense of lonliness and helplessness like nothing I’ve ever felt before.  Now that, of course, is probably really just evidence of just how lucky I’ve been, that this is among the most troubling experiences I’ve had, but, nonetheless, it is the reason that I have waited months to tell Wooti’s story—because the memory has been sucked into an emotional black hole, and every prior attempt to resurrect it has resulted in my own downward spiral into that dark place.  (And, as I said in my last entry about Wooti, not only is it about him—incredible, incredible him—but it’s about all the pain and suffering that I’ve seen and feel helpless to fix.)

Nonetheless, Wooti’s story is a remarkable one, and I want to share it, though I hardly think I’m capable of doing it justice, and I’m quite sure it’ll take more than a single entry.  It’s a story in which every single thing that can possibly go wrong, fall apart, or fail does, and every single thing that can possibly miraculously come together at the eleventh hour somehow manages to.  It’s a story of people from all over the world coming together, and committing extraordinary acts of generosity in order to save a life.  And it’s a story of a really, really lucky dog (and his human companion—me).

My memory of the street where I found Wooti was not always so dimly lit.  Prior to our the emotional jolt of our first encounter and the tremors that followed, it was actually glittering and glowing, inhabited by the smiling, laughing faces of my students and the echoes of the first time we really bonded: the memory of our walk home after my first day of teaching, kicking up dust as we sang the iconic World Cup song, Shakira’s “This Time for Africa,” (and the slightly awkward fact that most of us only knew the chorus, which wasn’t quite lengthy enough to carry us through the entire walk home, a fact that didn’t keep the kids from throwing their voices together as they repeated the chorus over and over again with undwindling zeal).  Or the memory of my favorite student who struggled a great deal with her English, but had one of the most beautiful hearts of anyone I’ve ever met.  She waited on this road to meet me every single day, with a new bit of conversational English, which she had clearly composed and rehearsed, and was nearly ready to burst until she had the chance to proudly recite it for me.   Honestly, the majority of my memories from this particular pathway are unequivocally positive—yet the darkness creeps in, and I feel a knot in my throat when I think of it.

It all started one day when I was walking home from class, surrounded by my swarm of students, buzzing around me singing songs, practicing their English, and asking questions about the day’s lesson, as always.  It was the same road I had treaded daily for weeks, entirely familiar.   But that day was a little different.  While engrossed in the emotional flutter of my joyful students, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a dog with a nauseatingly horrendous injury, lying on the opposite side of the road.  And to be perfectly honest, he was a welcoming sight. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I had actually seen Wooti once before I committed to helping him.  It was a brief, fleeting sighing, as he limped in and out of view weaving his way through the maze of shanty homes at a far distance.  But though I only caught a glimpse of him, he was burned in my mind.  I couldn’t have told you his coloring or size, or any other identifying characteristic; all I remember was his leg.  Despite the years I’ve spent in animal rescue, handling cases of extreme abuse and neglect and disaster response, I had never seen anything like it: a nearly foot-long gash of exposed flesh, which split his front left leg vertically, entirely through to the bone, and left it hanging from his body like a weighted-down rag.  It was absolutely horrifying. 

Now, I am sure many people reading this are shocked that I could simply walk away from a situation like this—he could have died, and it would have been my fault for being apathetic.  And you’re not wrong—I’m extremely ashamed that I didn’t respond immediately.  But everything is different in foreign countries—human healthcare is rare, let alone veterinary care.  Because cats and dogs are not treated as kindly as they are in the US (broadly speaking), many are not safe to approach—and even an extremely tame animal can be dangerous to handle when badly injured.  And, as I have mentioned before, in order to do an sort of work in developing countries, you must develop a certain tolerance for the intolerable.  Frankly, the sight of him caught me entirely off-guard, and left me entirely overwhelmed.  So I kept walking.  But his image haunted me, and I made a promise to myself that if our paths should cross again, I would do everything in my power to help him.

Nearly two weeks went by, and, though my eyes combed the area where I had seen him each time I passed it, my efforts were of no use, and I began to give up hope—with such a terrible wound, there was no way he could survive, I rationalized—and buried his memory away in the dark recesses of my mind, where I hid away all of the things I knew I would eventually have to deal with when I returned to the uncomfortably comfortable US.

So, when I saw him, nearly two weeks later, only yards away from me, lying in a small patch of precious shade, my very first reaction was a small amount of selfish relief—from the guilt I had been carrying over my own inaction.  I was being given a second chance at helping him, and, far more importantly, he was being given a second chance.  My eyes met his warm brown eyes from across the path, and it was as though they penetrated into my thoughts.   He immediately stood and limped toward me—directly toward me, ignoring the students taunting him and throwing rocks (I had been working with them, trying to teach them about humane treatment of animals since arriving), as though he had been waiting there, just for me.   As he approached me, my stomach turned to stone, as I saw het full extend of his injury—indeed, his bone was exposed, and his flesh was covered in flies and maggots, and it appeared to have been that way for some time, as his muscles had atrophied.   

I’d like to say that I handled this with bravery and selfless heroism, but I have to be honest—my relief faded fast, as I felt the blood drain from my body, and my first thought was an explicative.  I knew there was no way I could leave him like this, but had absolutely no idea what I could do, and also knew that if I didn’t do it, absolutely no one else would, and this dog would die a horrible, horrible death.

My students immediately sensed how upset I was, and I began peppering them with questions—did any of them know who the dog belonged to, did any of them know where I could get veterinary care or how?  They all said he was a stray, and did not know how I could help him (well, actually they all kept saying “yes,” but further questioning revealed that they didn’t understand what I was trying to ask—it’s actually a common frustration when working with students: because of cultural differences, as well as corporal punishment if a student answers incorrectly in class, rather than saying “no,” “I don’t understand,” or “I don’t know,” students answer nearly every question with “yes.”).  

As I tried to elicit answers, and my mind raced to find a solution, the dog stood about three feet from me, and the students all told me to stay away (there is a large misconception in Ethiopia that all dogs are violent and diseased—while many are, I have enough experience with animal behavior and access to healthcare that I am confident in my ability to gauge a situation—this dog was not going to hurt me).  Instead, I called to him.  Our eyes still were locked, and the tension was palpable—it was clear that each of us was equally fearful of the other.  But we were willing to take the risk.  He, very cautiously, limped closer, and I, very cautiously stuck my hand out, and after a moment of recognizing each other’s voluntary vulnerability, he sniffed my hand and licked it, and I gently stroked his forehead.

His deep brown eyes could not conceal his pain, and as we continued to look at one another, I made a promise to him, aloud that I would do everything in my power to help.  The intensity of the moment was broken by the students, unable to understand it, due to cultural differences and ideas about animals.  He began to limp back, to his spot in the shade, as the flies harassed him incessantly, but I did the only thing I could think to do—I quickly reached for my digital camera, and took a photograph of him and his injury.

At that moment, all else faded away, including my students, and I lurched into action, and began running toward the main, paved road, where I could catch a bus.  Time was short, both in the immediate sense—it was nearing evening, when everything shuts down—and with regard to this dog’s life.  The only possible resource I knew of was the veterinary school.  It was on the opposite side of town.  I had no idea whether they provided services to the public, or whether they would be capable of handling something like this.  But it was the only resource I knew, and, if this was to be like anything else I had tried to accomplish in a foreign, developing world, I knew I had to start somewhere, and they were the only people I knew of who might be sympathetic to the cause. 

Because it was the evening, rush hour had set in (yes, there is rush hour, even in Debre Zeyit), and the bus moved so slowly I was nearly overcome by agitation—the fading sunlight of dusk was creeping through the hills, almost faster than the car inching along, and I found myself nearly in tears as I attempted to maintain the obligatory small-talk with my fellow passengers, so as not to come off as a racist Farenji.  No one would have understood the panic and sense of urgency that I felt, had I tried to convey it to them, and of course that made it all the worse, until I felt the emotions erupt in an unnecessarily forceful “WIRRAGE ALLAH!” (“STOP HERE!”) when we finally reached my destination (which was, of course, nearly the last stop).

I jumped off the bus and ran to the security guard (nearly all buildings in Ethiopia are complete with a gated checkpoint staffed with security guards—good for employment, perhaps, but remarkably obnoxious in situations like this).  In my best attempt at feigning calmness (the appearance of being anxious or overly excited is almost a sure-fire way of not being permitted to enter, or granted a request, as my fruitless attempts at salvaging my 2 year visa had taught me), I showed the guard my photos, and used as much Amharic as I could to state my case to be allowed to speak to a vet (the guard spoke English, of course, but as in most cultures, a demonstrated effort at learning local language and customs goes a long way, and in a situation like this, every possible precaution must be taken).  To my great relief and amazement, after a few moments of deliberation, the guard not only allowed me to proced, but actually gave me the name of the lead veterinarian at the college, and directed me to his office. (The directions were useless, of course, as I am notorious for becoming lost and disoriented combined with the fact that I was a giant ball of nerves). 

Dripping with sweat, partially anxiety-induced, and partially from the heat, I power walked around the neatly-landscaped campus, stopping everyone to ask if they knew where the doctor was, until the person I was asking was, in fact, the doctor himself, on his way home.  I frantically told him the dog’s story (I would love to say I was the image of grace and composure, but even by then, I had worked myself into a tizzy), showed him the pictures, and asked if he knew what to do.  I told him I was quite sure the leg would need to be amputated if this dog was going to live, and that I would pay for whatever he needed.   The doctor was very taken by the photos and story (it is uncommon for people to show interest in stray animals in Ethiopia), and invited me into his office.

We entered the large, multi-story, pale cement building (adorned with the familiar “x”’ed windows to protect wild birds), and entered his large office, sparsely decorated by US standards, but otherwise, not entirely unlike an office in the US, with a desk, several chairs, and some framed photos of family—it was one of the nicest offices I had seen there (this was before most of my more intense drama with Immigration).

He offered me coffee, which I (somewhat reluctantly) accepted (I didn’t want to keep him, and honestly I was fairly emotionally fried, and knew a lot more stress was imminent).  We discussed the case further, as well as our past experiences working with animals.  He instructed me to bring the dog to the office the next morning, and, somewhat bashfully informed me that I would have to pay for the dog’s care, and that it could be quite expensive.  Knowing that in the US, amputation is in the thousands, but also knowing that the US dollar is worth more in Ethiopia, but also also knowing that veterinary care in Ethiopia is rare (and therefore perhaps more expensive), I attempted to coax a number out of the doctor, because the last thing I wanted to do was short the school, and I assumed I’d need to Western Union some money to myself.  After throwing out a few numbers, I finally got him to give me a figure—it would be between $3-5 USD, plus the cost of all medication, which I would have to purchase myself (which might be an additional $5 USD or so).  Yes, you read that correctly—I did not forget any zero’s or omit any digits.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised, considering that when I was in my bus accident, the total cost for my hospitalization and stitches was about $1 USD.  But still…that was one huge relief, to say the least (and, in an unrelated note, shows just how much of an impact we can have in other areas of the world, even if we feel poor here in the US).

At my request, he also composed a note in Amharic, asking if anyone knew who owned the dog, and explaining that I was trying to help him—at this time, I had been dealing with the Ethiopian immigration office for weeks, and was, frankly, kind of terrified of the government, and didn’t want to find myself accused of theft on top of everything else (really, I wish I had been more selfless in all of this, but I must tell this story honestly).

I asked him if he knew how I might transport the dog, and he (again somewhat apologetically) informed me that they did not have an ambulance service, but that if I could get the dog there, they would do what they could to help.  I felt bad that he was so self-conscious about their facilities—to this day, I have nothing but awe and respect for what he, his staff, and his students are doing, and the progress they are making in their community—so in addition to doing my best to display immense gratitude (it can be difficult with cross-cultural barriers, to try to determine what resources exist, without sounding presumptuous), I made a point of saying that I’ve never, ever seen an animal ambulance in the US, either.

I left his office still ridden with anxiety (and, now, caffeinated anxiety—three cups worth), eager for the next day, but also terrified. Needless to say I did not sleep that night.  I had absolutely no idea whether the dog would still be there in the morning, since he had disappeared after the first time I saw him there; I had no idea how to physically get him to the vet, which was easily 10 miles from the part of town where I found him; I had absolutely no idea how he would respond to being held or restrained; I had no idea whether the clinic would be able to safely treat him, and I had no idea what I was going to do with him after the procedure.  I just knew I needed to do something to help him, and I knew in my heart that he wanted to live.