Found on Foreign Assignment: A Dog, A Cause

By on August 10, 2009 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

A feature story in The Washington Post about a lost dog caught my eye recently, a heartwarming tale written by the newspaper’s South Asia correspondent Pam Constable. She adopted a homeless stray dog in Islamabad, Pakistan, where she is based. But while on assignment in Afghanistan, a careless house guard and an open gate led to the dog’s disappearance. On her return, Pam enlisted the help of dozens of people and after a frantic four-day search, the lucky hound was located and returned to safety.

Pam Constable and Ahu with Pakistanis who helped to find the dog
© Pam Constable
Some of the Pakistanis who helped find Ahu (center, with Pam).

The mission to find “Ahu,” as she had named her new friend, took Pam to rough and unfamiliar parts of the city where she normally would not have ventured. She handed out fliers with Ahu’s photograph to strangers, some of whom were amused or incredulous that someone would be searching for a mangy street dog. But Pam’s persistence paid off and she was overwhelmed with relief.

“I was grateful to this little dog for leading me into the hidden human corners of a city that had long seemed artificial and inhuman to me,” she wrote. “For the first time in more than a decade of visiting this polished, international capital, I discovered its human soul.”

Pam is a good friend of The HSUS and a remarkable inspiration to all who know her and share her love for animals. She is not only a brave and intrepid reporter—she’s been on the ground covering the war in Afghanistan for nine years now—but she’s become a one-woman army fighting to protect stray animals there.

She began helping street dogs in Kabul almost from day one and in 2005, Pam established the U.S.-based nonprofit Afghan Stray Animal League to raise financial support and awareness for homeless animals in this poverty-stricken, violence-wracked nation. Humane Society International helps fund the charity which supports a private shelter, low-cost veterinary clinic, and adoption center in Kabul for homeless, abandoned, sick, or injured dogs and cats.

Two puppies helped by the Afghan Stray Animal League
© Afghan Stray Animal League
Two puppies cared for by ASAL.

From Pam’s unique perspective, she knows that dogs born on the streets in the developing world are, with rare exceptions, destined for a life of suffering. If they survive to adulthood, they face malnutrition, disease, cruelty, and in the case of females, birthing endless litters of puppies that perpetuates the cycle of misery. Many people in Afghanistan are unfamiliar with the concept of animal welfare in general and with petkeeping in particular.

This is why Humane Society International helps to underwrite modest programs like the Afghan Stray Animal League and also funds spay and neuter programs in some of the neediest parts of the world. In the past two years, for example, we have staged street dog sterilization and vaccination clinics or veterinary training and outreach in Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, the Caribbean, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Ethiopia. We’ll soon launch a three- to five-year program in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan to spay/neuter and vaccinate for rabies some 50,000 street dogs.

Pam’s work meanwhile—reporting on the growing U.S. troop presence in a widening war and helping animals—continues in tandem. “For all the stories I’ve covered and the friends I’ve made, what gives real meaning and purpose to my years in Kabul is something else entirely,” she said recently. “My happiest hours have been spent nursing these animals back to health.”

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Humane Society International

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