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Sons and daughters of Anubis

Memphis_dogs I’m just back from 17 days in Egypt. It’s always a good thing to see how other people live, but the trip also provided an unexpected window onto how other dogs live. Those lessons began before I even landed. Reading the Herald Tribune’s Egyptian daily on the plane, I saw this headline: Cairo to go back to shooting stray animals despite protests. According to the story (which also ran in USA Today), complaints and dog-bite reports in Cairo and neighboring Giza (home to the pyramids) moved the government to begin shooting strays as a population control measure. The policy had been suspended earlier in the year after complaints from animal rights groups and tourists who had seen the carcasses of shot dogs.

The issue of strays in Egypt isn’t going to go disappear at the end of a gun. This controversial practice, which often leaves wounded dogs to die slowly, has been going on for years. Back in 2002, the World Society for the Protection of Animals was cautiously optimistic about a pilot spay/neuter program. But the current  budget for sterilizing strays is $70,000, well short of the estimated $9 million needed.

At nearly every temple and pyramid I visited in Egypt, there was at least one dog, usually many more. They were all mid-size, Dingo-looking mutts, thin with patchy fur and covered in bugs. I couldn’t figure how they survived, especially in the desert. Despite their ragged appearance, I found their presence reassuring. They were playful and romped with us and each other. They lapped water from our cupped hands and gobbled up our snacks. They were like heirs of Anubis, the ancient Egyptian jackal god, greeting us and guiding our journey. While Anubis is most closely associated with the underworld, he is also the god of abandoned and lost children. I can’t help thinking that Egypt’s abandoned and lost dogs could use a powerful god dedicated to their cause right about now.

Lisa Wogan

October 24, 2007 in Travel | Permalink

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