All over Asia, hungry dogs abound. They rifle through stinking garbage piles looking for food. They follow you with raised ears and hopeful eyes if you exude any sort of kindness. Their fur is usually matted and sparse, and their bones stick up through their skin. They never have enough to eat, and when they’re not sleeping in a curled up ball, they are searching for food. Here a dog, there a dog, everywhere a hungry dog.
Most places I go, I end up adopting a few dogs. Nothing makes me happier than feeding a hungry dog. The joy I feel when they are finally full and they fall on their sides with their tongues out is paralleled only by the joy I feel when I splurge on a room with a clean bathroom and a hot-water shower, or perhaps the sight of my clean laundry drying in the sun on a day with a warm, steady breeze.
Whenever I find hungry dogs, I feed them whatever I can get my hands on- milk-soaked crackers, spontaneous omelets from roadside dhabas, and when I’m really lucky, genuine dog food. They go crazy over wet food- chicken and gravy Purina, or the beef and rice variety. They settle for dry dog food- they don’t seem to know what it is. They sniff at it and circle it, and eventually get down to eating.
The other day, I was walking down the road, distributing handfuls of dog food to the hungry dogs I saw. As I got to the last of the bag, I spotted a skinny, frightened-looking dog sniffing around in an alley. I made soft clucking sounds to him, and he came over. I poured the remainder of the dry food on a relatively “clean” patch of the filthy road, and walked on. A moment later, I looked back.
A man had appeared. I thought at first that he was being mean and had deliberately scared the dog off. I went back to rectify the situation. However as I got closer, I noticed him putting something in his mouth. Dog food. He chewed it thoughtfully, and then popped another piece in his mouth. He didn’t look particularly down and out. He was a healthy weight, and had decent clothes on. He held a burning cigarette in his hand. I figured that if he could afford money for cigarettes, he could buy food if he really needed it. I turned around and started walking away.
As I walked, I had a flashback to being five years old. Two of my older cousins had taken me to the basement of their house. They locked the door behind us, and wouldn’t let me out until I had eaten the handful of dog food they proffered me. I was angry and disgusted, although I think it was the idea of eating dog food that bothered me more than the taste of the dog food itself.
As I remembered this, I couldn’t help but feel like something wasn’t right with the situation at hand. That man may have had cigarettes, but he was eating dog food off the street. I turned around, unsure of what I was going to do, but he was gone, and the hungry dog was wolfing down the rest of the food himself.