Welcomed by excited wagging tails just as her car approaches the corner of the street where the lovable stray fur balls are staying and longing for more than just food and water, but cuddles and petting. That is how the warmhearted Rasha Abdulla, Journalism Professor at the American University in Cairo and a regular stray dog feeder, describes her every day trip to feed the strays in her neighbourhood.
“Feeding these doggies is a guaranteed source of happiness for me, and particularly in this quarantine, it’s helped me maintain my sanity. They’re so happy that someone cares for them and they give back an infinite supply of unconditional love,” she says.
Being passionate about helping stray animals for years now, Rasha has been moving around with dry food and water in her car to provide the strays with. Ever since the quarantine started, she decided to actively look for dogs in her neighbourhood and now she’s been feeding three, and sometimes four, groups of about 25-30 dogs every day.
Sharing this same passion for helping animals is Lyn Arasali. She is also a lady who devoted her time to feedings cats around her house. “I love animals. Seeing them suffer from hunger makes me really sad,” she says. Despite all the psychological and financial pressures, Lyn still insists on doing what she can, even if it means feeding only five a day. “I have four rescued cats already. I spend some of my salary on their food, but this time it’s really hard for me to manage. My work is affected by this pandemic, I’m hardly living and feeding my cats,” she adds.
This notion of giving regardless of the amount was also emphasized by Senior Research Analyst and Animal Rights Advocate Mohamed Galal who’s been rescuing strays at his house while working closely with animal shelters. Along with his family, Mohamed feeds his stray dogs twice a day.
While in some cases, quarantine encouraged more people to adopt pets, it was not entirely the case with Egypt, according to Rasha. Unfortunately, a lot of people abandoned their pets fearing they might transmit the virus. She attributes that to the lack of information about animals in the media. “A quarantine is the best time ever to adopt a pet because they provide so much love and cheerfulness, and are a great way to keep kids busy and to teach them to be responsible and caring for another being,” she adds.
However, some animals have been lucky to have found loving homes here in Egypt. Seeing it happening elsewhere, animalloving Egyptians have decided to start adopting as well. We’ve seen a quite a few examples of peoplewho preferred the company of animals to being alone during the lockdown. Doha Reda and her husband Yahia Kordy adopted Galal the kitten during the COVID19 pandemic. Both of them working remotely, they knew they will have the time to spend with their little munchkin. The decision has changed their lives, “I now feel more responsible, and my husband has become more careful about coming home so we can feed and play with him,” Doha says. Doha believes in correcting the misconceptions about animals, “people need to read about disease spread from and to animals,” she says. Doha and Yahia are also planning on adopting a dog very soon, growing their little family during lockdown!
For Hanaa Safwat, the story was different. Her kitty, Misha, was going to be let go by her previous owners due to the COVID19 panic and misinformation previously mentioned. Not wanting the cat to be abandoned, Hanaa took her in, and it was love at first sight. Hanaa’s story gets even more interesting, as Misha was her companion after she contracted COVID19 herself, “since I got COVID a couple of weeks ago, she slept by my side for two weeks, sometimes even on top of me,” she recalls. Hanaa can’t imagine her life without Misha now, and is even considering adopting another cat. She believes things would have been very different if it was not for Misha, “she felt that I am sick, because she would sleep very close to me every day,” she continues, “we would play and cuddle so much during those two weeks, and her warmth and the love I felt for her made me want to get better,” she tells. Now Misha is an essential part of the family, “even my mom loves her now and they keep playing together. All the family kids love her so much and they video chat me so they can talk to Misha,” she laughs.
Caring for animals has sometimes been a challenge in Egypt. Mohamed points out to the fundamental issue of turning it into a choice between saving humans or animals. “Why do we have to choose between animals and humans when we can easily care for both? Our hearts and minds have this capacity,” he asks.
Feeding the stray dogs without the neighbours complaining is also an issue that Rasha is facing. “The main challenge is that people won’t leave them alone! Every few days I get one of the area residents asking me not to put food where I do, even if it’s far away from their place,” she explains.
Although stray dogs do cause problems in Egypt, Rasha stresses that the way to handle the issue isn’t through poisoning, hurting, or shooting them. It can be controlled if neighbours collaborated and donated for the program of trap-neuter-release (TNR) where dogs stop reproducing and bringing more dogs to suffer in the streets. “In the few months that I’ve been feeding doggies regularly, there have been three new litters of six to eight puppies just in this small area,” she adds.
Rasha, Mohamed, and Lyn all point out to the simplicity of providing food to stray animals. Offer your leftovers or just some dry food in disposables with some water in the shade. That is all you really need to do. Even if you’re afraid of animals, you can just place them near them and leave. “I wish people would understand that humans don’t live alone in the world, God has created other creatures, and all religions urge us to be kind towards these creatures,” Rasha concludes.