Up until I was a freshman in college, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by animals. Luckily, living on a farm in rural North Dakota was the perfect setting. When I was in elementary school, we built a house eight miles outside of my hometown. I can’t tell you how many kittens I found, and in my eyes, rescued, to add to our growing list of pets. When I was ten, a family friend took me under her wing and taught me how to ride horse. Since then, I have taken care of countless kittens, more than eight dogs, two cows, seven horses and a few other random strays along the way.
Which is why, I had an internal struggle, one day after work. I was walking home when I heard some noises coming from a squirming bag on the side of the road. I walked over and opened it up to find four tiny puppies inside. They weren’t even a week old and they were unbelievably cute. One of the Peace Corps rules is that we aren’t allowed to have pets. But, they were so cute, and alone and cold and…. how could I just leave them there?! So I picked each one up to make sure it was okay, then I would stand up, start to walk away, and repeat that whole process. This went on for a good twenty five minutes. Then I called my site mate to see if there was somewhere I could bring them. I knew that was grasping for straws but it was worth a shot. No such luck. I decided to head back to work and ask my coworkers what I could do with them. I explained in my distraught voice about how sad it was that there were four little puppies with no mom. We had to help them! They stared at my with confused faces. Why is this American so torn up about dogs?! I tried to convince them that the health center would benefit from having pets. No such luck. So I returned, and picked them all up again. Set them back down, picked them up and set them back down. I couldn’t bring four dogs home. Against Peace Corps rules, and just not practical for one PCV. I can’t tell you how many times I had to tell myself this before I walked away.
One of the differences between developed and undeveloped countries can be seen in the treatment of animals. In America we have pets because we like the companionship. In undeveloped countries, animals are usually there to serve a purpose. Dogs are used to guard the house or herd sheep. Horses are used for transportation or work in the fields. If an animal isn’t earning it’s keep, then it’s home is usually the street. Those animals can be aggressive so kids will throw rocks to scare them away. I see a lot of that here. There are countless stray dogs roaming around Permet. Most of them look like they haven’t had a decent meal in weeks.
I wish I could take them all in, feed them and find them a home. I know that isn’t practical and I am trying to figure out ways to not let it get to me. Leaving that bag of puppies by the side of the road was one of the most challenging decisions I have had to make here. Before arriving in Albania I had time to prepare myself for the “hardships” I would face. I was ready for language, food, people, work, and transportation issues. But this day caught me by complete surprise. There are the problems we see coming and then there are also the unforeseen challenges. Often times, the latter is what can knock you down for the count. I am finding out that the Peace Corps and Albania, contain their fair share of each. All I can do is live through them, maybe learn something, and hopefully feed a few animals along the way!