I have been facing quite the “ahimsa challenge” this week. There are a litter of puppies living in a garbage filled ditch on the side of the road that I walk past at least twice every day. Every time I walk by I pet them and bring some water and a little food. I found that they are much more interested in the water siince we are in Africa and the trash is plentiful but the water is sparse. One night as I was walking by I picked one of the puppies up and he tucked himself into my arm and I decided to walk home with him and see what happens. I figured the walking would scare him and he would leap from my arms back to his “home”. He never budged the entire walk home and just stayed tucked into my arm enjoying the body heat and sense of security. I was worried that he would miss is family or vice versa but instead he just seemed to feel safe and content. I gave him a good bath, food and water and he slept next to me throughout the night. Well now I have a puppy that I have no idea what to do with! He is terrified of the outdoors and panics everytime I bring him outside. I was thinking he should go play with his brothers but I don’t think that is going to work.
Every time I walk past his brothers I feel guilty that I can’t help more of them. They are looking pretty rough, getting dirtier by the day and one of them is covered in blood now. In this situation how do I do no harm? If I walk past them and neglect them, isn’t that a form of violence? If I bring them home to wash and feed them and put them back out does that actually do any good? I will only be here for six months so I can only help for so long. Does it do more harm to take this little guy in? Hopefully I can find a forever home for him but it seems that will be very difficult with the Moroccan culture. I have researched Morocco for shelters but they are nearly non-existent and there isn’t one within hours of where we are. I learned that Islam considers dogs uncleanly so the government here is allowed and even encouraged at times to shoot them and they leave out poisonous food to keep the stray population down.
The whole situation makes me feel a little helpless. Last night I walked past the bleeding puppy and when I got home I began to cry. It just sparked this sadness of all the suffering in the world – it may have started with a puppy but it made me think of the homeless and starving people of the world and all the suffering currently going on in Nepal and I just couldn’t stop crying. In my effort to practice ahimsa I actually created a little bit of harm in my own mind that I was not enough. I felt like there was so much suffering in the world that I could never make any significant difference. A friend reminded me this morning that we just have to do the best we can to make a positive impact in the world and that is enough. I feel like ahimsa is a never ending practice. Through our actions, words, and inner thoughts it is truly hard to perfect. My only answer I have found to this current situation is to keep giving as much love, time, and effort as I can in this moment and know in my heart and my mind that I am doing the best I can.