Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A sentimental moment...

WARNING:  The content of this post is very sentimental and NOT within the normal range of subjects posted on this blog.  Continue at own risk.

For those of you that read my blog, but do not live in South Africa, this might be hard to understand...  Let me try to explain.

One of the biggest challenges pet owners face in South Africa is that a large percentage of the cultures represented in our country, in general do not see animals in the same way we do.  They are terrified of dogs, superstitious about cats and in general do not understand any affection towards animals.  The majority of South African citizens would not remotely understand why I allow my animals in the house, or spend money on them even.  Through many of the cultures, the tradition is that animals get fed left-overs, they stay outside to catch vermin and protect us.  That is IT.  There is no relationship, no bond and no care.  It is no-one's fault really, the animal awareness in South Africa is close to zero.  Opportunities to be educated are few and far between.  I can debate for hours on the reasons, but today, that is not my point.  Today I stopped at the garage (petrol station) to pick up some cigarettes from the convenience store, I had Echo and Chaos and Volt with me.  From the corner of my eye I saw a petrol attendant (we do not have self service stations in South Africa at all), storming my car, but assuming that he just wanted to wash the windscreen for a tip (normal practice), I headed in to the shop.  Returning to my car, he was waiting for me:

'Hi ma'am, my name is Brian' He held out his hand politely, which I shook...  this as such was not in this man's culture,  he was really trying to be polite.

'Hi Brian, how are you today?'

'I am well ma'am.  Ma'am do you work with dogs?'

'Yes, I have been training dogs for many years.'

'Ma'am, I used to volunteer at the SAPS (South African Police Service) dog unit, I just washed the dogs and cleaned up after them, but I loved it.  I love animals, at home I have three dogs, a cat and two white mouse.  I wash all of them every week.  The cat too, I even made her like it too.'  This is said with a sense of pride, that no author can describe in words.  'It is very difficult for me, because my people don't like animals Ma'am, I have to look after them very well to make sure no harm comes to them.  When me or my family is not at home, they have to stay in the house, otherwise something might happen to them.'

'I understand, Brian, but you love your animals then?'

'Yes Ma'am, I love all animals.  I like snakes too, but they are expensive and expensive to keep.  I am saving my money, maybe one day I can afford to have one.  A big one.'

'I like all animals too, but I only have dogs and cats.'

'Ma'am, I would really like to work with animals.  If you ever need any help, please let me know.  I will wash them or clean up after them, I don't mind.  And I don't want any money for it.  I like my job here.' Points back at the petrol pumps. 'I just want to be involved with animals, please let me know.'

'I will definitely keep an ear on the ground, I live just around the corner.  You see that little dog.' I point at Volt. 'I bought him from overseas, he flew all the way from Belgium.'

'From Belgium?  That is in Europe isn't it Ma'am'.

He stares so intently through my car window, that I open the door.  Immediately he is petting both Echo and Volt.  'They are beautiful Ma'am.  Really I want to work with animals, I am going to remind you every time you stop here.'

'Thank you, I love them to bits.  I am going to remember you Brian, if I find anything I will stop here.'

'Thank you so much Ma'am.  Please remember, I don't need any money for it, I just want to work with animals.'

This is not quite verbatim, but close enough...

To most of you, this may not mean anything at all.  But for me... if I had the money (yes, everything costs money), I would help this guy out any day.  You have to understand, this guy probably does not own a TV or a computer or a phone, he has never seen dog-training of ANY kind, he probably does not have access to any veterinary care or even proper nutrition.  Just because he does not KNOW and has no opportunities to learn.  His love for his animals, the care he takes of them, is truly just from his own instinct.   I would get him into agility and he would appreciate working with his dogs more than any of us, because he has grown up on the opposite end of the spectrum.  I will keep my ear on the ground and I will have a chat to him every time I stop at the garage, but my heart goes out to him.  Imagine any of our lives without our dogs and agility and the knowledge that we are so privileged to have?

I am NOT NOT NOT a sentimental person, those who know me, will know that I am not very patriotic about this country.  I don't normally feel empathy or sympathy with people (with dogs, yes, any day), but today, that man's unadulterated enthusiasm did move me a little bit.  I hope things work out for him....  Oh Zues's hat, I sound like some or other sob... not the plan, I don't have these moments very often...  I guess that is why I appreciate it even more when I do...

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