With a heavy heart, I’d been following the wake of stray dogs shooting that happened in many areas here.
Emotions were high on social media, between anguished locals and concerned Europeans contemplating ways of helping the surviving dogs. Amid all this hubbub came the voice of reason and practicality in the form of our local rescue heroines Maryam, Nada, Varsha and many others who organised themselves in teams transporting injured dogs to veterinary clinics, finding fosters for the orphaned puppies, and asking their followers to help by any means.
The Omani Paws took a step further and published a post asking their followers to upload selfies of themselves with stray dogs they know, to emphasis the gentleness of these creatures for any doubters. Not being a selfie person and neither are my pack of wild dogs, I share the experience of feeding them for a year and a half now.
My pack started with the 4-month-old siblings Fayga and Rayga, who later got separated (Rayga stayed in the wadi and Fayga joined another pack). Rayga became the alpha female of the area as her mother before her. She got pregnant once and lost her puppies for some reason, yet while nursing them she came across two orphaned puppies who she adopted and they followed her everywhere (I called them Sa’do and Sa’dia).
As I head everyday to the wadi with my basket of food, I’m accompanied by a few of my protective female cats -male cats are busy eating, if you’re wondering- in the less-than-a-minute perilous journey that includes walking in the neighbour’s parking area and crossing a side road.
When Rayga spots us, she gives one bark that disperses my feline garrison and sends them back to the corner of the parking where they sit waiting for me (and meowing when I get late, reminding me of where my loyalty should lie).
Rayga’s pack increases and decreases depending on the season. Normally they’re no more than ten dogs but sometimes they exceed fifteen, with other packs joining in and staying for a week to feed before disappearing. Being an alpha female, Rayga maintains hierarchy like a good referee especially during feeding.
If the puppies dare and eat with the adults, Rayga would leave her plate and runs towards them barking warningly before pushing them over, while they yelp in complain. Yet she has no say when her mother is around and becomes very submissive. I learned that when dogs sniff the air, it means that others are joining them and usually they’re welcomed with happy barks and tail wags.
The dogs and I share what we call in Arabic: “love of hearts” as they maintain their distance but are always happy to see me.
A few weeks back, I slipped while going down the wadi sending half of the dry food in the air. I fell on my back and my left elbow hit the ground hard but luckily nothing broke.
The pack barked anxiously as I got up and started picking up the food from the ground. Rayga and Sa’ado came and sat nearby me till I was done then accompanied me down the wadi. I end this article with a plea for a more humane solution to the increasing stray dogs’ population such as neutering and providing for.
Wadi dogs are a mixed breed that is unfairly ignored by the locals, who’s prefer the exotic types that could barely survive our summers. However, they’re adopted overseas as they’re considered family dogs. Strays are an essential part of our environment. Raising awareness about their importance should start now.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. email@example.com