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August 4, 2011

Healed in Haiti

A "tail" of compassion

Humane Society International

  • Meet Chalky, striking a pose for the camera. Marjorie Alexis

  • The HSI team was pleasantly surprised with her condition. Marjorie Alexis

  • Having a bit of a lazy time. Marjorie Alexis

by Chris Broughton-Bossong

Recently, a woman contacted our team after returning from her trip to Haiti. She had come down for a couple of weeks to work with an aid group in a town called Grand Goave, located near Leogane, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. 

During her time here, she had become acutely aware of the extreme hardships endured by both the people and the animals living on the streets. There was one dog in particular hanging around a local church who caught her attention. The young dog had what appeared to have been a badly broken rear leg and hip, but still managed to move well enough to search for something to eat. 

Some members of the church community had begun leaving food out for the dog and put some blankets under the steps of the church so that she would have a sheltered place to sleep when it rained. The woman would see the dog every day, wandering the streets around the town she was based in, and felt helpless, not knowing what to do. It can prove to be very eye-opening to see a creature like this: badly injured, with no access to care or safety, but still managing to carry on in the face of challenges that would be overwhelming to us as humans. It can offer an inspiring sense of perspective to our daily trials and hardships. Thankfully, there was a caring hand there to reach out to this animal. 

Dedication to compassion

Upon her return to the States, the woman realized that the thought of this dog was still with her and she began to search for a means to provide some support to her. Thankfully, she found out about HSI’s continued presence in Haiti and reached out to us for assistance. She provided us with video footage that she had taken of the dog while she was there, photographs of and an exact location for the church, and the name of a contact at the church who had been keeping a watchful eye on the dog. Two members of our team in Haiti, Jean Claude Cesaire and Remy Vallray, notified a veterinarian near Grand Goave so that he would be ready to aid in the dog's treatment upon their arrival there.

An inspiring turn of events

When our team got to Grand Goave and reached the church where the dog had last been spotted, they made contact with the gentleman who had been watching the dog, whom we learned had been named “Chalky.” Unbeknownst to us or the woman who had first spotted the pup, her concern for the well-being of this animal had so inspired the man at the church that he had decided to take the dog in himself and had been feeding and caring for her, helping to nurse her back to health. When he brought “Chalky” out to meet Jean Claude and Remy, they didn’t see the malnourished and injured dog from the videos but instead, a timid, affectionate young animal who was putting on weight and had a nice clean coat. 

Make a difference: Become a Street Dog Defender

According to her new caretaker, she was even beginning to use her leg a bit more. My colleagues let the gentleman know how he could reach them and a local veterinarian should he need any additional help with her and eventually made their way back our base, relieved and inspired. It is all too common here to see animals with badly deformed limbs caused by poorly-healed injuries or animals who are simply in very sickly condition in general. It is a constant struggle to determine the best outcome. Though some may benefit from intervention and temporary care, they are still left without a permanent home.  

In a country where so many people go without as a part of daily life, finding someone with the resources to care for an animal is very difficult and often times not a realistic possibility. Simply removing animals from Haiti to relocate them to homes abroad—albeit happy endings for those individuals—does not help to address the underlying challenges that kept them from receiving proper care to begin with. It is for these reasons that the story of this dog is such an inspiration to us. To see a member of the local community come forward with a compassionate hand and take the dog into his home and nurse her back to health is truly the perfect ending. 

What it's all about

So what about Chalky? We're pleased to report that she's still living with her adoptive owner at the church in Grand Goave, her leg having healed well on its own thanks to the care and attention she received.

This is at the center of our work here and in every country where we're active: not simply to ensure a one-time positive outcome, but rather to see people empowered to improve the level of compassion and care provided to the animals within their reach and for us to help provide the resources needed to maintain it. Hopefully this man and his new friend can prove to be ambassadors in their area for this ideal and show others how great a difference the smallest acts of kindness can make in the life of a creature who may never previously have known a caring hand.

Help dogs like Chalky by becoming an HSI Street Dog Defender

Chris Brougton-Bossong is Haiti Program Coordinator for HSI.