Uganda has only one centre for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals – USPCA. It was founded in 1996 to promote animal welfare and support animals who cannot support themselves. It depends entirely on the generosity of the people. It is located in Mbuya , Kampala. It shelters more than 200 dogs, cats and puppies and kittens awaiting adoption. You can learn more about this organisation on their website uganda-spca.org.
In a country where the majority of the population are struggling for their own survival, adopting a pet is an unlikely option. However, there is one animal lover whom I have known since the 1960s. She is a teacher by the names of Adelina Lubogo. To her family and her catalogue of friends she is simply known as Aunt Lena.
For all the time I have known her, she has never had less than five dogs and two cats in her home! Recently I learned that things have remained the same in her home in the twenty two years I have been away in economic exile.
Maya Angelou said: “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
Jesus taught us that it is always more blessing to give than to receive.
I had not seen Aunt Lena since the beginning of the year so last month I made it a point to check on her. She came down to open the metallic gate for me and there- lo and behold! – She was followed by five dogs of different breeds, size and colour and a cat. After a giving me a bear’s hug, she led me into the house. Over fresh hibiscus juice and graviola(soursop) fruit juice ; all fruits from her garden behind the kitchen, we caught up on each other’s lives. Her only son left home for university decades ago and settled in USA so Aunt Lena lives with a helper. At 82 she is still vibrant and energetic and prepares everything herself that she serves to her visitors. She finally sat down to share the juices and sweet plantains chips with me while her family of dogs watched like eagles over us.
“Aunt Lena, I’m surprised that you only have these few,” I said, smiling.
She laughed, “They could be more but now age is catching up with me, I’m learning to restrain myself. I used to find it terribly hard to say no but slowly and surely, I’m getting there.”
“There must be a Snowy among these,”I said, reaching out for more chips.
“Yes, indeed. That white one with long hairs,” she said, pointing to it. Believe or not, each dog except Snowy has a long story behind her or him.”
We exchanged knowing smiles.
I poured myself more of the rare delicious, fresh graviola fruit juice and listened intently.
I’m starting with that Maltese poodle seated near the door to dare anyone coming in here.
A relative of mine brought it here almost three years ago. It was a small, unruly dog but it’s now one of the most well-behaved dogs that I ‘ve ever cared for. When the young man brought it here he had smiled and told me that he had something small for me. I had no idea about what he was talking about until he opened the spacious car boot. I peeped and saw a frightened small dog on a leash.
He had gone on to tell me that for two days he had passed by one trading centre and seen men throwing stones at the small dog. On the second day, he had stopped and asked those men why they were being unkind to the dog. They had told him that it was bothering them as it looked for food. They did not know its owner. He had driven to the nearest supermarket and bought a leash so that he could rescue the dog. He had driven straight here knowing very well that I would give the poodle a loving home. Since then it has become my best keeper and friend.
There is a black sausage dog(dachshund) that was given to me by my nephew’s eleven year-old daughter. Her dog had two puppies. She chose to keep one and bring the other one to me with a lot of love.That small black one is a recent acquisition. Three months ago I was in a queue at a supermarket talking to a friend. She was consoling me after I had lost one of my old faithfuls.
Three days later when I went back to pick some grocery items, the manager had appeared from behind and greeted me with a big smile.
“I understand you lost one of your dogs. If you don’t mind, I have a puppy for you.’’ He had disappeared behind the tills and came back with a puppy in a box. I was caught off guard but was happy to get a replacement.
This reminded me of what my other nephew, now a seasoned lawyer, had done in the early 1970s. Their neighbour had moved away but left his old cat behind. The cat made it a habit to go to their house to look for food. The mother would leave food and water for it on the veranda. The nephew had pleaded with his mother to adopt the cat. It proved difficult since the nephew suffered from bad Asthma.
“If we can’t keep it, then I know the right place for it. Let us take it to Aunt Lena,” the nephew had made the recommendation with a sense of warmth and pleasure.
Amazingly, that is how it has been to this day; my home has been a shelter for stray cats, rescued dogs and extra puppies. One time a Snowy had suckled two kittens picked from the neighbourhood. I took some good photos of this natural nurturing instinct unfortunately my camera was stolen at a party.This was long before the invention of the digital phone camera. I have many more stories to tell of my friends, it may take the whole day!”She concluded with a hearty laugh.
“What do you get out of this hands on care?” I asked.
“Ever since I can remember, caring for animals and gardening have given me a normal life outside work. I treat my pets as friends and they return love and loyalty to me.”
I felt privileged to know this amazing woman. She is loving, selfless and has a big heart. She has many caring friends, she spends one day in the week at the Centre for the Disabled teaching the children Art and bead work and she is a natural animal lover. No wonder she is still energetic and vibrant at her age.
Later at home, I read about the psychology behind loving animals and being concerned about people. It helped me understand Aunt Lena better. She must have been given so much love and care in her childhood that she learned to be kind to herself and then go out to love other people and animals.
Caring for people and animals is the highest expression of her compassion. With a deep well of love in her heart, she can give without maiming herself. She must have felt secure with her parents to develop her own identity and establish her own boundaries. She loves and accepts others without breaking her boundaries and losing her identity.
Talking to her, she indicated that she was more than willing to give and love until she breathed her last. She is an incredible woman!
Thank you, Aunt Lena, for teaching us to love and care for ourselves, other people and animals and to assert ourselves. We are the richer for knowing you.
The famous Anne Frank said: “No one has ever become poor by giving.’’
And Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Writing this post has got me thinking that if each one of us worked brilliantly at her/his small part that fits into the big picture, we would make the world a better place.
I am curious:
What are you doing in your community to make other people’s lives better or make them feel that they matter?
Are you an animal lover? Has this post stirred you into adopting a dog or cat or supporting the Uganda Society for The Protection and Care of Animals?