Memories of Afghanistan or Not Another Rescued dog Story

Why blog? I find for me this August many words run through my head but then disappear as I face the empty page. So I take some time to read other posts. I feel caught between the ‘Silent Sunday’ posts and the ‘ Wordless Wednesdays’. I gather some inspiration from Annika Perry writing about Sally J Cronin’s publications. There is such a supportive network of writers and Sally’s Smorgasbjord is worth savouring for the sheer variety it presents. I wander around Opher’s World and find his books rocking and rolling away to the sounds of Roy Harper and others. We also share some thoughts on the state of our nation and how current events are affecting us. Another nature blog reflects on the dilemma of mosquitos and flies. There is the side of nature that most certainly wants our blood and so how do we naturalists cope with a desire to destroy when we want to save nature from destruction. Thank you fellow bloggers for your insights and keeping me going.

Today I spent the day gardening or as with many of my posts clearing the undesirable elements. Bracken in Spain and here it is the nettles that sting me and are taking up too much space. If they had only kept to behind the little fir tree and not stung me as they reached out to conquer the grass patch. Nettles are so important for butterflies and I am sure many will lay their eggs on these plants too. This year there was a tremendous range of moths. Some beautiful brimstones died together as a pair trapped within the house. Hopefully they had laid their eggs but not on the nettles I cleared today. ( Not all!)

As I garden I feel guilt and understand how privileged my life has been. No, certainly no silver spoon and I have worked hard and never liked to associate the word privilege with working folk. But my thoughts turn to those suffering in Afghanistan and my memories of being in Kabul. An Afghani woman of my age would have lived through too many war torn years and false promises but their stories often show so much dignity and resilience.

In 1974 I was a young woman on the overland trail to India. I had worked and earnt the money to go but I knew I was privileged to be able to travel in this way. Although I valued travelling and experiencing different cultures I was unaware of many aspects of the history and politics. It was only a few years later when I returned to India to live and study there that I learnt so much more.

One of my hopes was that within my lifetime Afghanistan would achieve stability and become a more peaceful place where women could be safe and prosper with education, work and contribute to helping their country. The challenges ahead with the pandemic and climate change need this.

When we first arrived in Afghanistan across the border from Iran, not too far from the holy city of Mashad we asked for the train station. I can still hear the voice ‘ There are no trains in Afghanistan.’ My memory fails me on how we got from the border to Herat but we didn’t have to walk and we did have a pleasant time in Herat. We were able to walk around the outskirts of the Blue Mosque and admire the tile art. Our next challenge was getting the local bus to Kabul. It was too long and not advisable to try the northern route so we travelled via Kandahar. The bus was full of not only people but chickens and goats. Although crowded it was a fascinating journey as people and animals got on and off.

In Kabul the bazaar area was where all the tourist hotels were. We wanted to travel to Bamian and see the giant buddhas and I am sure our Lonely Planet guide recommended this. It was early November and getting very cold. We were warned that if we went to Bamian and it snowed we might have to stay the winter there as the passes become inaccesible. We decided against this and spent the next few days wandering around Kabul.

I do not remembering seeing many women except those in beautiful blue burqas. This was strange to me then. In Turkey women did not wear headscarves as ordered by Attaturk who was trying to modernise the country. In Syria and Iran women would wear headscarves and we only saw black burqas in the holy city of Mashad.

My travelling friend was an animal lover and had rescued a horse in the UK. For some reason we visited the zoo on one of our outings but all I can remember were two sorry looking Afghan hounds we wanted to rescue. I wonder now if they were from the time of the royal family and the rule of the King. Afghanistan had become a republic but from what I now know governance was poor and there had been severe droughts in some areas.

This is Lotti, Ruth’s Tibetan terrier and the closest I have to a likeness to Kab.

Well, this is really a shaggy dog story. not a political and historical sortie into what has kept going so wrong in Afghanistan. On our return to our room my friend spotted a puppy. We had a major argument about this.

‘ We can’t travel with a dog, What about….its food? Rabies? Snoopy and Dogs not Allowed ‘

My dog owning knowledge and reasoning was to no avail. She was determined. It was cute but many people seeing us with the dog would comment on how big it would get. And it still needed rabies papers to get across the border into Pakistan. So with all papers in order from an Afghani vet we travelled on quickly with this male puppy. Or so we thought until the Delhi vet informed us of mistaken gender identification. Kab from Kabul was a girl. He also told us an expression ‘The dog is our Atman.’ ‘ The dog is our soul.’

Kab visited many places in Pakistan and India and that is a story I began some years ago from the point of view of the dog but never finished it.

As for getting too big, she didn’t and was more a sheepdog size. Looking at one of the recent pictures of Pen Farthing and the dogs he has rescued in Kabul there was one that looked like Kab but different colours. Although like a Tibetan mastiff I think these are a Himalayan type sheepdog so considerably smaller.

I hope Pen Farthing’s Afghan staff can continue their work and that more people can be trained in animal welfare. We sometimes overlook the importance of this but in rural societies access to good health care for the animals can make the difference. Travelling with a dog gave us an insight into the provision of veterinary health care in India.

‘ The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’ Mahatma Gandhi

I think now the greatness of a nation and its moral progress will be judged by how the climate and ecological crisis is managed and human rights with equality of opportunity are supported around the whole world.

In solidarity with the people and animals of Afghanistan.