Halfway home - PhMuseum

Halfway home

Raisa Mikhaylova

2015 - 2016

Russia

Every year a great number of dogs are abandoned by their owners. For these animals it means that they lose everything that they were used to, they find themselves in a completely new and hostile environment. Living in the streets they have to fight for survival and it means acting like a wild animal. And people are afraid of that wilderness, so when coming across a wild animal people want to either lock it away or kill.

The first time I came to a dog shelter invited by volunteers. I remember being afraid to walk in the enclosure, but not because I was scared of the dogs. I was afraid that I might betray their trust because after befriending them, petting them I would just turn away and leave these dogs.

I was amazed by the dogs’ behaviour. They were coming up to me and patiently lined up to be petted, each waiting for its small portion of warmth and tenderness. Each dog put its head under my hand and while I was stroking and scratching its ears the other dogs were calmly standing near. In a couple of minutes they would change – the petted dog just moved away letting the next in line take its place. And so it went on and on: you cannot pet two dogs at a time as they get jealous and start snarling at one another.

Surprisingly, the dogs didn’t expect me to take them home and didn’t follow me with sad eyes. All they wanted from me was kindness, tenderness that was as essential for them as a bowl of food; and they were grateful to be given just a small bit of this kindness. Despite everything that these dogs had to come through living in the streets, despite all the cruelty that most of them suffered from people, shelter dogs still have this inexplicable need for human company, for a person they can snuggle with. Even if just for a moment.

I often visit the dog shelter now. I understood one thing: shelters not only save animals, they help humans too. They give us a chance to do real good and to be humane.

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