Dahab Diary

7 February 2014

Tally for today: 4 dog castrates, 1 dog spay, 5 cat spays, 1 cat castrate as well as aiding the birth of a single pup. It brings the total to 122, easily exceeding our target of 100.
Amal put her new-found practical skills to good use today, tying off a ligature on a dog spay.

During our final days here we have to carefully control the amount of medication we administer to each animal. This is quite difficult, because it is hard to predict how much sedative each patient will require.

We were paid an impromptu visit by 7 members of the town council today.  Although communication was limited, we understood that they were here to see the project in action. Apparently they expected to see 20 vets at work… Karen replied: “Nope, just me!”.
They will return tomorrow, accompanied by the mayor, to see more. We hope to get some feedback from them.

After almost 2 weeks in Dahab, this is an opportunity to give some context to the impact our work may have. To do so we need to also attempt to provide a wider perspective to difficulties of this area in particular.

The ancient Egyptians’ respect for cats is well documented, but not so in the case of dogs. There is evidence of domesticated dogs in Egypt going as far back as the Badarian Age (4000-4500BC). Later, there are many references to dogs working as well as sacred animals and they were often mummified and/or buried with their owners.
That’s all history, but we have gained some understanding of the part that the animals play in the lives of the locals here and now.
Dahab is populated by native Bedouin, Nile Egyptians and foreigners, and each group has a different view on the treatment of dogs.
The Bedouin have a dual view of the animals – some are fully domesticated, while others remain outsiders. We were told that some Bedouin use their dogs to gauge the strength of their children. A child who can treat a dog (usually a puppy) with ‘strength’ will develop into a strong adult.
Many other Egyptians have more respect for animals, but even they are often surprised at the extreme affection shown by Western tourists and ex-patriots.

With the advent of popular tourism in this area, many animals learned that they’d be fed by tourists in the sea-front restaurants. A benefit of this is that the dogs, historically cautious or even aggressive towards humans, have been reconditioned into very mild-mannered animals. We were amazed at how good-natured the majority of the street-dogs has been, even in the unfamiliar environment of the clinic.

For several years now Egypt has been in the grip of revolutionary politics. The ‘Arab Spring’ heralded a new era, but has led to violent protests and resulted more recently in renewed political instability.
Throughout this period, tourist areas like Dahab have remained peaceful and calm. While many countries advise against all travel to Egypt, the UK has remained pragmatic throughout, making special note of East Sinai’s stability.
The result of all this uncertainty have been disastrous  for local business in Dahab. Even during the ‘high-season’, local restaurants and water sports operators struggle with the paucity of trade. Now, during the ‘low-season’, many business owners and workers are considering their options: stick it out or search for work elsewhere?

So what about the dogs?  With so few tourists in restaurants, there are no scraps for the dogs. Many locals suffer from a vastly reduced income and have stopped feeding the street-dogs. This has lowered the number of dogs in the town, but as they look elsewhere for sustenance, they create other problems, and this has led to a spate of poisonings.

We hope that this TNR campaign will help control and eventually reduce the population numbers in the town, thus giving the remaining animals an easier life.

As they say in Arabic, Inshallah.