A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Miss PoPsicle and the War in Syria

miss p 003-cropMiss PoPsicle has been following the news from Syria. (Well, sort of.)

She certainly knows what it’s like to be caught up as collateral damage in a war. Miss P hails from Lebanon and was part of a rescue of 295 dogs and cats in 2006 when I was still part of Best Friends Animal Society.

It was during the war between Israel and the Hezbollah. Lebanon had just one humane society, Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (not related to the U.S. group PETA), consisting of a dozen volunteers, mostly professional women, plus one paid staff member. Their three dog shelters had been destroyed in the bombing, and the dogs had been moved temporarily to a farm outside of Beirut. And they had cats scattered through foster homes and volunteers’ apartments in the city.

The BETA girls, as they referred to themselves, had been in touch with SPCAs in Israel, who, in turn, had been in touch with the Israeli Navy, all with a view to getting permission to send a boat from Haifa to Beirut to pick up as many as possible of these four-legged refugees and keep them safe in Israel until the war was over. But the plan fell apart and the animals were stuck.

beirut-flight-090913Miss PoPsicle had been picked up hiding in a traffic tunnel in Beirut, and was temporarily in one of the apartments. The volunteers were stretched between caring for hundreds of dogs and cats, getting food to animals at zoos, rescuing farm animals, finding new homes of any kind, and dozens of other things – all of this with shells and bullets landing all around them.

So at Best Friends we offered to take the 295 dogs and cats who were healthy enough to travel, and find new homes for them here in the United States. That would give the BETA girls a break to do all their other urgent work.

Once settled in at a quickly constructed rescue center at the Best Friends sanctuary, the dogs and cats would all be temporarily quarantined, treated and tested, and then placed in good homes.

There were women on both sides of the border who were working together to help the animals.Miss P tested positive for FIV, and although that doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad, she came off the adoption list and I took her home.

Six years later, she still gets squirrely at loud noises, unfamiliar people, and the very idea of getting in a cat carrier. (“Where am I going next?”)

Meanwhile, things are, happily, a little better for the animals in Lebanon. BETA has expanded, and there’s also Animals Lebanon, which began five years ago. Just last week, the Beirut newspaper The Daily Star wrote about Animals Lebanon:

These days they get more than 60 calls per day from people in Lebanon who have spotted a lost or wounded animal that needs help. Over the past year, they have also been getting frequent requests from Syria from pet owners requesting help in evacuating and caring for their pets, as their hotel or apartment in Lebanon does not always allow for animals or they are unfamiliar with the legal requirements for traveling with animals.

And they’ve been doing much good for other kinds of animals, too:

In addition to spreading a growing public awareness of the importance of animal welfare, one of the organization’s biggest victories has been Lebanon’s signing last March of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates trade in both CITES-listed endangered species and animals or plants requested by specific countries.

Now, with the close cooperation of the Agriculture Ministry and with several other ministries on board, they’re working on helping to pass a law for the protection of animals. They are also hoping to soon establish a wildlife sanctuary.

I don’t know exactly what cats think about, but whenever Miss P is startled, I imagine that she’s flashing back to that traffic tunnel in Beirut. Outside of that, however, she doesn’t ponder the ins and outs of the all-too-human political and religious feuds that led to the war between Israel and the Hezbollah.

Nor do the animals in Syria today know about Alawites and Shiites and Sunnis and Al Qaeda and American interests and Iranian interests and proxy wars and Russian interests. They are, however, subject to all the same horrors as the human children who are caught up in these never-ending wars that are are unique to the human species.

But it’s good to know that in the middle of all that horror, back in 2006, there were women on both sides of the border between Lebanon and Israel who were working together to help the animals.

Perhaps something like that is happening, among all the devastation, in Syria today.

Miss PoPsicle would certainly hope so.