I love telling this story and tell it all the time. Bear with me if you have already heard it...
When the boys are on the streets, they hate dogs. Rightfully so. I have lost count of how many dog bites I have treated and how many boys I have had to take for rabies shots. There are tons of stray dogs all around the city. Many don't have a real home, but just wander, looking for scraps, kind of like the boys. This puts them in constant conflict and competition with each other. As a result, the boys hate dogs.
In the fight for survival, the boys frequently end up in places that they shouldn't be. Again, obvious reason the boys hate dogs. The dogs are doing their job, protecting their owner's property, and the boys end up on the receiving end of their wrath.
But most Ugandans don't love dogs. It is not a part of the culture to let them live in the house, or give them special food, or take them to the doctor. Many people don't have enough and are worried about their children. There simply isn't enough leftover to care for the dogs. So they are always around, but always fending for themselves. They are considered a nuisance, not something worthy of love or friendship.
When I first got my dog, Malaika, she reminded me of the dog I used to have that I actually took to Uganda with me. She quickly became my best friend. Even though we had 2 other dogs, none of them were favorites of the boys. They were tolerated, but barely. Every day we had conversations as to why we should love the dogs and treat them well. It infuriated the boys when I would carry the dog around.
Fast forward a few years. A few years of being loved unconditionally. A few years of having a safe space where all of their needs are met. A few years of having a chance to heal from the horrors that they experienced. A few years of learning how to love. A few years of not having to fight each day to survive.
Now, I am the one that is screaming for the boys to stop bringing animals home. They always bring the scraggliest, mangiest abandoned puppies and kittens home and we are expected to work our magic to save them. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But in their small time with us, those dogs are loved more than anything. And the whole house falls apart when they don't make it. As I was leaving, I made the rule no more animals. We had 5 dogs and 3 cats! What was the first rule the boys broke? They brought home another cat.
Unfortunately, the last puppy brought home died suddenly and unexpectedly. Vincent was the one that brought him home and was devastated. He wanted us to have a full burial ceremony for him.
I never expected the boys to ever get to a point where they loved animals, but here we are with our home turning into a sanctuary for all beings who are lost.