“Touching the Untouchables” Reflections from an Animal Chaplain

15 February 2017

Walking down the street, I see a dog that is looking to someone to drop a piece of food. I stop, sit down, make some noises for it to come to me. I give it a cookie and begin to pet it. I notice how people begin to look at me. I continue on down the street, noticing a Cow. I offer a cookie and begin petting. It is thoroughly enjoying the good neck scratch. Again, I notice how people begin to stare at me. Even when I visited the Temples. A lady is considered a Leper. I stop to hold her hand, give a prayer, and leave her a coin. People stop to stare as if seeing an alien.  

As an Animal Chaplain, a holy person for all animals (human, furred, feathered, or scaled), I considered it a gift to recognize the Divinity in ALL Beings. I volunteer my time at several of the Animal Ashrams and schools in the city of Lucknow India during this time. I begin noticing how the human animal does not even want to touch its own species, not to mention touch a Dog that is considered dirty, has fleas, or even ticks. I observed the same untouchableness wanting to arise in myself. I hear my mind try to tell me, "You might get a tick! Watch out" "Oh, doesn't this skin rash feel funny" "What if it is catching?" My mind tries to tell me all the reasons that I should not offer a loving hand to this creature, that is just wanting what we all want, that is to be loved, recognized, cared for. It is as if they are part of the Divine saying, "I am here to show you how to be compassion, and even more so, empathy, in this world."  

These "untouchables" ARE our gifts. If we do not offer them the same compassion and empathy that we would want to receive, then we will continue to receive them until we can. There is one particular Dog at an Ashram that has been hit, teased, and is so used to being treated mean, she is so sad and tries to bite, all because it tries so hard to defend itself. This Dog is paralyzed, covered with thousands of ticks. You can see her skin moving with the numerous fleas crawling on her, and she has many patches of fur missing. My first time visiting she tried to bite me. I knew right away she is scared of the human hand, and rightfully so. I sat praying with her, singing to her, and she began melting into my hands. We were both in tears of joy. She was craving so much to be loved, to be understood, for someone to really care. I have the ability to search myself and pick off the ticks, she does not. I have the ability to go home and take a shower, she does not. I began feeling what it could possibly feel like to be her. Can you? How would you want to be treated if you were her? Some call it Karma, some call it the Golden Rule and if we do, and we do not love and help them, then what is our Karma?  

Rev Ahowan ICrow RScP, OAC  
Founder of Apithan Ministries