In the summer of 2016, a short video of a little dog found its way into Afghanistan’s social media space, gaining thousands of views in a matter of hours.
In it, a frayed-looking stray puppy could be seen rubbing his head against the walls of a bridge in apparent discomfort. The discomfort of an addict.
Afghanistan is a nation plagued with the largest opium cultivation in the world; 93 percent of the world’s opium is grown there.
Colonies of homeless addicts can be found crouching on the sides of Kabul’s streets and under the dark, garbage-strewn alleys of its bridges. Homeless dogs are a mainstay in the area as well. It was within this community that a young dog named Nesha, which means “intoxication” in Dari; one of Afghanistan’s national languages, found a home of sorts.
She was taken in by an addict who lived under the Pul-e-Sokhta bridge; known to house several of Kabul’s addicts. She had passed on his addiction to the dog who had little understanding of what she was going through.
A video made by some neighborhood kids showed Nesha in an intoxicated state, being force-fed drugs. In a matter of days, the video (which is no longer available) became the subject of online discussions in the area.
It drawing the attention of a local news network that broadcasted the video during a segment on its channel.
“Our veterinarians were horrified to see a dog being treated like this,” Hannah Surowinski, cofounder of Nowzad, Afghanistan’s only animal shelter, said.
“Without any thought for his own safety, our veterinarian Dr. Mujtaba Rezaei immediately went down to the notorious area where all the drug addicts live and managed to rescue Nesha.”
For the team at Nowzad, which has rescued thousands of dogs and cats since the group’s inception in 2008, Nesha’s case was unique.
“[Nesha’s] was the first case [of a dog addicted to opioids] we came across, but since Nesha we have heard of other dogs in the same area whose owners have made them reliant on heroin,” Surowinski said.
Mujtaba Rezaie, along with his team of young animal doctors fresh out of Kabul University; rescued Nesha from under the bridge. “The owner did not want to give us Nesha at first.He claiming she would get sick if she didn’t get her three dose of drugs each day,” Rezaie said.
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