Three years ago, a girl named Osman lived with her little tawny dog Tiger in Robindra Shorbod, a park in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she scavenged for plastics to trade for small coins. Osman, like so many other orphans and children from impoverished families, survived from one day to the next, feeding herself whenever she was able. Following her on her daily hunt through the park was playful Tiger, who never wandered too far from her line of vision.
Osman with Tiger:
Osman and Tiger formed one of the ten child-canine pairs discovered by Australian photographer and animal rights advocate Sam Edmonds when visiting the city. With help from the humane organization Obhoyaronno
and its tireless work on behalf of Dhaka’s stray dogs, he found a makeshift family composed of youngsters and the dogs who had drifted into the park. With whatever change they earned, the boys and girls fed their dogs; at night, those who did not go home to their small tin shacks remained with the dogs, keeping them warm under the dark shroud of night.
Rabi with Kalu:
Thanks to the efforts of Obhoyaronno
, the country’s practice of dog culling, whereby stray animals are picked up from the streets and inhumanely killed for fear of spreading rabies, has been terminated in Dhaka, and yet the future remains precarious for the city’s street dogs. Obhoyaronno controls stray dog populations through a Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release program, or CNVR, meaning that instead of killing dogs who may or may not be infected with rabies, they capture and treat dogs before releasing them back to the exact place in which they were found.
Al Amin with Michael:
Despite the progress made by Obhoyaronno
, Edmonds admits that the widespread fear of rabies can sadly lead to the mistreatment of dogs, who are viewed as potential carriers. Daily life for the homeless dogs of Dhaka is frightening and difficult, and neglect and abuse are not uncommon. Compassion is rarely shown to these animals, and the photographer quickly found that although some were timid, the Robindra Shorbod dogs reacted to kindness with gratitude and wagging tails.
Rubel with Romeo:
In a culture where homeless dogs are cast aside, forgotten, and feared, these young children recognized the simple fact that their lives had value. In turn, the dogs became their guardians and friends, with each kid sharing a special bond with his or her own specific dog.
Shakil with Jax:
For the street children of Dhaka, who don’t attend school and who sometimes have no other place to call home, the Robindra Shorbod was a place to strive to make a living, to fill their bellies and save portions for their dogs. With their canine companions, they were permitted---if only for a few moments---to be children in the purest sense of the world; to run, to play, and to laugh. To feel protected while they lay their heads to sleep.
Noyon with Bullet:
When Edmonds bade farewell to the children and their dogs, he gave them the gift of their portrait, each girl or boy accompanied by his or her dog. He asked them not to pose, and when the time came, he gave them each a print to hold on to as he made his way back home.
Ladin with Michael:
Last month, Edmonds checked in on the kids and dogs of the Robindra Shorbod through a friend in Dhaka who reported back to him that most of the children have grown up and are no longer living in the park. Although some were able to be tracked down, the locations and fates of the dogs unfortunately remains unknown. The family of the Robindra Shorbod has dispersed, and yet their story is an enduring one. It’s a tale of the indelible ties that bind our human species to the gentle creatures we call dogs, a timeless fable about the power of empathy and grace. Even in the most painful of circumstances, these children and their dogs found something to hold dear.
Sumaia with Tiger:
To help the dogs of Dhaka, please consider following or contributing to Obhoyaronno
All images via Sam Edmonds