Research on happiness has demonstrated that when you see a baby animal neurons firing in your brain release those neurotransmitters which elevate mood. (Want to learn more?! Read The Happiness Project) Google your favorite baby animal right now and test this scientific theory! I bet a smile crept across your face. Here in the Philippines I am surrounded by baby animals…calves, goats, chicks, puppies, kittens, piglets and children. I typically encounter at least one of each listed and maybe more just during my hour long run every morning. Once I even had a piglet that ran along with me for a few paces. In comparison, finding a baby animal in the US is a rare occasion celebrated by flocks of strangers who want to pet your puppy. The exposure to baby animals here in the Philippines, undoubtedly elevates happiness levels of Filipinos.
However, mange-filled and bare-boned puppies are also frequent during my morning runs. With no routine spaying or neutering program here, feral dogs are a significant problem. They wander the streets and scrounge for scraps wherever they can find it. Many Filipino households do have dogs as pets, with care ranging from beloved household companion to life outside on a very short leash. Dogs are required to be kept on leashes, however in my experience this is not enforced and only occasionally followed. Female dogs are disliked because of the likelihood for puppies and the associated expense. In the Philippines if your dog bites someone else then you are required to pay for their rabies shots. Therefore if your female dog has puppies it suddenly becomes very difficult to care for these mouths and the chance of your dog biting a passerby increased dramatically. Rabies is one of the vaccinations I was required to receive as a Peace Corps volunteer. The task of spaying and neutering dogs is incredibly necessary, yet highly unlikely in the immediate future. And so each morning I see the mixed blessing of adorable puppies you just want to hold and others with pink-itchy skin with visible rib cages. As an American I challenge you to seek out a baby animal during your day today and recognize the extensive care we are able to provide for our animals.