The goal of Journalists for Human Rights is to make everyone in the world fully aware of their rights. We do this through facilitating good human rights journalism, primarily in developing nations. It’s sometimes hard for visiting trainers like myself not to feel like we should be doing more than just this. When we leave, we leave so many problems behind. However, this is the story of how one JHR Trainer helped a youngster called Paddy, and about how Paddy is defying the odds to prepare for a new life in a far away land.
Of course, it’s worth noting that Paddy does not have any human rights. Paddy is a dog. Some call him the luckiest dog in Sierra Leone.
In August 2012, JHR Trainer Nina deVries was getting a shared taxi to the Freetown neighbourhood of Aberdeen. As often happens, the dilapidated Nissan broke down. Nina got out and walked. As she strolled along the road, she noticed something moving down on the ground. A rat? No, it was a tiny brown puppy, limping to a safe place by the side of the road.
Nina describes what happened. “He must have just managed to cross. I was just going to put him in a safe place, but after chatting with a man who had seen him before and did not know where the mother was, I ended up taking him to Dr Jalloh, right before he closed that day.” Dr Jalloh is one of a handful of vets in the country. “I found a cardboard box and put him in that and took a taxi to the vet. He had mange, a limp, fleas, worms, diarrhoea, and for a while he was getting these weird bumps on his back. They were a kind of maggot growing inside him.”
The outlook was not good. Dr Jalloh gave the puppy a small chance of survival. But during treatment, Nina decided to call him Paddy. The place where she found him was close to the legendary Paddy’s Bar in Aberdeen. Paddy’s only recently closed down, but had stayed open throughout the 1991-2002 civil conflict. The bar in the movie Blood Diamond is based on Paddy’s. Paddy/Padi also happens to be the Krio word for “friend.”
Paddy slowly grew into himself. Despite his tiny size, Dr Jalloh reckoned Paddy was about three-months-old when Nina rescued him. It goes without saying that Nina grew attached to Paddy and decided to keep him at her house on Old Railway Line. He made new friends, including the other canine resident, Frisco.
With a heavy heart, Nina returned to her life in Yellowknife in March. Paddy stayed here with Frisco, me and the other residents of the house.
A few weeks later I noticed a bump on Paddy’s belly. I brought him down to Dr Jalloh. The staff couldn’t control their delight at seeing Paddy, all grown up. They yelled “Oh Paddy Paddy!” I’m not sure if that’s supposed to mean “Paddy Friend,” or “Friend Paddy.” Maybe it means “Friend Friend.” In any case, Dr Jalloh removed what turned out to be a type of lymphoma growth, and after a few groggy days, the pride and joy of the clinic was back to his hyper best.
Paddy is one-year-old this month. He will accompany me back to Canada in June, for his new life in Yellowknife. He will miss Frisco. He will miss sitting in the hot sun. But more importantly he will be back with Nina, who probably saved his life.
I have been thanked for taking care of Paddy and for helping him to emigrate. But it’s a fairly selfish act. I love dogs and I get to have one for a few months in Sierra Leone. And anyway, what else would I do? Paddy’s my middle name.