Every now and again, one comes across something on the internet that makes you weep on the inside. Today I found a story about a Taiwanese photographer, Tou Chih-kang, who takes human portrait-styled photographs of shelter dogs before they are euthanized. His photographs are haunting, not only because of the context but also because he perfectly crystallizes the essence of the spirit of each doomed animal. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own pets, Sleepy and Nemo (the latter of which ran away, which is another blog post in itself). Sleepy is a little pompek (a Trinidadian breed which is really a mix between a Pekingese and a Pomeranian) and has a diva attitude that hasn’t quit even in her old age. Nemo was a German Shepherd and Rottweiler mix, who was ridiculously clumsy as a pup and grew to be quite playful. Tou captures personalities such as these with his camera.
“I believe something should not be told but should be felt,” says Tou, a thick-bodied 37-year-old with an air of quiet confidence. “And I hope these images will arouse the viewers to contemplate and feel for these unfortunate lives, and understand the inhumanity we the society are putting them through.”
There’s a lot to be said for the context of this story. According to this article, in Buddhism it is believed that dogs are reincarnated humans who misbehaved badly in a previous life. Yet, a quick Google search of “buddhism dog reincarnation” yielded a hit that seems to suggest that reincarnation as understood today is a gross misinterpretation of a parable. Nonetheless, it says little of the (supposedly) uninformed Buddhist Taiwanese if they think so little of those who they view as leading bad enough lives to return as dogs. Whatever happened to long-suffering mercy and forbearance? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an impractical tree-hugger or PETA activist in training. I’m just saying, don’t toss out your animals because you think they’re getting their “due”. That’s cruel.
That said, photographer Tou Chih-kang is doing a great work in this regard.