The Angel of Harlemby Chloe Liotta Jones & Martina Torr
Chitra Besbroda is Harlem's Pet Angel!
She takes care of abused dogs who live in junkyards all over Harlem. Some of the dogs are chained up for life.
One Saturday, we went with Chitra to one of her stops. There were 4 dogs there. Two of them shared one junkyard. Their names were Wolf and Wolf Senior. Chitra names a lot of the dogs she takes care of. Another one of the dogs, Sally, had a litter of her puppies bulldozed in another junkyard. Sally still wanders around the junkyard like a ghost looking for her pups. It's so sad. The fourth dog was a husky who lived on a little strip of a junkyard and was fenced in. We named him Alaska.
We went around with Chitra and her cart of dog food and helped her feed the dogs, except for Wolf and Wolf Sr. who were too vicious for us to go near. Chitra has a bunch of aluminum pans that she used for dogfood bowls. She dished the food out for us and we slipped them under the fence for Alaska. We put food next to the junkyard fence for the mother dog, Sally.
We asked Chitra some questions about her work.
Did you ever get bitten while doing your work with the dogs?
Only once in 21 years. It was in the winter, by the dog named Wolf Senior. I had to go the hospital.
What kind of food do you feed the dogs?
Mostly dry food with chicken scraps in it. I also put out fresh water for them and bring along a carton of milk for any stray cats I might see.
What do you do if the dog is a nice stray and needs a home?
We have found over 1,600 dogs homes in the 21 years I have been coming to Harlem. We are always looking for people who can take in a stray. It is a big commitment because these dogs need a lot of support and love before they can trust people again. We also need kids to start canned pet food drives at their schools, just like collecting food for people in need.
We felt mixed emotions seeing the dogs.
We wanted to pet them, but could see how being mistreated could make them so vicious. We could also understand that their owners felt that they had to make the dogs mean to guard the junkyards.
Chitra is really friendly to all the dogs. They even seem to recognize her when she visits. Chitra has been feeding dogs in Harlem for 21 years. She spends all her free time and her own money on the dogs. She doesn't plan on stopping and we hope she never will.
For more information about how you or your school can help junkyard dogs, contact Chitra at:
Sentient Creatures, Inc.
P.O. Box 765 Cathedral Station
NYC, NY 10025
- first published in the May/June 1994 issue of ZuZu