for the dogs
For the Dogs
Lieutenant Colonel Bob Lucius
Lieutenant Colonel Bob Lucius, a trained specialist in Asian foreign languages with the United States Marines Corp, was stationed in Vietnam from 2005-2008. His job was to distribute humanitarian aid in the form of excess medical equipment to medical facilities throughout the country. He and his wife, Casey, had already been in Vietnam a year when it happened.
Bob was riding in the passenger seat of a land cruiser on the way to deliver medical equipment to a rural city in the northwestern corner of Vietnam, not far from the Lao and Chinese borders. Looking out the window, he spotted four terrified dogs crammed into a wicker basket on the back of a motorbike. He made eye contact with one of the dogs. His mind starting spinning, “I have to do something. What can I do? If we catch up to the bike, I can buy the dogs. Then what? Let them loose so they can be captured again?”
There are no animal shelters in Vietnam. No animal welfare organizations. Dog meat is part of the culture. Restaurants are lined with cages of dogs for customers to choose one to eat. Bob’s mind was struggling to come up with a solution for saving the dogs in the basket without seeming insensitive to Vietnamese culture and offending his traveling companions. His internal monologue went on too long, however; the opportunity had passed, and the motorbike turned off the road and was gone.
Bob and his companions traveled another hour to their destination, did the job they were there for and then went to lunch. As he was leaving the restaurant, he walked past the kitchen, and out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a dead dog, skinned and splayed out on the concrete kitchen floor…just seconds away from being butchered. In that moment, Bob became a vegetarian and would go on to become an avid animal activist.
Bob and Casey lived in Vietnam for another two years, working and volunteering their time with local conservation and environmental organizations as well as with a leprosy project. With every passing month Bob was becoming more and more agitated about the dog-meat industry and feeling like he needed to do something. One evening, while sitting with his rescued cat, he experienced divine inspiration. It is something he doesn’t repeat often, because once the words are said aloud, they lose their sacredness—but Bob Lucius heard the voice of God. He was told that he must do something to help these animals.
That moment was the birth of the Kairos project. “Kairos” is a Greek word meaning “the opportune moment.” Bob believes that now is the moment in history that humane education can make a significant difference and alter the path Vietnam takes over the next few decades as the country develops.
Bob began working with nongovernment agencies in Vietnam that teach young people how to be good citizens (don’t drink, don’t smoke, etc.) and added a humane education component to their programs. One of the most effective ways they get their message across is through “edu-tainment.”
In November 2010, Bob trained 35 practitioners in Vietnam to lead Humane Edu-Tainment seminars. The seminars involve a theater production with a scenario such as a dog who is suffering without water while chained to a tree on a hot day. The participants act out solutions that will give that scenario a better outcome.
This process changes, at a core level, everyone involved. It opens the heart and mind to a new way of thinking about and connecting with animals, their lives and their suffering. The Kairos Project now has 25 trained practitioners. These young people will become the core, grassroots animal advocates and activists for Vietnam who will lead the way for the entire country to develop a more humane way of treating animals.
Bob was recently contacted by a group based in Ho Chi Minh City called YeuDongVat (Animal Lovers). They are 150 members strong, and they rescue dogs and cats from the meat industry, take them home, get them medical treatment, socialize them, and find them homes. The group rescued and found new homes for 40 dogs and cats in 2009, and for another 40 in 2010. Some of the animals they rescue are strays found on the streets. Others they buy from vendors who are selling them to be eaten. Bob is helping Animal Lovers raise funds to rent a house where they can keep the animals while they are being rehabilitated before finding permanent homes.
These young people and those they touch will bring about the humane change that the Kairos Coalition envisions will spread worldwide in the years to come.