Peace’s Featured Story

When I sold my veterinary hospital and retired from clinical practice, I wouldn’t necessarily say that this was the end of an era. I looked at it as a newMan helping a stray kitten in Zanzibar, Africa beginning. I could now pursue some opportunities that I previously didn’t have time for: to participate in international veterinary projects around the globe in underprivileged and undeveloped areas where veterinary care is sorely lacking.

Today, I find myself in Stone Town, the main city in Zanzibar, a beautiful island off the coast of Tanzania. This is a Muslim nation. Muslims like cats and they treat them respectfully. This city is teeming with cats.

My veterinary hospital was a cat clinic, and I’m a total cat person. For me, Stone Town is heaven on Earth. I am here with a group of international veterinarians and local veterinary caretakers. Our goal for these two weeks is to capture, sterilize, and release as many cats as we can.

My hotel is a few hundred meters from Forodhani Park, a popular park by the waterfront. The park is home to dozens (maybe hundreds?) of street cats. They sleep in the grass, on the benches, and in the flowerpots. They thrive here because every evening there is a busy, festive food market where the locals (and tourists) come together to sample the tasty and diverse cuisine here.

As the people sit and eat, the park cats gather at their feet, waiting patiently for scraps to be tossed their way and the people are happy to oblige. When the night market finally packs up at midnight, any remaining food on the ground is enthusiastically scarfed up by the cats.

Yesterday I had a rare day off from the sterilization project. After walking around in the 100-degree heat all morning, I returned to my hotel to cool down. Then I headed to the Cape Town Fish Market, a lovely waterfront restaurant in Forodhani Park.

On the way to the park, I rounded the corner and, to my horror, spotted on the ground a cat that had been hit by a taxi just moments before. People were saying that the driver hit the cat and did not bother to stop. She was badly injured. I rushed over to her, as did a few local bystanders.

I telephoned Sarah, the woman who is heading up our project and who runs the cat shelter here, and she phoned the cat clinic at the edge of the city to notify them that I was coming in with an injured cat. Their assistant phoned the doctor on call, and he said he was on his way.

Before I knew it, Stray cat in Zanzibar, AfricaI was sitting in a tuk-tuk with the cat (in a box, now), on my way to the clinic. We arrived, and I handed off the cat to the assistant. The doctor hadn’t yet arrived, and I couldn’t stay because the driver had to get back to his station. I left this poor cat with the capable assistant and returned to the park. I am still trying to find out what happened when the doctor arrived, but I’m pretty certain I know how this story ended, unfortunately.

After a depressing lunch at the restaurant, I meandered through Forodhani Park again, to go back to my hotel. Near the edge of the park, wandering near a fountain, was a tiny, adorable kitten. As I observed the kitten, a local man approached the fountain with a paper cup. He filled the cup with water and brought it over to the kitten.

When he saw that the cup was too high, he moved the cup to the edge of the fountain where there was an embankment and placed the cup there so that it was the proper height. Then he gently carried the kitten over to the cup, where it took a few sips.

Although this website focuses primarily on the ways food and drink bring people together, sometimes it’s the simplest of things — a cup of water — and the random act of kindness that accompanied it, that can truly bring peace at the table.

Arnold Plotnick
Zanzibar via New York City

Arnold Plotnick in Zanxibar, Tanzania doing veterinary work
Arnold Plotnick

This wonderful story speaks about Arnold in a very genuine way. It takes dedication and commitment to travel to Africa to do such compassionate work — and to come out with such humility and kindness.

I consider myself very fortunate to be getting to know the man. Thank you for the gift of sharing your story with us.

Arnold is a retired veterinarian who lives in New York City and is also a wonderful photographer. You can see his work on Instagram at @arnoldplotnickphotography. Please take a look at his page. His photos are a joy to see.

Thanks very much for reading and peace,
Jeff Marden

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