The Lion who Roared for Street Dogs

This is the story of Imad Boutizza, a Moroccan metal worker from Marrakech, Morocco, a man I’m honored to call friend.  

I was introduced to Imad in June, while witnessing the TNVR (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return) program operated by the charity, Nos Amis Pour La Vie.  He is, what is called a “guardian” of street dogs, a term used in many countries to describe people who feed and protect homeless dogs.  

When I meet advocates in my travels, I often ask what led them to be fierce for animals.  Imad’s story has a thread that is similar to many other people. At a young age he had compassion for animals. His empathy was not appreciated.  

As a small child, Imad connected to abandoned dogs and brought them home.  One day, when Imad was only seven years-old, he brought a street dog home and his father refused the boy entry with the dog. Imad, choosing not to leave the dog behind, ran away from home.  The years that followed were dark.  The boy grew up on the streets of Casablanca.  He experienced much suffering.  Through it all, his compassion for animals never faltered. 

Imad now lives in Marrakech.  Louise Jackson, President of the charity Nos Amis Pour La Vie (Friend for Life) calls him a lion because he roars for animals.  She says when people are cruel to animals, he roars at them, exhibiting a protective fierceness that has gained him much respect in the community.  

I witnessed this when seeing a distressed German shepherd tied near traffic, in the heat, and without water.  I gave the dog water from my hand and then pointed him out to Imad.  Without hesitation, the lion untied the dog, took him undercover into a food market, and with authority, told the stall owners that it was wrong to keep him tied that way and in those conditions.  

I like the term “guardian.”  It’s appropriate.  Like Imad, there are people all over the world who operate with compassion, assisting others less fortunate.  These people are respected and admired by the majority.  This hasn’t always been the way.  The world is changing in a good way.  I’ve been around long enough to see this change.

It’s easy to be swept up in the chaos, the negativity, the fear that is being created by some people in our world.  Fight it. Fight it like you’ve fought negative conditioning that has been imposed upon you throughout your life.  Imad, as you know, is not alone.  Many of you have been through trials that set you on a path to doing good for others.  I thank you and remind you to keep leading with your light.  Keep roaring, my friends!