THE LAST thing Rachel Bhagwandeen’s father could have wanted was to cross the podium in the circumstances he did on Sunday.
But the bestowing of a posthumous national award upon his eleven-year-old daughter would have gone some way to providing some degree of solace to Kelvin Bhagwandeen given the horrific circumstances of Rachel’s death.
We once more join in the national community in sending condolences to the Bhagwandeen family in the wake of their loss. Rachel last year saved the life of her younger brother when she confronted an aggressive dog that attacked them. In the process she lost her life, but her gallantry was acknowledged with the award of a Hummingbird Medal (Bronze) in this year’s Republic Day honours at President’s House.
Everyone in the room on Sunday was moved by Rachel’s act of heroism, from President Christine Kangaloo to the Prime Minister, who was photographed consoling her father, Kelvin. Even Major Nigel Parris – the aide-de-camp to President Christine Kangaloo – was sombre as he told Rachel’s story.
We hope, however, that that story continues through acts of courage inspired by the Freeport resident’s heroism.
Still, this is a loss the Bhagwandeen family now have to live with and, indeed, may never recover from. Faith might be a salve, but it will not erase the pain. And Rachel’s brother will undoubtedly face many challenges in years ahead due to the trauma of what has occurred.
It is worth observing that fatal dog attacks are not as frequent as they used to be after the introduction of legislation to regulate dangerous breeds. However, these incidents plainly still occur. There should be an examination of the impact of dog control legislation and the ways in which it has been enforced over the span of decades. This should include careful statistical analysis of known or reported variables and estimates of less formally recordable factors given the underground nature of animal breeding in the country.
Legislation, however, will only go so far. And that, perhaps, is one lesson in the continued tragedies that befall families and communities affected by dog attacks. With proper care and training, dogs are harmless. But not everyone is aware of or able or willing to access such training. The State can only do so much. It is for owners to take the steps required to ensure fatal dog attacks are prevented.
Meanwhile, lessons of a different sort arise from Rachel’s courage. While we wish she did not have to pay with her life, her example of selflessness, her sense of the need to protect the more vulnerable around her, and her willingness to do was she deemed right are all things that should be emulated.