24 Jul 2010 1 Comment
“Our children are much less scared of dogs.”
“It is such a relief not to have all these puppies walking on the streets!”
“Please help the dogs to get rid of their skin problems!”
“Can I get my dog spayed too?”
These are some of the comments we got from local communities after we introduced our pilot Animal Birth Control/Anti Rabies (ABC/AR) programme. We called the programme ‘Patan Rescue” because it felt like a rescue mission. With over 35,000 stray dogs in the urban areas of Kathmandu Valley alone, and the majority of them suffering from malnutrition and disease such as skin problems, open sores, tumours, birthing complications and –last but not least- much feared rabies, our mission to create a smaller, healthier dog population seemed Mission Impossible.
With the help of a grant from HSI US and a matching grant from HSI Australia, we felt secure enough to take the first important steps: building a rehabilitation center, training our vets in spaying techniques and buy an ambulance. The local forest committee of Chobar, a beautiful historical village build on a hill on the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley, provided us with a plot of land. An architect friend designed an office building with operation theatre made entirely from renewable materials: unfired mud bricks, to be covered with cow dung.
Training our staff was a tough one, as virtually no vet in Nepal knows how to conduct the preferred sterilisation method, flank spaying. We were helped by the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Center (KAT) whose vets were trained by Help in Suffering India.
Our happiness knew no bounds when a grant from 30 Million d’Amis (France) enabled us to buy a Maruti Gypsy car, acting as Kathmandu’s first animal ambulance.
Even before the center was completed sick and injured dogs were dropped at our premises. Among the first residents was Toffee, a blind Labrador, abandoned by his owner. He was a handful in the beginning but once Toffee understood the parameters he became a very affectionate dog. A few months later Toffee was adopted by Volunteer Director Pramada Shah and travels with her wherever she goes. He regularly visits our office and his old home at the Chobar shelter!
Another early patient was Marky. Terrible malnourished, Marky suffered from rickets and a bone disorder. His condition is a painful one and apart from providing with nutritious food there was little we could do to ease his discomfort. Marky became close friends with Dutch volunteer Aicha Boele, who decided to take him to Holland. There he will receive physiotherapy and specialised care to ease his discomfort.
Yet another suffering creature staying at Chobar was Namuma, a hairless, extremely weak puppy. Namuna turned out to be a great character who loved to be cuddled but at the same time proved to be a good guard dog. When his hair grew back Namuna developed a shiny black coat with dots on his belly. An elderly lady adopted him; he now guards a large compound while keeping his ‘mummy’ company.
On October 17 we celebrated Kukur Tihar, or national dog worship day, by officially opening the Chobar Animal Sanctuary. In the next two months time 35 dogs were treated and rehabilitated. On December 28 our vets Surendra and Sudeep spayed and vaccinated the first batch of stray dogs. On April 13 we spayed and vaccinated Putali, a lovely black dog from Taudaha village, the 100th dog.
By now we feel confident that we can make a lasting change in the situation of stray dogs in Kathmandu Valley. We have launched a 2-year programme called “Kathmandu Rescue” in which we hope to treat and/or spay and vaccinate 1250 dogs. We also hope to educate and work closely together with the different communities from where the dogs are taken. The two municipalities involved will gradually increase its involvement by providing staff and finances. We will teach children in local schools about animal welfare and encourage them to be involved.
Making a lasting difference means we need to prepare the next generation. They need to develop a different relationship with stray dogs. Not one based on fear, but based on trust, love and care. We are set to make it happen!
Lucia de Vries
Volunteer Director Animal Nepal