So did we or didn't we?
We did it!
For 9 hours, from 8am to 6pm on Saturday 14th March, we walked, stroked and hugged the entire canine population of Animal Tracks, which numbered 116 dogs and puppies at the time (so 125 wasn't a bad estimate). We even got a couple of our favourite cats out for a run-around too. It wasn't as bad as we thought (we kept thanking our lucky stars that we weren't running it!) and the day wasn't as hot as it normally is, so we were thankful for that too.
Predictably, there were a few highs and lows. Chris walked a new patient, only admitted late on the day before - a dog with a horrific maggot wound on the back of his head which weirdly enough looked like a Mercedes symbol. Neither of us had seen anything so awful before and yet the dog seemed quite happy going for his walk. Two of the other volunteers walking that day even commented on how happy he looked. Sadly, he had to be put to sleep about an hour later as the maggot wound was too far gone and impacting on his skull and brain. Shocked and saddened as ever, we were comforted by the fact that he had just been taken for his last walk.
Also, later on, around the dogs' lunch-time, Chris had a lucky escape. Some of the dogs started to get a bit nasty as they knew their food was on the way. Chris actually had to climb over the top of one of the kennels as the dog wouldn't let him out until it got its food. Distracting the dog with biscuits always works but as I had them in my bag and was far away down the track walking my dog, that was the only thing he could do given that no-one was in the immediate vicinity.
But there were some high moments along the way too! We walked the overflow area first of all and there were quite a few recent mums in there whose pups had been weaned and who were in for sterilization operations. They seemed so happy to be out and so in need of a cuddle, I felt really happy to be doing this for them.
There was also a lovely moment later on when the sun was out and our friend Anna was photographing us, when some of the centre dogs joined the walk. Stevie, one of our favourites, jumped high up in the air 3/4 times like a circus dog to lick my hand and hopefully find a biscuit in there. It felt good to be surrounded by our canine friends on such an auspicious day!
So a massive thank-you to everyone who has supported us. We weren't expecting much in the way of donations, partly given the hard times at the moment and partly because we asked for money when we did an event for Animals Asia last May before we left for China, but the amount just keeps on getting bigger. We are truly amazed.
All in all, we are really glad we survived the challenge and did it in the first place! It would be great if the money raised could be spent at Animal Tracks specifically as working here we have seen that there are some areas that need some extra funding, so we are in talks with IAR to see if that is possible.
Thanks again everyone, especially all those people we have never met!
Love Helen and Chris xxxxx
As friends and family know, we've spent the last three months volunteering for IAR in Goa . Their rescue centre here is amazing - taking in cows to kittens - and we've loved it.
A big part of the volunteers' job is walking about 120 dogs each day. Many dogs are waiting to be neutered, many are being treated for injuries like maggot-infested cuts or tumors. It's pretty boring in their cages and they don't like soiling them. Amazingly, most of the dogs would rather hold in a wee or a poo for 24 hours rather than going in their cage! So every morning there are a lot of desperate dogs waiting to get their only adventure of the day.
We know many of you have tightened your belts but it costs less than a tenner to sterilize and vaccinate one dog. It costs 9 pounds (10 euros) to be precise. Even 5 pounds helps buy medicines that give life-saving treatment to horrible cuts that can grow from pencil-sized wounds to football-sized wounds within a week because of maggots. Many of you gave so kindly when we left last June – please reach in your pockets again, even if you cannot afford to give as much as last time. The money goes so much further out here.
As a lot of you will know, Goa has a problem with stray cats and dogs. Ten years ago the problem was far worse. Puppies dying on the street was a common sight. IAR has done a great job reducing the dog and cat population through sterilization, while also giving animals medical treatment to reduce their pain from illness and injury. The sterilization stops the dogs and cats producing unwanted puppies, while the vaccinations stop them catching rabies and passing it on to people and/or other dogs.
In our 3 months at IAR, we have had some real highs and lows. Death is a day-to-day part of your life when puppies are too young and weak to resist the vicious canine diseases of distemper and parvo-virus. Chris and I spent our first night in Goa being mum and dad to two pups we rescued from a ditch, but sadly they were too young to survive without their real mother. The highs have been finding a family to adopt Rodney, a long-term patient who recovered from multiple fractures he got in a car accident, while Chris spotted and helped rescue a cow whose leg would have needed to be amputated if the wire had dug into it for a few more days.
Ultimately though, we like to think that our biggest achievement is fostering a puppy we called Stripey, because of the big white stripe down her forehead. She had been sharing a cage with her sister, Pinky, who had to be put to sleep as she was showing signs of distemper. Stripey, who wasn't showing any symptoms but needed love, care and attention in a quarantined environment, came to stay at our apartment while we watched with bated-breath to see if she would get sick. We kept our fingers crossed. She did get sick but it was not as bad as we feared.
Despite being on a drip on a number of occasions, thankfully a month later she is an energetic and boisterous puppy, who charges around playfully snapping at the heels of the locals. The other good news is that we’ve found her a permanent home with a Goan taxi driver called Joseph. Although we were and still are very very sad to have said goodbye, we think she will have a happy life with them and when we come back to Goa we will definitely be going back to visit her.