Friday, April 29, 2011

Baby Photos: Rafe

Volunteering in India: Animal Aid

In the last year, I have travelled to India 3 times to do volunteer work. One place I have gone to on each of these visits is Animal Aid Unlimited, in Udaipur, Rajasthan. I bring 2 skills sets to their and veterinary technician experience. They will use the photos for their web site and marketing, and the vet tech skills have come in handy more than a few times!

Animal Aid was founded by an American family that visited India a long time ago and fell in love. They combined their love for the country with their fierce desire to care for and protect the street animals in Udaipur. Right now they have a full time staff of about 35, and are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

All anyone needs to do is call and request ambulance is dispatched, the animal is picked up, brought to the hospital, and then treated (at no charge) until it's healthy again. Animals that are unable to be released are allowed to live out their days at Animal Aid in peace.

The founders of Animal Aid encourage everyone to come and volunteer at the hospital. From helping with meal preparation and distribution, walking dogs, giving love to a paralyzed dog, to assisting with surgeries, all skill sets are valuable.

It may be shocking for visitors at first, as the living standards and cultural beliefs in India are very different than that of the United States. Dogs are not generally pets in India...they are owner less, independent street dogs. Cows roam the streets freely, because they are considered to be holy. There's a significant plastic/trash problem in India, and as a direct result the cows are becoming ill and dying.

Regardless of the negatives, it's a country that has fascinated me for quite awhile. My first trip there was in 2007, and as I mentioned earlier, I have returned 3 more times since then. The food, the people, the environment, the all holds such a power! To be able to experience this amazing country and do some volunteering is a great way to spend some time.

I am hoping that I can encourage a few people to visit and support Animal Aid themselves, and to that effect, I have created this blog post to summarize (visually) what it's like there. Enjoy the photos, email me with any questions, and seriously think about going to visit India and Animal Aid!

Their website is:

Paralyzed dogs get brought out to an outdoor area for the day, and then carried back to the building at night. They receive daily care which includes massages, physical therapy, and bandage changes.

Sometimes, catching the street dogs is a real challenge. The team on the ambulance have nets to use, but they can also get very creative about how to capture the animals that need care.

Often, the ambulance will arrive at a spot to pick up an animal, and neither the animal nor the caller can be located. This requires help from anyone that's around, and additional phone calls to figure out what needs to be done. Many of the cows feed in the local dump, ingesting trash and plastic along with the meager bits of food that they find. Because cows cannot digest the plastic, it builds up in their stomachs and eventually makes it impossible for the cow to eat...there's no room left! The cows slowly starve to death.

Donkeys in India have a particularly hard time, because they are work animals. They are used to haul heavy loads of gravel or materials around the area, and suffer tremendous leg and back injuries as a result.

Permanently damaged donkeys live at Animal Aid forever. This donkey has a severely deformed front leg, and will never work again.

Dogs at the hospital get regular baths to help keep with skin problems. Many of the dogs in India have sarcoptic mange...a very contagious, itchy, and devastating problem to have.

One day, one of the staff brought in a little squirrel that he had been bottle feeding. It rode around on his shoulder all day long.

Selu is taking some time to hand feed an older, sick dog...and all of the other dogs want some of the food.

Recordkeeping is a never ending task. At any given time, Animal Aid has hundreds of animals in their care, and more arrive and get released every day.

Morning treatments at the main kennel area.

Serving one of the two daily meals to the dogs in the main kennel area.

The cows will go to great lengths to find food, even if that means hopping up into a dumpster.

The dog on the right is paralyzed. She hops around on her front legs, and they call her "Kangaroo".

Unloading the cows from the ambulance usually involves several people, it's not an easy task to move injured cows.

This cow had been hit by a car and had a broken leg. One of the staff examines her while the ambulance is brought closer.

A volunteer helping out in the main kennel area, just giving love!

Oftentimes, calf's that have lost their mothers will come to Animal Aid to be nursed.

Fergus had a mysterious skin problem that ended up eating away his entire nose...

The whole neighborhood gets involved when cows need to be loaded into the ambulance.

We received a call about a cow that was having trouble giving birth. By the time we got there, she had delivered the calf and was doing well.

Claire, Jim, and Erika, the founders of Animal Aid.

Getting a donkey onto the ambulance. A whole crowd gathered to watch!

One of the veterinarians drawing up an injection.

A couple of videos that I made while volunteering at Animal Aid: (A typical day at Animal Aid)