Thursday, 24 October 2013

And then there was Jim...

Hello dear friends, Olive here!

Sorry it’s been some time since I’ve been in touch, but it’s been a frantically busy monsoon here at Animal Tracks, especially because of our involvement in the huge success of Mission Rabies throughout September. Over 60,000 dogs were vaccinated throughout selected rabies hot spots in India, including here in Goa an incredible 6000 plus - myself included - and of course all the other Animal Tracks permanent residents.

During the monsoon from my duty position on the bench near the reception I witnessed an old dog arrive as an outpatient and by the sorry look of him we all thought his time was up. But how wrong we were... 

One day in early August while the monsoon raged and the rain barely stopped all day and night, a mangy old dog close to death’s door came staggering from the cliff top in hope that the people he saw in the distance might be the ones to save him. His coat was drenched and filthy and sticking to his sides, showing every rib on his emaciated body. His skin had erupted into painful infected sores and evidence of an old sickness, probably distemper had left him with a head twitch, lolling tongue and unstable gait.

His rescuers were IAR volunteers out surveying the terrain and stray dog population for the forthcoming rabies vaccination campaign. Maybe the dog instinctively knew that out of all the people he might have dared to approach they could be the ones who would help. Around his skinny neck he wore a faded old flea collar which would have once cost a considerable amount of money: someone at some stage in his life must have cared enough for him to give him this. What sad misfortune had led him now to be so lost, alone and hungry?

Trusting these people, he followed them to a nearby cafe where they had a friend Mira who they knew would provide shelter for them all and where the dog could rest a while and get dry. Mira covered him in an old sack and offered bread and milk. But he was too exhausted to eat and just lay beneath the covers unable to stop shivering. 

As night fell and the storm still raged the animal rescue volunteers knew that to take him to Animal Tracks centre so late in the day and admit him to a kennel would be even more trauma for the poor old guy, so they made a call to another friend. Savio runs a popular beach road bar and restaurant, Tin Tin’s, and feeds and cares for many local strays, some of whom have become semi-permanent residents on the premises. Without hesitation or even seeing him Savio agreed to let the old boy stay a while providing he did not upset the balance with the other dogs. The old dog spent his first night for a long, long while in a warm, dry and safe place with plenty of food.

He had been probably been as close to death as an ancient old boy could have been, but a twist of fate had decided this was not to be his time.

The following morning is when Savio decided the dog should have a name, Jim Beam or JB for short. Jim had rested and eaten and looked a little better but sadly the other dogs were not so happy to have him there - probably because Jim was quite defensive, had a lot to say for himself and his loud vocalizing was causing some disturbance!

The rescuers came to visit with a friend, also a long term supporter of IAR Goa and she was instantly was touched by the plight of old Jim. She saw beyond the surface that Jim was indeed a beautiful soul with whom she made a deep and instant connection. Carol decided that although her house was full of many other IAR rescue cats and dogs she had the space and could offer Jim a temporary sanctuary whilst his future was decided and his condition improved. So Carol became Jim's official IAR foster carer. With help from her friend Savita and of course from IAR, the team set about the task of bringing Jim back from the brink.

His condition was assessed by the IAR medical team and his sores and wounds treated, then a heavy schedule of medication and supplements was prescribed. But old Jim Beam proved an easy and grateful patient and happily succumbed to regular baths with medicated skin healing shampoo and obligingly ate his tablets concealed in the regular small nutritious meals of the finest foods a dog could ever dream of. 

It wasn’t long at all before Jim was looking heaps better and had established himself in the home and more poignantly the heart of was decided by the two of them that for the remainder of his days, however long or short that may be, Jim would become a welcome part of Carol's permanent animal family. Carol is not a passing tourist but has a permanent secure home here in Goa and can therefore offer long term stability and commitment which most other foreigners cannot. 

To add icing to Jim's already unbelievable cake a tiny orphaned rescue pup that Carol has successfully reared from just a few weeks old has also now been permanently adopted as Jim's official canine companion. Poppy and Jim at opposite ends of life’s journey have struck up a lovely friendship, each learning from the other and together basking in the glow of a wonderful home where they need never worry or be hungry and frightened again.

Good, genuine short term foster carers are a vital part of IAR Goa's volunteer programme. Offering one on one care to a young or recovering animal alleviates the pressure from the busy centre and IAR staff and prepares an animal for its eventual release or rehoming. If anyone visiting Goa long or short time can offer this help, the rewards will be immeasurable. This would be a much better option for an animal or a person than the disturbing practice often adopted by some temporary visitors who consider themselves animal lovers, of taking in a pet and then abandoning it or thoughtlessly dumping it at IAR when the time comes to leave. 

Animal Tracks is not a sanctuary for abandoned companion animals, the centre's purpose is to rescue, sterilise, vaccinate, rehabilitate and release as many animals as possible. With the help of genuine foster carers and volunteers there could be so many more needy souls who get a second chance at life.

But rarely are a couple of dogs as fortunate or as lucky as Jim Beam and his little friend Poppy, who gently carved out a forever future for themselves with a wonderful lady in the best home imaginable.

Now isn’t that the best of happy endings!

Bye for now,

Olive x

Thursday, 19 September 2013

International Animal Rescue: Puppy adoption in Tamil Nadu

Hello dear friends!

I’ve just got hold of this recent report from our sister centre in Trichy, Tamil Nadu where the team’s efforts to teach people about the joys of dog ownership are reaping real rewards. 


Love Olive x


by Jothiraj Ratnam

International Animal Rescue, Trichy, plays a key role in the Animal Birth Control and Anti Rabies Vaccination projects run by the local authorities. IAR also operates a free puppy adoption scheme to find loving homes for unwanted puppies.

The huge increase in the street dog population during the past ten years has been mainly attributed to poor waste management by the local authorities. Simultaneously, the increase in the number of meat and fish stalls provides plenty of protein for scavenging street dogs which prolongs their lives, increases their fertility and reduces the number of puppies that die.

Whenever the IAR team goes out catching dogs for sterilisation, they collect any orphaned or abandoned puppies and bring them back to the shelter. We do not sterilise bitches with puppies or pregnant animals.

If we get a call to notify us of any stray puppies in need of help, we go and collect them and bring them back to the centre. Sometimes too the public brings puppies in and leaves them with us.
Two pups wait patiently for their forever home
We clean and feed the pups, keep them in a cosy place and show them to any visitors, particularly children, who are interested in adopting one as a pet.

The concept of “catching them young” is our approach to pup adoption, in terms of both humans and animals. Whenever there is a school holiday the children throng to the clinic to see the puppies and adopt one. They enjoy taking a puppy home and this contagious enthusiasm attracts more and more boys and girls. 

It may be that the cost of a pedigree puppy is too high for an average family, but the children are desperate to own and care for a pet and so happily take up our puppy adoption offer.

Ready to leave the clinic with their
new family!
When handing the puppy over, we get a commitment from the adopter that under no circumstances will they abandon the puppy but will take care of it for the rest of its life. We provide free anti-rabies vaccinations and a declaration form stating that in future we will treat the pup and sterilise it free of charge. We even offer a suggestion on what to call the puppy, based on our knowledge of its personality.

The official handover

The scheme has become more and more popular. So far this year we have found homes for 15 puppies and re-homed some 112 pups since the scheme was started. By and large we are happy with the people who adopt the puppies and show love and affection for a fellow creature. And this really motivates us in our efforts to educate the public about animal welfare.

Even though it is a small step, it is definitely in the right direction!

Find out more about the work we do in Tamil Nadu to rescue dogs.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Vet students visit Goa

 Hello friends, 
This blog post is brought to you by two vet students from New Zealand, who recently spent some time working at the Animal Tracks clinic in Goa...
International Animal Rescue Goa (IAR Goa) is located in the village of Assagao in the Indian state of Goa, and aims to reduce the suffering of stray cats and dogs through sterilisation, vaccination, re-release and finding responsible owners.
The rescue organisation has its own veterinary hospital, which has six full time veterinarians, three nurse, kennel staff, and volunteers. The vets have a bi weekly rotating role. Every week there is one vet in the kennels, one in out patient department (OPD), and three in surgery. The 3 nurses would mainly assist in surgery.

There are 97dog kennels (which were all occupied at any given time, with stray animals), 40 cat kennels, two operating theatres, an examination room, and a radiography and ultrasound area. We worked with and saw a range of animals whilst at IAR, including cats, dogs, cows, goats, monkeys, snakes and birds.
In the first week we were tasked with kennel treatments, which included dressing wounds, assessing recently caught stray animals, and administering medications. By the end of the first week we had already moved into the OPD (out patient department) and surgery.
Our favourite location was working in OPD. Everything happens all at once in OPD; there is no isolation room, no treatment room and no consult room. People arrive at the clinic and collect a number and then the vet visits the patients in order. The vet assesses the animal, collects history, and treats the animal in front of everyone. We felt useful in the OPD as we both have prior nursing experience and had just completed our third year of vet school. The vets would often ask our opinions and valued our input. We could discuss cases with the vets we worked with and felt like we made a difference while we were there.
One particularly memorable moment for us came on one of the first days: we put a nasogastric tube in a cat which then needed an Elizabethan collar. The vet asked us, “How good are you at making e-collars out of x-rays?” We laughed at first because we were confused, but then managed to do exactly that!

Many animals with skin lesions were often covered in turmeric powder. At first we were confused why so many animals looked yellow but then soon came to realise that first-aid adopted by owners of using turmeric as an antiseptic, are quite common and sought out by the culture.

There was a gas anaesthesia machine available, which was used for prolonged and special surgeries. Use of gas anaesthesia was impractical for the high volume of spaying and neutering being done routinely.
It was interesting to us how clients were often involved in treatments and restraint of the patients, mainly due to the lack of nursing assistance. People transported their pets to the clinic on motorbikes mostly - that’s just how people get around in Goa so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to them!
When we weren’t busy working, we would spend our days soaking up the sun on the beaches or trolling along the street markets. We really formed some lasting friends and we actually really miss all of them! Who knows, maybe one day when we’re vets, we’ll find ourselves back there again.  
For more information about IAR and the fantastic work they do, visit their website.

Friday, 19 April 2013

From International Animal Rescue: Cane’s Sugar Sweet Solution

WARNING: Contains graphic images of injury!

As many of you may know, most of the dogs that pass through the International Animal Rescue centre here in Goa are issued with an IAR collar (or belt as they are called here). They are made of fabric with the words “International Animal Rescue” woven through and have an elastic join for our comfort and to allow them to easily come off in an emergency. These identification collars serve as a visual indicator that a dog has been vaccinated and operated at Animal Tracks, along with the “V” shape nick in our ears and a tattoo that is imprinted whilst we are anesthetised during the neutering operation. The collars especially can be easily seen when the Animal Tracks human team are patrolling in the IAR vehicles, ever on the lookout for un-neutered strays and other animals in need of help. But of course, adopted pups are never issued with an IAR collar - those of you who have experience in rearing a pup know too well how soon they outgrow their collars, so only the full grown adults are presented with one.

My pal Peggy modelling her IAR collar
But many animals, including pets and livestock, are fitted with collars or halters soon after birth. They fit them for a short while, but not very long at all.  Sadly some people then seem to disregard the ever tightening noose that is slowly strangling the animal and cutting into the growing neck. Many cases requiring emergency release from tight collars and neck ropes that have resulted in horrific wounds are seen here at the centre. We fortunate centre dogs proudly display our IAR collars but how sad it is to witness our fellow creatures coming in with an entirely different story. Recently there was a case so severe that we were all shocked and saddened by the obvious agony that a young bull calf had endured as a result of this type of negligence.

At several months old, young Cane was still snared by his new born baby rope. No one had released or loosened it and it was strangling him slowly. The rescue team were alerted to his plight and set out in force to help - it takes many skilled hands to perform a successful cattle mission.

Cane is part of a fifty strong herd of free range spirited cattle and capturing him was no mean feat. Typically the herd will group together and protect a young or injured family member so the only way for the IAR team to apprehend him was to use a tranquilised dart fired into his rear. This is a dangerous occupational hazard for the team of vets; a herd can become very agitated, dangerous and unpredictable when alarmed. The marksperson’s aim of course has to be steady and accurate and requires nerves of steel and absolute precision timing. There’s a one chance shot. Inaccuracy would result in the dispersal of the herd and the lost chance to restrain the animal in need, or may even result in hitting the wrong animal.

Thankfully ace shot Doctor Nikhil was right on target as usual. But even then the tranquiliser takes some time to have effect and often the sedated but still mobile animal can career around wildly covering great distance and has to be tracked by the veterinary team on foot, wherever the animal chooses to run.

Cane was eventually overcome by the anaesthetic and gently settled into a drug induced sleep. The anaesthetic dose was determined by the estimated weight of the calf. Once Cane was peacefully on the ground, his two rear and two front legs were tied together for his own safety.
Cane was safely sedated and secured
Thanks to generous public donations, Animal Tracks is equipped with a special truck with the specific purpose of use as a cattle ambulance. With the aid of a large animal stretcher carried by many helping hands, the young bull was loaded aboard and soon on his way to hospital.

Once back at the centre Nikhil and the team were able to evaluate how severe Cane’s wound actually was. This poor calf had obviously endured prolonged and increasing torture. Cane was slowly being strangled by the tightening rope which had cut into his throat and neck, and become deeply embedded. As the skin had opened, the wound would have become infected at an alarming rate and become immediately susceptible to infestation by blow flies who like to lay their eggs in dead or decaying flesh. In just a few hours the eggs develop into the larval phase which we know as maggots. Maggots thrive in such conditions, feeding on decaying tissue, infected pus and bacteria.

Poor Cane would have been in great pain before his rescue
Technically maggots only eat dead (necrotic) flesh, and this is probably what most people associate them with, feasting on dead carcasses. But any debilitated or injured animal is always a target for the opportunistic blow fly. As dead tissue is eaten from a wound, live flesh is exposed beneath it. This quickly dies and festers, providing a continuing food source for the maggot and bringing unimaginable pain and suffering to the animal.  From the moment a maggot develops it starts its relentlessly voracious flesh devouring campaign.

These are pretty gruesome facts but sadly it’s the harsh reality that has to be dealt with on a daily basis. Not all maggot wound cases that come to Animal Tracks are treated successfully. Sometimes the infestation is so out of control and the maggots have been able to burrow so deep into the animal that they invade the brain and other internal organs, and these cases nearly always prove to be fatal to the animal. The poor host creature is literally eaten alive, having first endured a prolonged period of immeasurable pain and suffering. So never ever disregard an open sore and always seek medical advice if your animal appears to have even a small open wound.

The filthy rope was cut away

Our amazing team have strong stomachs, that's for sure!
But back to Cane and his story... The team immediately set to work while he was still sedated and secured. The embedded rope was slowly and carefully cut free, exposing even more of the infected and infested wound. Next the wound was cleaned with an antiseptic wash and each individual maggot removed by forceps in a long, laborious process. This is a painstaking job that requires a keen eye, a strong stomach(!) and a lot of patience to ensure that not one maggot remains.

This was then followed by another thorough wash with saline and an application of antibiotic powder. But in such deep and infected wounds, the raging bacteria can soon become resistant to antibiotics. The prognosis did not appear to be very optimistic for Cane’s recovery, so the vets decided that this seemingly almost hopeless case was an opportunity to use a tried and trusted age-old natural remedy: sugar. It may sound unconventional but sugar therapy has successfully been used to heal wounds and treat pain for 5,000 years.
The wound was packed with sugar
Sugar, the normal, household type, was used to pack the wound before it was loosely dressed. This allowed the sugar to dissolve in the septic fluid and naturally draw out more of the infection. Bacteria is unable to survive in these conditions so the swelling and inflammation is reduced. This natural treatment also promotes granulation (formation of new connective tissue and blood vessels) to the wound surface, and encourages healthy skin to grow.

Thankfully this sweet solution (in conjunction with regular antibiotics and frequent antiseptic dressings) has proven to be very successful with this young bull. Cane continues to heal and will soon be back with his herd, and will no doubt be keen recount his experience!

 IAR Goa who saved his life for sure, but the vital role of a humble bag of sugar in his miraculous healing process should not be forgotten. My musings are usually bitter sweet by nature but this one’s an actual sugar Cane sweet success story.

In recovery!
This amazing recovery is all part of everyday life at Animal Tracks where modern, innovative drugs and veterinary methods work side by side with homeopathic medicine and ancient natural healing remedies.

The wound is healing beautifully now

Friday, 15 March 2013

International Animal Rescue: Olive's Blog

It need never be too late for a new beginning

Hello dear friends,
I’m a dog, so I have to enlist the assistance of a human to help me write my musings and experiences on day to day events at Animal Tracks. Of course I’m not computer savvy and my knowledge of the internet is all but nonexistent. But I understand you humans are connected by social and media networks and use sites such as Facebook to spread the word and raise awareness of creatures in need and other such worthy causes. Love it or hate it, some feel that it’s a trivial platform to bleat on about your humdrum daily lives or a sinister invasion of privacy, others that it’s a great way to spread awareness of important issues and enlist help and support for a charitable venture. But then you are all at liberty to block, delete or simply refrain from viewing.

Recently the plight of an old dog called Skubi was posted on some Facebook timelines by supporters of International Animal Rescue Goa with a wonderfully positive outcome.
Skubi at Animal Tracks

Old dog Skubi had really fallen on hard times and his future seemed bleak and inevitable. Sadly his primary human carers had both died in quick succession leaving Skubi bereft and alone after over a decade of living as the family’s pet and companion. A relative who came to the house to sort out the affairs of the deceased, finding poor Skubi, old, sad and alone, brought him to Animal Tracks and suggested that euthanasia may be the kindest option.
But of course this is not the policy at our rescue centre and we offered the alternative which was to seek a new home for Skubi. But as the days passed there was no interest from the people who came to adopt a rescue pet, most were looking out for a new pup or kitten or a mature animal with a lot of life left to live. Skubi, with his sad old face, droopy inner eyelids and far from perfect physique ravaged by time, held no appeal for many. But the rescue centre staff, volunteers and all of us centre resident animals knew that Skubi was a sweet and special still viable soul and worked hard to find a new home for him to spend the remainder of his days.
Skubi's Facebook appeal
A plea on behalf of Skubi was posted on some Facebook timelines in the hope that all it needed was one connection with the human he needed. And very shortly Skubi’s plea touched the particular hearts of not one but three kind humans. Animal lover and IAR fund-raiser Jenny far away in Scotland had worked previously as a volunteer at Animal Tracks and was so touched by Skubi she offered to sponsor his food and medication for the rest of his days. But even closer to home were Dagmar and Ric who are staunch animal welfare advocates within their local Goan community. Dagmar too was moved by the Facebook plea and Skubi’s sad face and desperate situation. The couple who have a beautiful home full of other rescued animals in a tranquil, safe rural location opened up their hearts to Skubi. They decided that if he was accepted by the other animals in the house then he could stay. A visit was swiftly arranged and dear old Skubi gave an almost audible sigh of relief the moment he arrived. It was as if he somehow knew this could be a second chance at life and happiness. Usually we insist that an adoptive animal is kept secure and controlled for the first few days in a new home, but Skubi’s integration was virtually instant and within a few short hours he was confidently strolling through the nearby countryside with his new family as if he’d always been a part of it.
A smiling Skubi with his new mum!
Of course we always stress to adopt a rescue animal and never buy a new pet. But please consider taking in a senior, we have so much to offer the right human guardians. The constant demands of a pup can be time-consuming and bothersome, especially at the house training, shoe chewing mischievous phases.
Older dogs have usually passed through these problematic stages and have little desire to roam or get into trouble, unlike a youngster full of boundless energy, zest and enthusiasm. An older animal often merely requires some comfort and stability in his later years and will seek out a calm situation with quiet companionship and love. Also our exercise, although still crucial, is not too time-consuming for our humans to cope with, we grey muzzled seniors are happy with a quiet stroll and seldom embark on the demanding throwing and retrieving of a ball or other stimulating activities associated with a young pup’s nurturing. That’s not to say us oldies aren’t always still up for a walk: even if we can no longer instantly jump to attention, our old ears prick up at the command “walkies” or the sound of the leash being removed from its hook in readiness for an outing.
Often potential adoptees are put off taking a senior companion thinking the animal will fail to bond or be too set in his ways. Also the fear of losing a pet relatively soon after becoming emotionally attached and the worry of age-associated medical problems can be a negative factor when considering adopting an older animal. There is basis in fact for all these concerns and misunderstanding, but with responsible care and diet and huge amounts of love, caring for an older animal in his twilight years or months can bring unimagined joy and unconditional affection to a person’s life.
The rewards, even short term can far outweigh the pain of inevitable loss at losing a true friend.
Wherever you are in the world I ask you to always adopt from your local shelter and please consider the benefits of an older animal that may well fit more appropriately with your life than a young feisty demanding pup or kitten.
In much of society older dogs, cats, other pets and often people are considered expendable and given up on because no one can be bothered with them.  
Old dogs make great companions. Please don’t give up on us at the end of our time - we would never ever do that to you whatever the circumstances. Not all of us get the chance at a new start, but each and every one of us deserves to live out a natural life with love and shelter, a warm bed and enough food.
Skubi has been truly blessed to meet Dagmar and her family and find his final forever home.
 Of course IAR Goa’s Animal Tracks centre will provide continued support and free medical care for the next year of Skubi’s life. All funding for the rescue centre is provided by generous donations, however large or small, which enable International Animal Rescue to focus on helping more animals in the future.
Skubi meets his new family
Skubi has swapped his loneliness after losing his old family for a wonderful fresh start, a safe place to rest his old bones and snooze away his days on a luxury padded bed instead of a cold hard floor . With ongoing improvements in veterinary care, diagnosis and treatment there is no reason why he won’t live happy and healthy for a long time to come.
As with humans, age should be no barrier to learning and yes, it is possible to teach an old dog a few new tricks in order to secure his path to happiness.
The moral of Skubi’s story is that it really is never too late for any of us to have a chance at a new beginning.

That’s all from me for now!

Love from Olive x

Monday, 21 January 2013

Theo's Story - from International Animal Rescue in Goa

Many years ago I was a stray down on my luck and in desperate need of help. But then I was taken to Animal Tracks and somehow became one of the lucky few who never had to leave. Through the years I’ve seen all manner of dogs arrive here, some pure breeds but mainly lovely mongrels much like myself.
The work carried out by IAR Goa’s human team involves upwards of 200 dogs and numerous cats each and every month throughout the year, some with ailments and injuries, or simply lost or unwanted, but mainly just passing through for routine sterilisation and vaccinations.
Recently, from my vantage point as reception greeting supervisor, I witnessed a visit from a young lady named Monica who was desperately seeking advice on how to rehome her family dog. Two and a half years earlier cute pup Theo had been purchased by Monica’s brother as a wedding gift for his new wife. Although Monica and her brother were both animal lovers, Monica felt uneasy about his gift of a Labrador pup right from the start.
Theo is no lightweight!
Monica was already actively interested and involved with Mumbai’s animal rescue organisations. She was fully aware of the horrendous statistics concerning the huge number of animals in need of care and shelter and also the unsuitability of certain breed dogs for people’s lifestyles when they develop beyond the puppy stage. But there was nothing she could do or say, even amongst a loving family sometimes a young girl’s opinion is often of little or no consequence. Nevertheless the dog was loved and welcomed by the family, at least while he was a cute and manageable sized pup. 
But right from the onset the hard work involved in keeping him and training, grooming, and cleaning up after him was left in the main to Monica. But then, soon after, the sister-in-law became pregnant and unbelievably her doctor advised her that it was unhealthy for a foetus to have animals around it….how weird is that? (I often wonder how you humans arrive at such ridiculous irrational conclusions).
Despite Monica’s protestations, Theo was banished to the family farm far away in Goa. His care was undertaken by the farm staff and overnight his life became very different. Separated from Monica Theo pined and could not understand why he had been sent away. Of course he was fed but, without stimulation and nurture, Theo grew depressed: every pet's needs go far beyond basic nutrition.
Each visit from his best friend Monica left them both in distress when the time came for her to return to the city. Poor Theo suffered from separation anxiety and became a very unhappy confused dog.
A further two years passed and Theo grew to be a hefty animal with boundless energy. The situation became even more problematic when his carers left the job on the farm. Monica realised then that the only option was to find Theo a new home.
Often there is much interest in adopting a breed dog that’s up for rehoming, particularly a free and unsterilised one who, if put to stud, who could be an easy source of income.
Theo was adopted briefly but proved too much of a handful and was soon rejected by his new owners, which prompted Monica to contact Animal Tracks in desperation. Through her association with animal welfare Monica was already aware of the diversity of work done here in Goa by our team.
Bhagat and Theo - together forever!
Of course Animal Tracks cannot morally advocate or condone the deliberate controlled breeding of pedigree animals, particularly when there are thousands of gorgeous mutts like myself already born and out there. But of course all animals are special and precious and young Theo was certainly in desperate need of some help. This is not the kind of situation we usually get involved with but we did know of a kind young man who’d adopted a young rescue puppy recently and given her a lovely home together with another full grown Labrador that had been abandoned the previous year. Bhagat had experience with the specific requirements and high maintenance of the breed and was happy to take Theo to join his family.
Theo had an up to date full vaccination history so no time was lost in booking him in for the compulsory sterilisation of all dogs and cats that pass through the rescue centre. The bond between Bhagat and Theo was instant and it seems we have a happy ending at last for this poor dog that through no fault of his own had had so much upheaval and sadness.
Visitors to the IAR Goa’s rescue centre and volunteers who come to help out often ask how it is that the dogs here, who are in the majority street and feral animals, are so friendly and will walk calmly on a leash and allow their wounds to be tended with no animosity when their own pet dogs back home are often much more difficult.
From my informed and experienced mongrel point of view I feel it’s because the genetics that contribute to the character of us street dogs is strong and healthy and our high intelligence factor instinctively tells us that these kind hearted humans are here to help us so it’s good to be cooperative.
A breed dog usually comes into existence through the parents being introduced deliberately in order to create an aesthetically pleasing litter that perpetuates the pedigree breed, and of course is also a very lucrative economic commodity. In the wild, left to nature’s devices, only the brightest, strongest, fittest dogs succeed in mating with a bitch in season. The dominant males usually have to compete with others vying for her. This naturally ensures the strongest genes come to the fore and the weaker traits tend to be bred out of the line.
Consequently a mongrel or mixed breed is generally healthier and less susceptible to the hereditary negative characteristics and physiological problems that are exaggerated by over breeding from a pedigree animal’s limited gene pool. Pure bred dogs are destined to be prone to breed-related issues, whether they are good or bad. The intervention and breeding of dogs to deliberately create the extreme characteristics and physical appearance to satisfy the lust of man for aesthetic perfection in their eyes has in many breeds resulted in malformations and hereditary problems.
Naturally selected random cross breeding can inhibit the negative effects of breed traits because of the return to a larger diversified stronger and healthier gene pool. All of this just enforces my belief that so called “high class” in both humans and animals has absolutely nothing to do with deliberate breeding from a selected parentage.
Indeed studies show that the more a dog resembles a wolf, the longer the life expectancy and the more healthily viable they are. Whether you humans refer to my type as mongrels, mutts, strays or pariahs…’s a fact that greater choice in a gene pool results in the recessive negative characteristics and weaknesses being suppressed by the stronger traits that combine to make us superior  genetically, emotionally, intellectually and physically to most pedigrees. Humans often use the term mongrel in a derogatory way, but realistically the name ought to be a canine compliment.
 Obviously I’m biased as I myself am a proud mongrel of unknown parentage but the evidence is out there, we have evolved to the best in the canine world. So all of you humans who are thinking of buying a dog or cat at huge cost from a breeder, think on and visit your local shelter and adopt a rescue animal, it will love you forever, cost you less in vet bills, understand and be easier to train and be more compatible with your so called higher human intellect. And as for looks, who wants a perfect specimen that is identical to the next when each of us is adorable and absolutely unique?
Out for a jog on the beach!
Theo is a soft natured, gentle lumbering boy, but had gained too much weight with his sedentary lifestyle and was unaccustomed to regular exercise but is now eagerly undergoing Baghat’s weight loss and fitness regime that involves a healthy diet and jogging on the beach in the coolness of the early morning and limitless love and friendship. Theo is undeniably a fine looking boy, but he’s not without the negative problems associated with his breed. Bhagat knows that Theo will always be high maintenance compared to his mongrel sister Sally but he loves him unconditionally and for life and that’s all that any of us can ever hope for.
Theo has already made friends with other dogs he has met at the "gym"
And finally please never buy a cute pedigree puppy or kitten as a spontaneous gift for your new wife - opt for designer jewellery, not a living creature. Later if you feel you can offer a secure loving home to an animal for the duration of its life, adopt from a rescue shelter and give an unwanted or abandoned dog a second chance in life.

That’s enough of my preaching for today. I’ll keep you posted on Theo’s progress as time goes on.

Bye for now!

Love Olive x

What a handsome pair!

Friday, 21 December 2012

A Christmas message from Olive at International Animal Rescue in Goa

The Improbable Love Birds 
Hello dear friends!
Today I bring you a heart-warming tale for the festive season.
The shy pigeon
Recently at Animal Tracks we observed the development of an unlikely but enchanting friendship between a fledgling crow and a young pigeon. Unfortunate circumstances had led to both wild birds being separately admitted to the centre: the immature crow was still unable to fly and the pigeon weak and exhausted, both had been rescued and handed to IAR as they would not have survived in their natural habitat.
The two birds were placed in recovery cages side by side within a larger enclosure used at the rescue centre to house cats, kittens and pups and other creatures at various stages of recovery and convalescence. Both settled well and soon began to flourish in the protected shelter. The pigeon quietly feasted on a diet of seeds and grain whilst the crow greedily devoured anything and everything offered to him. Possibly realising that, now they were safe and were fed regularly, no harm would come to them, they both relaxed and became comfortable in their temporary confinement.  They began to unmistakeably converse with each other, nattering away together from their adjacent separate cages, cheerful raucous calls from the crow and soft warbled cooing from the pigeon communicating in their own private language.   
The handsome crow

As time passed and the feathered friends improved and grew stronger, the doors of the cages were left open so that they could freely move around the high spacious animal house during the day and to encourage them to stretch their wings and attempt flight.

The pigeon was the more advanced and soon fluttered to the high rafters of the enclosure where it surveyed the crow cheekily hopping around and inspecting the other temporary inmates while constantly keeping a watchful eye on its friend. When one bird moved to another area of the enclosure the other would instantly follow, both gaining confidence and strength and a sense of well-being from their unlikely allegiance. The crow would tilt its head back with open beak and gesture the pigeon to feed it just as it would have done with its mother in the wild. Encouraged by his friend’s flying the crow soon began to flap his wings and take his first tentative flight into the air, joining the pigeon on the rafters where they curiously observed all the rescue centre goings-on beneath and around them. Then a few days ago the veterinary team decided they were ready to be released and the external door to the outside world was left open for the duo to venture out in their own time. Before long off they flew into the surrounding wooded countryside together.
Love birds
We shall never know if the two friends will continue to remember each other or remain in contact, but both of their young lives have surely been enhanced by the special bond forged during their stay at Animal Tracks. The shy and peaceful pigeon is maybe still around yet unobserved but the crow is spotted regularly and visits the centre each day to check on his old friends and hopefully grab a free meal.
If asked to name an appealing or endearing creature, crows and pigeons would probably not be the choice for many, both birds are considered by many to be universal troublesome pests to society.  But having recently witnessed the joyous unreserved acceptance of each other’s existence demonstrated by these two very different birds, free from any acquired malice or prejudice, maybe we could learn a lesson from them in dignified behaviour and coexistence.    

Firm friends
These two innocent young birds, free from the predisposed suspicion and discrimination customarily learnt from family and flock, have shown that nurture is indeed as important as nature, they intuitively disregarded the differences between them and simply accepted and absorbed the best from each other. At Christmas, the festive season of goodwill when thoughts of compassion, peace and joy are particularly evoked, it is not necessary to be a Christian or even religious to hope that we may all extend that benevolent attitude to all the creatures of the world and learn from, protect and cherish all the birds and animals around us.

So that’s all from me for 2012. Have a very merry, cruelty-free Christmas and I look forward to bringing you more news from Goa in 2013!

Love from Olive x