Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Celestial story from Goa

Dearest friends,

It's Christmas and I'm just SO excited! There’s always a special atmosphere at the centre during the festive season. Although there are both Hindu and Christian people working, everyone takes part in the celebrations and no one forgets the centre dogs so we get lots of treats!

Celeste and her pupsI want you to say hello to Celeste and her family. She was brought in just a few days ago because she had delivered her little pups close to a very busy road so there was danger the little ones might run onto the road and get run over.

Celeste now faces a few weeks at Animal Tracks because we cannot separate her from her pups until they are at least six weeks old and can be put up for adoption. The pups are only a couple of weeks old now so for now Celeste must be patient and wait. While she waits she will be sterilised so she doesn't have to give birth to any more pups.

It is strenuous for her to have to feed and care for so many pups and she needs her strength to survive as a street dog. I can tell you, that is a challenge even without pups to look after! I’ve been there so I know what a tough world it is out there.

With five little ones to care for her time at the centre will be hard. The staff do all they can to protect the family but with so many infections and diseases floating around, some of which are airborne, chances are that not all the pups will remain healthy.

Their immune systems cannot cope with it all and sometimes vets are forced to face the tough decision to let the strongest have the chance to survive and find homes and relieve the weak ones of their suffering. It breaks my heart every time. I feel so sorry for the mother who loses her baby but also for the vet who has to take the painful step. We must all remember that each case is unique and we have to maintain our vision and our belief that what we do is for the best in the grand scheme of things.

I was lucky I made it because I was very sick when I was brought to Animal Tracks and it was only thanks to the perseverance of the staff here that I am still here today. I really hope for the best for this little family. I will write to you again to let you know what happens with them all.

Love from Olive

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Snakes alive in Goa!

The tourist season is in full swing in Goa and, with Christmas just around the corner, Goa plays host to thousands of visitors, Indian and foreign alike. All these people come to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, but sadly tourists are also likely to face a rather dismal side to Goa. Animals are used as entertainment to amuse tourists and, although the issue of animal welfare is penetrating deeper into the minds of many people, there are still those who cannot resist the temptation of having their photo taken with an elephant or a snake.

CobraOn Sunday three snakes - two cobras and a sand boa - were brought to Animal Tracks for observation and treatment. They were rescued by a member of staff who caught a snake charmer on Candolim Beach when she was on her way home. This was not the snake charmer's first offence - he has been caught before - but because the law is not enforced by the local authorities he is no danger of facing prosecution and is therefore free to continue this horrible trade.

In most cases the snakes that are brought in are half dead from starvation and septicaemia contracted when their fangs are brutally pulled out to protect the charmer. In this case however the snakes were in a relatively good condition and chances are they can be released when they have been observed for a little while.

I get really upset when I see these poor creatures come in. I'm terrified of the snakes, don't get me wrong, and I don't go anywhere near them, but I can almost feel their pain when I watch them being examined and I see they have no fangs and sometimes also wounds on their bodies after being beaten by the charmers.

I truly hope these snakes can be released soon so they can go back to the life they are meant to lead - free and happy in the jungle.

Lots of Christmas wishes from


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Little orphan calf learns to cope with help from his friends

As I'm writing this story it is still unknown what the outcome will be but it's so heartbreaking that we’re all praying it will be a good one.

Orphaned calfThis little fella was brought to Animal Tracks with his mother a while ago. The mother had suffered an injury to her leg and what initially looked like a simple procedure and recovery soon turned from bad to worse because it turned out she was also carrying a serious infection which affected her internal organs and made her very sick. As this was unknown to the vets at first they didn't become aware of this until she was too sick to recover. Sadly she didn't make it and her little baby was left orphaned. He was so young and still depended on her. Sometimes in these cases a surrogate mother can be found but no other mothers were at the centre at the time so it was up to the staff to act like the new guardians.

The baby was given all the care possible and although he was doing well physically there was no doubt that he was suffering emotionally. All I had to do was walk up to his pen and look into his eyes to see how sad he was. It’s such a big world out there and facing it alone must be so scary.

The staff and volunteers have all done their best to ensure that the little friend has a gentle and safe start to life without his mother. Indeed all the centre dogs seem to do their bit too. We occasionally lie outside his pen and tell him about all the great things life has to offer and that all hope is not lost.

There are several possibilities with regards to his future. Maybe he can be released back with his herd. Maybe he’ll be put up for adoption and be taken care of by a local family who most probably will have other cows and bulls in their care. In any case he has to be fit and strong to cope with life before a decision is made.

I for my part will continue to try to cheer him up and I'll definitely let you know what happens. Fingers crossed my next story about this wee fella will be a happy one.

Woofs from Olive

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

We welcome Peggy back into the family

It has been FAR too long since you've had any news from me but believe me, it's not because nothing has been happening at Animal Tracks. In fact there has been so much going on that I'm having trouble picking out the stories these days!

PeggyLast week an old member of the centre dog gang returned to us. Her name is Peggy and she first came to the centre about a year ago when she had suffered severe injuries following a road accident. She had a badly fractured front leg and a bad wound on her side. She belonged to a local family but the vets agreed to admit her because her injuries were so severe. They had no choice but to amputate the leg and the recovery time was long.

It was prolonged by the fact that Peggy was too active just to sit still in the kennel and wait for her wounds to heal and her jumping around kept breaking the stitches open.

She won the hearts of all the staff and volunteers so imagine the heartbreak everyone felt when the owners announced they didn’t want her back because of her leg amputation! There was no doubt that Peggy had to make Animal Tracks her new home because let's face it... what would the alternative have been...?

She soon settled in as part of the gang and we all took care of her because we knew she'd been through a lot. I must admit I was a little jealous at first. Suddenly I was not the centre of everyone’s attention any more. Peggy was the first real rival to the spot of IAR mascot!

Peggy and friendPeggy soon made Sandy her best friend. Do you remember Sandy? She was the one that got adopted with Sfinx a while ago by a lady in Assagao. The pair were inseparable.
One day a lady from Saligao came and fell in love with Peggy. She had a lovely house and wanted to adopt Peggy. Naturally everyone was very sad to see her go. On the other hand it's always nice to see a friend go off to a loving home. I for one was a little relieved that I could go back to being favourite centre dog with the staff and volunteers but once Peggy left I must admit I kind of missed her.

A couple of weeks ago news came that Peggy could no longer stay with the lady who had adopted her. She had run into some unforeseen changes of circumstances and contacted the centre to ask if she could come back. And of course she could! Even I was excited about the news.

Peggy came back and we were all pleased to see that she was as happy and active as she had always been. She has settled right back in and all the centre dogs - even the ones that have joined the gang since Peggy left - are pleased to have her back.

Love from Olive x

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Trussed-up tree snake gets set free

Dear all,

Well, the monsoon is coming to an end in Goa and soon we'll have nothing but lovely sunshine for months. The tourists are going to start returning and hopefully this means that lots of people will come and help us at Animal Tracks (and play with me!)

Entangled tree snakeA little while ago our team was sent out to rescue a snake. For a change it was not one that had been illegally captured and tortured by a snake charmer. This was a wild one that had got itself trapped in a fishing net. The snake was a common tree snake and it had somehow found its way into the net and was unable to find its way back out. In its efforts to get out it had simply become muddled up in it even more and in the end it was completely entangled.

We have a trained snake handler on the IAR team. His name is Sarvesh and he has taken courses in how to handle all types of snakes. The more poisonous the snake the more dangerous a rescue operation becomes but luckily Sarvesh knows what to do. This particular snake is non-venomous but it can still bite and cause injury if it feels threatened.

Freeing the tree snake form the fishing netWhen the team reached the snake they assessed it and deemed that it was unharmed albeit a bit stressed. The call to the centre had been made by a man who rescued the snake from scared villagers who simply wanted to kill it because they didn't know what to do with it. The man assured them that he would make a call to IAR and that the snake would be released in the wild.

Despite the snake seeming in good health the rescue team decided to take it back to the centre for a thorough examination by our vets. The vets could not find any injuries but kept the snake overnight for observation before releasing it into the forest the next day.

I saw the snake when it was brought to the centre. It was very thin and long and I must say that I get a bit frightened regardless of whether the snake is venomous or not! They all seem a bit slithery and jittery and you never know what goes through their minds! I'm glad though that nothing bad happened to this one and I'm sure it's enjoying life as a free and happy tree snake again.

Love from me!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Happy endings for two homeless boys

Hello hello,

As most of you already know International Animal Rescue runs an adoption programme alongside all its rescue work. Many pups and adult dogs and cats find a new home with local residents and some even find homes far away from Goa. Today I want to tell you about two furry friends who have had a helping hand from destiny.

HariHari was first admitted at Animal Tracks a long time ago in October 2008. He could not be dropped back where he was collected as it was suspected that he did not originate from that area. He was therefore sterilised and put up for adoption. His photo was put in the local newspaper and before long a local family turned up to adopt him. They wanted a male guard dog with a good bark and Hari fitted these criteria well, as well as being a friendly and playful dog.

Sadly in June 2009 the family brought Hari back because allegedly he didn’t bark. Well, I remember going for walks with him and volunteers and believe me, the dog could bark! He would have given Boris a run for his money had he become a centre dog.

Anyway, he was put up for adoption again but this time no one came to take him. He was spoiled rotten by our volunteers and seemed happy to be the centre of attention so frequently. He even got on well with us centre dogs because by then we knew him well. Unfortunately it is not possible to keep dogs like Hari in the kennels forever and the time was drawing near where a decision had to be made.

Once again the volunteers jumped to Hari's rescue at the eleventh hour and he is now the proud guard dog of a private residence in Vagator. The volunteers who adopted him are famous for finding last minute solutions for the dogs who seem to have run out of options and we all breathed a sigh of relief that we didn't have to witness the demise of yet another abandoned friend.

Mowgli and his new familyThe other lucky fella is a little dog called Mowgli. He's not a Goan dog but I met him briefly when he came to Animal Tracks for treatment. He was found in Pondicherry at 4 weeks old by a German couple, Daniel and Barbara, and they fell in love on the spot with this little pup. He was in a bad way and had a broken jaw which was treated here in Assagao because Daniel and Barbara had brought Mowgli to Goa hoping to take him to Europe.

EU regulations make it a cumbersome task to take a stray dog out of India and into Europe but Daniel and Barbara embarked on this very mission and nearly lost their sanity and all their money trying to sort things out.

In February 2009 Mowgli was left with a breeder in South Goa whilst waiting for permission to travel. Lots of tests had to be performed and cross-checked and arrangements had to be made with the airline.

Finally in August 2009 Barbara went to pick up Mowgli and take him back to Germany. Sadly he had not been looked after at all well by the breeder who had neglected all of Mowgli's needs in spite of having received money from Daniel and Barbara towards his care. He was starved, full of fungus and ticks and fleas.

Luckily Mowgli has now settled into his new life in Germany and all he has to battle with is the occasional sniffle caused by the cold European autumn. Stories like these are heart-warming and inspiring: they give us hope for the many homeless dogs who could end up suffering and starving to death on the streets.


Olive x

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

We say a sad goodbye to Boxer

Dear Friends,

Boxer at our centre in GoaI write to you all today with a heavy heart. In amongst all the happy endings we experience at Animal Tracks there are always stories that don't go so well...

Do you remember Boxer, the ill and depressed dog from Saipem village that was covered in mange and had a bad ear infection? Well, when Boxer came to the centre his condition was indeed very bad but not bad enough to justify him being euthanised as requested by his owners. Instead he was admitted, treated for his skin condition and operated in the ear to get rid of the infection.

We always knew it was going to take time for Boxer to recover and nothing can drive a dog loopy like weeks and weeks of confinement in a cage in the kennels. That's why we have so many great volunteers coming to the centre every day. They ensure that all the dogs get walked and cuddled at least once a day and the patients love all the attention they get... well, most of them do!

Anyway, back to the story. Boxer was given first-class treatment by the staff and volunteers because everyone felt he deserved a second chance now that he had been abandoned by his owners. The plan was to make Boxer one of us centre dogs when he was well enough. We all regularly got to meet him up close so we could all get used to one another.

Sadly Boxer never made it that far. His condition was not improving satisfactorily and the poor fella was still suffering after several weeks of treatment and care. His owners never made sure he was properly vaccinated and this fact, combined with his age and weakened immune system, made him an easy prey for all the infections that are passed around between the stray dogs in the kennels.

A tough decision lay before our vets: it was clear that Boxer would never recover at Animal Tracks. He had to get away from all the other sick dogs and the stressful environment. Should they send him back to his owners and hope they would continue the treatment and make Boxer well, despite knowing that the owners wanted him dead just a few weeks before? No, that would be sending Boxer back to an ill fate.

Only one thing could be done for Boxer to ensure that he would get rid of the pain and sadness…he was put to sleep on a late summer afternoon and although this brings sadness to us all we know that he is now free from pain and that he’ll never feel unwanted again.

Olive x

Monday, 24 August 2009

Poor injured cow makes slow and steady recovery

Hello everyone,

Guess what...? I have another cattle story for you all. We nearly always have a full cattle pen at Animal Tracks because so many of these animals are hurt in road accidents or they get infections in their hooves and horns.

CowThis cow's injuries were a little out of the ordinary though. She was caught in a bit of clutch cable wire which had become wound around the top of the hoof and cut deep into the skin. It is unknown whether the cow had got caught in the wire by accident or whether someone had tied it around her leg on purpose as a sick and cruel joke. The injured cow was all the way out in the village of Sanquelim, which is almost a one hour drive from Assagao but luckily the person who informed the International Animal Rescue team was kind enough to go back and tie the cow to a tree until our ambulance arrived. If she had gotten away she would almost certainly have died from her injuries as an infection would have set in and caused her to suffer in unimaginable agony.

Injured hoofThe injury around the hoof was so severe that the cow has been under treatment since July. The wound is healing but it's a slow process and the cow must receive antibiotics for a long time to prevent any infection which would worsen the condition and could potentially be fatal. No owner has come forward to claim the cow and it is yet to be decided if she is to be put up for adoption or whether she can be returned to her location.

I will write again soon!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Happy ending for little burnt bull

Hello hello!

For some animals having an owner means you are cared for and safe from harm, or at least safer than if you were left to fend for yourself. Sadly some animals suffer even in the hands of their owners either directly - because the owner maltreats them - or indirectly - because the owner doesn't take action when the animal is in need of medical attention.

Young buffaloThis little bull, I never learned his name, was brought to the attention of International Animal Rescue because a passerby had spotted it wandering around with severe skin injuries. When the vet and drivers located the bull and examined it, it became apparent that the skin injury was in fact burns caused by either acid or boiling water having been thrown at it. This is not an uncommon way for local people to ward cattle off their property. I wonder if they realise the damage and pain they are causing. The animal may die from its injuries if left untreated and needless to say the agony is unbearable.

This particular bull was only around 6 months old and it was brought to the centre for treatment. As no owner could be identified at the time when it was picked up it was treated as a stray and admitted to Animal Tracks. He was such a gentle soul and took all the painful treatment really well. Even Nicky, who normally likes to flex his muscles in front of any new cattle at the centre, left him alone. I think he realised that this one was particularly sensitive.

Then suddenly after spending one month at the centre a person turned up at the centre claiming the bull to be his. He also claimed that the bull was receiving treatment at the time when it was collected by our staff but this quite clearly was not the case. He just didn't want to be seen as uncaring in the eyes of the centre staff, I think. He was informed he could take the bull home when the treatment had been completed but that he was expected to cover at least some of the charges for it. This applies to all owned animals when it is deemed that the owner has the means to pay.

The owner promised to come back and pay and collect the bull when it had recovered but when that time came he did not turn up nor could he be contacted. It was obvious he didn't want to foot the bill and equally obvious that he had no care for his animal what so ever. The bull was instead adopted by one of the centre staff and he now lives happily with the other bulls owned by his family. No doubt this outcome was the best this little fella could have hoped for.

Warm woofs!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Ding dong bell, doggy in the well!

Hello everybody,

I have been feeling a little lazy lately hence my lack of stories for you all to read. Please forgive me... it's a dog's life in Goa sometimes!

Out of the well safe and sound!This little story dates back to 27 July when the centre received a message about a dog that had fallen in a well in the town of Mapusa. The silly little beggar was chasing a chicken and didn't pay attention to where he was putting his paws. Alas, he fell and dropped around 22 metres into the water. Luckily a local resident heard him yelping and called out the rescue team. By the time the call was made and everyone got the well rescue equipment ready and reached the location three hours had passed and the poor chap was exhausted from struggling to stay afloat. The delay was also caused because the team were out saving an injured cow at the time when the message about the dog was received. Wouldn’t it be a blessing if we could be in two places at the same time!?

Once at the site a team of four people got everything in place and began wiring the cage down the well. It was a very steep and slippery climb for the boys but thankfully they made it in time to get the dog out safe and sound. It was half swimming and half trying to hang on to a protruding rock on the well wall. Apart from being exhausted the dog escaped the ordeal with just minor injuries such as a few scratches and aching muscles. It was taken to the centre for observation and recovered well.

In cases like these it's not just the physical injuries that have to be taken into account. There is always an element of psychological distress and the dogs need to be given time to recover mentally and regain faith in the environment around them. It is not uncommon for dogs to fall into wells and the team at Animal Tracks always do their best to rescue them before it's too late. In the past the centre has also received calls about puppies in wells and it is not unlikely that these have been thrown in by people who didn't want them. It’s a dangerous and sometimes sad world out there! I hope this fella has learned from his mistake and thinks twice before chasing the neighbour's chicken again!

Love from me!

Monday, 13 July 2009

The King and Queen of Hearts in Goa

Hello my friends!

I'm not usually one to speak in negative tones about any of my fellow centre dogs and I hope my friends Tina and Boris won't take offence about this little piece for my blog. I just thought that you all might enjoy learning a little more about them and the way they think they rule the roost around Animal Tracks.

TinaTina has been around for years. She's always been the madam at the centre and not particularly friendly towards the new and the small members of our pack. She takes no nonsense from anyone and if you catch her on a bad day you'd better keep yourself to yourself. That goes whether you're human, canine, feline or any other species for that matter.

Having said that she does enjoy the feel of a scratch behind the ear or on the tummy from time to time and any other dogs that are looking for the same pleasure had better wait their turn.

Tina is the perfect guard dog. Scary looking, loud, and strong enough to pull a tank: intruders definitely think twice before crossing swords with her. Having said this, when Tina decides to take a day off she doesn't bother with anything or anyone and you could march in and out of the centre at your leisure and she wouldn't even bother to raise her head.

BorisBoris joined the centre gang more recently and straight away he was convinced that he was going to be the leader of all, big and small. He even decided to go a bit too far in his eagerness to protect the centre and managed to scare off a few visitors. Needless to say this didn't please Tina very much and they had it out with each other on more than a few occasions. When the fur started flying the rest of us just cleared off!

After a few months of snarling and growling at each other Tina and Boris decided that if they joined paws they could become the King and Queen of Animal Tracks. This was quite an admission of defeat on Tina's part since she has never succumbed to anyone's efforts to steal her place as Top Dog.

Boris and TinaSoon the pair became inseparable and today their relationship is well and truly cemented. We never thought we'd see Tina make a very best friend and it's a pleasure to see how she goes all girly and flirty around Boris. Initially the rest of us were a bit concerned that the two of them were going to be a scary duo but love mellows even the toughest of souls and I can honestly say that both Tina and Boris have become so engrossed in each other that they tend to forget to boss the rest of us around. Let's hope they both live happily ever after!

Olive x

Monday, 6 July 2009

IAR saves Boxer from callous owners

Dear friends,

You wouldn't believe how much it is raining here at the moment. It's like someone turned a tap on in the sky. It's not much fun for us dogs because although we don't mind getting a bit wet we obviously don't spend very much time outside. On the upside it's much cooler now so we can actually breathe again!

Boxer recovering from surgeryA few days ago Animal Tracks received a call from a family in the village of Saipem. They wanted to have someone come out and put their 10 year old dog Boxer to sleep because he was suffering from bad mange and had a severe ear infection brought on by all the scratching. They were advised to bring the dog to the centre and that an assessment would be made based on Boxer's condition. Meanwhile Boxer's owners called a private vet to come to their house and he told them that with time and treatment Boxer could return to good health. However the family obviously felt Boxer didn't warrant this kind of commitment on their part because they kept insisting that they wanted him put to sleep.

Boxer undergoing surgeryIn the end the only option was to pick Boxer up and bring him to Animal Tracks, as otherwise he was going to be left to suffer. When he arrived at the centre it was obvious that he was in a very bad state and in a lot of pain. Remarkably however he was in good spirits and wagging his tail at everyone. When the vets realised that Boxer's spirit had not been broken by his condition they decided to try to help him get well. First he needed surgery to clear up the ear infection. Then he'd need prolonged treatment for his mange and antibiotics.

The ear surgery has now been successfully completed and Boxer is recovering in the kennels. When he gets better he's going to become a member of our gang and I can't wait to welcome him into our group. I'm sure Tina and Boris will give him a bit of a hard time at first but hopefully he'll settle in ok. All that's left to say is shame on his owners for turning their backs on their faithful companion when he needed their love and care the most.

Love from me!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The making of Custard


Lately I have been focusing a lot of my attention on some different and unusual animals, which have been spending time at the centre: birds, buffaloes, piglets etc. Today I figure it’s time to turn our attention back to dogs. I want you to meet Custard.

Custard and TanjaCustard was made a centre dog way back in December 2006 following nearly three months in the kennels as a patient. He was brought to Animal Tracks by some friendly people who had seen him get hit by a vehicle (in true Goa fashion the driver of the vehicle simply carried on driving!) Luckily Custard hadn’t sustained any serious injuries and he was quickly physically fit again. During his treatment however it became evident that he was severely mentally traumatised. It was unknown whether the trauma was caused by the accident or some early experience in his life. He was only young - approximately eight months old – so it is possible he used to belong to somebody who didn't treat him well.

All staff at Animal Tracks embarked on the project of befriending Custard and making him trust humans again. It was not easy however and gradually more and more people started to doubt that he would ever get over his mental trauma. The vets were concerned about releasing him because of his nervous condition and Custard became the subject of severe debate. What could be done for him?

Custard and OliveAfter weeks and weeks of hard work Custard finally found a friend in one member of staff who forced him again and again to endure her company. It was painful at first and a very gradual process but the day came when Custard finally decided that he trusted her. He has since been released at the centre but he remains a very nervous and guarded dog. He doesn’t mix with the rest of us and keeps himself to himself a little off the centre property. He occasionally accepts treats from the hands of volunteers but will not go anywhere near anyone except the one person who did not give up on him. They remain close friends and still catch up from time to time.

I always thought Custard was a handsome fella and have tried on several occasions to wag my tail in his direction but so far all my advances have gone unnoticed. Maybe one day Custard will discover me and we can go down to the pond and watch the sunset together...

Lots of love

Monday, 15 June 2009

Introducing my buffalo buddies

Hi there!

Today I want to tell you about some really cool buddies of mine. I bet you think all I do is hang around Animal Tracks all day - and mostly you'd be right to assume that! It is not the whole truth though. I also spend quite a bit of time roaming around Assagao either with someone from the centre gang or on my own.

swimming buffaloesWe like to wander off in the cool hours of the evening for a change of scenery. Some of the other centre dogs go off to chase cars or stray cattle or to get up to some other kind of mischief. I like to go down to the pond and visit this gang of buffaloes that like to go for an evening swim there. For a long time the little natural pond was dry because we were approaching the end of the dry season but now that we've had a couple of storms and heavy showers it has filled up again so they're all really pleased. They don't seem to mind that I join them in soaking up the sunset... only I don't do it from inside the water. I'm happy staying on the shore!

Buffaloes cooling offAt the centre lots of cattle are treated for all sorts of ailments: horn cancer, maggot wounds, burns, fractures etc etc. Most cows, bulls and buffaloes have owners but usually the owner doesn't mind International Animal Rescue taking care of the animals if they need to be treated. There are those however who refuse to let their animal be treated at the centre. Maybe they're afraid they won't get it back. Or perhaps their religious beliefs prevent them from agreeing to let IAR take custody of their cattle. In Hindu religion cows are sacred and while it's great that this means you can't kill them, it sometimes means that they are denied treatment by the owner for fear that it will cause them to die. It's really sad because this means that animals are left to suffer. Luckily this bunch is fit and healthy so for now I can continue to indulge in a bit of sunset meditation with them down by the pond.

Love from me!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Watching the birdies at Animal Tracks

Hello hello!

Well, we're going bird crazy at Animal Tracks these days. Not that birds aren't a regular occurrence - we often get sick and injured birds coming in and the team also rescues birds that are held in captivity illegally.

ParrotIn India it is illegal to keep any native wild animal captive without a proper licence. This licence is almost impossible to obtain and in any case a number of criteria to meet the needs of the animals must be fulfilled before such a licence is issued. According to the law the licence must be revoked immediately if the animal is found to be neglected in any way. Sadly the law is not enforced properly and many people keep native birds, monkeys and reptiles as pets. In Goa International Animal Rescue responds to reports of such animals and, with the help of the local Forest Department, the animals are confiscated and rehabilitated.

The parrot currently being cared for at the centre was found tethered in the back yard of a family home in a local village in north Goa. It had sustained a nasty wound on the leg from being tied up but with the care of our vets we hope that he'll be up and running (sorry, flying!) in no time.

KiteThe kite was found in a poor state and unable to fly. It was admitted to the centre and examined but so far the vets have been unable to determine what the problem is. There are no fractures or paralysis and the kite appears in good health apart from it’s inability to take off. Investigations continue and we are all keeping our fingers and paws crossed for this fella.

"What happens with the birds that can't be rehabilitated back into the wild?" I hear you ask. Luckily there are a couple of private places in the area that have built aviaries for such birds. These places have permission from the authorities to house them and checks are carried out regularly to ensure that the birds are kept in suitable conditions.

Must dash. There are monkeys on the roof of the kennels and no way am I gonna let the other guys have all the fun chasing them off!

Bye for now!

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Vagator menace

Dear all,

It's not often that I mingle with the cats around here. It's partly because most of them aren't particularly friendly towards dogs but also because it simply isn’t cool for a dog to be friends with a cat. It’s sort of frowned upon a bit in our gang.

the Vagator menace!Anyway, I happened to be lazing around nearby when this ginger tom arrived at Animal Tracks. He has been named "The Vagator Menace" because of the way he's been terrorising the village. He actually found his way into the house of two of the volunteers and attacked their old cat Clive. Apparently the poor thing hasn't been himself since. "The Vagator Menace" wasn’t that easy to catch though. It took several attempts with a trap cage filled with everything from mackerel to cat biscuits before he finally succumbed to the temptation of the goodies and went in.

I’ll be in loads of trouble with my fellow centre dogs if they find out I've said this, but the truth is that cats are extremely clever and not easy to trick into doing anything.

Olive chilling in the staff toilet"The Vagator Menace" will be castrated next week and when he's recovered he'll be released back in the village. Hopefully he'll settle down a bit but if not, who knows, we might see him at Animal Tracks again.

The heat goes on here in Goa and it is nearly impossible to stand it any longer. We are all praying that the rain may set in soon so the temperature will drop but until then we'll just have to do the best we can to stay cool. I'm in my usual spot in the staff toilet. The sun doesn't get in here at any time so the tiles are always nice and cool and most people have the heart not to kick me out even when they pay a visit.

I’ll catch up with you all again soon.

Woof woof!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

5 little piggies who won’t go to market!

Hello again!

I have told you before that there is much more to Animal Tracks than cats, dogs and cattle. You've read about rabbits, birds, and other exotic animals and today I’m going to tell you the sad story of eight little orphan piglets. They were brought to Animal Tracks from the village of Aldona by a kind soul who could not simply leave them to their fate after their mother died.

Rescued pigletBeing less than two weeks old, the piglets need feeding every three hours so the team is busy making sure they get adequate nutrition. The vets put together their diet and the kennel staff ensure that the food is given to them around the clock. A cosy little nest has been made for them in one of the puppy cages. I’m not meant to go in there but I just had to sneak in one afternoon to have a look at these funny looking little things. They are so sweet but sadly, owing to infection and the stress of being separated from their mother only five piglets remain. Being so young their immune systems are not fully developed, so it is easy for them to fall prey to disease and, as in humans, stress weakens their immune system as well.

Rescued pigletsThe remaining five piglets are doing great now and they have already grown a lot. The plan is to let them grow bigger and stronger and then find a suitable home for them with a farming family. We have to be careful though because, although there are a lot of takers for this little bunch, not all are looking to give them a loving home. In Goa there are many Catholic families who eat pork – unlike the Hindus – and many such families breed pigs to sell for slaughter. A pig can earn a family around Rs 2000/- (approximately £27), which is a lot of money here. Needless to say, none of us at the centre would want to send these cuties off to such a fate. I'm doing my best to spot the bad guys and take a careful sniff around anyone who enquires about the piglets.

I'll be in touch later to let you know what happens. In the meantime keep checking out my blog and the International Animal Rescue website for lots of interesting stories about the charity’s exciting projects.

Big hugs from me!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Little calf survives surgery for two broken legs

Hi there,

Although the centre is as busy as ever collecting and treating animals, there is something different about the place these days: there aren't so many people coming to see the place and play with us. The tourist season is over and naturally that means fewer volunteers come to help out which changes the atmosphere a bit. It's not buzzing in the same way. Having said that, the long- termers remain faithful and despite the heat they still find the energy to come and give a hand walking the dogs. So I still get my treats and cuddles and I'm not complaining.

Little calf with broken legsA few weeks ago a very young male calf was rescued from the road side in the northern village of Tivim. He had been hit by a car and was in a bad state. Both of his back legs were broken and when he was brought to Animal Tracks there were doubts as to whether he would survive. Nevertheless the vets decided to give him a chance and immediately operated on him. Dr Nikhil, our specialist in orthopaedic surgery, went to work and completed the difficult task of mending the calf's legs with pins. It was a tricky job to do because the calf needed to be under general anaesthetic for a long time and that in itself put his life at risk. Luckily he pulled through and entered the next phase of recovering from the surgery and regaining his health and strength.

Now we are all keeping our paws crossed for the little Tivim calf. His progress is slow and the prognosis is uncertain. As much as we would all like to see him recover, there is doubt as to whether he'll ever be able to be released again. I wish we could have centre cows as we have centre dogs. Sadly it's not very practical because cattle take up a lot of space and need a lot more care than we dogs do. Besides, centre dog Nicky would chase them all off in no time since chasing cattle is his favourite pastime!

Lots of woofs from me.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Chris and Helen do a ‘Dogwalkathon’

Dear friends

Gosh, it's been way too long since I've been in touch with you all. No excuse is good enough but I guess it has just been too hot even for me to come out of the shady spot I've picked to lie in. Temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees C and, combined with the humidity level... Well there are just two things a dog can do - sleep and eat.

Chris and HelenAnyway, I'm back now and I would like to tell you about two remarkable friends who came to the centre to volunteer earlier this year. Their names are Chris and Helen and they left their old lives in England behind to travel around Asia and volunteer for different charities.

Apart from spending lots of time at the centre looking after the animals, they also spent countless hours driving around Goa promoting our charity and drumming up support. Just before they left they did their famous Dog Walking Marathon. They pledged to walk each and every dog in the main kennels and the overflow kennels in one day. This amounts to around 100 dogs! They set up a donation website and managed to raise nearly £2000 for our centre! What an amazing initiative and effort.

I showed my support by following them as they were walking the dogs in the morning but as the sun crept higher and higher in the sky I had to give up. It was way too hot. How Chris and Helen did a whole day of walking without passing out in the heat is beyond me!

Chris and Helen have promised to come back and help at the centre in the not too distant future and I hope they have some more inspiring activities hidden up their sleeves. It's always good fun when there’s something out of the ordinary happening at Animal Tracks!

Love from me

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Rodney has a home!

Rodney and HelenI'm back!

This time with a happy little story. You probably all know Rodney by now. He was admitted to the centre way back in September 2008 following a bad road accident and was subsequently put up for adoption when his carers decided they didn't want him back!

Well guess what? He has found a loving home with a family from Delhi who have a holiday home here in Goa. Although they do not live there permanently they have a caretaker who looks after the place and who will also look after Rodney when the family are in Delhi.

Volunteer Helen was there when the new family came to pick up Rodney and she made sure that he was taken good care of on the journey. Rodney didn't much like the trip apparently because he was sick in Helen's lap on the way! She laughed about it when she came back though. She said Rodney soon decided he liked his new home and all things point towards him settling in nicely.

Rodney and his new familyI'm really happy for Rodney because I remember him being a really friendly, bouncy dog just desperate for someone to love him. I'm sure he would have ended up as one of our gang here at the centre if he hadn't found a home but I'm pleased he did. I'm going to keep my paws crossed that he has a long and happy life filled with lots of fun, love and juicy bones!

Love from me.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Moses the bull

Hello again!

Most of you already know that many different kinds of animals are treated at Animal Tracks by the vets and staff. Most commonly it is dogs and then cats that are brought in but after them the third most common animals to be admitted are cattle. These could be anything from domestic cows and bulls to wild buffalo.

Cattle enclosurePicking up cattle for treatment can be a tricky business. First of all these animals are often huge and can be rather fierce if not used to human contact. When a report is received about a sick or injured animal like this the first task is to assess whether it can be treated on site. If not, how easily can the animal be caught and transported? A vet will always accompany the driver to the scene to assess the situation. Another obstacle can be to determine whether the animal has an owner. This is important because if the drivers take it to the centre without the owner's permission International Animal Rescue could get into trouble. It may also be that an owner is willing to assist with the treatment by tethering the animal and keeping it for the duration of the treatment or by making a financial contribution towards the treatment.

Moses thebullThis cute little bull is called Moses. He was picked up from Calangute with a nasty wound on his side. The wound had become maggot infested and could have caused severe infection if not treated. Luckily Moses is a good-natured bull and catching and transporting him was not a problem. He is also not too big so loading him into the ambulance was relatively straightforward. The wound has been treated and is looking much better. Moses is enjoying his time in the cattle pen with his new friends. He spends most of his time eating and chilling out in the shade but when someone pays him a visit he'll always find the time and energy to come up to the fence and say hello. He's also ok with all us dogs. We like rummaging around in the cattle pen and I think Moses quite enjoys our company. He's even managed to strike up a friendship with centre dog Nicky who normally goes out of his way to annoy the cattle at the centre just so he can have a bit of fun. Moses will be going back to his home shortly and hopefully he'll manage to stay healthy and happy.

Bye for now!

Monday, 2 March 2009

A prickly subject

Dear friends

Tell me, what is your definition of a bad day? Being caught in bad weather? Having car trouble? For me it's when I can't get my coat shiny enough or when my twitch is a little worse than normal.

Dog with porcupine quillsMy point is that we are all very good at getting ourselves down over small things. Take a look at this poor fella - now he's having a really bad day! He came head to head with a porcupine near the jetty in the village of Chapora and boy did he pay for it. When the encounter became a little too 'up close and personal' the porcupine released its quills and some of them went right through the dog's flesh... ouch! Mission complete the porcupine scuttled off and luckily our driver got to the dog in time as his injuries could have caused serious infection - possibly death - if left untreated.

Porcupine quillsNow the vets have removed the quills and the dog is recovering well in the kennels. He has also been sterilised so hopefully his urge to test his strength against anything that comes within a yard of him will wane. I hope so for his sake, imagine what he may come up against next time. Could be something far more dangerous than a porcupine!

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The sad truth about distemper

I have mixed feelings about writing this little story for you today. I love telling you about all the fun and exciting goings-on at the centre and I don't really want to dwell on any of the sad occasions we come face to face with occasionally. On the other hand I also feel it's important to talk about the not so fortunate things because they are part of what we do and it would be painting an unrealistic picture if all the stories were rosy and with happy endings.

Puppy suffering from distemperThe team at Animal Tracks all do a fantastic job and put a lot of effort into saving and improving as many animals' lives as possible. Everyone gets the motivation to carry on from all the success stories – and believe me, there are many! Nothing is more uplifting than seeing how the animals thrive as a direct result of the hard work of the International Animal Rescue team. There will however always be animals that cannot be saved. It may be because their illness or injury is too severe, or perhaps the animal simply cannot be caught. Sometimes the centre is so busy and packed with animals that it is impossible to take any more in.

Owing to the nature of the environment in which we live it is difficult to combat disease, particularly the more severe viruses that are transmitted through the air. One of these viruses is called distemper. This virus is rare in Europe but it is very common in India and one of the biggest killers in dogs that have not been vaccinated. Distemper is an airborne disease caused by the panleukopenia virus that can end in death. A dog with distemper will display one or several of the following symptoms: fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, weakness, tremors and lack of coordination. Young puppies between three and six months old are most susceptible to infection and disease and are more likely to die than infected adults. Vaccination against this highly infectious virus (and a number of others including rabies) is given free of charge to all pups adopted from the centre.

Olive suffering from distemperI nearly died from distemper when I was just four months old. I was taken into care by two volunteer vets and they made sure I received all the necessary treatment. The photo of me was taken when I was ill. I'm sure you can tell the difference between then and now! Against all the odds I recovered but to this day you’ll notice that I have a twitch in my jaw and that my head gently bobs up and down. This because I sustained mild but permanent brain damage from the virus attacking my nervous system. It doesn’t bother me though, because on the other hand it makes people give me more attention. I was lucky to survive.

Victim of distemperThousands of dogs and puppies die because of it and it affects a lot of cats as well, although in the feline form it is known as cat flu (panleukopenia). When I see the animals at the centre go down with distemper I really feel for them because I know what it feels like to be so ill and I also know that the chances are they won't make it. The brown and white dog in the photo was picked up in Palolem in south Goa suffering from distemper. Despite the treatement given at the centre she didn't survive.

This is why I say that we must find our motivation in the success stories and remember all the animals that leave Animal Tracks healthy and happy instead of getting down because of the animals that are beyond help. I always tell the new arrivals whenever I get the chance not to worry and that they are in safe hands - and if they don't believe me I tell them my story. That soon changes their minds.

Love from me.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A very special patient

Dear friends,

As you are most probably already aware, many different animals are treated here at Animal Tracks in Goa. Most of them are domestic animals such as dogs, cat and cattle. We do however frequently get the pleasure of being hosts to animals of the more exotic kind such as monkeys, birds or even reptiles.

Brahmini kiteAt present we are treating a beautiful Brahmini Kite which was brought in with a serious shoulder injury. He is very young and unable to fly and therefore cannot feed and protect himself. These majestic birds are quite common here in Goa but it's rare that we get to see one up close. All the centre dogs have been warned that anyone who as much as growls at this one to upset him is going to be in serious trouble with the staff, so we all steer well clear. He's kept in a secure area of the centre because he does not only need protection from the dogs but also from people. Birds are very sensitive creatures and when not used to human contact the mere sight of one of the two-legged ones appears as a threat. It's interesting to know that the mental stress of being manhandled – however expertly – can be more fatal to a wild bird than its injuries.

It is currently unknown whether this kite will ever fly again. The vets are treating it and our specialist vet is about to make an assessment as to his chances. If he is not going to be able to return to the wild there is a local bird sanctuary that will take him and provide him with the care and attention he needs to enjoy life. We all keep our fingers crossed for him though because really he needs to be back out there, spreading his wings under the Goan sun.

Lots of love.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Thanks to all our great volunteers!

Hello my two-legged friends!

Wow! The centre is buzzing like never before! We have so many volunteers who are dedicating their time to helping us out and it's so much fun being here at the moment with so many new friends to play with. We have vets, vet students, vet nurses, researchers, PR people and animal lovers from all walks of life and all are contributing towards making Animal Tracks an enjoyable experience for all the animals.

Maria and her four-legged friendsWe also have all our faithful and regular dog walkers who still come and see us and they are now also getting involved with dog catching and releasing and so everyone is really productive and busy. They all deserve great thanks for their help and I wish I could make a tribute to them all but I have to select just a small handful to mention by name.

James and Lorna are both vets and they are helping us in the kennels and in the surgery. James volunteered two years ago when he was still studying and is now back to share his expertise. Cazzi is a nurse and is helping to make sure that all the dogs in the kennels are seen to every day.

Lucy and Maria are managing our puppy and kitten section and ensuring that all the little ones get plenty of attention and cuddles whilst they’re waiting for a family to adopt them. Lorraine, Jennie, Jan and Nigel remain faithful supporters now for almost two years and they come regularly to exercise the patients and to help the nervous ones to feel more at ease.

We have just welcomed Unni, Mika and Lovisa from Sweden who have come to do a project as part of their post graduate programme and they will be making a report covering all aspects of the centre. I hope to be able to share that with you when they finish it.

Helen and Chris have been getting into some serious PR-ing and have helped with fundraising during their three month volunteering period at the centre. They are also fostering a local puppy and have found her a good home when she is ready to go.

I could go on and on. We have so many people who drop in for a day or for a week just to spend time with us animals and it warms my heart to see how many people care for us. Many people also raise funds for the centre by organising events and all those people deserve lots of thanks for their efforts.

We need more of you on board so if you ever come to Goa please come and see us (remember to ask for me!) I can’t wait to meet you!

Doggy hugs and kisses

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A tale of four bunnies

Hello to you all!

Thank you for logging on to my stories and reading about life at Animal Tracks. Please tell your friends about me and my blog so we can get even more supporters to join our team!

Resident bunnyAs I may have boasted in the past we see all sorts of animals at the centre: wild, domestic, big, small ... Recently, no less than four rabbits moved in! They were brought by their owner from the village of Verla and all had sustained bite wounds from local dogs. Luckily the wounds were not too severe and could be treated.

The tricky bit is that the owner doesn't want them back. We have built a nice big pen for them in a shady corner of the centre compound but we hope to find a good home for them in the not too distant future. They have all been sterilised (can't have them breeding like rabbits!!) and ideally we'd like them to stay together as they have been used to.

Resident rabbitsThey are not going to be handed over to just anyone though. These rabbits are active and sociable and they need proper care and facilities. Their pen has to be spacious and their diet sufficient to keep them healthy and happy.

Until the right person comes along and offers a good home for them they'll stay at Animal Tracks. I think they’re so funny to watch with their long ears and red eyes. Sadly for me they are kept in an enclosed part of the compound so I only get to see them when I manage to sneak through the gate behind the staff and they don't notice me. It’s good though because if all the dogs could run up there all the time the poor creatures would be traumatised. Especially by the likes of Boris and Nicky who would just love giving them a good fright.

That's all from me for now. Why don't you write to me sometime if you have a spare moment? You’re always welcome to comment on my stories - I'd love to hear from you.

Bye bye!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Kitten heaven!

Dear Friends

Although I must say we have a pretty great centre it is wonderful to see how much effort the staff put into always making the place even better for the animals. Having lived a miserable life as a sick street dog myself I know how much it means to feel safe and happy in your surroundings. It is therefore wonderful to see how much focus is being put on the psychological well being of the animals as well as the physical.

Kitten play penRecently we were visited by a couple, Lisa and Jeremy Bunting who came to help care for the animals during their holiday. They had raised a lot of money in the UK for the centre and wanted their donation to be put towards making the centre even better for the animals.

A couple of years ago two outdoor play pens for the adoption puppies were built and it was recognised that a similar thing was needed for the kittens who otherwise had to be inside their cages all day. Owing to lack of funds the cat run remained in the planning stages for a long time but luckily Lisa and Jeremy thought it would be a great idea to put their donation towards this project.

Happy kittenThe work started straight away and within no time the cat run was built and is now in full use. The kittens love having the space to run around and play and interact with each other. They have lots of toys and can also laze around in the shade or in the sun as they prefer. I love sitting outside the run and watching them. The run also increases their chances of getting adopted as near enough every visitor to the centre will see them and they look so much happier and healthier than inside the darkness of the cat house.

On behalf of every one at Animal Tracks I'd like to thank Lisa and Jeremy and everyone who donated towards this project. Things like these really make a difference!

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Welcome back Tommy

Hello hello!

Gosh! There is so much happening at the centre that if it wasn't for all the playing and sunbathing I’ve got to do I’d be writing this blog every day!

TommyNot long ago we were reunited with Tommy. He was a centre dog back in 2005 and was adopted by a loving family along with centre dog Foxy. They both went to the family home in the town of Calangute and, whilst Foxy had no problems settling in among the other dogs in the neighbourhood, Tommy was facing problems. In spite of (or perhaps because of?) his gentle nature the other dogs gave him such a hard time that his new owners felt it was not safe to keep him there. Furthermore Tommy, who was used to having his freedom from his time at the centre, made a habit of wandering around and on to other people's properties and even into local hotels and the residents were starting to lose patience with him. Luckily Tommy's new owners also have a farmhouse in the country so they moved Tommy there in the hope that he would settle in and be happy there.

For a long time things were going great for Tommy. He filled his day playing with other dogs on the farm and guarding the property and livestock. Recently however Tommy's family sold the farmhouse and, although the new owners initially agreed to keep him, they soon became unhappy with Tommy's habit of swimming in dirty water and dragging his mud around the house afterwards!

Tommy, me Olive and StellaWhen Tommy's owner called International Animal Rescue for help it was with a heavy heart because he really cared for him. But he could not bear the embarrassment of constantly having to defend Tommy's behaviour, both in his neighbourhood and at the farm. It was therefore agreed that Tommy should go back to being an IAR centre dog. After all, here the tolerance for our strange behaviour is without limits. It doesn't matter if we roll around in cow dung or run around barking. Here anything goes, which is what makes this such a great place to be.

Lots of cuddles.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Billie and Bob

Hello hello!

Wow, do I have a great story for you today! Although we witness lots of unusual, strange, heartbreaking, and unbelievable events on a daily basis, every now and again a particularly unusual occurrence brings lots of commotion to the centre.

Billie the BoxerRecently the centre became a temporary home to two beautiful pedigrees who have come to Goa from far far away, namely France.

We do not know their names but I like to call them Billie and Bob although I'm sure that their real names are far more sophisticated, being from Europe and all that. Billie is a female Boxer and Bob is a male Mastiff and both are full of vigour and energy. Sadly their owners fell prey to a terrible accident whilst visiting Goa and are presently unable to look after them. There is a big investigation going on and we have agreed to look after the dogs while this is going on.

Bob the MastiffIt was lucky that International Animal Rescue was permitted to take the dogs as otherwise their fate could have been too tragic to contemplate, but now luckily they can be returned to their owner once all the formalities have been settled. In the meantime they are sure to meet lots of new friends at the centre.

They don't seem to be snobby which some pedigrees are when they mix with us local breeds. I guess that's a good thing but I'm a little bit scared of them because they are so big and boisterous. I do wish them all the best though. Arrangements are currently being made to reunite them with their owner in France and hopefully it won't be too long till they can go back home.

Bye for now!