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.