Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Alfie gets a glowing progress report

Hello hello

After suffering a horrible setback when he was only three months old, young dog Alfie and his brother Race are reported to be healthy happy hounds enjoying the best that life in Goa can offer, including the love and care of the local community. Some people can’t tell the twins apart, but we dogs have no such trouble with our canine friends – it’s not about the look, it’s all about the smell!  Alfie now lives with his former foster carers Jan and Nigel, but spends hours on the beach with his brother and the rest of the pack.

Not everyone has heard the story of Alfie’s earlier misfortunes, so let me fill you in. And even if you are reading it for a second time, you may need to have some tissues at the ready ...

Like two peas in a pod!
Alfie and his twin brother Race enjoyed a seemingly safe and almost idyllic existence within the small semi-feral pack of dogs that live in the vicinity of a cluster of quiet guest houses nestled between palm groves behind the dunes of a large expanse of unspoilt beach. All the dogs were happy and healthy. Alfie's mum Lemon had recently been sterilised and vaccinated and the entire pack's welfare was being monitored by IAR Goa. When the time came the twins were also scheduled to be vaccinated and sterilised.

But one day when they were only about three months old a proprietor of one of the guest houses, who had recently happily adopted an IAR rescue cat, called to alert IAR that one of the pups had been involved in an incident and had a severe facial injury. IAR volunteers immediately went to investigate and found the poor terrified pup in a horrible state. They took him to Animal Tracks where he was seen immediately and given shock reducing and painkilling injections, he was then examined and X-rayed which revealed his jaw had been broken in three places, through both sections of his chin and again at one hinge joint.
Poor Alfie's broken face

No external wounds were visible but his teeth were smashed. The conclusion was that the damage to Alfie's bones must have occurred through a heavy impact aimed directly to his jaw. The awful fact dawned on his rescuers that this was not an injury sustained by attack from another dog or even a road traffic accident, but that Alfie had actually been hit in the face by a person most probably wielding a heavy stick or some other implement.

But at such a young age the vets knew it was still possible for the growing pup's soft bones to heal, despite the extent of the damage, but to immobilise his jaw in order for this to take place would involve prolonged and intensive aftercare. With a massive amount of animals in need of care constantly arriving at Animal Tracks each and every day this degree of round the clock nursing would be very difficult and time-consuming for the busy staff to undertake, so two long-term volunteers very kindly agreed to take on the case and care for Alfie at their home.
Skilful work by our fantastic team

Alfie was anaesthetised whilst his face was put back into position, stitched through the jaw bones and firmly bandaged and taped up. In order to medicate and feed him without the use of his mouth, an incision was made and an oesophagus tube inserted through Alfie's neck and the arduous healing process began.

The most difficult part of the task would be to ensure he received enough liquidised food to sustain him through a long period of crucial growth and healing. Alfie was fed and medicated by slowly and frequently syringing the processed mixture into the tube, ensuring he received small sustaining amounts at regular intervals. For the first few days he was heavily sedated with pain relieving drugs and antibiotics and put up little resistance to his new situation and was a willing and cooperative patient.

Despite having been attacked in such a cruel and brutal way, Alfie strangely did not appear to fear his human carers, it was as if somehow he understood why this was all happening and that it was necessary in order for them to help him live.

Voiceless, Alfie’s only means of communication was through the expression in his sad eyes, the rest of his face was swathed in bandages and surrounded by a plastic Elizabethan collar all stitched to a body harness to ensure his jaw was kept clean, protected and immobile. Gradually the bones began to mend and Alfie's regular check-ups at the Animal Tracks outpatients department showed he was healing well and gaining weight despite his very restricted and unusual feeding programme that bypassed his mouth and went straight to the stomach.
Heavily sedated after his operation

Poor Alfie could not understand why he could not chew and taste and poke his nose into everything and all the other things an active young pup would normally do. But he became quite a celebrity amongst the local community, receiving many well-wishing visitors at his foster home who were all eager for the pup to recover and interested in the healing process.

Finally, after 28 long days and nights, the long-awaited appointment came for the bandages and tube to be removed and for the first time Alfie's sweet face was fully visible. Most of Alfie's human friends had only ever seen him shrouded in bandages and the ever present restrictive but essential protective Elizabethan collar. Despite losing a few teeth, Alfie's profile was amazingly perfect, entirely thanks to the care of the entire Animal Tracks veterinary team, particularly expert renowned orthopaedic surgeon Nikhil.
Alfie after his bandages and cone were removed

And so the young pup that had spent a great portion of his short life restricted from using his nose and mouth was able to enjoy solid food, drinking and freedom for the first time in weeks. Soon he began to gain weight and play and interact with the other neighbourhood dogs and animals at his foster home almost as if the awful trauma had never happened.

But sadly the weeks away from Lemon and Race had been too long for him to be reintegrated back to the semi-wild pack, Alfie's dependency on human care had become such that he has been taken as a permanent member of the foster household where he healed. But as it's close to his old canine family he still gets to visit and run with his old pack on the beach and now bears few mental or physical scares from his ordeal, apart from having an understandable terror of anyone holding a stick.

Alfie and Race enjoying some beach time with a friend!
Seeing Alfie and Race tumbling in the surf, play biting and fighting and simply revelling in each other's company is a joy to behold, especially as neither Alfie nor countless other dogs would be alive at all if not for the intervention and care of the wonderful IAR Goa team and volunteers.

That’s enough from me for now!

Love Olive x

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Double Trouble for Chutki

Hello my friends

Today I bring you a sweet story which illustrates just how much we dogs in Goa depend on humans like you to look out for us and step in when things go wrong.

There are literally thousands of stray dogs living in Goa: indeed I was one of them until IAR saved my life and gave me a home.Thankfully, just like me, a massive proportion has been treated by IAR at various stages of their lives and many have been sterilised, vaccinated and returned to their area. These feral dogs do not necessarily desire or need to be treated as pets and can lead a contented, social existence amongst their small or extended packs and usually keep within the laws of canine territorial boundaries that govern how things work in the world of dogs. This is an alien concept to most of the western world where the idea of stray animals is synonymous with human abandonment or neglect. Of course if humans offer a helping hand by giving food or providing some shelter from the elements, this is an extremely welcome bonus. But if the animals are not sick or breeding out of control and fighting for territory, life as a free dog really can be a good one. And to coexist within your pack amongst a tolerant human community is not such a bad place for a dog to be.

Some prefer to avoid the close company of people whilst others enjoy the relationship and choose to live alongside their human friends. These social dogs are widely accepted as an enhancement in many communities and are happily tolerated without actual encouragement. The dogs offer protection from intruders and alert communities to snakes and other potential dangers in exchange for a little food and shelter.

A street dog named Chutki is one such animal. She has no owner or specific human companion but is viewed as a friend by many local vendors and semi-permanent seasonal workers who make a living selling food, trinkets and artefacts to the tourists drawn to the scenic clifftop location where she roams.  And these locals look out for Chutki and feed her. So when she developed a large swelling on her side, the locals were quick to alert the IAR volunteers living close by who they know to be associated with Animal Tracks and would offer help to any creature in need.

Chutki was contained within one of the small shops, making it relatively easy for the rescue team to catch and admit her for treatment at Animal Tracks. Chutki was examined by a duty vet and diagnosed with a fast growing and potentially dangerous haematoma. Often these blood- filled swellings will burst and become infected with potentially lethal consequences. Lucky for Chutki, she was given the necessary drugs and the swelling responded quickly and favourably and began to recede without the need for surgical intervention. Within a couple of weeks she had recovered enough to be returned to her patch and was welcomed home by all.

Poor Chutki with her injury
But then only a matter of days later she was in trouble once more. The same IAR helpers were asked to take a look at Chutki after her friends reported that she had sustained a gory injury whilst chasing a cat. During the pursuit through the undergrowth she had managed to get herself virtually impaled on a jagged tree stump. The impact had torn a deep hole in her side which would certainly have led to a painful and lingering death if not for her human friends who alerted IAR once again. An animal ambulance was called in order to transport the injured and bleeding Chutki gently  to Animal Tracks. For her own safely she was contained within a travel cage as is the norm for a wounded animal.

On arrival at the centre she was examined by the duty vet and injected with medication to help ease the pain and shock. The deep cut was fresh but contaminated by splinters and debris. Immediate surgery was necessary to clean and close the wound, as without prompt action infection would have set in and threatened Chutki's life. In the tropical Goan environment untreated wounds can fester and become poisoned in a few hours.

Luckily she recovered well
After the emergency surgery the long healing process began, but this time Chutki knew that she would be returned home eventually as she could recall positive memories of her previous recent stay at Animal Tracks. Chutki knew she was in good hands and was a cooperative patient resigned to another enforced captivity whilst she recovered.

And before too long she was returned home to yet another warm welcome by canine and human friends alike. The warm relationship that has developed between this street dog and the humans with whom she coexists has saved her life twice within a very short space of time. Let's hope that  after these recent incidents Chutki manages to stay out of harm's way from now on, but if not there will always be caring watchful eyes looking out for this fortunate dog who is owned by no one but befriended by all.
Look at that beautiful face!

That’s all for now!

Love Olive x