Gandhi’s suggestion, “be the change that you wish to see in the world” is something I aspire to, but am far from.
To see the terrible things, the gross injustices, the suffering in the world, and shake one’s head, is as effortless as it is useless, and something I am as guilty of as the next guy. There are those rare individuals who see it, and will fight to make it right. Deb Jarrett, the founder of DAR, is one of them.
In 2008, she volunteered at a preschool in Dharamsala, India. The children were unforgettable, but an injured dog that she saw outside the school took her heart. Her concern for his plight was met with indifference by the villagers. Upon returning home to USA, she knew she needed to do everything in her power to help. She created Dharamsala Animal Rescue (DAR) to care for injured animals, control stray dog population through birth control projects, and lead the fight against rabies. Today, Tommy the dog, is healthy and being well cared for by the same villagers, and as remarked by a Ann, a vet from Australia, “Dharamsala strays are some of the luckiest in India”, and I have to say, having been to here many times over the last 30yrs, I wholeheartedly agree!
“I hope he survives”, I say grimly, trying not to gag from the stench of rotting flesh, as we pull out yet another maggot from head of a dog who looks like he’s been scalped. “Of course he will, why won’t he?” says Parveen casually as we were talking about a superficial nick rather than a dog which less than 24hrs ago was about to be put down, and at once I was so proud to be a part of this amazing team that brings Deb’s altruistic endeavours to life.
They are an endearing lovely bunch, each with their own story, and their own quirky personalities, the common denominator being their deep, genuine, unconditional love for all animals.
For example Kamlesh, the assistant vet, was told to euthanize a 3 week old puppy that had been badly mauled by dogs. He had the injection in his hand when the pup looked up at him, “my heart started beating really fast and my hands started shaking, and something happened inside me, I just couldn’t do it”. He brought her back from the brink death. After that she had three nearly fatal illnesses. Her will to live and Kamlesh’s love and perseverance have seen Froggie through. She is now a gorgeous lady (she even sits like one with her legs crossed!)
I’ve never looked forward to work as I do now. Firstly the commute is infinitely more interesting and pleasurable – noise, colour and chaos abound. One day I see an elephant in the street, another I see a drunk guy feeding strays. A red sari, yellow sari, golden bangle, silver anklet, hooting, swerving – action packed!
Secondly, the reception is incomparable – a Welcoming Party eagerly awaits my arrival each morning, around 10 tails wagging, and squeals of delight.
And thirdly, the work, I can’t wait to get started because I’ll hopefully be a part of making a life even a little better.
In my two short months with DAR, I have seen some pretty horrific, some pretty amazing, and some pretty unbelievable things.
I’ve watched heartbreakingly as two of our dogs have lost the battle to Canine Distemper, a life threating neural virus (something vaccinate stray puppies against), I’ve seen at least five dogs being put down, I’ve seen maggot infested wounds that would put you off food for days.
I’ve also seen a dog whose back legs were paralyzed, and who had clearly lost the will to live, not only get the spark back in his eyes, but unbelievably starting walking again (at meal times, sometimes jogging!).
I’ve also met some angelic human beings in the form of volunteers, donors, and guardian angels who feed the strays with no expectation of recognition or reward. I think that each day I work with them, I will learn compassion and generosity, and start to embody the change that I wish to see in the world.