So I suppose I should offer some sort of explanation as to what exactly I am doing out in Sri Lanka. As much as I would like to say it’s lying on the beach, or cuddling puppies, it most definitely is not. Infact in the month and a half I have been here, I have only managed to spend 1 day on the beach with my Kindle and no distractions (I did get awful sun burn so….lesson learnt!)
My job out here is to manage a sanctuary for stray dogs, street dogs and sick or injured pet dogs that are abandoned. The sanctuary is a UK registered charity called Animal SOS Sri Lanka (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Animal-SOS-Sri-Lanka/165576613502654?fref=ts). It is a small charity that was founded in 2007 by a woman named Kim Cooling. Our aim is to reduce the suffering of strays and street dogs, and to help prevent future strays by offering outreach programmes in the local villages where we sterilise pet dogs that are brought to us by their owners. Many of the stray dogs we deal with are from litters from pet dogs that get dumped. By sterilising pet dogs we should, eventually, see a reduction in the number of strays on the streets of Sri Lanka. Thats the aim, anyway.
We also provide a safe environment for the dogs we care for. We currently have about 500 dogs (from weeny little puppies to big old boys) and about 30 cats. The sanctuary is split into 2 sites. The main site is 3 acres and is home to the majority of the dogs. These ones are all healthy, happy and free roaming. They still receive veterinary care if required (as even healthy dogs get ill) but in general they are all A-OK. The second site is 1 acre and is home to all the puppies, disabled dogs, sick or injured dogs, any new arrivals, and some of the older dogs that are better out of the main pack, and are getting some peace and quiet in their twilight years.
Since I arrived in March I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many animals have been brought to us. Almost every other day we either have a dog brought to us, a member of staff finds a dog needing help, or a litter of puppies or kittens is dumped outside. I personally have only rescued 2 dogs so far. The first was a poor looking character that myself and Kim found on our way back from the supermarket. We had to chase him, and finally managed to get a lead on him on a set of train tracks. He was brought to the sanctuary and found to be suffering from sarcoptic mange, Babesia (a very common, but lethal, tick born disease) and general malnutrition. He was named Campbell and was started on treatment straight away. Thankfully he made it through the night and has gone from strength to strength ever since. He is now looking much healthier, and is much happier than he was. He now wags his tail instead of cowering away and looks for human attention instead of avoiding it.
Campbell when he first arrived.
The second dog was a girl we named Gloria. I found her just last week while we were out on our outreach programme. She was sitting at the side of the road, half bald and heaving for breath. It started raining and she disappeared up a driveway and so I asked one of our local staff to go find out if she was a pet or not, and if so could we take her in for treatment. It turns out she was a pet dog and the owners wanted her back once she was healthy. I agreed, only because I knew it would take some months to get her healthy again and there is every chance the owners would lose interest by then.
Once we got her back to the sanctuary, she was immediately blood tested and was positive for Babesia. One of the late stage symptoms of the disease is heavy breathing, as it causes anaemia which in turn results in poor oxygenation of the blood resulting in the heaving for breath. The following day it was decided she would receive a blood transfusion. She was too late in the development of the disease to have any hope of a good and quick reaction to the medication and this was her final hope. A donation of blood was taken from a dog named Vincent (who previously has saved 4 other lives through blood donations) and I sat with Gloria while she received the transfusion. Once it was complete, I stepped out of the clinic for just a few moments, and when I returned I found the vet pumping her chest, trying to revive her. Sadly she had been too sick when we found her, and her body gave up. The transfusion was too late. The only good that came of this is that she didn’t die alone on the street, being neglected by her owners who let her get so sick she was offered help only 1 day from death. She was comfortable, warm, fed and loved when she passed.
Thankfully there have been more happy endings than sad since I have been here, but unfortunately every story has to start sad for the dogs to end up here, we are just trying our hardest to make all the endings happy.