The Endless Bad Luck of “The Unlucky Thirteen”: Nepali Street Dogs Suffer from an Earthquake, Fear and Indifference
By Meredith Andrew
One of “the unlucky thirteen” tries to keep warm.
Sindhupalchowk, an area in Nepal near the border with China, is home to countless dogs. Some are pets, but most are street-dogs — lowly but lucky survivors — in a place where the next meal depends either on a kind-hearted person, or, more often, on what scraps are in the trash. This is the story of thirteen very unlucky street-dogs that need our help.
The 2015 earthquake devastated the region.
In the spring of 2015, Nepal was hit by a terrible earthquake, the worst in almost 100 years. Close to 9,000 people were killed, towns and villages were devastated, and an avalanche in the Himalayas resulted in the death of 17 Everest climbers, with another sixty injured. All of this was headline news. What was not, was the impact of the earthquake on animals, especially the animals that depend on humans to feed and care for them. The cows, donkeys, cats… and the dogs. When the earth shook in Sindhupalchowk, and the buildings fell, many of the local dogs died. When the people were evacuated, all that survived were left behind.
Ritu with the dogs in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Fast forward to 2016, and to a Nepali woman named Ritu Thapa. Ritu was working in the area after the earthquake. She has long been involved with animal welfare and has taken in many street-dogs over the years, devoting herself to finding them loving homes.
“Those dogs,” Ritu remembers, “had come down to [the village of] Jhirpu after the earthquake in search of food and they stayed near our office. No one was there… it was badly damaged. Then, when reconstruction began, and people started living there again, the dogs began to eat the food waste. Slowly, the population of dogs doubled.”
One of the thirteen awaits her forever home.
Ritu saw these dogs everywhere, every day, and her heart was broken. There were the skeletal females with litters of sickly pups, many of which would soon die of parvo or distemper. There were the dogs terribly ravaged by mange and ehrlichiosis, a pathogen carried by the ticks that infested the dogs by the hundreds. The dogs competed for every discarded of leaf of cabbage, every grain of mouldy rice.
Desperate to do something, Ritu organized a spay and neuter campaign. A vet donated his time and supporters helped with medical supplies. At the same time, she worked to get as many puppies as possible adopted. All of this effort helped enormously… up to a point. Unfortunately, even after the campaign, there were still more homeless undernourished dogs, including both the original survivors and new generations of young pups that had known no other life than the streets. Still, it was something.