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.
These dogs have survived an array of tragedies, but sadly they still need your help.
Several months later, after Ritu had returned to her home in far-away Kathmandu, she received a call. Reconstruction had progressed to the point in Jhirpu that many more villagers had been able to move back into their houses. And they were not happy.
“The community people were making a big issue, saying the dogs are killing their goats and chickens. They were nervous that they might start attacking humans. And they said that if they saw any of them, they would kill them.”
Curled up and waiting …
Horrified, Ritu contacted Pramada Rana, from the organization Animal Nepal, and they arranged to send some community educators to teach the villagers how to live with the village dogs. A vet went as well and seventeen more dogs were sterilized. For a while, things seemed to settle down. It looked like the problem was solved and everyone had learned to live and let live.
Now, fast forward to late 2017. Out of the blue, Ritu received another call about renewed complaints from the villagers. Only this time, they had given Ritu an ultimatum: either remove the remaining dogs from the village within two days or the villagers would kill them “with knives and stones.” No negotiation. No discussion. Two days.
Awaiting yet another rescue, their journey has been one of great difficulty.
Ritu knew each and every one of these dogs. They were kind and friendly animals, almost all but one of them female, and all but one—it turned out— sterilized. She had fed them, scratched their ears, watched their tails wag in greeting. What could she do but rescue them?
Together in a temporary shelter, the thirteen hope that their luck will finally change.
In the time since the earthquake, Ritu, along with Polish expatriate, Julia Krepska, and their German colleague, Daniela Drees, had established a dog rescue group in Kathmandu named Don’t Panic Nepali Dogs, We’ll Find You a Home. The “Don’t Panic” group now put out an urgent call for help. When no one responded, Ritu herself found a truck and a driver, and made the eight-hour journey north to Jhirpu. They rescued thirteen dogs—two others, including a pregnant female, ran off— and loaded them into the truck and turned around. After another eight hours back over terrible dirt roads, the dogs arrived at a temporary shelter, owned by a group called the SPCA.
Since that rescue mission, only one of the thirteen has been adopted; one of the older, original “earthquake dogs”, the single male who has been named Kashmir, and who will soon be heading to a home in the US. Another “original”, Nelly, is being flown out to Underdog Railroad Canada. And, happily, the last two village dogs that had eluded their rescuers by fleeing into the jungle have finally joined the others. Bringing the number of dogs desperate for homes back up to thirteen.
Some of the await their fate as their future is once again under treat.
There has been a massive effort by “Don’t Panic” to find homes for the “Unlucky Thirteen” dogs. The effort has only intensified since, unbelievably, the dogs’ safety is once again under threat. The SPCA shelter does not want to keep them until they find homes… they know that, because almost no one in Nepal adopts adult street-dogs, they will probably have to keep them forever. No, almost no one in Nepal adopts adult street dogs, especially black, anonymous females.
Awaiting YOUR compassion, one of the thirteen awaits her forever home.
This is where we come in. There is no “happily ever after” in Nepal for these thirteen dogs. If their luck doesn’t change, if they aren’t taken out of the country soon, they could end up back on the streets, and this time in a big city where they have no survival skills. Transporting them will be expensive. They need help. They need homes. They need love. They need to feel firm earth under their feet and never be in danger again.
Time is running out. Please open your hearts and your wallets and help us save these dogs.
Do your part to save “The Unlucky Thirteen” and donate today!
Or for more information, contact Don’t Panic Nepali Dogs
Since this article was published, Don’t Panic Nepali Dogs has been told that Oreo, the black and white dog pictured at top, is dead. The SPCA “shelter” where the dogs have been staying has now kicked all of them out. The SPCA claims that Oreo died of cold, but the temperature has not fallen below zero there and, as you can see, Oreo had a very thick coat.
The dogs have now been moved to private boarding facilities which are not affordable. What will happen next with these unlucky, unhappy dogs is anyone’s guess. Please help.