Nepal was a shock, even for someone who has been involved in dog rescue for decades
By Meredith Andrew
I called him “Jem”. He was hound mixed with God knows what. He was skin and bones and his eyes had lost all their light. My friend, Ritu Thapa, had discovered him on a street corner on the way to our destination that morning, the Animal Nepal shelter in Kathmandu. Ritu lifted him into the back of our cab, and as unwilling as he was, he was much too weak to escape.
I had gone to Kathmandu to deliver a big load of donated supplies collected from dozens of private persons across the city, as well as a large bundle of goods that was donated to us by PetSmart Canada. The supplies were headed to Ritu and Julia Krepska of Don’t Panic Nepali Dogs, a rescue run by the two of them in Nepal, and by Daniela Drees in Germany. They save and care for street dogs, often the saddest of the sad, and find homes for them, sometimes in Nepal, usually overseas. Three of these dogs—blind Pixie, three-legged Pepper and the old, gentle Momma—were returning with me to Toronto on a long, long flight via Qatar.
Animal Nepal was a shock, even to someone like me who has been involved in dog rescue for decades. To say that the facilities are basic is to miss the utter poverty of the place. It is run by both local and foreign volunteers with volunteer vets visiting as often as possible. The dogs lie on old grain sacks. Their beds are in truck tires. Dogs with wounds or recent surgeries have buckets on their heads instead of the Elizabethan collars we use here, and they would look hilarious if they didn’t look so pathetic.
Jem was taken from us by friendly hands and put into a rusty metal crate to protect him from the other dogs and to protect them from any illness he might be bringing with him. One of the major killers there is ehrlichiosis, a highly infectious, and often lethal, tick-borne disease. As well, many of the dogs were afflicted with contagious skin diseases like mange and scabies. Some barely had hair left on their bodies. The vets treat the dogs and administer antibiotics and rabies vaccines, stitch up wounds and mend broken bones. Tragically, when the dogs are well again, the only place for them is back on the street. This is where they face one of the greatest dangers of all: traffic. Dogs in the hundreds are injured or killed by cars. Puppies, meanwhile, rarely make it to adulthood. They are usually carried off by parvovirus and although the pups at AN were kept in a separate area, all of the ones I saw looked sick and unlikely to survive.
We visited with lucky Pixie and Pepper who were both awaiting their flights home at the shelter, as well as two other Don’t Panic dogs who were still hoping for someone to adopt them. Mari and Simpu were two of thirteen dogs that Ritu had rescued months before from a village badly damaged in an earthquake. It was a huge ongoing project to find homes for all of these sweet girls, and, at times, Ritu despaired.
I tried to make the rounds of all the dogs—there were about thirty, plus the puppies—and give them at least a moment’s attention, if not a pat, then a few friendly words. Looking back now, I realize I was numbed by all the suffering. We passed on some of our donated meds and shampoo, a few blankets, and then it was time to go. We still had to visit the rest of the “earthquake girls” at a boarding facility on the other side of the city.
Our lovely boy, Jem, didn’t make it. He wouldn’t eat or drink and died within a few days.
Pixie, Pepper and Momma are now in loving homes in Toronto as are Mari and Simpu, who still live together and answer to Scout and Lila.
There are 40,000 dogs currently living in streets of Kathmandu, Nepal today. For more information about the rescue and how you can do your part to help visit: Don’t Panic Napali Dogs, we’ll find you a home. Special thanks to PetSmart Canada for their generous donation to this cause.