International Animal Rescue: the whole reason I am here


It has been a few days now since I arrived in Goa and I am settling into the whole routine of volunteering at International Animal Rescue and then enjoying the great food, warm weather and soaking in the rays of the beautiful beaches. In my next blog post I will include a bunch of pictures from the IAR center but until then, I’m gonna go get some dinner and enjoy the evening. Hope the U.S. is treating everyone well and I will be doing the crazy Nor Cal snow dance for you guys tonight! Hopefully when I return, the gargantuan snow pack I ordered will have arrived! 🙂


Well, it was exactly one week ago that I arrived in Anjuna, Goa.  My skin is now a few shades darker from my beach escapades (and don’t worrie Thane and Kaden, I am safe wearing a bikini; thank you for your concern) and I am sporting the tell-tale signs of contact with animals: flea bites!  The tan part I am quite satisfied with but I could do without the flea bites.  Well… I guess it comes with the territory working with International Animal Rescue (IAR) so in reality, it’s really not so bad.


Before arriving at IAR I had this mental image of my task at hand.  I was going to be the MacGyver of veterinary technicians; I’d sport a bright snazzy sweatband and my spiffy IAR shirt (ok… scratch the sweatband).  I’d dash to and fro throughout the state of Goa, rescuing animals and using whatever means necessary to help any living creature I came across.  Bird, reptile or mammal, everything would be just peachy.  So, on the first day when I arrived I was given the grand tour and was put work right away.  Ok, so I am not exactly the MacGyver-esque gal I was hoping to be, but I truly believe I am here making a difference for the animals.


IAR, Goa is situated about 2.5 miles outside of the town of Anjuna, Goa.  Every day I putt down the country roads on my scooter, driving on the left side of the road, avoiding cattle, cars, potholes and people alike, making my way to IAR’s Rescue and Veterinary center.  Eventually, I venture down a rutted dirt road and can hear the familiar howls and barks from the 90+ dogs that are patients at the center.  With the massive numbers of various animals coming to and fro the center, it is quite impressive how well organized everything is.  There are over 20 paid staff members at the center.  There are several staff members in the reception area admitting animals and there is always at least one veterinarian on hand, if not 3 or 4 seeing patients, doing surgeries and making the daily rounds for the 100+animals that temporarily call International Animal Rescue, Goa their home.  There are also over ten kennel staff who busily race to and fro, cleaning kennels, going out on rescue calls and basically doing whatever is necessary to keep things in order.  And finally, there are the volunteers:  People who have come from all over the world to do their part to try and make a difference in the lives of these animals.  In the ten years that the Goan IAR center has been open, I am only the third volunteer from the United States (Erin and Amber: let’s increase this number ladies!).


Because of the massive numbers of needy animals that come into the center, volunteers first and foremost serve to give IAR’s patients a better quality of life.  Every day, each dog gets a walk.  Given that there are always over 90 Indian street dogs in house at the center at all times, this is quite impressive.  The volunteers also serve as an extra pair of eyes for the veterinarians.  As you can imagine, looking after one-hundred animals, most of which are injured, ALL of which require attention beyond the norm is no easy feat and an extra pair or eyes can quickly catch a re-opened incision, a dog who needs his kennel cleaned or simply a water bowl that needs to be re-filled..  Many of the dogs at the center (actually, I’d estimate 60% of the dogs) are infected with mange, a very uncomfortable skin condition caused by microscopic mites which live just under the skin.  Mange is very uncomfortable for the host and results in hair loss and severe itching.  Some dogs merely have light hair loss whilst others are almost completely bald.  Often times, a shake in morning sun during a walk far too often reveals the many airborne skin flakes which have separated from the poor Indian street dog’s body; the dog looks as though he is shaking off after rolling in the dirt!  Fortunately, mange can be treated with antibiotics.  For those veterinary nerds out there, these dogs are plagued with both Sacopties Mange and/or Demodex mange.  No fun!


Besides for the mange, Distemper, Kennel cough, Parvo virus and Leptosporosis (which can be transmitted to humans) all plague dogs at the center, especially the puppy ward.  There are so SO many puppies that come into the center on a regular basis (in fact we just got 5 new ones in today).  That is why spaying and neutering are such an important thing to do for the street dogs before they are released or adopted.  Being a stray pup in any part of the world is tough and being one in India is no exception.  Because of the large numbers of pups that arrive at the center, combined with limited funds, sick puppies that cannot recover on their own are euthanized.  Puppies that are too young to eat on their own who do not have a mother are also euthanized.  In this big cruel world, this is a sad reality in Goa.  In addition, the puppies that do not get adopted out are also euthanized.  Believe me; it is not that the center doesn’t care for its animals.  International Animal Rescue cares for it’s patients more than anything, it is just that in reality, a puppy who comes to the center and has a happy life for a short time will live a better quality life than one who is set free in the big harsh state of Goa, where wild dogs roam in packs, are extremely territorial and will severely hurt, if not kill intruders who venture into their territory.  On a positive note, however, there are a significant number of puppies that get adopted by loving locals.  In once such case, there was a blind female who escaped the jaws of death by a wonderful lady who could care for this special needs dog.  The pup arrived at the center early last week with her soft brown, tan and black medium length fur, a protruding round puppy belly and beautiful round almond colored eyes.  We all sympathized for her.  Her fate was practically sealed; she was on a straight path to doggie heaven.  Blind dogs do not survive in the wild in India, more or less anywhere.  In the wild, Mother Nature would have surely wrapped its indifferent, yet cruel hands around the pup which could not fend for itself.  We all took the time to hold and play with this special blind pup and tried to give it the best quality of life possible for its short time on this earth.  But in the backs of our minds we knew it was only a matter of a day or two before she would be taken from this earth, by a caring veterinarian, in the most humane way possible.  I am so glad she found a home but let me tell you, our work is cut out for us at the center.  There are many others like her that also need homes.


Besides for the pups at the center, there is an excess of attention starved and injured cats and kittens that are in need of attention.  There are just soooooo many animals and it is hard to spend time with them all every day.  Fortunately, many animals do get love and attention, but it is definitely an infinite task which there is no end.  Other than cats, the center gets the occasional exotic animal as well as an abundance of cows (surprise surprise…after all, it is India, right?!).  For example, currently, we have one 4ft crocodile, a Pacific reef egret, 2 Russell vipers and a monitor.  Furthermore, yesterday (which I unfortunately missed the rescue of; dough!) the boys at the center rescued a cow which fell down a well.  Every day, something new is coming in: dogs with knife lacerations from the hands of cruel humans, battle wounds from the harsh life as an Indian street dog, animals hit by cars.  You name it, we’ve got it! 

So as you can see, this volunteer business is keeping me quite busy.  …and if the pics and stories have tugged at your heart a wee bit, please consider donating to International Animal Rescue on my fundraising page:

Thanks and have a fantastic day!                         


3 Responses to “International Animal Rescue: the whole reason I am here”

  1. Good to hear from you Chels, have fun and stay safe

  2. you’re my hero

  3. Chelsea, Definately looks like you are keeping busy, both with the number of animals who need assistance, but also with your ability to take in the beaches. A once in a lifetime opportunity which I’m sure you will have a positive impact both for the animals, but also those you are working with. Do you have the “Fact of the Day” still going for your new coworkers? 🙂 Take Care. Jeff.

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