The Rollercoaster of Emotions at IAR

Volunteering for International Animal Rescue has taken me on a journey flooded with a rollercoaster of emotions; one morning we are making plans to release animals back into the wild and the next moment is filled with sadness for another sick animal that has to be euthanized. Over the last few weeks I have experienced such joy working with these animals and hope that I can give to them as much as I get from working with them. Recently, a puppy that I have been absolutely in love with had to be euthanized and I was beside myself with sorrow. I had already made plans to bring my furry buddy back to the U.S. if it couldn’t get adopted by a loving Indian family. I always tend to go for the underdogs (pun intended) and this little fellow was an uber underdog from the moment he came in: cowering in the corner and growling at anyone who tried to take him out. I have never been scared of a puppy before, but he was the first to intimidate me as well as others. There were only two volunteers (Kevin from the UK and I) who could take him out of his enclosure and were only able to do so after about a week of petting and talking to him every day. He was starting to make great progress and others were now able to hold him as well. Then, one day, while I was there in the afternoon, he had diarrhea in his cage with some blood in it. Unfortunately this is virtually a death sentence for a 3rd world pup. Parvo spreads like wildfire and devastates whole litters of pups in the rescue center. Not to mention, 3rd world Veterinary medicine is a lot different from first world vet medicine and the same luxuries provided to 1st world creatures simply cannot be afforded to these animals. This is the reality of things but it is still hard. So when my little buddy was suspected of Parvo, it wasn’t good. One of the kennel boys asked me to “take him to the back to the vet” and I assumed it was so they could examine him. So when I asked him why, he replied that my little friend was going to be euthanized and I was besides my self, trying to hold back my tears. I knew this was bad. Having the perspective of working in many veterinary clinics in the U.S., I knew this pup had a really good chance of survival because he was still very active and was even showing progress by eating more. But it is just different here; it’s as simple as that. I asked the vet to let me bring the dog back to my place where I would treat him but because Parvo is extremely easy to transmit to other dogs, I would be putting every puppy I worked with at the center at risk. So, I took a deep breath, said my goodbyes and kissed his little wet nose. It just kills me that I know he would have had a chance at home in the U.S. and I could do nothing for him here. The sad reality of things is that this happens every day and that is why everyone should spay and neuter their animals. Whether in the 3rd world or in the 1st world, it’s a responsibility we all have to ensure no animal has to live a life being afraid and then die unnecessarily when it never should have been born. As pessimistic as it seems I am being right now, I’d like to say I do believe Kevin and I made a difference for this little guy because when I said goodbye that day, he was sitting calm and mellow in his cage; he wasn’t the frightened little guy he was a few weeks ago when he first arrived at IAR. I truly believe even though he was scared when he came into this world, he was at peace when he left it.

 So with the lows there are of course many highs that come with being at IAR, Goa. For example, the same day my little friend was taken from this earth, I went along for some exciting releases of animals back into the wild. First there was “Sandy”. He was this mangy Indian street doggie, reddish tan and a little rough around the edges. He was captured, neutered, treated for mange and then released. We all crammed into one of the IAR rescue vans with Sandy in a cage in the back and headed off to some little town outside of Anjuna, dodging potholes, other crazy Indian drivers, the ever so “holy” cows and the folks on “motorbikes” and bicycles carrying so much stuff that I swear they should compete in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most crap one person can fit onto a bicycle. Anyways, so we zipped down by the river to this nice little spot where a bunch of elderly Indian dudes were hanging out and chatting it up. Mick (a fellow from the rescue center) opened the back of the van, unlatched the cage and off he went; Sandy was finally free! It was such a wonderful thing to see. The locals were happy to see him too and as fast as the latch was opened, Sandy disappeared down some little alley between dingy cement houses and coconut palms. Oh, I also forgot to mention the two additional passengers that were accompanying Sandy, myself and the other IAR folks that went along for his release; there was also a 4ft crocodile and a monitor lizard housed in separate burlap sacs in the back seat! So after we released Sandy it was off to release the crocodile and then the monitor lizard. It was just such an indescribable feeling of pure satisfaction and joy to see these animals returned to their homes after their stay with IAR. This is truly what makes it all worth while!

On another day, we also went out to capture a female in the dog trap and brought her and all her puppies back to the center.  Mom was to be spayed (after the pups were weaned) and the healthy babies would stay with mom and eventually get adopted out when they were old enough.

On another outing recently, I got to meet some new friends of the primate type! John Hicks is the founder of IAR, Goa and has a beautiful home situated in the rainforest overlooking one of India’s many expansive rivers a few towns over from Anjuna. He has a primate rehabilitation center he runs from his home and we were invited over for the grand tour! One of my IAR buddies (Maria) and I hopped on my valiant stallion (aka: my 75+/-cc scooter) and whizzed off following the IAR van as it headed for John’s pad. I know I said it before, but I swear, driving in India is just as crazy as the videos one sees on YouTube. I once read an analogy on someone’s travel blog with respect to driving in India. The author wrote “driving in India is like playing a game of Frogger” and I can tell you that is exactly what it is like; chaos and confusion and horns and exhaust and all of the above. Anyways, sorry for that tangent, let me get back to the story at hand. So we arrived at John’s house and got to see all the cool monkeys he housed. One especially little cute fellow caught my eye; his name was Bradshaw and he is a Macaque who was rescued from the hands of some mean folks who were trying to sell him in the illegal pet trade. Unfortunately, they really didn’t care about his wellbeing whatsoever (as tends to be the norm in the illegal pet trades) and he was frequently attacked by the traders’ dogs. He had bite wounds on his back he was recovering from, but fortunately, they were almost completely healed. I got the honor of hanging out with this sweet little fellow for part of the afternoon and was ecstatic. But let me tell you that he was a little terror; all 1.5 feet of him! Since he was still a baby, he is completely dependant on his foster moms and trying to take care of him allows no time for anything but chasing him around. He is just like a little toddler but he can climb! I would chase him around and he would climb on the stone walls of the house, on the plants and even on me! He could also jump like a flea and one of the folks who was swimming at the time (Mick) got quite a surprise when he felt a crazy monkey bounce from the poolside onto his head!

Aside from Broadrick, there were also about 20 other monkeys at John’s facilities. Most of them were adults (or teenagers per say), but there was one other little female monkey who was only 3 months old and needed constant attention. Someone accidentally ran over her mom on the road and when they approached the female to see if she was ok, she had passed away, but this little female monkey was clinging desperately to her deceased mom. It is a tragic story, but fortunately she found her way to John’s rehab sanctuary where she will be cared for until she can be released (along with a whole troop of monkeys) back into the wild.


4 Responses to “The Rollercoaster of Emotions at IAR”

  1. Wow, thats too bad about your lil puppy doggy. Its good to hear all your stories. Keep ’em coming.

  2. Chelsea,
    I cannot tell you how overwhelmed I have become reading your tales. I hope that this adventure makes you the best Vet an animal can have. Tears flow when I watch rescues on Animal Planet but I am much more emotional knowing someone personal as I do you and knowing how you have cared for animals all your life, that you have to face these tragedies of life in India. My hope is that the animals that meet you some how will know that you give them a piece of you. That they will be reminded that one human loved them. Luv You, Thank you for sharing all this with me. PLease continue. I look forward to it. Carol Kay

  3. Chelsea,
    With all of the work and ‘fun’ you are having, it is amazing how much time you are able to spend documenting your experiences for us all to read. Keep it up, not only can we keep an update on how things are going for you, but you will cherish being able to look back over your trip with the journal you are creating. Thanks for the stories and yes, some difficult experiences you have had with those animals who naturally become your best buddy. Take Care – JK.

  4. Hello my hot friend!
    I miss you so much but I’m so glad to see that you are doing what you wanted and more. I’m sure that you have learned alot and have been a blessing to almost everyone you have met there.
    Enjoy, learn lots, meet many friends so we can go back together and have even more fun. and please, please do NOT bring too many animals back with you.. please!
    Love you,

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