“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.”– Corey Ford
What can you learn from spending time with animals?
Admittedly, I’m not an expert on animal welfare. I’ve studied and worked in the fields of humanitarianism, international development and now social entrepreneurship.
However, there’s always room to learn and grow, and that’s what I ventured to do with regards to the field of helping out animals.
Being in Goa, India, I recently volunteered for a day at the International Animal Rescue in the quiet town of Assagao.
Understanding the Work of the International Animal Rescue
The day started out with taking an auto-rickshaw (“tuk-tuk”) to Assagao, away from the hustle and bustle of the Goa beaches. There are more trees and wide open spaces in Assagao, as compared with the streets of Anjuna and Baga which are filled with restaurants, guest houses and markets. The auto-rickshaw passed by a sign which pointed to the International Animal Rescure and it chugged up a hill to the main center.
Outside the center were dogs tied on leashes, as they were being prepared to be walked. I entered the main gate and saw several dogs lying about, resting and dozing around the center’s walkways. At the reception, I was greeted by one of the staff and I explained that I was there to volunteer for the day. I wanted to walk some dogs, play with puppies but also get to know more about the work of International Animal Rescue, also known as Animal Tracks. I assured them that I had recently received rabies immunization, which is mandatory for those of you who want to volunteer for an animal welfare organization.
I was provided with an orientation, and I explored the center. I saw numerous breeds of dogs. Many of them had been injured, and had recently undergone an operation. Some had been burned, been in a dog fight, abused, or been hit by a motor vehicle. Other dogs had recently given birth and there were a number of small and very cute puppies around. Many of the dogs were stray dogs that had been taken in by volunteers and staff. Others were brought to the center by the pet owners in order to get quality vet care. I also saw a number of cats, two pigs, a wounded eagle, a pea cock as well as cattle.
Volunteering By Playing with Puppies & Walking Dogs
I started off playing with a number of the puppies – spending time with them to stimulate them and entertain them. Some were very weak and seemed to be very sickly and those ones weren’t up for play.
Later on, P and I walked some dogs. Some of the dogs had recently been operated on, and some were quite socially awkward – some were very shy, others were rather aggressive. It seemed that they had felt some trauma in their past, perhaps from the accident, injury or abuse they had experienced. It reminded me of the experiences of various dogs and dog owners on the TV show, the Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.
Lessons Learned from Volunteering with Animals in Goa, India
Here are 3 lessons that I learned from the day, which I want to share with you:
1) Volunteer & Get Involved
Try out volunteering with a local or international charity or other NGO. Give some of your time to causes that you support.
In this case, I had been recently watching the TV channel, Animal Planet, and the TV show, the Dog Whisperer, with P before we travelled to India. I was keen to find out more about animal issues and I had discovered that the International Animal Rescue had an office in Goa, where we were travelling. We contacted them before our trip and set aside time to volunteer on a specific day.
To make your volunteer experience even more fun, go volunteering with one of your closest friends. It can make it a memorable and inspirational experience for both of you.
2) Be Open to Learn About Other Fields
I didn’t know much about the issues involved with animals. I also didn’t know what kinds of work goes on at animal shelters and animal rescue centers. Now, I’ve got a fair idea of what goes on. Not only that, I even have an emotional connection to the issue because I’ve actually done something about it.
I’d like to encourage you to also try out and explore other social issues that you aren’t usually familiar with. I learnt alot throughout my time with the International Animal Rescue.
3) Recognize What You Can Do
I don’t have a background in animal welfare or vetinary care. Nevertheless, I know that I do have the passion and the commitment to help.
I knew that I could at least spend time with the animals, and that’s why I first contacted the International Animal Rescue to find out what I could offer. They suggested that I could play with the puppies and walk some of the dogs. In that way, it would help in their development and recovery. That’s what I could offer on that day.
I also became aware of what I cannot do. It was very sad and frustrating to see the abuse, accidents and injuries that many of the animals had gone through. I recognized that I could not totally change the situation for many of these animals and animals that come into the center in the future. Nonetheless, I know that I can at least spread the word and share the experience with you all – and perhaps in that way, we can improve the condition of animals worldwide.
A Greater Appreciation of Animals
Overall, I enjoyed the day. I learned alot from hanging out with the dogs, playing with puppies and being inspired from the work of the International Animal Rescue. The team there do lots of vetinary care and rehabilitation for a number of animals of Goa, India.