My tenth day at Animal Aid wasn't easy.
For whatever reason, questions filled my mind as I rode in the rickshaw to the hospital this morning. I wondered: am I really helping Animal Aid? Is Animal Aid really helping the animals? Is the situation too dire, the animals too many, and the resources too minimal? Are we doing more harm than good?
Interestingly, Melanie, the other volunteer, was having similar doubts. She has no clinical experience, simply a love for animals and she was expecting to volunteer at the hospital for a month, like me. She expressed to me that she might not be able to continue coming for the full time. She has rashes from the animals and doesn't feel like she is really needed.
I helped in "A" kennel again with feeding and treatments. After all wounds were dressed, the doctor and assistant went into surgery to neuter three dogs, and Melanie and I talked with Erika. Melanie expressed her concerns and Erika explained to her that the animals greatly benefit from any sort of positive human interaction. They crave love and attention and the staff can't give them all that they need. I think it made Melanie feel somewhat better.
I went down to the paralyzed ward and sat with a few of the dogs there, still struggling with how I felt about the situation. I looked at the dogs, some seemed healthy and happy while others looked riddled with mange and uncomfortable. It is hard for me, having only been there ten days, to know if an animal is declining or if it is simply status quo. Compared to the dogs at home, most of them look like shit. Erika came and joined me and brought my attention to Mama, a paralyzed, skinny, lethargic animal. She spoke in Hindi to the woman who looks after these animals. Apparently, Mama hasn't been eating. Here eyes looked dull and she had very little energy, her back legs trembling. Erika asked me what I thought was wrong. I thought to myself, "God, what ISN'T wrong with this animal." I told her she looked painful, but it could be her abdomen, her legs, her back, who knows. There are zero diagnostic tools here. No x-ray, no ultrasound, no lab. Diagnosing these animals is a shot in the dark and based somewhat on limited medical history but mostly on intuition. This animal was in really rough shape. I told Erika I wanted to give her pain meds; we needed to give her something. We got the appropriate dose and I tried to push the pill down her throat, nearly losing a finger in the process. Claire was there at this point and she decided we should try some fluid therapy. She didn't think Mama had much of a chance. we rigged the fluids up, the liter hanging from a wire at the top of the tent. With the animal laying in the sand and dirt I placed the catheter in her front leg, aiming for where the vein should be. She was thin and dehydrated and her veins were terrible. I saw the flash of blood and new I was in. Phew. And there Claire and I sat, for nearly an hour, holding the animal in place and swatting flies away from her body. It was late in the afternoon at this point and Sabin, our rickshaw driver had arrived. I had to leave.
On the way home I tried to sort out my feelings. Part of me felt as though Mama's condition was so poor it should have been noticed much earlier. With 150 dogs, are they spreading themselves too thin? Part of me felt like we should have euthanized her. I felt frustrated with myself for not knowing what to do to help her.
When I got home I checked out Animal Aid on Facebook. The before and after photos somewhat validated for me that what are doing is good. Even if not all of the animals survive, it is worth it for the ones that do. For the ones that don't, at least they have had a chance that they otherwise wouldn't have had.
Check it out - That's me with Tarzan and Octopus.