Volunteering at HAS in February 2019

I had already been travelling in India for 6 months when I came to volunteer at HAS. I am from the UK where stray dogs are not a problem, so it was a complete shock to see how so many animals live here! As a tourist (and not a vet!) I was never really sure of what I could do to help the dogs that i see on the street. So when I came across HAS on the workaday website it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get involved with a good cause, whilst learning more about how best to deal with this issue in India! As someone who hasn’t ever had much contact with dogs (my family are cat lovers!) it was initially a bit daunting at the shelter. Meeting and trying to remember all the animals was hard work, but over the first few days I became more confident and started to bond with them, and to my relief, they seemed to enjoy my company too!! Most have been rescued from the street for one reason or another (including victims of road traffic accidents, malnourishment, severe skin conditions, and abandonment) and it can be quite distressing to see these sick and suffering animals. I took some comfort in knowing that they are well looked after at HAS, as the staff make sure that all animals are comfortable, fed, watered and given the treatment they need.

Perhaps the most essential part of the volunteer’s job is to regularly interact with the animals, who are often just as affected mentally as they are physically by their condition. Coming to a strange place with people they don’t know can be a shocking and scary experience so it is important to gain the dog’s trust, acting friendly and compassionately to help put them at ease! Often the regular staff are so busy doing the necessary day to day chores that they just do not have the time to sit and play with the dogs,give them baths, cuddles, or take them for walks. These simple tasks can have a huge difference in making the animals feel happy and loved, as well as giving them the exercise and treatment they need to recover quickly. I have such fond memories of my time supervising the dogs and puppies as they let off steam in the play area, and it was always great to see their personalities flourish as they socialise with the humans and other animals! Of course, I was rewarded with lots of cuddles, which made all the hard work pay off!!

During my time at the shelter I witnessed huge improvements in several of the sick dogs, some of which will stick in my mind forever. One was a young female named Millie, who arrived at the shelter painfully skinny and with no fur on her body. I remember while giving her first bathing treatment she looked so sad and lost, with her thin hairless body I felt really sorry for her! Just a few weeks later however, the effects of her skin treatment were incredible, now with an almost full body of healthy fur she looked so beautiful! Even more amazing was the transformation in her personality... The dog that had been so shy, scared and desperate to escape was now eating well, running around, and visibly enjoying living and socialising at the shelter. It was lovely to see her smiling face and wagging tail running over and licking my face in excitement when I greeted her... Just one of many moments that made my job feel so much more rewarding!

During my last days with HAS I was lucky enough to get invited to a vegan pot luck event where I met many other animal lovers, ate delicious food, and really felt a part of a caring community that is committed to helping animals in India! The presence of HAS both online and in the community is slowly growing, which shows how many people do care, and that with a little more knowledge and awareness we can move towards eliminating the suffering of these animals! All members of the team are constantly playing their part by coordinating rescues, donating, fostering, and generally raising awareness of the truly amazing work done here! I would like to personally thank Mini and the other founders without who’s passion for animal welfare none of this would be possible, and Kate who was my friend, mentor and an inspiration to me in the way she dealt with the animals! I am grateful to all the staff and volunteers at the shelter... I learned a lot there, and now have more confidence for when I encounter sick or injured stray dogs in future! Everybody involved in the HAS community should be proud; you are making a great difference in the lives of animals who deserve a better chance! It was a pleasure to be a part of it, and I hope to join you again soon!