Brigitte Duong

In May of last year, I boarded a plane heading straight for India with the intention of completing my Yoga Teacher Training Course and when I completed my course, I was volunteering at Humane Animal Society (HAS) via a Workaway program in Coimbatore, India.

I shared the apartment with two other volunteers. Our conversations always start with our lives back home and end up segueing into our lives at the animal shelter. Who our favourite dog is, who needs bathing, whether any other volunteers are expected today, the list goes on.

Puppies and kittens naturally require a bit of extra love, which as a volunteer in an animal shelter I had absolutely no problem with. One of my favourite puppies to this day is a little bugger by the name of Tinku. He came in with almost no fur and a heart full of fear. As the days passed and I got to know him, his fear began to diminish and as the weeks went past and the treatment for his skin condition continued, his fur grew back.

I knew Tinku for a total of two weeks and I can honestly say that the puppy that I met was a completely different puppy to the one I said goodbye to. It’s an indescribable feeling to know that you are an active part of such a positive transformation and it’s one that I wish everyone can experience at least once in their life.

After a few weeks in the shelter you begin to learn which dogs like baths and which dogs don’t. Which dogs need special treatment and what not. Whilst this isn’t my favourite task of the day, volunteering is just like any other job. Some things you like, some things you don’t. But at the end of the day, what makes me happy is seeing dogs get better and ultimately, get adopted… and if that means me bathing a dog every few days or so then so be it!

One of my favourite things to do back home is to take my dog to the dog park so that she can run around and get to know other dogs. So naturally, my favourite task at HAS is to spend time with the dogs. It’s as simple as playing fetch, cuddling them and well, just being with them really. It sounds trivial but dogs are social animals by nature and the look the dogs give you when you come up to them is literally priceless.

When I’m too lazy to walk the 3kms home I hitch a ride from one of the other girls but generally I walk. Somewhere along the commute to work, we befriended a local family. The hospitality that I was met with in India was absolutely incredible.

I volunteered at HAS for a total of three weeks and if it were not for my plane ticket home, I would have happily stayed there for longer.