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Date confirmed for next Paws Press Play Gig

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We are thrilled to announce that the next Paws Press Play gig will be taking place on 6th of August 2016 at the Tyne Bar and, with some fabulous bands already confirmed, it promises to be an unforgettable night in Newcastle.

We will get back to you with more details when we have them.

WECare Founder, Janey, running the Edinburgh Half Marathon

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Westway vet, Janey Lowes, will be putting down her stethoscope and picking up her trainers when she attempts the Edinburgh Half Marathon in May. Training has already started and is not quite as easy as was anticipated, so sponsorship will definitely help in that regard!

She would love company on the run so if anyone wants to join then please do let us know!

Team WECare set to take part in Colour Obstacle Run

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Over 20 vets, nurses and receptionists from Westway Veterinary Group are set to take part in the Colour Obstacle Run at Newcastle Racecourse in May and are hoping to secure sponsors for their efforts.

The run is 5km long and consists of multiple ‘secret’ obstacles which must be conquered whilst having powder paint hurled over you! Quite a fun challenge we think!

Sponsorship forms are being distributed throughout the branches and donations can be made directly on the Just Giving page set up for the event.

Very generous donations from Centaur and Abbey Vets

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We were extremely fortunate to receive a very generous number of goodies from one of the UKs leading veterinary suppliers and a fellow North East veterinary practice a few weeks ago. Our package contained vital donations, such as bandaging materials, surgical gloves, urinary catheters, food and much more; all of which will be put to good use in Sri Lanka. We cannot thank the donors enough for their kindness.

A summary of our first full year working in Sri Lanka

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We would like to thank you all profusely for the support you have shown to us in our first full year working with the street dogs in Sri Lanka! What a year we have had and we would not have been able to do it without your support, in the good times and the bad! Thank you so much for your kind donations and also for your kind words at times when we really needed a boost- it can get quite challenging out here and to know that we have such amazing people behind the cause really keeps us going on the days when we are almost defeated.

We have seen some things that we never thought we would see and wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. They will never leave us.

BUT we have also seen extreme acts of kindness, love and compassion from the locals, in situations that are often alien to them but their true character always shines through. They have welcomed us with open arms and have really helped to cement our organisation within the communities.

We have seen dogs fight back from the brink and have been astounded by their resilience in the most challenging conditions imaginable. Maggot wounds, road traffic accidents, Distemper, Tick Fever, chronic skin disease- we have dealt with it all and hopefully provided these dogs with a more bearable future.

We have reached out to hundreds of local adults and children to educate them about responsible animal ownership and community dog care. The response to this has definitely been noticed, even though we feel like we are bashing our heads against a brick wall most of the time!!

We have developed relationships with hundreds of street dogs, who respond to their names, and greet you with a huge amount of affection every time you visit them. As well as carrying out their veterinary treatment, we take a lot of pride in the fact that we nurture and socialise these dogs. This is good for the animals but also creates a positive environment for the residents to live in. Malaka works extremely hard on this aspect and spends hours every day trying to make these often-abused dogs trust humans again.

On the veterinary side of things, we have treated thousands of dogs this year, neutering over 1000 and vaccinating almost 1500. We have had over 300 participants in our skin clinic and we have provided high-standard veterinary care to just under 200 animals. We are a small team, just starting out, and this year has been manic. However, as we are ever the optimists, we are looking to double all of these numbers in 2016!

We have been fortunate enough to receive the help of over 10 highly-skilled veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons when they have volunteered in their precious holiday time (trust me, it is extremely precious, when you are working 12 hour days in the hospital plus on-call through the night and often not sleeping for 96 hours at a time!). We were also lucky enough to have two veterinary nurses take unpaid leave to come and volunteer (for one month and six months), which is a huge sacrifice and something that was absolutely invaluable to the everyday running of the charity. We will be forever grateful, Amy and Becca (and please get back here soon as we are swamped without you!!).

We have a committee in the UK who work tirelessly behind the scenes, often trying to do a full-time job on top of their already manic full time jobs! The first annual charity ball was a huge success and that was down to Mandy- our fabulous UK-based veterinary surgeon, who seems to be able to find hours in the day to work in our busiest Westway hospital, organise all of the fundraising for the charity (gigs, balls- big events!), have 2 dogs, a horse and a long-suffering boyfriend (!). She is superwoman and we are so grateful for everything she has done this year.

The charity game is tough. Essentially, it is running a business to a very high standard but having no product to sell. Just asking for money and begging people to provide the skills they have worked so hard to gain, for free. Everyone who has supported us in any fashion this year can most definitely say that they have founded a charity, as there is no way we could’ve achieved any of this in our first year without caring, selfless, proactive people behind us.

And finally, a huge thank you to Westway Veterinary Group. When we approached our bosses with this crazy idea way back in 2014, they could not have been more supportive. As a group, we want to demonstrate our passion for helping animals and we are concerned that the profession is increasingly being seen in a bad light by the public, who sometimes believe that vets across the country overcharge or don’t care about their animals, only money.

We cannot stress how much we DO care (to the point of tears most weeks) and how much pride we take in providing a quality service at an affordable price. Most practices in the UK make no more than 40p from each consultation fee (usually charging around the £30 mark) despite the public perception that vets are ‘loaded’.
Our bosses at Westway are true believers in remembering the core reason that we became veterinary surgeons and are determined for us all not to become disillusioned by the business-side of things. That is why we strongly support local animal charities, such as Parrt and Brysons Animal Shelter. We also have our Westway Stray Fund, which provides veterinary care for stray animals in our region.

However, we felt that, as UK-trained veterinary surgeons and nurses, we are extremely lucky to have been able to acquire our skills and work to a high standard and we could/should be doing more to help in places around the world where people are not so lucky to be born with the world at their feet. We feel a sense of duty to share our knowledge and skills to improve the long-term outlook for animals, communities and the veterinary profession worldwide.

We all became involved in the profession because we care deeply for animals and their well-being. Everyday, we all place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to give 110% to every single patient- vets, nurses, receptionists, admin staff alike. We do this because WE CARE, and for absolutely no other reason.

Hence, we set up WECare. We will continue to care in the UK, Sri Lanka or wherever it may be for many years to come and we hope that you join us in that vain.

Thank you so very much and we wish you all an extremely happy and healthy 2016!!

– Janey

Amy’s Adventures Part 7

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Over the past couple of weeks we have had many new additions to the WECare household! We have taken in Jimmy, a lovely street dog who was involved in a road traffic accident. He came to us with a broken pelvis, and three fractures in both of his back legs! After surgery, he is much happier and absolutely loves home life (even if he does howl at 3am every morning for attention!). We have no idea how he can have lived as a street dog!
We have also taken in two tiny little puppies which we found at the side of the road, Holly and Bertie. They are just so adorable and it is amazing to see their personalities develop as they are getting more socialised with our other dogs and people! We will find new homes for them after they are old enough to be vaccinated and neutered by WECare (if you can pry them out of Janey’s arms anyway!). The same day that we collected the tiny pups, we passed a sorry little (slightly bigger!) puppy at the side of the road, with no hair, and who wouldn’t move an inch he was that uncomfortable. So we thought… when you have 10 dogs, what’s another?! We named the little guy Scamp, and brought him home to start his skin treatment, which consisted of twice-weekly baths and mange treatment. He absolutely hates the baths but he’ll thank us when he has a lovely coat of hair, I’m sure! Since he has been with us, we’ve learned he is such a friendly dog and has developed a real character! He loves to be by your side and cuddle up next to you while moaning and groaning and wriggling to get in as close as he possibly can- what a sweetie!
WECare were also called about a dog who had been attacked by a wild boar, and she came off so much worse! Belle is such a gentle and sweet dog, and is so happy despite her having such horrendous injuries! She had an open fracture in her front leg, which was totally snapped in half, and a complete dislocation of her knee in her back leg! Her back leg was way beyond repair, so had to be amputated by Janey. Her front leg is a work in progress but currently looks excellent so we are keeping our fingers crossed!
Our very latest addition is one of our beach puppies- Lily! We have known her since she was born so we are most definitely not strangers to her! She was hobbling around holding her back leg up on the beach, feeling very sorry for herself, so I went to check on her. She’s one of the friendliest dogs but she bit me when I touched her so we knew she was in a lot of pain, the poor soul! She is resting up now after having her leg pinned back together, and should hopefully be back with her sisters soon!

We have been so so busy the last couple of weeks- it’s all been a bit of a blur to me! My family came to visit me from England, to celebrate my Mam’s birthday in paradise! So we had some fun activities planned, such as snorkelling (though swimming at the speed of light away from water snakes was definitely not fun!!!). But the work never stopped! We caught a lovely street dog, George, to remove a mass that we have been monitoring over the last few months and we also treated his awful skin, which has deteriorated from near perfect condition in the space of a month! We’ve re-homed dogs which is a huge success for us, and has brought a lot of happiness to families, which is an absolute delight to see! We have spent days upon days doing dressings on dogs with broken legs who just love to chew their dressings off- the joys of street dogs! We have had calendars printed which are now on sale, and look amazing, as well as a whole new bunch of bags made to go on sale too! And finally this week, we had a lovely WECare team lunch… to say goodbye… as I’m now back in England!

My 6 months in Sri Lanka has come to an end, and I can’t quite find the words to sum up the experience! I couldn’t have possibly imagined what it was really going to be like before I moved out there and saw it for myself. The pictures you see don’t do it justice. They don’t show you how travelling 5 minutes down a road you can see 20 dogs with skin problems, some so skinny their hip bones are sticking out; puppies dodging traffic and trying to avoid the crazy busses, and the majority of the dogs hopping past are holding a legs up- it is a country of hop-a-long dogs. It’s just unbelievable. I thought I would be having a little bit of a holiday when I went out to live in paradise, but there has never been a day in England when have I woken up at 5am to see a dog, tried to catch it in the street with 30+ degrees of heat beating down on you and buses blaring their horns as they miss hitting you by less than a foot. Then continuing to work right the way through until 10pm, forgetting that lunch and dinner exist. I think going back to my 8-10 hour days in England will be more of a relaxing holiday for me!

I’m going to miss what has became normal life for me now. I’ll miss doing a bandage for a street dog, and accumulating an audience of 30 people while doing it. I’ll miss the crazy tuk-tuk rides with dogs on my knee, and people waving at us from the street, constantly smiling, and the children trying to talk to me to practice their English, then their giggling shy faces when I speak back to them in Sinhala. I’ll miss all of our dogs howling every time the bread van drives past playing its annoying tune, and Freddie our pet frog chirping from his hide-out spot as Janey and I do hours on end of laptop work from the sitting room. I’m going to miss all of the dogs in the village jumping up at me and running from their houses to see me as I walk along the street, and miss waving at their owners! I’ll miss the sunsets, the sea, the sun, and everything that comes along with Talalla and Sri Lanka.

I never say goodbye, just see you later. So I’ll see you later Sri Lanka, and thank you so much to WECare for having me to help and be a part of this amazing team for so long. It’s been my absolute pleasure. Thank you WECare supporters for everything you have allowed us to do, and everything we can continue to do now! Thank you for reading my adventures and giving me your continued support, always.


Transmissible Venereal Tumours (TVTs)

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TVT stands for transmissible venereal tumour and these are really common findings here in Sri Lanka. They are basically a cancer that is spread through sexual intercourse and, although curable in most cases, are very uncomfortable and unsightly. They can grow to incredible sizes and cause severe deformities in genatalia.
TVT’s are one of the major reasons that we neuter male dogs as well as female dogs. Government vets here focus only on neutering females, as that is what gives the quickest results with regards to reducing street dog numbers. However, it is not a long-term solution and male dogs need to be operated on too. Operating on the males not only stops their ability to reproduce but it also removes their sexual drive therefore stopping the spread of TVT’s.
A lot of owners bring their male dogs to our clinics for vaccinations but refuse to get them neutered (it makes them less ‘manly’)… until we show them the photos of TVT’s and then they can’t get them on the table quick enough!!
Dogs with TVT’s require a few doses of chemotherapy and then they are as good as new, although the tumours can return if the dog gets stressed or the immune system is compromised for another reason.
We have seen more TVT’s than usual recently and Amy has been the chemo queen providing doses to all of the affected animals! They all recovered exceptionally well and hopefully you will be just as amazed with the results as we are!

Amy’s Adventures Part 6

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The past two weeks have been filled with so many of my ‘new favourite things’! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said I had the ‘best time ever’!

I’ve finally learned to surf! After living in Sri Lanka for 4 months, surrounded by beautiful amazing beaches and good waves, I finally had some spare mornings to take part in surf camp! I came in every day from surfing and talked about how amazing it was! The coach was amazing, and the atmosphere and group I was in was great- a bunch of girls from totally different parts of the world, coming together and supporting each other, having fun learning to surf together! If only I had time to surf more often (I know Janey feels the same!).

Janey and I have been using the rest of those days to research producing WECare Calendars and Christmas e-cards, so stay tuned for those coming to the UK soon! We’ve also been having many late nights doing stock counts and cost pricing for every single last thing we use, and making slide show presentations. Not to mention staying up all through the night (long enough to see the sunrise the next day!) to make a WECare promotional video and documentary.

After feeling nice and achey from surfing, we had a CNVR clinic planned for the first week of November! We have another vet nurse volunteer with us for the month, Becca, so it was very good to have her help with this busy clinic and she was brilliant as she just got stuck in straight away. This clinic was different to our last, as we had a lovely air conditioned bus to operate on which was a novelty! Although, typically in good old Sri Lankan fashion, the electricity went off one afternoon, so that meant we were cramped on a very small bus, with no circulating air, getting hotter and hotter and sweating like there was no tomorrow! We ended up neutering around 150 animals in 4 days, as well as providing treatments for sick dogs. One dog had walked up to our clinic area to see us, and show us the big wound he had on the side of his head! It’s like he knew we were there to help, the way he just meandered up and made himself at home. We let him into our kennel area, called him Charlie, and set about picking maggots out of his head! The clinic was a big success, and we accumulated a couple more injured dogs to add to our rounds, and some more dogs for our next skin clinic rounds.

When going to visit Charlie for treatment a few days later, a sweet little girl scampered out into the road in front of our tuktuk, and we noticed she had a huge, oozing burn on her back and neck. We brought her home immediately to put her onto fluids and start intensive care and medication as she was extremely flat and lethargic. Saffy unfortunately died the following day which we were really upset about, but she was pain free, and well cared for with us, which gave us some comfort. I found this really hard, as it was something that had been caused by humans. Someone had purposely thrown boiling water over her, probably to shoo her from the area, and the poor girl had died because of it. I just can’t believe anyone would do this to any living thing, let alone a cute little puppy.
When we went back to visit Charlie to change his head dressing, he noticed us coming, I was on one side, Malaka to the other, and Janey on the beach side of him. He usually just lies there for us to change his dressing, but not today- he must’ve had a burst of energy! He looked around and the only way he could go.. was towards the ocean! You never see dogs here in the sea, they have a wave touch their feet and run the other way, but not Charlie! He just carried on walking out to sea, then when it got beyond his depth, he swam! And he swam, and swam, and swam! The lengths he went to for us not to change his dressing! Four men on a fishing boat had to pick him from the water and bring him back to us! The cheeky little thing- the whole village was watching from the beach and we all had a good, old laugh about it!

I also had the pleasure of seeing the most maggots I’ve ever seen in a dog which Becca named Zac. This street dog was not very friendly, so he had to be caught and sedated in order for us to help him. This is the most extensive wound I’ve ever seen in Sri Lanka, with hundreds of maggots reaching from the top of his head, all of the way down his neck. Malaka was also shocked at the amount of maggots, and told me after days like this, he has nightmares about maggots in his ears! Him and me both, after this! After going to change his dressing the following day, villagers informed us he had died over night, which was not much of a surprise but still very sad, because we wanted so badly to help him, but it was just far too progressed by the time we had got to him, poor soul.

To end on a happier note, I just had my first week off of the year! Holidays were to be had! We got a 7 hour overnight train from Colombo to Trincomalee in the North East of the country, which was an experience and a half! Trincomalee was beautiful, and we enjoyed a nice kayak on a lagoon with some cows joining us in the water for a swim! We snorkelled at Pigeon Island, where I saw a lot of really cool fish, a huge turtle, and reef sharks! The first time I caught sight of a shark, I panicked and swam the other way! I then found myself swimming after them to try and get good pictures! That was one of the coolest experiences ever! We visited Sigiriya Rock, which turned my legs to jelly after the amount of steps to the top! I would love to say that the view was worth it, but it was so foggy that we could barely see the amazing landscape spreading out beneath us! All good fun though! We then travelled down to a town called Dambulla and saw some very cool temples which had been carved into caves in 100AD! The guide took us around and explained all of the details of the caves and also talked to us about Buddhism, which was very insightful. My brother had set me the challenge, earlier in the week, to feed a monkey a banana- and I did this here so was very pleased with myself! We then travelled down to Kitulgala, where we went white water rafting and canyoning! This was so much fun! Rafting down the river gave us beautiful views and a little bit of adrenaline. Canyoning- sliding down waterfalls and jumping into natural pools- was absolutely awesome and we enjoyed that a lot! Our Sri Lankan guide was hilarious, and kept on pushing me into the pools and threw me off our boat! We cut our trip short and returned to Talalla that night, as there were a few dogs who needed our attention, such as a new boy called Jimmy, you’ll find about him soon! Time to see what the next week will bring…