Volunteer blogs

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…

Becca’s Blog, Part 2

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My second week in Sri Lanka was a bit more hard hitting than the first. We were off to see a dog, Charlie (who has a maggot wound on his head which we had previously treated) and on the way we saw a little girl running around in the road she looked around 4 months. We named her Saffy! Somebody had thrown boiling water all over her back and neck. She was very weak and her back was a mess, we picked her up and took her back to Janey’s (the vet) house. We put her on fluids, gave her lots of pain relief and other medication, as well as a good meal. She ate the full lot and enjoyed herself a nap, she was finally safe. During the night she passed horrendous diarrhoea and was weaker the next morning. We tried to feed her again but she had no interest.
We were all very worried about her because she had no fight left. Janey suspected she had an under lying disease called tick fever – 70% of the dogs here have it. She had very pale gums and a low PCV (packed cell volume), these are both signs of tick fever, which in the later stages can cause organ failure. Because diagnostics are so limited here we were only able to check her PCV so it’s very difficult to gage what is going on with a lot of the dogs. Throughout the day she gradually became weaker and weaker and unfortunately she passed away. At least in her final moments she was pain free and with people who cared for her. People can be so cruel.

We then went to see a dog with a giant maggot wound on the top of his head/neck, I named him Zac. The locals had been shooing him away as he had started to smell. He wasn’t very friendly so we had to sedate him to check him over. We removed HUNDREDS of maggots from his wound and bandaged him up. We then went back to check him a day later, and searched all over the town he was from but were unable to find him. We finally found some locals to ask, and they told us he had unfortunately died the night before. This wound may have started very small but with a combination of the heat and the flies, they quickly become a lot worse. Had we have been told by the locals sooner it may have been a very different outcome. A lot of the problems are down to a lack of education in animal ownership and care, which is one of the many missions WECare are on.

Charlie, who I mentioned earlier, is a dog we have been seeing right from the very beginning of my trip. He had a huge maggot wound on his head. He is now on the mend and no longer needs bandages. When changing one of is bandages we noticed maggots coming out of the opposite ear, we are now treating this ear everyday twice daily with drops as the flies had been initially attracted due to infection! Hopefully he should be back to normal again soon, he has an owner and she was very grateful that we had saved her dog. If Charlie hadn’t have been seen he probably wouldn’t have lasted much more than a week.

On Tuesday we were supposed to have some time away from Talalla for a few days but we were too busy and didn’t get to go, so we planned to go Wednesday instead. By Wednesday morning we had more animals to see! And typically we found several more we had to see when we were doing our rounds! We found two gorgeous puppies running around by the side of a very busy road, we named them Thelma and Daphne! They look around 10 weeks old. No one ever wants the females so they dump them by the roads, which is extremely dangerous! Malaka, our veterinary assistant, is keeping them until they are old enough to be neutered and vaccinated then they will go to an Embark adoption day in December and hopefully find a forever home!
 On Wednesday evening we managed to set off on our travels! First we took the night train to Trincomalee which took around 7 hours! It was an experience to say the least! We arrived at our hotel and had a much needed nap, then took the day to relax by the pool and go kayaking! On the second day we went snorkelling, where we swam with reef sharks and turtles – it was amazing. We went on to Sigiriya to climb Sigiriya Rock, where it was lashing it down so the views weren’t very good- but it was still a brilliant experience. We then went to Dambulla to see the cave temples, which were very impressive and had a lot of history behind them. The following day we went to on Kitulgala to go white water rafting and canyoning! It had been raining a lot so the water level was high, it was soooo fun! After Kitulgala we cut our trip short, as there are dogs that need our attention back at Talalla, so we arrived home at 1am, ready for a quick sleep to start bright and early with work!
We have lots of dogs to see and we have a few inpatients too. I’ll be posting another blog next week so I can update you all on the events that this week brings!
 I’m still loving life out here and feel very blessed to have had this opportunity. Janey and Amy are amazing people and are doing such a wonderful job at managing to run the charity and keep on top of all the work they have to do. They have so much on their plate but find the time to answer questions, keep the Facebook updated and help the street dogs! Real life heroes!!

Amy’s Adventures Part 5

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I’m sorry this update is coming to you all a little late but I’ve been so busy with Janey being back in the UK! It’s been stressful being ‘in charge’ but Janey is back now so I am having a lovely ‘week off’, learning to surf! I’ll fill you in on whether I am still alive in the next instalment!

Our skin clinic round, which we started in August, has officially been completed! We have, however, managed to pick up some extras on our rounds, so we will be continuing to see those little ones until they are fluffy little hounds. I am quite surprised with how well our skin clinics have gone as I am not used to seeing dogs in such a state and it is crazy to think that they can go from looking like that to normal dogs in only 6 weeks.

We initially had more than 50 dogs on our list to treat so it’s lovely to see more and more dogs starting to grow hair as we drive around the local villages now! Not only do they start to grow hair, but they also begin to build a relationship with us, which, for dogs who have minimal human contact or affection in their lives, is an amazing leap of faith! They run out to see us when we whistle, for love and cuddles and attention, and that is such a lovely thing to see from a street dog. Some dogs, however, do tend to run the other way when they hear our tuk tuk- I swear they know it’s us despite there being a million tuk tuks in Sri Lanka!!

One day on skin clinic, we came across a female puppy, who we’d neutered in July. We spotted her but as we approached, she limped away and tried to hide under a tuk tuk, so we went to see what was going on. We managed to squeeze between some vehicles and crouch down and what greeted us wasn’t very nice at all- the poor girl had broken her leg in half! A crowd gathered around us, as they always do to watch what’s going on, and we splinted and bandaged the leg! It should heal very quickly as she is a young and growing dog, so it is important that we support the bone so that it can set correctly, hence the splint. The locals watching us were extremely thankful for helping the puppy, which is lovely as we normally just receive strange stares and minimal thanks, haha!

I have also treated a lot of maggot wounds lately, usually from dogs we find on our skin clinic routes, and these have all healed wonderfully after a couple of weeks of wound management. Before we arrived, no one would have been here to help these dogs so it does make me wonder what would happen to them- Janey thinks at least 50% of them would eventually die from their wounds which is crazy to think as some only start as tiny little puncture wounds that are extremely easy to manage if we catch them at the time. It does make all of our effort worthwhile.

We were also able to release our little friend Lolly into her home territory, which was amazing! She was the girl with the huge 15cm tumour at her back end but, after 3 doses of chemotherapy, and a lot of monitoring, the tumour has reduced to nothing, which we are over the moon about! She was absolutely desperate to get back to the streets and symbolised this by trashing our non-destructible (or so we thought!) clinic room on an almost daily basis! Lolly’s ordeal has also been an ordeal for me and has taken me on such an emotional journey. From all of the nights spent trying to catch her to eventually doing so and being able to treat her and then release her back into her home territory as a healthy, happy hound! The most frustrating and rewarding case I’ve ever dealt with.

I had some friends from the UK come to visit me, who brought me some lovely home comforts (like crisps and chocolate!!) so I was very happy with this! We travelled further along the coastline, and visited Arugam Bay on the East coast. There is a gorgeous beach, lots of great food, and I got the hang of stand up paddle boarding! The first time I tried it was at Talalla, where the waves are huge and the current is strong, I nearly drifted out to sea and had to be rescued by Janey’s boyfriend by being pushed back to the beach on my board!! We visited an elephant orphanage, which was incredible as I was able to get close to the elephants, feeding them and touching them! They are such beautiful and majestic creatures!

I also celebrated my 24th birthday at the start of October out here in Sri Lanka! This was the first birthday I’ve ever spent away from home, so it was a little strange for me. It was definitely different to have a birthday celebrated in the glorious sunshine on the beach in Mirissa, playing in the ocean! I’ve obviously never had a sunny birthday like this in the UK, so it was a real pleasure to be able to enjoy the warmth and the sun, and Sri Lanka!

I am now just over half way through my stay in Sri Lanka, and I am so proud of everything we’ve done so far. It’s just amazing to see the difference in these dogs on the streets. It makes me proud to drive around and see all the dogs we have neutered sporting their lovely red collars! It’s lovely to see the bald dogs growing hair, and the nervous dogs coming up to us on the street. It’s a beautiful thing, and a beautiful place.

Becca’s Blog, Part 1

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Becca is an RVN from Abbey Vets in Durham and Chester-le-Street who is here in Sri Lanka with us for a month. She has written a brilliant blog about her first week on the tropical island (lots of sweat and mangey puppies!!). Have a read and see what the newest addition to the WECare Team has been up to and how she is finding life out here in exotic Sri Lanka!

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Life has totally changed for me! I’m currently living in a hotel room with a semi open bathroom which allows the sound of the ocean and the jungle noise to be heard all day long! We’re right on the south coast in a place called Talalla, it’s absolutely beautiful. The beach is filled with street dogs playing in the sand and lots of fishing boats.

Life is very different to the North East here. For a start the driving is crazy, there are TukTuks and vans all over the road! Not to mention there are no pathways for pedestrians. There is no road safety here at all, which is what leads to so many car accidents involving street dogs trying to cross the roads.

When we’re on our way to see dogs in our TukTuk we are always looking out for any other dogs that may need our attention. The charity offers skin clinics to dogs that have serious cases of mange, that are usually left with no hair. By the end of the skin clinic they usually have most of their hair back, which is very rewarding to see! Sometimes it can be very tricky to apply the skin products as a lot of the dogs are very wary of humans, this makes it a daily challenge to think of new creative ways to provide this treatment without being bitten!

On my first full day here we started a 4 day CNVR clinic (catch, neuter, vaccinate and release). Over these 4 days we managed to successfully neuter and vaccinate around 200 dogs. There are SO many street dogs here, it really took me by surprise. Across the country there are approximately 3 million street dogs! Each of these dogs are then able to go on and breed to produce more and more. This is why neutering clinics are so important out here. The fewer the number of dogs on the street, the fewer the number of dogs able to suffer in the long run.

The conditions we have to work in out here are crazy, the humidity reaches about 80% and during this we are on a very hot, very sweaty bus! NOT what I’m used to at work in our lovely air conditioned practice. Chasing dogs around in this heat is very difficult, but it’s all for a good cause!

The days are all very different here, there is a lot more wildlife than at home. Walking down the street you can see monkeys in the palm trees and snakes by the side of the road. Overall I am loving life here and can’t wait to see what next weeks adventures bring!

Amy’s Adventures Part 4

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For the past 2 weeks I’ve been flying solo in Sri Lanka. Janey has popped back to the UK to deal with some things that need to be tackled from that end, such as meetings with the Sri Lankan embassy in London and helping to complete the final touches for our Charity Ball.
She has a very busy itinerary for while she’s at home, and I’ve got a busy little plan for looking after WECare until she gets back!

Since being Janey-less, I had my first encounter with a snake! I was strolling along and nearly stood on a snake curled up in the grass. Malaka told me it was poisonous, but I wouldn’t die if it bit me because it was too small. He explained that I would probably just have ‘side effects’- needless to say I was out of there!!
There was another occasion where thought I was going to meet my end this week- I knelt to take a photograph of two dogs, and one of them decided I was too close, launching itself at me, barking and baring its teeth, and jumping at my legs as I backed away as fast as I could! I managed to get that photo- just as he was launching at me! Then I was straight back into the tuk-tuk! I need Janey back to protect me!!

I have been working with Malaka, carrying out skin clinics, in which we travel around the local villages, with a list of dogs that we have to go and find and treat. The ‘finding’ part has been difficult, and the ‘catching’ part even more so. We quickly learned by the second day that if we carry around food, the dogs are much more likely to want to come up to us! Even then, we sometimes have to apply treatments by hiding round corners, hanging out of windows, and in a ‘drive-by’ fashion hanging out of the side of our tuk-tuk! We have also found many dogs with TVT’s (tumours) on our travels, so of course, we treat those too!

We have been on edge for the last few weeks as well, as one of our favourite street dogs, Mali, has been missing. We had not seen him in his usual spot for around 3 weeks, where he is usually hanging out all day every day, or at the lady’s house over the road because she feeds him. We were getting more and more concerned, and even more so when Malaka told me that sometimes Sri Lankan dogs leave their territory to find a quiet place to pass away. This was a worry as Mali is around 12 years old, based on his dentition. One day last week on our skin clinic round, we passed through the area. None of us wanted to say that we were looking for him, but we were still hopeful.. and there he was! He was tucking into some rice in his usual spot! We are absolutely overjoyed to have him back, even though we are still racking our brains as to where he has been! Mali was almost as happy as we were, loving the attention and cuddles as per usual!

The most exciting thing I have to write about is our black and white girl Lolly! I spoke about her in Part 3, where I’d been driven to frustrated tears, having not been able to catch her! We’d tried to catch her several more times with no success, so I set up a trap in a big cage, with a rope tied from the door, around a corner, and to a tree, so she’d go in for food and not see anyone around her to catch her. I’d just got out of the shower one evening to a message saying that the hotel staff had caught Lolly and could I come and help? Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a runner, but I ran my little legs off to go and see her before she did her usual Houdini act and escaped! She was quite distressed when I arrived so I sedated her, in order for her to be handled and transported to our clinic room in a tuk-tuk safely. The cheers from people around made me feel so good about the fact that we finally had her! I didn’t stop smiling the whole time I was transporting her to our clinic room, giving her treatment and setting her up for the night, and travelling back home. Or for the remainder of the night, for that matter! Definitely the happiest day I’ve had in Sri Lanka and what a relief that we can now finally free Lolly from her discomfort.
Here’s to many more happy days on this beautiful island!

Amy’s Adventures Part 3

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The past two weeks have been so different from usual Sri Lankan life (as usual as can be for me!). We have had so much to catch up on after the craziness of CNVR, with our white boards of ‘to-do’ lists getting more and more cramped! We have started production of bracelets for WECare, which will be sold in the UK to raise funds. I have had several meetings with our wonderful Mahisha to organise this, and she has been so good, having a great eye for design on top of all of her other skills! The weather has been uncharacteristically ‘cool’ this week, with quite a bit of rain, so this has definitely helped us to stay indoors and focus on accounts and charity ball organisation, as all of the dogs hide away when it’s raining and keep out of mischief! We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the local fish market on one sunny morning and we did a round of providing skin treatment and to all of the dogs there, and chemotherapy to one.

For two weeks now I’ve been trying to catch a sweet little dog we’ve called Lolly. We were informed about her as she has a huge tumour on her back end, a problem which is quite common in Sri Lanka and is known as a TVT. Lolly is extremely timid, as she has been scared away by people throwing rocks at her (they find the tumour disgusting), and also trying to shoot her! Every night I have been to see her, to try and build a relationship and gain her trust. I tried catching her in a kennel, with food at the back (very cartoon style- with a stick propping the door open) but she managed to escape on several occasions- reducing me to tears and making me want to go home!!! All she needs is two injections of chemotherapy and she’d be fixed, no more tumour. We just want to help her, if only she knew this. The dog catchers are coming in next week and we are praying that she won’t be a smartie-pants and evade them.

On the ‘cool’ scale- we dealt with a monkey!! A monkey had been hit by a car, so off we went to see it, and it was quite a big monkey! It was something so out of the ordinary for me, we’d never see a monkey brought to the vets in the UK, but it was so incredible to be close and working with one (even if I was scared of getting rabies!) We tried everything for the monkey but it sadly didn’t make it despite 36 hours of hospitalisation. I also met a baby mongoose, which Dr Nuwan took in (to his pocket!) to hand rear because it appeared to have lost its mother. Dr Nuwan searched for 12 hours to find her but to no avail- he really is a great guy. Also, while road tripping the South of Sri Lanka for a trip to Arugam Bay (5 hours there.. 5 hours back- to find and treat one dog!) we met an elephant on the road! Lucky for us we had a bunch of bananas in the van, so I handed him one, and he used his trunk to take it out of my hand through the window!

I also took some time to appreciate Sri Lanka for what it is. Abbie, a veterinary student from the UK, and I walked along the beach and actually took it in! I went to the beach until 3am and saw the most stars I’ve ever seen, and took pictures of the Milky Way. I saw a falling star. I watched groups of monkeys jump between palm trees. I saw the sunrise and the sunset, and thought that this place really is beautiful- including all of the crazy things that come along with it!

Amy’s Adventures Part 2

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“Sri Lankan life has been crazy for me in the past two weeks! It started with driving along the south of Sri Lanka, where we saw a wild baby elephant eating grass at the side of the road. This was amazing! We stopped to take photos of it, and it crossed the road to see us, but we had to drive away because they have been known to tip trucks over! The fortnight ended with a crazy four days of our Catch Neuter Vaccinate Release (CNVR) programme!

The day before clinic was due to start, Janey and I had a lot of preparation to do. We had surgical kits to make, suture materials to sort, equipment and consumables to pack, lists to make and registration forms to print! We eventually crashed at 1:30am, starting bright and early at 7am! The CNVR programme has been an eye opener for me, it’s like nothing I’ve seen before and nothing I could have expected! The dog catchers went out and caught dogs from surrounding areas, bringing them back to us for neutering and vaccination. They would bring us anywhere up to 90 dogs a day! In practice at home, we consider having 6 female dog neuters a busy day! In Sri Lanka, the most females we speyed in a day was 41 (as well as doing many males too)! This is crazy! However, it’s so easy to see how it’s done when the Sri Lankan vet can spey a dog in 5 minutes, you blink and you miss it!
Over the four days we managed to neuter just under 300 dogs, which is an incredible achievement! It wasn’t half hard work though, and very tiring!

After the clinic, we had a day to breathe and catch up on charity emails, do paperwork, sort forms, and the rest of the never-ending list of ongoing administration jobs! For the rest of the week, we had post op checks to do. One of these was my favourite street dog Mali, who was brought into us by the dog catchers on one of our clinic days, with a cut in his pad! The little trooper is too old to receive anaesthesia, but he just lay down and let us stitch his paw under local anaesthetic, good old boy Mali! We went to visit Tommy, the first case I saw in Sri Lanka, and the owner sadly told us he had passed away. They were very upset but were pleased he was no longer suffering.

We have been doing daily checks on the two little puppies we have taken in, Itchy and Scratchy. We are going to treat their skin for 6 weeks or so before releasing them back into their territory. We also have a new little patient on our skin clinics, Princess! Princess is the baldest puppy I have seen here. Not only is she very sweet, but I have a soft spot for her because she reminds me of my hairless cat at home, Prudence! My cat is a sphynx so she is genetically hairless (and beautiful!) but poor princess is having baths and skin treatment to try and help her hair grow (she’s still beautiful though!). We have such a big ‘to do’ whiteboard list of tasks, cases and jobs to be done, sitting on our dining room table. Every time we sit down to watch TV or relax, we just relax into more working and more planning, we just can’t help ourselves! No rest for the wicked!”