11 March 2013

My Favourite Place in Kathmandu: Community Dog Welfare Kopan

I should have titled this entry "Bob Loblaw's Dog Blog"

Anyone who spends more than twenty minutes with me learns one thing: I love dogs. Some days as I walk the streets of Kathmandu I feel like I have hit the jackpot - so many street dogs to pet and hug! I am very careful; I have a surefire system (it is really just me asking "Are you a good dog? Are ya?") that involves a cautious approach and an analysis of how much bum-wiggling is occurring. A lot of bum-wiggling? Proceed. No bum-wiggling? Move on, sir.

While locals and expats alike look at me like I have lost my mind, I find that Nepali street dogs are generally really friendly and sweet. This just makes evolutionary sense - a nice dog has a higher chance of survival (gets fed, doesn't get killed for biting children) and therefore 'gentle dog genes' get passed down more often than 'aggressive dog genes.' 

While cruel abuse does occur, Nepalis are generally very kind to the street dogs, and the famous Newari love of meat means the dogs get a lot of scraps and bones. While there is still a stigma placed on "lowly" street dogs versus "highly desirable" and costly purebreds, the technically owner-less dogs of Kathmandu still often get some love and care from the neighbourhood softies.

Until they get sick. When a street dog contracts mange or any other contagious affliction they become pariahs, outcast by the folks who used to feed them. This is also sometimes the case with owned dogs who fall ill - people can barely afford their own medical treatment, and the notion of paying to heal a sick dog is not widely accepted. The pet that seemed cute and innocent as a puppy is now a burden and is exiled from the home. Sometimes it is a case of laziness and neglect, but often people just genuinely cannot afford to help their pet. I have deep empathy for what must be a tough decision to have to make under the duress of acute poverty.

This is when the wonderful people at Community Dog Care Kopan step in and help the countless needy dogs of Kathmandu. Longtime expats Kate and Doug Clendon (26 years in Nepal!) operate a shelter where sick dogs with seemingly insurmountable health problems are healed, loved and re-homed in the community. They even arrange international adoptions when visitors and expats fall in love with these amazingly resilient creatures.

I go up to the rescue every two weeks for an afternoon of dog-walking, puppy-socializing and laughter. It is truly the best part of my week and I look forward to each and every visit. Kate and Doug thank me profusely and provide a delicious lunch, but I feel like it is me who should be thanking them for letting me spend time with these guys! I genuinely believe that the dogs do more for me than I do for them, and I can't wait to see them again. *chest bursts with puppy love*

Left - severe mange and broken legs. Right - six weeks later and all healed!
Meet Maggie. The first week I went to the Rescue Maggie was nearly hairless, had two broken legs and was recovering from an abortion and spaying (she was too ill to carry her pups to term). When I posted the photo on the left on my facebook, a lot of my friends were worried she couldn't recover from this degree of mange, because we in the West often do not see such advanced cases of neglect and illness (there are much, much worse cases in Nepal). But look on the right! Same dog, only SIX WEEKS later! She is a firecracker and quickly went from sick patient to the boss of the house.

 Oh you had a baby? I guess that's nice, but it isn't this puppy, so....

This little babe was one of two pups who arrived last week, and sadly her brother passed away. She is adorable, and her little googly eyes make us think that she is part pug. In the top picture we had just swaddled her because it was getting cold and stormy, and it is so cute I think I might die.

   I want to borrow this dog the next time I have cramps.

Nothing is better than a hug from Jade. She feels like a hot water bottle, and looks like a Peruvian hairless temple dog.  Her mange is all cleared up, but it was so incredibly advanced that she suffered from permanent skin damage and her hair cannot grow back. We call her Baldy, but I think that offends her femininity, so I call her Princess Baldy.
Just a buncha bitches.

Some of the guys just relaxing in the shade after a nice long walk. Believe it or not, most of these dogs had advanced mange when they arrived, and many had broken limbs. The level of care and standards of the Shelter rival those in the West - these dogs are truly lucky. Some of them will be re-homed, but some will have to be re-released back to the neighbourhoods in which they were found - there is simply not enough space to wait until each dog is adopted.

Adopting shelter or street dogs is not yet a part of Nepali culture, but hopefully that will change! I mean, look at the story of Rikki - he had rickets and tetanus, but was successfully cured and adopted by a local Tibetan family who absolutely ADORE him. Kate is going to enter him and the gorgeous dog pictured above in the next dog show in Patan, under the "non-breed" category, and I think they will sweep the competition. More and more, Nepalis are learning to accept that street dogs are often better pets than the oft-inbred and costly pure breds imported from India and treated as status symbols for the rich. There is even a new campaign to "Adopt a Nepali Mixed Breed!" But seriously - just look at Red here. What a stunner - I call him Gorgeous George.

                                                                                        Unlikely friends!

This is Callie meeting a little calf. Callie has severe mange and malnutrition, but with good food, medicine and a lot of love and kindness he will recover and hopefully will look as lovely as Maggie. I took this picture two weeks ago, and he is already starting to look a lot better - he's still bald as a baby rat, but his sores are healed and he is gaining weight.  

It's kind of like Club Med for dogs. Club Pet? Club Well-Fed? (I'll stop now... Club Dogsled?)

Finally, here is the idyllic location of the Rescue, nestled in the valley below Kopan Hill (quite near to the monastery, but not affiliated). Here the dogs can bark and run around and no one complains. While Kate and Doug say they initially faced skepticism from the neighbours (and the occasional angry line of questioning about why they help dogs and not people) they are now a well-loved member of the community. They provide free sterilization, rabies vaccinations and medical treatment for the dogs nearby, so locals quickly saw the benefit of their programs. I am inspired and humbled by their work, and honoured to play even a miniscule role helping the dogs of Nepal.

While you are in Kathmandu I highly recommend taking the walk from Boudha and visiting Kate and Doug - and of course, all of the dogs! Who knows - you might run into me there, covered in dog slobber and happy as a clam.
You like me! You really, really like me!

For more information, or to donate or inquire about adopting or sponsoring a Kopan dog, please visit their website - http://www.communitydogwelfarekopan.org/how-you-can-help/
US$ 10 covers the cost of vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, parvo-virus, leptospirosis and para-influenza 
US$ 20 feeds a dog for one month 
US$ 50 pays for neutering a dogThanks guys! xoxoxVD


Amanda said...

Thanks for sharing the caring. Dogs are amazing. I remember a sweet pitbull in Vancouver who was burned alive by his owner. But he recovered and was still rolling over for belly rubs and love. Their compassion for ability to forgive is amazing.

Arifah Wright said...

Hi! I'm Arifah, Kate and Doug's youngest daughter. I LOVED reading your blog. Thank you so much for writing it and I have shared it on my fb page. Dog love is the best!

Debby McColl said...

Wow, great to see the selfless work that Doug and Kate do is recgnised.

8ivek said...

Hi I'm from Kathmandu Nepal,

Thank you Very much Kate and Doug :)

God bless u.