Dharamsala Animal Rescue simply doesn’t exist without its wonderful staff team. Period.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — DAR is only as good as its staff and volunteers. In previous posts, we’ve talked to some volunteers who have given their time generously to help all the furries in Dharamsala. Now it’s time to highlight some of our core staff members, who work tirelessly for one reason only: our beloved desi dogs!

On a recent trip to India, I managed to catch up with some of the DAR staff. First up is Pratibha, who is DAR’s India Director. We chatted about how she came to work at DAR, why the work is so vital within the community, and of course, her favourite desi dog!

Vaila: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Dharamsala Animal Rescue.

Pratibha: My name is Pratibha and I work as the Director at DAR. Every day I do the rounds, inspecting every dog and then have a staff meeting to assign duties based on all the dogs’ needs. That’s how our day starts. I follow that with some paperwork, dealing with all the things that are required to run the NGO.

Vaila: How did you come to work at DAR?

Pratibha: I volunteered here in 2016, then started my own rescue in Palampur. I ran it for 3 years but sadly due to lack of support I had to shut down the NGO. We no longer take any new rescues there but the dogs we rescued are still with us.

Vaila: Tell us about an event that sticks out in your mind/has stayed with you (whilst working for DAR), or heartwarming story…

Pratibha: When I joined in 2020 and the lockdown started, we rescued a dog from Kangra who we named Citi. We had to amputate her leg and after that tried to return her to her rescuer (this is a policy we have at DAR). But he was unhappy about this and started to argue and so Citi had to stay at DAR. The adoption rate here is not that good so we were unable to find her a home and started getting attached to her. She was such a sweet dog. When she was finally adopted and leaving, I felt very emotional about that. It was my first adoption at DAR.

Vaila: What do you love about working for DAR?

Pratibha: I like everything here. As soon as we come in the morning, we get greeted by the dogs. When they come to DAR, they don’t know us – they arrive injured but still they’re wagging their tails and try to show us love. Getting to work in the morning and seeing how ready the dogs are to love you, that is the best part of working here.

Vaila: Has working for DAR changed your perspective on stray dogs/how you think about strays? 

Pratibha: When I started volunteering, I liked dogs but was not so confident I could do rescues on my own. Then I started working here and it changed my perspective – I realised how important sterilisations are and how the public perspective about stray dogs needs to be changed so that they can get homes. We need to create awareness amongst people that instead of buying a breed, they can adopt. It would be great if people could get more attached to the stray indian dogs and feed them; feeding makes our sterilization program much easier because we can catch them.

Vaila: Do you think this is changing?

Pratibha: Yeah – I saw a little change. The young generation is much more compassionate and try to feed them, care for them and provide treatments or call NGOs. This was not there earlier, even a few years back. I personally have noticed that dogs seem more healthy, and even friendlier as a result of the mindset changing towards them.

Vaila: What can local people in Dharamsala do to help stray dogs?

Pratibha: Just by feeding dogs and showing a little love, people can change many things. When you start feeding dogs, they become friendlier so are easier to vaccinate and easier to sterilise. So that is the main thing – when you have friendlier dogs, this is directly beneficial to community and society because it can help prevent diseases such as rabies through vaccination. We realise it’s not always possible to adopt but feeding is one thing people can do. Rabies is still a big fear for people and they often jump to the conclusion that if a dog growls, they have rabies but they’re just using the only defense system they have. It’s this lack of knowledge that needs to be shifted.

Vaila: Who’s your favourite stray? 

Pratibha: I like Dorjee! (pictured with Pratibha at the top of the page)


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About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at vailaerin.com or via LinkedIn.