Dharamsala Animal Rescue https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org a world of difference for animals and people Sat, 17 Oct 2020 19:47:15 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-DAR_Favicon2-32x32.png Dharamsala Animal Rescue https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org 32 32 How to Travel with your Pet in India https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/how-to-travel-with-your-pet-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-travel-with-your-pet-in-india https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/how-to-travel-with-your-pet-in-india/#respond Sat, 17 Oct 2020 19:47:10 +0000 https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/?p=215743 The post How to Travel with your Pet in India appeared first on Dharamsala Animal Rescue.


Want to go on a trip or relocate with your fur baby? If so, here’s how it could be more enjoyable.

As public transport is not built for pets, how the trip goes could depend on you. Everything depends on how well-planned you are and that will determine if you’re going to have a bad nightmare or a wonderful trip.

Below are some tips to travel with your pets:
Purchase A Crate

It’s normal for anyone to feel uncomfortable about imprisoning their fur baby. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has laid out some rules and guidelines which you have to keep follow. The rules are for your pet’s well-being, and are applicable to any kind of travel, be it by land or by air. IATA requires you to put your pet in an IATA-approved crate. The crate must have enough space to stand, lie down and turn easily.

It  should be well aerated, have soft edges, be made of a non-conductive material. The crate needs to be properly sealed while travelling so that it doesn’t open up during travel, otherwise your pet could escape and cause big problems. It also should be leak-proof,

Purchase the crate well in advance as it will allow your pet get used to it. If your pet gets familiar with it, then it will be less stressful on the day of your relocation. Apply a tag on the crate and mark it as “live animal”. List all of your pet’s details including name, owner, owner’s number, address, and flight itinerary information. Find more tips like this in our Moving Tips blog.

Go To The Vet

Health certificates and vaccinations details from your veterinarian are essential. Other needs might differ based on the transport you are using to travel. Hence, ensure that you complete all the paper work in good time.

Most carriers don’t allow animals to be tranquilized as it’s a huge risk to their health. Instead, try a natural pet calmer if the travel is likely to  disturb them.

Some pets face travel sickness. Prepare them for this by taking them for long-distance drives, which can help them get used to it. Whenever they feel motion sickness, offer them more water to get them hydrated, rather than feeding them food before the journey.

Train travel

Train travel isn’t trouble-free either as the Indian Railways have their own dog rules. But, traveling by train is a healthier and cheaper choice for pets. You can take different types of animals by train. If you are traveling in First Class, and if you register for both the 4th and 2nd berth seats, you will get an option of having your dog with you.

Dogs can also be carried in specially designed boxes. Unfortunately, if you don’t register for the full berth and anyone in that compartment objects to the dog, then your dog has to travel in the luggage car. Big dogs can’t travel in the compartments either —they would be need to travel in an individual car that is usually used for horses. This can be really hard, particularly because it is up to you to offer your dog food and water during the journey.

Reach Your Destination

Book a pet-friendly hotel and also inform them before your arrival. Resorts with lawns or beaches would be a better idea — it will provide your dog the freedom to roam around. Prepare your journey so that you and your pet and do not have to face any nasty surprises. You should have a back-up plan in case you have a problem.

Be calm and relaxed with your pet, specifically if it’s your first trip. During your journey, you will find that they be good companions, but it can get stressful if you encounter unforeseen difficulties. Hiring a pet moving company is another great idea if you want to have a smooth and safe relocation with your pet.


Photo Credit: Vaila Bhaumick

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About the author

Debendra Prasad is a multi-passionate entrepreneur, writer, and lifestyle enthusiast. He started his web development & digital marketing company “Creatisoul” from Bangalore in 2014. He has written on online business ideas, lifestyle, and social happenings. He has 7+ years in the relocation industry in India and helped thousands of people in a successful home and office shifting. He comes from a middle-class family in West Bengal, with high importance of friends and moral value in his life.

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Rabies: Why we need to do something about it. https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/rabies-why-we-need-to-do-something-about-it/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rabies-why-we-need-to-do-something-about-it https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/rabies-why-we-need-to-do-something-about-it/#respond Tue, 06 Oct 2020 18:08:07 +0000 https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/?p=215565 The post Rabies: Why we need to do something about it. appeared first on Dharamsala Animal Rescue.


Rabies is a deadly zoonotic virus (meaning it can spread from animals to humans) that kills an estimated 59,000 people every year.

India accounts for 36% of the deaths.

That’s one person every 9 minutes. Sadly, because India does not have rabies on the list of notifiable diseases, this number is likely to be even higher due to the number of unreported cases.

With 99% of human deaths being caused by dog bites, dogs have become feared by communities, leading to the persecution and death of millions of stray dogs around the world. Children and communities in poor and disadvantaged regions are the most at risk from rabies.


India has an estimated 30 million dogs living on the streets, making tackling rabies in the country a mammoth task. With no national programs for street dog vaccination, the onus falls on small NGO’s like ours to make our town safe from this deadly disease. This is why vaccinating dogs is such an important part of our work at Dharamsala Animal Rescue. We want to see an end to the suffering of both dogs and humans who catch rabies and to see them live happy and safe lives alongside each other. 

The World Organisation for Animal Health, WHO and GARC have set a goal of ‘zero by 30’ — an elimination of rabies by the year 2030.

Why do we care so much about rabies?

Rabies is 100% fatal once a person or animal becomes infected and symptoms develop. But it is also 100% preventable. Vaccination is key to preventing rabies in both dogs and humans. It saves lives.

September 28th was World Rabies Day. Here at Dharamsala Animal Rescue, we marked the occasion with a 10-day vaccination drive aiming to vaccinate 2000 dogs. Our team is always working tirelessly to reach as many dogs as possible, as well as encouraging pet dog owners to keep their pet’s vaccinations up to date. Pre-Covid, we also provided education to children in local schools and communities on the safe handling of dogs, how to care for them, and how to spot the signs of rabies.

We need to create a stable and safe population of dogs, which can be achieved through neutering and vaccination. In areas where rabies is present, long term vaccination programmes are the most effective. A minimum of 70% of dogs must be vaccinated to significantly reduce the transmission to humans. In areas where such mass vaccination and neutering programmes run, huge reductions in cases of rabies in humans have been documented. But there is still a long way to go, and we will continue to play our part until we see an end to this terrible disease.

How does rabies spread?

Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected animal when a person is bitten, or broken skin is licked. It is not spread in blood, urine or faeces and cannot penetrate through intact skin. 

Once the bite/lick has taken place, the virus travels through the nervous system to the brain. This can take days to weeks depending on where the bite is, how far from the brain it is and the strain of the virus, as well as whether or not the person has been vaccinated. Once it reaches the brain, the virus replicates and symptoms begin to show. Rabies is usually diagnosed based on clinical signs as they are so distinctive.

What are the symptoms of rabies in dogs?

There are two types of rabies –

  • Paralytic rabies (most common) – dogs will be weak, suffer paralysis of the limbs, have difficulty swallowing and be foaming at the mouth (hypersalivation). Eventually they will lose consciousness and death follows within 5-6 days.
  • Furious rabies – these dogs will be hyperactive, aggressive, may have changes in their behaviour, and will eventually suffer from a fatal seizure.

Dogs with rabies can also be lethargic, stop eating and drinking, and have a fever.

What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?

Initially the virus causes non-specific symptoms – headache, lethargy, weakness and a fever. Specific symptoms include a tingling, pricking or burning sensation around the site of the wound/bite. The virus then quickly progresses to cause progressive and fatal inflammation of the nervous system and brain. Hyperactivity, hydrophobia (fear of water) and excitability are common and eventually lead to coma and death.

Paralytic rabies is less common in people but is a longer illness. It causes muscle paralysis starting at the site of the wound/bite and eventually leads to coma and death. It can easily be misdiagnosed and often goes unreported.

What should I do if I get bitten by a dog? / How do I stay safe when travelling?

It is best to consult your doctor before travelling to a country where rabies is present. A pre exposure prophylactic (PEP) vaccine will buy you time to find treatment. The World Health Organisation advises that you wash wounds thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive a post exposure vaccination.

It is always tempting to touch and handle dogs when we are travelling but remember to approach them safely and sensibly. Do not approach a dog showing any signs of rabies, and if you see a sick or injured dog, try to contact the nearest animal rescue or veterinary centre. Don’t not try to move or help the dog yourself. To learn more about rabies, take our DAR quiz

How can I help?

A rabies vaccine costs us just $3 (includes vaccine, syringe, glove). By donating even a small amount you could help save the life of a dog and a child. Money well spent! 

In the first  7 days of our vaccination drive we successfully vaccinated 1207 dogs. Your money can help us to provide even more dogs with the essential protection they need from rabies. 

You can also vote for us in the World Rabies Day Awards from Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The award would give us a $1000 grant to enable us to continue our work. So please give us your vote and help us to save the lives of street dogs and the people of our community from this deadly and preventable disease! 


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About the author

Holly Anne Hills is a veterinarian who was feeling lost and dissatisfied. So, she decided to go to India and volunteer to see if she could rediscover why she chose her career path. After her first stop at Dharamsala Animal Rescue, her love and motivation for being a vet had been reignited.

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On a cold rainy night in July, we geared up with our long raincoats and thick rubber gloves to feed all those poor souls, shivering under the vehicles, dreaming of warmth.

As we carried our buckets full of rice and chicken legs along with a bag full of biscuits and a packet of dog food, we were greeted by wagging tails. Personally, this is my daily motivation.

One of them, named Bholi, gets so excited that she whines and uses her front paw to scratch the metallic gate, asking “What kept you? Don’t you see I’m hungry?” She always fails to resist the urge to stay calm.

But Kaalu stays calm, smiling, as he knows the game. Soon we get surrounded by these pooches. Some are shy, others desperate for the food, and Kaalu knows his spot which is on a hand-cart.

Because he is very smart and knows where the treasure is. As soon as the bucket opens, Kaalu is the first to receive the freshly prepared yummy food.

And it is important. To let others eat, we have to make sure that he is busy with his plate. He wouldn’t hesitate to stick his muzzle in the other dogs’ plates. Sometimes I think we spoil him. After the lockdown started, our organisation ‘Feeding Animals’ has been feeding 85+ dogs, 10+ cats, and some cows.

So why does Kaalu get so much attention? Well, there’s a story behind it.

The Lockdown

Lockdown had a terrible effect on all of us. We humans, being social animals, have seen our social gatherings stop and to a certain extent, our interactions too.

But for the strays, the situation is different. It was a question of life and death and the news of strays dying from starvation wasn’t a new thing in some cities. So one day, the founder of our small group and a proud parent of his 2 dogs, Jeet Bhattacharya, decided to start feeding dogs in his local area. Many dog enthusiasts joined him, including me. And this was the first time we met Kaalu.

To be honest, being first-time feeders, we were scared of the dogs. So we carried sticks with us, just in case we needed to fend off any hostile dogs. Many volunteers, including myself, had some bad stories about dog chases and bites from our childhood (which in India, is pretty common).

Thankfully, not one of them was hostile towards us, but soon this mob turned chaotic as an unfamiliar dog arrived at their feast.

A Lone Wolf

This black male, Kaalu, a little muscular looking to be a stray, stood his ground but was soon attacked from every side. To break up their fight, one volunteer banged the stick on the street producing a sharp noise that made others run, but not this tall handsome boy. As we successfully fed all of them and started walking, this dog wasn’t afraid to shimmy around us, exploring new territory.

Other dogs greeted him with a growl, but he didn’t bat an eye. When the fights got uncontrollable, he would find a safe spot, which was in amongst the two-legged volunteers. Soon his daily routine was to follow us throughout the feeding. We named this little companion Kaalu (‘black’ in Hindi).

After spending some time with him, we realized that Kaalu was good at giving a paw. This is a common handshake trick many dog parents teach their dogs. It was a clear indication that Kaalu indeed was once a pet dog. Soon we came to know that Kaalu was abandoned by his parents a year before. The other strays were in no mood to accept him as their new clan member, maybe due to his physical difference.

He was a lone wolf. But that didn’t stop Kaalu from making a few girlfriends. With our moral support to wander into new territories, he met many new female dogs, and even tried to mate with some of them. Bad luck for him, as we have already neutered many of these female dogs, but good luck for the females and for controlling the street dog population.

Black King’s Check-Mate

One day we noticed that there was a big, red, hardly noticeable, wound in his black fur. We were sure that Kaalu had been in a fight with dogs over mating. We treated the wound with powder but were unaware of what lay inside. Maggots!

The rain encouraged the maggot infestation and transferring Kaalu to the nearest vet wasn’t an option due to lockdown. So an operation was conducted the very next day at the same location where we feed them, on the roadside. I have to say the operation was disturbing to me but it was necessary. The wound was around 1.5 cm wide in diameter and who know how deep.

Kaalu was calm however, trusting in us, and didn’t struggle. The treatment was successful, and we fed him a lot that day. But the very next day, he was gone again for the next 2 days. When he returned he was covered mostly in black grease. It was a clear indication that he had been wandering in the Industrial zone which is around a kilometer away. He was also skinnier, as no one else had been feeding him.

A day for being a lapdog

One month later, there was a campaign for female dogs’ sterilization carried out by the local council in the area. Kaalu was well-known among the workers for showing aggression against them so they requested Jeet to get a hold of him while they performed their task.

Kaalu was in his lap for the entire process until they captured almost all the female dogs in the area. These dogs would be neutered, kept under observation for 3 days, and then set free in their specific territories. Soon we realized that instead of being the tough, confident dog that we thought he was, Kaalu was actually afraid of these workers and was barking in self-defense.

He was calm and liked being on Jeet’s lap so much that even after the workers were gone, he refused to get down from for another half hour.

Still Feeding Animals

Feeding Animals has been serving more than 85 dogs, some cats, and wandering cows.

In our journey of feeding these beautiful souls, we met many but Kaalu has always been our constant companion. Gradually, he learned to respect other dogs’ food by not interfering while they eat. However, he has a larger appetite than most other stray dogs we feed. We know this and feed him 1.5 times more.

Still…Whenever some dogs get lazy whilst munching on their food, Kaalu swoops in and cleans their dish with no remorse. He often gets scolded for such acts, but then it’s a tough job not to fall for his smile.

He is so adorable and easy to handle that some of our volunteers even tried to keep him as a pet. But soon they came to know that Kaalu loves his freedom. Kaalu will try to run away whenever given a chance or scratch & howl at the door when we lock him inside any home.

Instead of being a couch potato, he loves to explore new areas (in search of ‘love’). This is how he was raised and he takes pride in it. Sometimes, letting go is the best way to show your love & affection. That’s why we never adopted Kaalu. He is something that we call ‘our pet stray’.

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About the author

Bhavesh Shah is a dog enthusiast and a blogger who loves to make articles on dog breeds and foods. He has been analyzing various dog food products on his website, which you could find on his blog.

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Caring For Canines With Culinary Skills: In Conversation With Mini Seth https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/caring-for-canines-with-culinary-skills-in-conversation-with-mini-seth2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caring-for-canines-with-culinary-skills-in-conversation-with-mini-seth2 https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/caring-for-canines-with-culinary-skills-in-conversation-with-mini-seth2/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 12:38:04 +0000 https://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/?p=215436 The post Caring For Canines With Culinary Skills: In Conversation With Mini Seth appeared first on Dharamsala Animal Rescue.


It’s incredible how just one simple action repeated over the years and generations can make a difference. 

Yes, there are countless dogs suffering on the streets of India, but they are not all without help —Meet Mini Seth — one person who has taken compassionate action over the years to save dogs lives on the streets of Delhi, most recently with her online ‘Cook-Alongs’.

I got the chance to talk to Mini about her wonderful cook-alongs, her important work with the Delhi dogs, and what it all means to her personally:

Vaila: So many Indians think of street dogs as pests, how did you decide to start feeding them? 

Mini: My mother had always fed the street dogs near where we lived, so it was just natural to follow in her footsteps. When my mother became sick 10 years ago,  I took what was supposed to be a sabbatical from my hectic media career ten years back, but instead led me into a much deeper involvement with the street dogs and I never looked back. 

I began not just feeding, but caring for the dogs that I saw were sick and injured. I took them to vets for treatment, sterilisation and vaccination. This led finding international homes for many of the dogs I looked after. I self-funded all of it, and as you can imagine, my savings dwindled. This is when I started the ‘Cook-Alongs’ (Indian cooking classes via Zoom).

Vaila: Indian food is some of the best food on the planet, I’m sure you have had lots of interest in your classes. How long have they been running?

Mini: We’ve had classes running from June 9th this year, almost every weekend and some weeks on both Saturday and Sunday. Yes, the interest in and support for the fundraiser have been wonderful. Most participants loved the idea of learning to cook authentic home style Indian food, conducted from an Indian kitchen. The first participants were desi dog owners, who I know personally and have been in touch with over the years. Many have cooked-along each menu with us!

Vaila: How did the idea for the cooking classes come about?

Mini: Overseas adoptions have been one of my major areas of work with the street pups. Many of them go to British Columbia and the USA, placed by rescue organizations: ‘Adopt An Indian Desi Dog’ founded by Barbara Gard, and ISDF founded by Dawn Trimmel. In 2017, Barbara invited me over to visit her and meet the pups I had rescued in their new homes. While being hosted by the families of the pups, I witnessed the keen interest in Indian food. At most host homes, I was able to cook some Indian dishes for them which was greatly appreciated.

Earlier in 2020, when the pandemic broke out, Zoom became the go-to platform for online meetings and social events. With Delhi being under complete lockdown, the additional number of dogs to be fed went up. Along with frequent accident and injury cases needing to be boarded, expenses were getting difficult to manage. As I have largely self funded my work with the street dogs for the last several years, the need to raise funds became critical. All of this came together in the form of the cook-along classes. 

Vaila: And how did the partnership with Dharamsala Animal Rescue Founder, Deb Jarrett emerge?

Mini: Deb and I have known each other since 2015, having met through collaboration on international adoptions. DAR needed to come to Delhi to get their dogs on the international flights, for paperwork, crates, fosters, etc. and I offered Deb any help I could. 

Partnering with DAR for the Cook-Alongs gave access to new participants, and also an opportunity to be able to contribute to DAR by sharing funds raised via the classes. We’ve had people who are first time donors, so these classes have proven to be a way to spread awareness on street dog issues amongst a new set of people. We hope to extend this partnership to other initiatives as well. 

Vaila: Can you share some memorable moments from your classes?

Mini: The rescued dogs all make a special appearance on the Zoom calls and it’s amazing to see them in the background lying in the kitchen or just walking by. If only Zoom could enable physical contact, then I could pet and hug them in real life instead of virtually!

Most of our participants are connected to the rescue world directly or indirectly. It’s great to bond over Indian food and rescued dogs. People love the food they prepare, and so it’s hugely encouraging that in return for their donations, we are teaching them a valuable skill in how to prepare healthy meals. 

Desi dogs

Deb Jarrett saying hi to DAR rescue “Flower” now in Canada, during a Cook-Along.

Vaila: What are the most popular dishes people want to learn how to cook?

Mini: Chickpeas Masala, Palak Paneer. Masala Chai Tea. The Indian bread class always generates good interest. 

Vaila: The best thing about the classes is that they are funding the work you do with street dogs in Delhi and the work DAR does in Dharamsala. Can you tell us more about the current situation with street dogs where you live?

Mini: I live in Delhi. Over the years, the situation and perception of street dogs has changed. There are many individuals who work to take care of their neighbourhood dogs, and get them sterilised. However, if we look at the bigger picture, because of the lack of a comprehensive ABC (Animal Birth Control) policy, the number of street dogs has gone up and continues to grow. While individual rescuers and some NGOs do a lot of good work on the sterilisation front, unless it’s carried out in a scientific manner, we can’t hope to reduce the population or the human/dog conflict. Some misinformed members of the public and dog haters inflict unimaginable cruelty on the street dogs, and get away with it in the absence of strict laws. All they get is a paltry fine of INR50/-, which simply isn’t good enough. 

Vaila: How do you feel about the future for street dogs in India? Are attitudes changing?

Mini: Yes, attitudes are definitely changing for the better. There are more people showing concern for the dogs. If the animal welfare community were united, that impact could be even greater. However, given the scale of the work and sheer numbers, without government support this will remain a very tall task. 

Vaila: What can people do to help?

Mini: Spread awareness and more awareness. Lead by example. Kindness is contagious and we need many hands to accomplish a kinder and safer place for our street dogs. 

Vaila: Lastly, can you express what it means to you to be doing this work to give these dogs a better life? 

Mini: Caring for them is my passion and seeing a definite improvement in their very difficult lives on the road is my mission ❤

Vaila: Thank you Mini for your time and for all your efforts to save lives and for inspiring others to do the same.

Sign up for the next Cook-Along with Mini and DAR to learn some Indian cooking and help street dogs!


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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.

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I believe animals come into our lives at certain times for a reason. Whether it’s simply companionship, guardianship, or to help you through a dark time, they come with their own brand of magic. 


Your pet will find you — this is what I believe. Ok, I’m oversimplifying, because I know that’s not always the case, at least not in a literal sense. But if you are open to adopting, there will be one (or more) grateful furry friend waiting to give you all their love. Most of my pets have come into my life serendipitously, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So I would urge you to ‘adopt don’t shop’!


Why Adopt?


There are millions of stray dogs all over the world. As our Indian readers know, witnessing the suffering of street dogs is a daily occurrence. Sadly, there just isn’t enough help out there for all of them. And don’t think that ‘developed’ countries are any different (although they are somewhat better at covering it up). In the US, approximately 6.5 million pets go into shelters every year, and about 1.5 million are euthanized. Meanwhile, in Europe, there are an estimated 100 million abandoned pets, according to the EU. But it’s not all bad news — The Netherlands claims to be the first country with zero stray dogs.


You’ll Save a Life


This goes without saying — when you adopt, you are saving an animal from suffering and death. Whether it’s from euthaniasia, danger and disease on the streets, or the dog meat industry, you’ll be changing that dog’s world. And there’s no better feeling than that. Not only are you saving the adopted dog, but by taking that dog away from the shelter, you are creating space for another helpless creature.

It Doesn’t Cost The Earth


Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue doesn’t cost as much as buying from a breeder. Breeds can cost as much as $14,000, although admittedly the average is lower. The adoption process comes with fees usually, which can vary, but will normally include benefits such as vaccinations, deworming, and medicine for the first few weeks if required. International adoptions can cost a bit more, purely due to transport and regulations, but you always have the option of crowdsourcing. And don’t forget — you are saving lives!


If we look at the special case of the Netherlands, the government raised taxes on dogs bought from pet stores in a bid to shift the public’s mentality to adopting. Now, we all know this isn’t always possible in every country, but the fact that PM Modi recently encouraged Indian citizens to adopt local dog breeds rather than foreign breeds is a positive sign. One reason he cited for local adoption was indeed lower upkeep costs.


Say No To Puppy Mills


Humans have a long history of treating animals cruelly, and it still goes on every day. Why humans feel they are superior to animals, I will never understand. Imagine you, as a human, were forced to endure pregnancy after pregnancy for the sake of profit. Doesn’t sound great does it? And that’s not the only cruel aspect of it — from cramped conditions to a lack of proper healthcare, the list of cruelties is endless.

By adopting, you are refusing to fuel this despicable industry. And don’t forget — if it’s a puppy you’ve got your heart set on, they are often available from shelters too. However, there are huge benefits to providing a home for an adult dog, namely that they are more likely to be house-trained.


For The Love!


This is the best part. We’re not suggesting that you don’t receive love from a purebred dog, of course you do. But there is a special kind of bond that springs from saving an animal’s life. Dogs who have been traumatised and have learnt to trust again with you, give you the most vulnerable part of themselves. A dog who is disabled or sick, one that no one else wants and that finds love under your care, is going to make every one of your days together worthwhile and meaningful.


My love for my dog beats any other love. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. She chose me and I chose her. She mirrors me, and I her, in so many ways and I know she was born to be my dog. In India, it couldn’t be easier to adopt a dog — there are so many on the streets and it’s free. The team here at Dharamsala Animal Rescue obviously all love dogs, and despite seeing so many day in day out, aren’t immune to their charms. Their dogs have chosen them to receive that gift of unconditional love. 


It doesn’t matter how many words I use to describe this love — it has to be felt. I think our video says all that needs to be said:


If you are considering adopting a stray dog, within India or internationally, get in touch with us today for more information on our adoption process. You will not regret it!


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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.

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Your pet certainly means a lot to you. They are important parts of our families that give us company and emotional support in times of distress. Thanks to their many benefits, more than 65 percent of American households own pets, mainly dogs and cats.


One way of giving back love to your pet is to ensure it stays healthy. To do this, improving their immune system is a must. Once their immunity weakens, they become vulnerable to bacterial infections, skin infections, and other serious diseases.


There are several ways you can improve their immunity, and here are some of them.

1. Maintain a Balanced Diet


The best way to improve immunity is by a balanced diet, because foods that strengthen the immune system will ensure the body gets all the nutrients required for a strong line defense. On the contrary, feeding your pets with packaged food gives the least nutrition, and may introduce contaminants in additives or preservatives, thus weakening the immune system.


Rather than waiting until your pet is sick to change the diet, take preventive action by sticking to a healthy diet. Feeding it with the right diet helps reduce inflammation in the pet, thereby improving and strengthening its immunity. Start by adding whole foods to the diet, because they improve the body’s amount of antioxidants. They can come from foods such as fruits, vegetables, and organic meat.


A balanced pet diet is a perfect way to avoid diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. This condition causes inflammation, which stresses the digestive tract, making it difficult to process foods. A healthy digestive system is a crucial means of achieving overall healing and strong immunity. Add foods with natural digestive enzymes, probiotics, and rich in essential fatty acids.



2. Healthy Exercise


Like people, pets can suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. These mental illnesses harm your pet and can make pre-existing health conditions worse. Several factors can cause stress in pets, including light and noise exposure, social stress, and territorial conflicts.


Stress may manifest differently in pets. In cats, you may begin to notice increased hissing, abnormal urination, diarrhea, unusual aggression, reduced energy levels, changes in weight, changes in appetite, excessive scratching, and more. On the other hand, dogs may begin to look nervous, anxious or shaking, displaying unusual aggression, eating less, sometimes yawning, panting excessively, or constantly moving around.


When you notice any of these symptoms of stress, you may want to start exercising your pet more. Exercise helps relieve stress and develop a strong immune system. Studies show exercise can enhance immunity in animals and humans. Given that weight management is a significant contributor to various illnesses, exercise may also help.


There are many ways of exercising, including swimming, dog park outings, playing, and walking. How much you need to exercise your pet may depend on its breed type, health status, and age.


3. Nutritional Supplements


As mentioned, a balanced diet will give your pet the right nutrients and vitamins to improve immunity. However, getting all the healthy foods your pet needs can be challenging. Adding supplements like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals is the perfect way to boost their diet.


Some of the best supplements for pets contain probiotics, antioxidants, glucosamine, multivitamins, digestive enzymes, etc. The supplements help promote digestion, prevent degenerative diseases, and may help reduce infection risks, cancer, and cell oxidative damage. It can also improve immune functions.


4. Use Natural Remedies

Herbs are a great way to bolster your pet’s immune system. They are brimming with healing properties that can benefit their immunity.


Here are some of the herbs to mix with food:

Echinacea; A popular herb that enhances the body’s fight against viral and bacterial infections.
Medical mushrooms; Can improve the pet’s immune response.
Ginger; A great anti-nausea agent and treats digestion issues.
Garlic; Boosts the activities of killer cells for fighting cancer.
Curcumin; Powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that addresses chronic illnesses.


Another new natural remedy is CBD.


When administered in the recommended dosage, it can work wonders for your pet’s health. Like humans, animals also have an innate Endocannabinoid System, ECS. According to experts, CBD interacts with the ECS and prevents the endocannabinoids from breaking down, thus bringing about a list of health benefits.  


Hence, after consulting a licensed vet, you can use a regular dose of CBD to calm your pets and deliver many health benefits. It can relieve pain, treat digestive problems, increases appetite, accelerates recovery, and decreases stress, thereby strengthening your pet’s immunity.


5. Proper Hydration


Proper hydration is essential in keeping pets healthy. Drinking enough water helps keep them hydrated and allows the body to fight disease-causing bacteria and toxins. The body of your cat or dog is made up of 80 percent water. Which explains why water is a crucial element for the proper functioning of their body. Water also helps with:

Breathing process
Digestion of food and nutrients
Eliminating harmful elements from the body
Encouraging proper blood flow to the heart, brain, and muscles
Regulating body temperature


Always provide your pet with clean water. The amount of water it requires depends on different factors, such as weight and environmental factors.


To Sum It All Up….


Your pet’s overall health primarily depends on maintaining a healthy immune system. Administering CBD, regular exercise, hydration, a healthy diet, and taking dietary supplements will enable your pet to improve immunity.


With a healthy immune system developed using these approaches, your pet is less susceptible to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Also, talk to your veterinarian to examine your pet’s health and inquire about the best way to improve its immunity.


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Crystal Willson is a full-time content marketing specialist. She has been closely monitoring the health industry trends for quite some time. She has worked in various domains before the health industry. On her off days, she likes to spend her time with her family, lift weights, and reading novels.

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Have you ever reached a really low point or had a bad day and found that coming home to your pet has cheered you up? That’s no coincidence! Animals can be very healing for us, and psychology absolutely recognises it.


Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is growing in popularity and therapists are harnessing it more frequently as part of a treatment plan for psychological disorders. I had heard that rescue animals can be particularly good at connecting with humans who’ve suffered trauma. I wanted to find out if that’s true.

We spoke to Diana Weyn Gonzalez, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Addiction Counselor and Animal Assisted Social Worker currently based in Denver. We talked about her own experiences working alongside her rescue dog ‘Grimm’, and the highs, lows and pitfalls of working with animals in a therapeutic setting.

Diana describes AAT as “The utilization of specific animals for the purpose and intent of therapeutic interventions for humans”. She told me that it can be used for treating so many things — from anxiety and depression to PTSD, autism, physical impairments, and even addiction.

Many of us think of horses (equine therapy) when we think of animals involved in therapy. However Diana assures me that there are so many animals that can be a part of the healing process, and starts by telling us about her own dog.


We Talk AAT with Diana…


Vaila: You have a rescue dog. Can you explain in your own words how you’ve benefited each other’s lives?

Diana: Grimm is a great little three-legged success story. One of my clients (who is a vet tech) brought him in one day and said “I think I have a dog for you“. I have never owned a dog before, despite working with them in multiple capacities. So I was excited at the opportunity to rescue this goofy, bat-eared, puppy. I was able to formally rescue him from an organization called ‘Planned Pethood’. He was badly abused by his previous owners (they think he had been tossed down stairs repeatedly), so he was timid when I got him. As an Animal-Assisted Social Worker I needed an actual animal to come work with my clients. I benefitted in that he is a well-behaved puppy who loves people, despite his abuse. And he gets a forever loving home!

Vaila: Which animals are particularly well-suited to AAT and why? Is it true that rescue animals work well?

Diana: Sure! It depends on who you’re looking to help. For example, a person in a wheelchair could benefit from having a trainer service dog assist with daily chores. They could also benefit from therapeutic horseback riding to gain a sense of independence and mobility. A child with ADHD could spend hours playing with a dog, trying to teach it a new trick (which in turn helps them focus). Small pets (bearded dragons, hedgehogs, rabbits, etc) are great for special education classrooms to provide opportunities for responsibility, tactile stimulation, and focusing.

I have seen rescue animals specifically be good as well as challenging for certain settings. Some rescue horses I have worked with are simply too dangerous to work with humans in a therapeutic context. Same with abused dogs and cats; they can be skittish and prone to biting due to their abuse history.

On the other hand, if you have the right, properly rehabilitated and trained rescue animal (like Grimm), clients take solace in learning about their story, as it so often mirrors theirs. They are trying to be resilient in the face of adversity, and when they see this little abused puppy come out of a tough situation with physical damage, yet love and enthusiasm in his heart, they say he offers hope and perspective to them.

Vaila: Can you share an AAT success story?

Diana: Sure! My favorite story that pops into my head is when I was teaching riding lessons in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I was running a program for teen girls learning how to be ranch hands. There was a young lady, about 16, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s (“high functioning autism”). She would become easily overwhelmed around crowds, noise, emotions, etc. Since folks with autism can struggle with picking up on social and emotional cues (and teen girls pretty much function on those), it was a rough program for her.

When I saw her rocking back and forth to try and self-soothe, I knew she was overwhelmed. She and I would walk down to the herd, she would pick her favorite one and we would practice breathing to calm down while she groomed the horse. Sometimes when she was overwhelmed she wasn’t able to verbalize to me how she was feeling. So I suggested that she tell the horse while I watched from a safe distance to give the duo privacy.

We were able to teach her self soothing skills, such as taking space and vocalizing when she needed a break from the chaos. It was watching this young lady speak to this horse in confidence, when she wouldn’t speak to most other folks, that inspired me to go into animal assisted social work.

Vaila: It’s obvious we have profound connections with animals and now there’s proof that they enhance our health. How can we humans do better by animals, no matter where we are in the world?

Diana: Ethics and education. Depending on where you are in the world there may be different expectations for the animals in that area. By educating ourselves on cultural norms and trends, we can approach different situations with empathy and culturally informed decisions. I always advocate for beneficence for both humans and animals alike. I encourage my international travel students to ask themselves if an activity is benefiting that animal, and howso. If it’s not benefiting the animal, is it ethical? What if it’s benefiting the human? To what degree? Are there alternative ways of reaching the same goal without doing harm to another living being?

Vaila: Are there any ethical concerns relating to AAT and using the animals for ‘work’? How do you mitigate any ill effects?

Diana: Yes there are. Whenever working with a being that cannot formally consent to an activity, we must always consider ethics. First, when working with an animal partner, I consider if they are a right fit for the job. For example, are we asking a basset hound to work with a high energy four-year-old that may overwhelm an otherwise relaxed breed? My friend who is a school based social worker had to retire the dog she initially thought was going to be a great fit for working with kids because he became overwhelmed.

I also consider the level of training the animal has, and if it’s safe for both the human and the animal assistant. Lastly, does the animal display signs of enjoying the job? Are they perky, with tail-wagging, or are they hesitant and shy when faced with a new task? Plus, how do the staff feel when having an animal present? What are the work norms? Any allergies or fears from the staff?

Vaila: Is simply having a pet a valid therapy i.e. without a trained therapist present? And if someone were thinking about getting a therapy pet, what are some considerations? 

Diana: I feel like my pets are my therapy at times. Simply just petting them can reduce cortisol levels and produce a sense of calmness. Most people who have pets can attest to this! If someone is considering getting a pet for therapeutic purposes, I encourage them to consider topics such as financial availability, time availability, dedication and reason for wanting a therapy animal.

Also to consider breed, training, and type of animal. If, say, you live in a small apartment in a major metropolitan area and getting a large dog is not an option, consider your available resources. There could be cat cafés, local shelters, or rescue ranches to volunteer at. Volunteering can provide a sense of community, involvement, dedication, physical involvement. You may even meet your future therapy animal! I encourage people to do their research first and try a lot of different things to see what feels like the best solution.

Vaila: Thanks Diana for providing us an insight into your important work, bringing humans and animals together for healing.

Has your health benefited from AAT or your well-being improved by working with animals? Tell us your story via the submissions page.


Photos: Diana’s own


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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.

The post On Animal Assisted Therapy and Her Rescue Dog: An Interview With Diana Weyn Gonzalez appeared first on Dharamsala Animal Rescue.

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Sometimes it so happens,


that you are falling deep or floating like the shots fired from the cannons.


You’re used to that feeling because it happens more than twice a day,


and you just come unraveling with nothing but tears because it’s an emotion


so overbearing that you just lie there like hay.


Take it slow,


oh baby, you got to take it slow.


Try and keep the pressures at bay,


because as you know, no one knows the struggles you go through and face.


There’s no need to parade the internal suffering,


because they say you’re strong enough for enduring this aching.


But then when you finally realise that you’re not as strong as they thought


you were,


and the humans understood as well and decided to help.

So, I have been feeling a lot emotional and wound up lately,


there are other dogs to talk to, but it hasn’t seemed to help that




Other dogs come to me and talk about things that matter and tell me how to act


and how to feel,


and all I can say to them is that, those things, those actions and the ability


to feel the feelings that most matter has become my Achilles heel.


Up until now, I’ve felt like this was normal,


that the constant feeling of despair, low self-esteem and hopelessness, had


nothing in them paranormal.


Had never discussed this with any dog before,


never thought anyone would be interested in knowing my misery galore.


Though now, it’s between us, as I’ve made you all a part of my




for it will require an army for me to be together with life again and I better


hope it’s early.   


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Lishaka Gulati graduated from Government Law College, Mumbai (B.L.S.LLB) and is presently working as an Associate with Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, Mumbai, India, in their Banking & Finance Department. She loves dogs more than anything else in the world and if there’s anything that gives her immense joy, it’s the pleasure of their company.

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I often feel guilty about adopting Charlie, my desi dog. Yes, you heard me right — guilty.

Charlie was wild, a free spirit, loved running around the hillside charming everyone she met. She was even reluctant to stay at first, until she clocked that there was a steady stream of food. 

But there are dangers out there and sometimes we know what’s best for them. Yesterday’s puke incident is the perfect example. Charlie swiftly devoured a massive bone she found on the street, subsequently spent the whole night puking, disturbing everyone’s sleep. We went out this morning for our walk and what was the first thing she did? Eat a bone.


A Dog’s Life in India, Scotland and Portugal


As much as I know Charlie is better off with me, there’s still this niggle inside that worries intercontinental travel has scarred her in some way. She has changed. And this guilt (which I know is my own social conditioning rearing its ugly head) has led me to observe her closely and weigh up the pros and cons of the places we’ve lived in — to date India, Scotland and Portugal. 


Wild And Free In India


It’s all about territory in India. As a dog, you better be prepared to go out there and fight — quite brutal at times. India is a place where dogs scramble to survive. I used to try to take Charlie from A to B on a leash but it was awful, walking through several street dog ‘patches’ and inevitably getting attacked and sometimes mauled. In the end, I realised that some things from my culture just had to be left behind when living in India, dog-walking in the street being one of them. 

But then there was this other side to it. We could go up to the mountains and she could roam free. Let her wild side come out. Locals are so relaxed about dogs being free (unlike in Europe) because that’s the way they are, and it felt good to let her live in that way. And within her own patch, she had many friends. Her instincts were firmly in place. She knew snakes were dangerous, to stay out of the fast moving river rapids, and to protect me at night. India heightens the senses.


Social Isolation in Scotland


If India heightened her senses, living on a remote Scottish island dulled them. With no natural predators, dangerous snakes or insects, and my personal safety at an all time high, she quickly learned how to play and curl up next to the radiator. She wagged her tail at everyone, and soon became this docile, ‘peaceable’ mutt.

She generally didn’t bark anymore because let’s face it, she couldn’t even hear anything over the (sometimes) 100mph winds! What she did bark at though was other dogs on leashes. I think it was a throwback to having to be defensive in India. But after observing, I concluded that it was also because many owners are tense and train their dogs into submission, looking at other dogs as a ‘bad influence’.

Social interaction was off the table, and for me and my desi dog, it came as a shock after being in a sociable country like India. It felt a little lonely, for me and for her. I kept thinking she must always be wondering where all the street dogs were. 


Perfect Balance In Portugal?


I’ll say right off the bat that Portugal isn’t perfect — there are far more dangerous diseases and poisonous insects for dogs than in Scotland. But Charlie has adjusted well. Unfortunately, there seems to be two extremes in this country when it comes to dogs — they’re either roaming free or chained in the yard.

Charlie obviously doesn’t interact with the chained dogs. But, I can tell you that she has had little or no problems with the dogs that wander the village. It has been a joy to watch her play and socialise with them all. It takes me back to India when she would play with the neighbourhood dogs.

Being here also called something to my attention. I had begun to act like the dog owners back in Scotland, often tensing up when we meet another dog. I began to realise I was also part of the problem.

I discovered that if I relax and greet the dog as a friend, Charlie will follow suit. It told me a lot about owners’ psychological influence over their dogs. Luckily, I know Charlie will continue to teach me many lessons about myself, good and bad.

In Portugal, Charlie has learned to bond and live (mostly harmoniously) with 8 other dogs, numerous cats, and a cockerel, which is no mean feat for Charlie who has a killer instinct (for chicken). If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have any connection with the villagers, and she has really helped me keep my anxiety in check in a new place. What a gift she is, and after more than six years together, we are peas in a pod. 


Do Dogs Love Travel?


I know for sure Charlie doesn’t like cars, planes or ferries. She is not content on a journey, but she adapts better than I do to new surroundings. There’s a quiet acceptance there, and a trust in me that if I’m there, she’ll be ok. 

Despite the guilt I have about dragging her around with me, I know she appreciates me. I’ve always thought that humans are home for a dog, rather than a place. There’s a lesson in there for me, as someone who lives a nomadic life — something that has become less easy with a dog.

Whether we settle or not, I know Charlie will continue to teach me her lessons about acceptance, contentment, flexibility, and trust, just as I will continue to teach her my (less profound) lessons, such as the simple fact that street bones aren’t always the best snack, no matter where you are in the world.




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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.


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How many of us have seen donkeys being overloaded — carrying bricks, mud, and sand at construction sites in and around Delhi day in day out and all we did was sigh?

We feel bad for a moment and say ”poor animals, I wish I could do something for them” but then just walk away, once again getting engrossed in our busy lives and soon forget these animals.

Hundreds of donkeys work incessantly in construction sites and brick kilns under unbearable conditions in soaring temperatures without food, water, or rest. Many suffer from open wounds due to harnesses. The owners beat or prod them with sticks to work faster. Most have eye injuries and bruises due to bricks and sand falling into their eyes on a daily basis. They endure a huge amount of suffering from their toil.


The Asswin Project


If it were not for Bob & Jean Harrison of the Asswin Project, some of these beasts of burden would continue to slog their whole life without any rest, and die a painful, lonely death. They left their home and children back in the UK many years back to come to India to help these animals and give them a life they deserve. They have spent their earnings, time, and energy to rescue, heal and nurture injured donkeys in Gurgaon, Haryana. They persevered despite a lack of funding and managed to rescue dogs, buffaloes, and cows along the way. 

The Asswin Project is a UK registered charity which finances a healthcare programme for the needy animals in and around Delhi. The name reflects the work of ‘Aswins’ — physicians in Hindu Mythology who were said to attend the needs of the sick and reduce their pain and suffering. The extra ‘s’ of course is a play on words to link it to asses or donkeys. Every penny they get goes directly towards the rescue, treatment and care of animals.


A Day in the Life


Every morning the team transforms the couple’s Maruti car into a mobile hospital. They visit the brick kilns, construction sites, and slums. They are equipped with a first-aid box, fully prepared to heal hundreds of donkeys around Gurgaon — treating and cleaning infected feet, bruised eyes, cut ears, or maggot infested wounds amongst other ailments.

Most people living in these areas know them. You can often hear the ‘jhuggi walas’ (slum dwellers) saying “yeh hamare janwaron ke liye bhagwan hai”, which means ‘they are God for the animals’. They have an arrangement with vegetable vendors to keep the previous day’s damaged fruits and vegetables for them — bruised bananas, cabbage heads, and carrots which donkeys love to nibble on. Sometimes they even get mangoes for their dessert — a special treat! 

“They are God for the animals”

Their sanctuary is heaven on earth for these animals and is home to some 190 creatures, including 25 dogs. There they receive the love, care and safety they deserve after all the hard work they do for us. Remember that most of the houses we live in and buildings we construct exist thanks to the tedious work of these beasts of burden.


A Special Kind Of Joy


You can tell how attached Bob and Jean are by the way they talk about their animals: “Aah, this one’s Jack,” Bob tells me while giving me a tour.

“He’s our oldest resident. We found him blind one November two or three years ago. The poor fellow has all those bumps on his nose from banging into doors.”

Jean expresses more using gestures, and gives a perfect rendition of the rustic “Oye! Oye! Oye!” to a donkey trying to pick a fight with an ass.

The couple is now in their 70s. Was this their plan for retirement? Well, they just wanted the donkeys to lead better lives. What will happen to the donkeys when they’re gone? They need to find a successor, or two — someone with the same strength, dedication, and love for animals. Someone who knows where Bob is coming from when he says, “I get satisfaction from cleaning hooves and knowing I’ve made a donkey comfortable.”

Ultimately, if it had not been for this wonderful, inspiring couple, the donkeys of Gurgaon would have continued working endlessly under tough conditions and died a lonely painful deaths. Us city dwellers owe a lot to this couple and I would encourage anyone to come forward to help them out in any way they can to support this noble cause — for the benefit and health of our delightful donkeys!

Once again a big thanks to the Harrisons, you are indeed God’s Angels on Earth


Editor: Vaila Erin Bhaumick

Featured Image: Asswin Project




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Bhavani Sundaram is and animal lover and activist from Himachal Pradesh in India.

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