It was my first trip to India. I was alone and, to be honest, I was kind of stressed in the beginning.


But I needn’t have been. I managed to land with both feet on the ground as a volunteer at Dharamsala Animal Rescue. I first went along one Friday to say hi and take them some dog blankets I brought from home. They were such sweet people! They made me feel at home right away, and the dogs de-stressed me instantly. I decided to go with the flow and do something good.

I soon found discovered that there’s only one boss at DAR: Cookie! At first he comes off as a really cool dog―too cool for school―but actually he’s a complete sweetheart. While I was there, I bathed him every day to help with his skin disease. He goes through the whole process every day, so calm and kind. Cookie is missing one of his front legs, but he couldn’t care less. He runs the place! What a tough cookie, and what sweetheart he is.

Cookie the Boss

And then there was Major. Major is very special to me, because he was my first rescue dog at DAR. I went with the mobile clinic after a call from a local villager that alerted us to his condition. Major had some bad maggot wounds as a result several dog bites. We found him lying in a corner of a hostel. The smell of his wounds was overwhelming. So after some emergency treatment from our veterinarians on the scene, we brought him back to the shelter for proper treatment. During the ride I was ‘lucky’ enough to get to sit in the back seat, near to Major in the open trunk. As he (and his maggots) kept jumping out of the trunk and onto the back seat next to me, well… let’s just say our relationship was quite intense from the very beginning. What really impressed me, however, was how kind this beautiful boy was. As soon as we entered the stinking scene, despite all of his painful injuries, he started wagging his tail. Really, we humans can learn so much from our animal friends!

During that same trip, we picked up Captain. He too had badly infected maggot wounds. We took him back to the clinic and the veterinarian took all the maggots out, washed him with Betadine, gave him an anti-rabies vaccination, powdered him (against fleas and ticks), and of course, at the end of all this, fed him!

Puppy receiving treatment

I also had the opportunity to be involved with DAR’s education program at the Surya Uday Charitable Trust. This is a school for disabled children who need special care. This place really touched my heart! The energy there was so peaceful and loving. The whole school was clean and light and wonderful! We brought along Pepper the puppy to help us with our presentation, and she did an amazing job! The kids responded to her very well. We had an inspiring talk with the co-founder of the school―Sachin Sharma. I feel blessed and honoured to have met such wonderful people and to have been able to do some good in this world.

Right from the start I fell in love with one of the permanent residents: Coconut. I immediately decided to try and find a home for her. Coconut is a Pakistani bull terrier, 4-5 years old. She arrived at DAR in 2015 with a shattered back leg, probably due to a traffic accident. The vet amputated her leg and since then she’s been doing fine. She is one of the fastest runners of the whole pack! Coconut completely stole my heart. She is such a love and always smiling. She is an energetic girl and so grateful for the extra walks I was able to give her. She is very smart and she picks up training really quickly. She’s just such a sweet girl!

Coconut the Pakistani bull terrier

Sadly, I couldn’t stay at DAR forever. At a certain point, everything ends and turns into a new beginning. Life is all about change, isn’t it? And being so, there also came an end to my beautiful solo India trip. It was overwhelming, exhilarating, calming, empowering and life changing, in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

With love and sadness in my heart, I said goodbye to all the dogs at DAR. These loving creatures taught me many things and I’ll remember every single one of them for the rest of my life! But I must admit, it was my farewell to all the wonderful people that brought tears to my eyes.

I am beyond grateful to everyone at DAR! Right from the start, I felt embraced with so much kindness, love and understanding. No words can describe it. They have all touched my soul and will hold a piece of my heart for as long as I live! I have only love for them.

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About the author

Mirjam Schouten

Mirjam Schouten

Miriam is a girl from the Netherlands who loves all animals! Okay.. maybe mosquitoes and spiders are excluded. Find her on Instagram @schouten1980 and Facebook