Recently, I discovered a different way to be a tourist.
I was traveling, as a tourist, to different towns in India which included Varanasi. Varanasi is a historic city; the holiest city in India, which lies on the banks of the sacred river Ganges. More than one million people live in the city with what seems like a similar number of animals: Dogs, cats, cows, monkeys, donkeys, and bulls…all living on the streets.
One morning, I was coming back from a boat tour on the Ganges, feeling happy and hungry, just like any normal tourist, when I noticed a small injured puppy. He had brown fur and he was unbelievably skinny. I then noticed that he had a large open wound across his back. I felt the urge to help, but I didn’t know what to do.
I wanted to ask some locals, however, I felt a little intimidated and confused. Everyone else who was nearby didn’t seems to care at all about him, so I went back to my hotel room and tried to forget about him. What could I do for him anyway? People in India are struggling to survive, so why should they care about a puppy? And why should I care, right? I was just a tourist.
I had some food and rested in my room—but I couldn’t stop thinking about the little brown puppy—he was so small, so weak. He was not going make it all alone out there. Then suddenly it hit me. I remembered how surprising it is that almost everywhere you go, you can find an animal welfare society ready to look after injured animals. So, I googled “animal welfare Varanasi” and found one that seemed reliable.
I immediately wrote them an email thinking, At least, I tried. Well, ten minutes later I was talking with someone from the NGO on WhatsApp, and within two hours, in front of my guest room door, there was a man. He carried a suitcase full of medications, ready to go and search for the little puppy. I could not believe it.
Whilst looking for him in the neighborhood, we met many other dogs who needed treatment, and we treated them all: A large female dog with a skin problem, a young black dog with an infected mass, and more. Each was given medication for their conditions and all were administered in the dirty, small, alleys of the old city. It was quite the adventure.
Soon, a local man joined us. He had been feeding and treating two puppies on another street, and he asked for our help, so we followed him. Next, an English woman joined us on our journey to heal. Together, this wonderful team treated puppies and dogs with skin problems, worms, fleas, ticks and many other injuries all afternoon.
At the end of this emotional, yet wonderful day, we came back near my guesthouse and made one last desperate attempt to find my injured puppy. We searched everywhere, asking local people if they had seen him. One man told us that he’d often seen this family hiding in a tree hole. He showed us the tree and yes, there was a little pup…but he was not moving.
Armed with a flash light and lots of courage, the English woman dove in and lifted the him out of the hole. I identified the little puppy: the same injury along his back, the same small, skinny, pale, brown, weak, body. We all stopped talking for a minute. His body was lifeless. He was dead. We wrapped his small body in a scarf and we paid a boat man on the Ganges to take his little body far away to give him a proper send off.
We watched them as they went down the river. The puppy’s mother and siblings stayed with us the whole time. They were thirsty, so we gave them some water and hugs and played with them. They were so happy to receive this affection. They played and followed us a bit and seemed happy. Life goes on after all.
Back at my guesthouse with my new friends, we were having very mixed emotions. Although we hadn’t managed to save the little puppy, we had potentially saved the rest of his family from being infected by his corpse. We had helped so many other dogs whilst we were looking for him. The little puppy had made a difference in his own way.
I was sad, though. Maybe I could have done things differently. If I had acted sooner, perhaps the puppy would be still alive. If the other tourists who saw him during the days before had taken the time to inform the welfare organization, he would have survived for sure. And what about the local people who told us, “Yeah we know him, he was bitten by a big dog two weeks ago.” Why didn’t they call the welfare group? I guess they must have other battles to fight. And as I’m not from Varanasi, I really can’t judge. I am just a tourist afterall.
But even though I am tourist, I want to encourage everyone to help. Know that your actions will make a difference. Next time you are travelling, and you see a sick or injured animal on the street, don’t cry, don’t feel sorry, just take the following immediate actions:
Note the place where the animal located.
Google “animal welfare” + the name of the city.
Contact the ones that seem most reliable and active.
If you take this action, you will not only be helping the animal, but I promise, you’ll have an extraordinary day. You will discover a place without the need of any guides or money. Our world is full of compassionate people, even if it’s in a place where resources are scarce.
I am going to remember this day forever. RIP little unknown brown puppy. I’m sorry I failed to help you. I’ll know better next time. But please know that your story will help a lot of other dogs. I promise you that.
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About the author
Marilou David is an animal rescuer since her young age. Squirrels and alley cats in her neighborhood of Montréal, Canada, all got food from little Marilou who was making her mommy exhausted by the number of animals she wanted to adopt! At adult age, Marilou went for a publicist career on her own, keeping enough liberty and time to travel al lot, another important value for her.
When she started to travel in the developing world she was chocked by all the animals left by themselves on the streets. South America, north Africa, south Asia, some part of Europe: each trip brought a new face to animal’s suffering. Not more was needed to make Marilou wanting to help animals all around the world. Taking first a cat from Europe, then an old dog from Chile, and a small puppy from India, Marilou is now managing a small rescue in her hometown called Stand by Me (link to https://www.facebook.com/standbyme.dog/ ), which help Canadian people to adopt a dog from the streets of another country.