This summer I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, to participate in a neuter project aimed at controlling stray dog numbers in India. Fear of contracting rabies drives many communities to perform brutal culls, with the government often supporting these. However this is not working, with numbers continuing to grow. Dog culling also increases rodent numbers, bringing new disease threats. The WVS training centre neuters/vaccinates dogs all year round.
Feeling nervous about meeting new people and performing surgery for the first time, I boarded my 10 hour flight… On arrival at Bangalore I met up with some fellow participants. At 5am we departed for Ooty – 6 of us crammed into the car, with our suitcases balanced precariously on the roof with rope. Little did we know there was still a 10 hour drive ahead and we soon discovered driving in India is crazy! Finally we made it to the WVS training centre which was to be our home for the next 2 weeks.
By 9pm all the participants had arrived. Despite ages ranging from 21 to 34 everybody clicked immediately. We started work the next morning, each person performing 1 castrate and 1 spay a day. It was our responsibility to both anaesthetise and operate on the dog, despite having limited surgical experience! Whilst daunting, we soon found our feet and gained confidence. By the end of the week we were much quicker, finishing by 4pm rather than 7pm! However our enjoyment of the staple meal curry and rice had lessened with each passing day!
On Saturday we were informed there were 4 rescued ponies which needed castrating – naturally we jumped at the chance! Afterwards we ventured out into Ooty for a well earned beer and some indian dancing. It was a fabulous evening and just what we needed after a hard week. The following day we took the train through the tea plantations to absorb the beautiful scenery. Sunday also gave us the chance to immerse ourselves in Indian culture and talk to the local people.
The second week went by in a blur, as we became much more competent in surgery. We continued to bond as a group going on numerous meals out and adventures to the local taverns! The last Friday came around all to quickly and we headed out for a final meal to celebrate completing nearly 200 neuters between us!
On Saturday some emotional goodbyes were said… We had experienced so much together, through the highs and the lows that come with doing veterinary medicine. I learned so much about myself, became more confident and discovered a passion for travelling. With a heavy heart I had to leave the cultural delights of India behind. Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for giving me this opportunity. I will never forget it and want to return to carry on the work of the WVS.