Treat, Spay, Love: Volunteering with Street Dogs in Ladakh 2019

For years we’ve wanted to combine our passion for empowering people to travel with our love of helping street dogs. That dream became a reality with our inaugural “Treat, Spay, Love” journey to Ladakh, on the Tibetan Plateau in India. Six volunteers, including three veterinarians, joined us at our home base of Thiksey Monastery the last week of May 2019 in order to enjoy the sights and also offer their time, care, and expertise.

We focused on the street dog population around Thiksey Monastery, as the Thiksey Rinpoche asked for our help in controlling the dog population. In conjunction with Live to Rescue and the municipality of Leh, our volunteer vets (and an amazing Ladakhi team!) captured and sterilized 13 dogs in one afternoon [Update: two more adult females were spayed in July 2019, and one dog underwent four weekly IV chemotherapy treatments for a tumor!]  Nine puppies stayed at at Live to Rescue’s shelter facility near the village of Nang, and four sterilized adult females were returned to their usual spots around Thiksey. It’s important to return healthy, vaccinated, sterilized dogs to their home territory to prevent a ‘vacuum,’ allowing unknown dogs to take over the area. We hit the jackpot with the six amazing individuals who signed up or this journey!

Every person contributed in a *big* way. Wendi’s magical surgical hands (and her ability to withstand our constant praise without letting it get to her head ;) Alicia’s savviness with the Big Picture was invaluable, and her compassionate services as a vet and a friend were priceless. Sarah’s pragmatism, adaptability, and rich veterinary experience served as a steadying force during our journey. Trish’s dedication to feeding the dogs was a true joy to witness, as I have finally found my partner in crime in stealing leftovers (or literally taking food off of people’s plates!) Helen’s love for the dogs overflowed and manifested into different roles, from post-op recovery room nurse to special delivery of peanut butter toast to her special pups. And Monica’s talent as the Puppy Whisperer was undeniable and inspiring; in fact, Monica brought a “+1” back home with her—a lucky puppy (named Norbu) from the Nang rescue facility now lives in Canada! [Update #2: Colin, a relentlessly cute street dog that appeared at Thiksey in June, was adopted by our Ladakhi friend and pillar of the community, Dr. Sonam Wangchok. Lucky boy!!]

Even more encouraging, neighbors in Thiksey Village approached us, asking how to get their own pet dogs sterilized. Our good friend Sagar helped arrange a pick-up (while we were gone on tour a few hours away!) and now 6 more neighborhood dogs have been sterilized! We hope to get in at least one more pick up and sterilization for some remaining puppies & mamas before we depart Ladakh in mid-July.

Ladakhi dogs are tough, resilient, and can be endlessly sweet. They deserve a shot at living their best life, especially through the unbelievably harsh winters here at 11,000 feet in the Himalayas. I know many of our guests who hadn’t interacted much with street dogs before were fascinated by the intricate society that the dogs create independently–they choose who to spend time with, where to roam & sleep, and their personalities are *quite* distinct. We wish nothing but health and happiness to our Ladakhi dogs, the Ladakhi community, and our awe-inspiring team of volunteers!

Stay tuned for more information about Live to Rescue and any future Treat, Spay, Love journeys. To learn more about Live to Rescue, please see our TreatSpayLove.com website; there is also a PayPal donate button there, while Live to Rescue is setting up their own PayPal (and the amazing Trish is making their website!)

Lauren
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