Travel to Nepal for Kukur Tihar dog holiday

Join this fundraising journey and honor dogs with us on this unique Nepal holiday! 

Journey Highlights

  • ALL profits go toward local dog welfare organizations
  • Led by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours and friends to street dogs worldwide
  • Celebrate dogs with us on Nepal’s Kukur Tihar holiday
  • Volunteer with local dog welfare organizations
  • Stay at the iconic and spiritually electrifying Boudhanath Stupa, an important Buddhist pilgrimage site
  • Explore the rich culture of the Kathmandu Valley’s heritage sites
  • Plenty of options for trip extensions, from hiking and safaris in Nepal, visiting the Taj Mahal in India, or heading to Bhutan
  • Entire journey–from your front door to Nepal and back again–is triple carbon offset

Details at a Glance

  • October 31–November 9, 2021
  • We’re based in one location for the entire trip
  • $1899 (USD) per person (please see “Price & What is Included” tab below for full details)
  • Minimum 5 guests, maximum of 14 guests

Can't make it on the trip but still want to support street dogs?

You can send us a donation via PayPal that we will make sure goes directly to dogs in need over all over the world (and we’ll even cover the PayPal fees!)

Want to see photos of our Treat, Spay Love: Ladakh journey?

Our 2019 volunteer trip was quite a success; not only did did we succeed in sterilizing local dogs, but we got the local village into the act, too!

What is Kukur Tihar?

Kukur Tihar is just one of the five days of Nepal’s Tihar holiday, a Hindu festival very similar to India’s Diwali celebrations. The second day of Tihar is set aside to honor the dog (kukur in Nepali) for their role as the guardians of the gates in the afterlife; everyone wants to get in good with the gatekeepers, right? Pet dogs and lucky street dogs alike are given food, marigold garlands, and adorned with a red tika mark on their foreheads as a sign of respect.

Dogs aren’t the only animals revered during Tihar. The first day of Tihar honors crows as the messengers of Yama, the god of death. The third day of Tihar pays respect to cows, already a highly revered animal in Hinduism in India and Nepal; the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is also worshipped on the third day. The fourth day is reserved for oxen, but in some traditions is also set aside for honoring the spirit that resides inside oneself. The final day of Tihar honors brothers and serves to strengthen the sibling bond.

How will we spend our time on this journey?

  • Celebrating the Nepal holiday of Kukur Tihar
  • Volunteering with local animal welfare organizations
  • Sightseeing within the Kathmandu Valley

During your time in Nepal, there will dedicated times spent volunteering with street dog welfare organizations, and you’ll also visit some of the beautiful cultural sites of the Kathmandu Valley.  And, most importantly, we’ll celebrate Kukur Tihar in style, making sure the local dogs know how much they’re loved!

The primary organization we’ll be assisting is Street Dog Care, an organization founded in 2009. Street Dog Care focuses primarily on the Boudhanath area, offering Saturday “Camps” where local people can bring street dogs for ongoing medical attention. They also have a mobile vet tech that attends to dogs in need through the greater Boudhanath area, treating wounds, skin conditions, even tumors. In addition, they have a dog rescue center a few miles east of Boudhanath where they house dogs not suited to life on the street anymore.

Kukur Tihar happy dog with a flower on her headKathmandu is so fortunate to have multiple organizations that assist street dogs, and we’ll be visiting and donating to other non-profits according to their needs at the time.

The volunteer work will be reflective of your skillset and desires, along with the current needs of our partners and the dogs. Don’t underestimate the power and importance of simply sharing your love! Our ‘work’ might be bathing and combing dogs, it may be building wheelchairs for paralyzed dogs, or it might just be loving them (and taking lots of photos for future Street Dog Care calendars!)

We’ll visit Street Dog Care’s rural dog center and learn more about their operations. From this command center they organize everything from widespread rabies vaccination campaigns (1,000+ street dogs per year) to preparing lucky adopted dogs for the international flights to their new homes. As needed, we’ll assist with ongoing projects at the center (and, of course, hanging out with the dogs!) From our visit to Street Dog Care’s dog center, we can take a hike to Changu Narayan Temple. This important 5th-century Hindu temple, dedicated to the god Vishnu, is a true treat to visit. Although it is considered to be the oldest temple in Nepal, it is not on the heavily worn tourist track!

Our sightseeing will take us to nearby Pashupatinath Temple, the most important Hindu temple in Nepal which is dedicated to Shiva. Pashupatinath is the largest temple complex in Nepal, and its grounds are sprawling and fascinating. The holy Bagmati River flows through the complex, and its banks are a sacred site for cremation. The grounds also house a deer park, as one of the god Shiva’s manifestations (named Pashupati) took the form of a deer in Nepal.

We’ll also spend a day in the nearby town of Bhaktapur. The Kathmandu Valley was home to three kingdoms in the late 1400’s: Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. Visiting Bhaktapur is like walking back in time, strolling through its tiny brick alleyways and its majestic squares. We’ll also experience a traditional Newar meal here; typical Newar meals can consist of dozens of courses–we’ll keep it to just 10 or so!

Depending on our volunteer activities and Tihar festival schedules, we may visit other sites in the Valley. The 5-day Tihar celebration is the second most important holiday in Nepal, and our emphasis is keeping our time in Nepal with you engaged, enthusiastic, but relaxed. Some sites in Kathmandu can get quite crowded during this festival. We are similar to the street dogs, though, and think it best to avoid firecrackers, throngs of people, and loud noises!

 

Street dogs at Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal

What is a street dog, exactly?

Chances are you may have never encountered a “street dog” if you’ve only traveled within the U.S, Western Europe, or Australia. Street dogs are dogs that are left to their own devices to survive, in cities or rural areas. They may be former pets who were abandoned or they may have been born to other street dogs. They tend to be quite clever, by necessity (and very sweet, by choice!)  The best solution for the presence of street dogs is widespread sterilization to reduce the overall population. By vaccinating and taking care of street dogs, we also take care of the human community around them.

 

Can I bring a dog home with me?

There are dogs in need all over the globe, so we always advocate emptying your local shelters first. However, ‘the heart wants what the heart wants’ and you may just find your best bud on this trip. In that case, it is typically not very difficult to get your new friend home (without quarantine time). Please consult this site about bringing dogs into the U.S. and this site about Canada. If you think there is even a slim chance of this happening, please consult with us before you buy your international airfare, as some airlines are going to be easier to work with in this regard.

What supplies should I bring with me?

If you have room in your luggage, we’ll suggest items you can bring that are either impossible to find or prohibitively expensive to buy in (or ship to) Nepal. Plus, the more you bring with you, the more room you’ll have for souvenirs on the way back—see how that works?! Once we get a “wish list,” perhaps you can also help us solicit donations from veterinary and pet supply companies.

About our home base in Kathmandu, Nepal

  • We’ll be staying in a comfortable oasis of a guesthouse that raises money for charity
  • Boudhanath is a Tibetan Buddhist neighborhood on the outskirts of the city
  • Enjoy our safe, charming pedestrian area with cafes and shops (and dogs!)

Your home away from home will be a sweet non-profit run guesthouse in Boudhanath, a Tibetan Buddhist enclave within the majority-Hindu country of Nepal. Situated on the northeast side of Kathmandu, Boudhanath is removed from the dusty hustle and bustle of the capital city. However, this area is alive with its own unique energy!

A beautiful black dog named Bhalu rests in front of Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal.Boudhanath (or “Boudha”) is home to a Tibetan Buddhist stupa (a commemorative Buddhist monument). Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in the world and is an important pilgrimage site; it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. By all accounts, Boudhanath has existed in some form since the 6th century, located along an important trade route from Tibet. When Tibetans fled Tibet during the Chinese invasion in the 1950s, many refugees took up residence in this area, lending it a very distinct flavor from the rest of the capital city. The Boudha area is home to over two dozen Buddhist monasteries (one of them is next door to our guest house!) From pre-dawn to dusk, you’ll find pilgrims and local Buddhists walking around the stupa clockwise, mindfully fingering their prayer beads and spinning prayer wheels, all while chanting the mantra of compassion, Om Mani Padme Hum.

Our guesthouse in Boudha is one of the fundraising arms of a wonderful Swiss charity, Rokpa. In Kathmandu, Rokpa operates a children’s home, a women’s workshop, and a seasonal soup kitchen. Set around one of the only green lawns you’ll see in Kathmandu, our guesthouse is an oasis even within Boudhanath itself. Just a 3-minute walk from the stupa, you’ll be free to safely and comfortably explore in your free time–or perhaps just drink tea and read a book in the garden!

The circular pedestrian street surrounding the stupa is lined with handicraft shops and cafes. We’ll sample delicious Nepali food, try Thakali favorites, and even a few specialties from Tibet and Bhutan. If there’s room in your suitcase for souvenirs, we can point you in the right direction! There are some fabulous painted thangkas in this area, as well as some stellar jewelry and locally-made clothing. And, of course, this is prime territory to get to know some of the Boudha dogs. We’ve known some dogs on the circle for 8 years, each with their own distinct personality.

We strongly believe Boudha is the only place to stay in while you are in Kathmandu. It’s quiet, it’s safe, it’s charming, and the street dogs are among the best in the world (not that we’re not biased or anything). Staying in Boudha, your experience will be nothing like those who stay in Thamel, the busy tourist section of downtown. It is a world away from our cozy home in Boudha.

 

Take a dog’s-eye-view of the Boudhanath area with Ralphie in the video below!

Want to extend your time in Nepal? Or perhaps India or Bhutan? 

Hiking, Safaris, Taj Mahal & more!

While you’re here, there is plenty to do in other parts of Nepal, or even in India or Bhutan! We have amazing partners throughout the region that will take good care of you should you choose to continue your adventure.  Please click the toggle below to open up a world of possibilities!

Click here for trip extension possibilities

This is a great time of year to be in South Asia, and we can help you make the most of your time in this part of the world! We can help customize and refine these ideas, but here are a few ideas to ponder right now:

Hiking in Nepal

Just an hour flight (or 5-6 hour drive) from Nepal will take you to Pokhara, nestled in the Annapurna mountain range.  This charming lakeside town offers all manners of outdoor adventure! You can elect for a multi-day hike within mountains, staying at simple “tea houses” along the way, or you can opt for one or more day hikes in the area. You can paddle out in the Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal. More adventurous folks might opt for paragliding, ziplining, or even an ultralight flight to get close to the mountains! Pokhara has cute shops, plentiful cafes, and even single or multi-day yoga retreat options.

 

Safari in Nepal

The cute butt of a greater one horned rhino in nepal
You’ve spent time with the dogs of Nepal–how about the rhinos, tigers, and sloth bears?! Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to some stunning flora and fauna, including Bengal tigers, Indian leopards, and Greater One-horned Rhinoceros. It’s a bird-watchers dream, as well; in 2006 there were 543 species of birds recorded in the Chitwan National Park. (Have you ever seen such a cute rhino butt in your whole life?)

 

India

Kathmandu is just a hop, skip, and a 100-minute flight to New Delhi, your hub to the rest of India.  We have fantastic partners in India that will take very good care of you, should you want to pop over to visit the new World Wonder of the Taj Mahal. Note: This time of year, post-Diwali festival fireworks and during [illegal] crop burning, has the potential for poor air quality in India.

 

Bhutan

Bhutan, the last Shangri-La–and easily within your reach! A one-hour flight connects you directly between Kathmandu and Paro, Bhutan–flying past Mt. Everest, no less! Our partners in Bhutan will make sure you have an amazing time in this carbon-negative country! Please visit our page PrivateBhutanTours.com for more ideas!

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Price & What is Included

The all-inclusive price for this journey is $1899 USD per person (double occupancy rate).   This price only covers the actual retreat and donations to dog welfare organizations, not international airfare (for a full list of inclusions, please see below).

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $299 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary).  Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you may be responsible for the single supplement. 

Remember, ALL PROCEEDS from this trip go to dog welfare organizations!

Payment Plan

We will provide invoices (via PayPal) for the 2nd and 3rd installments two weeks before they are due (payable by check, credit card, or TransferWise for our guests outside the USA).

  • A $300 non-refundable deposit holds your space. [In case of cancellation by you, the full deposit goes to local Kathmandu dog welfare organizations.]
  • The second installment of $800 is due by June 1, 2021.
  • The balance is due by August 1, 2021.  Single supplement ($299) is due along with the last installment.

 

All-inclusive price covers:

  • All accommodation in Kathmandu
  • All transportation in Kathmandu (including airport pickup and drop-off)
  • All meals
  • All site entrance fees
  • All tips at hotels and restaurants
  • $300 donation to local dog welfare organizations

 

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Nepal visa fee, payable upon arrival at the airport (~$30 for up to 15 days; $50 for 30 days)
  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Alcohol

Payments

Please refer to the Price tab above for specific information about price & what is included on your journey, along with the Payment Plan dates. 

We accept payments via check and credit or debit card (via PayPal). For our guests outside the U.S., please write [email protected] for the best transfer details.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
  • Paying by Credit Card, Debit Card, or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance; please click here if you’d like further instruction.

We will email you invoices (via PayPal) before each due date. 

Travel Insurance

If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. 

We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.

Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.

InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.

It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.

Travel Insurance. Simple & Flexible.

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    Who’s going?

    About Volunteering with Dogs & the Rabies Vaccine

    While your time in Nepal could feasibly be separate from any contact with dogs (if you wish), more than likely you’ll want to have contact with dogs on this trip.

    By nature, the Treat, Spay, Love tours have certain inherent risks involved in working with animals, including but not limited to bites, scratches, potential exposure to zoonotic diseases, and allergic reactions (to animals, cleaning products, or other environmental allergens). You may decline any volunteer role at any time if you feel such role or position presents a risk to health or safety or for any other reason. You must advise us of any preexisting conditions that would preclude involvement in any volunteer activity, which may include lifting, carrying, or other physical labor.

    Rabies Vaccine

    Rabies is present in Nepal. The dogs at the animal welfare centers you’ll be volunteering with, as well as most (if not all) dogs you’ll encounter in our neighborhood in Nepal, have also received rabies vaccinations. However, we must still use the greatest caution during our time in Nepal. 

    Prophylatic pre-exposure rabies vaccinations are not required for this trip, due in part to their high cost in the U.S.  However, you may discuss this option with your physician if it makes you feel more comfortable. Even for those guests with the pre-exposure vaccine, immediate post-exposure vaccines are still required if you think you may have been exposed to rabies.

    You can find more practical information about rabies vaccinations at the CDC’s website:

    Post-exposure rabies vaccines are typically well-stocked in hospitals in Kathmandu. You would need to continue the course of treatment when you returned home, as well.

    Our Carbon Negative commitment

    RetreaTours is Climate Positive!

    We purchase triple carbon offsets for your travels with us—that’s from your home, through the entire tour, and back to your home again, times three

    RetreaTours is officially a Carbonfree® Partner with Carbonfund.org, as well as a partner with Cool Effect.

    You may have heard the term “carbon neutral,” which means that a company offsets as much carbon as it produces. With this 300% offset, RetreaTours is actually offsetting more carbon than we produce each year, making us “carbon negative” (or “climate positive,” which has a nicer ring to it!)

    Since 2012 we’ve focused on making travel safe and easy for our guests; with our triple carbon offset tours, we’re pleased to make our trips as sustainable as they are memorable.

    Please see more at RetreaTours.com/CarbonNegative

    Registration Questions & Contract

    We are not currently accepting registrations until we are confident that the trip can move forward safely. However, please click here to leave your name and email address and we will notify you when the trip opens up for official registration!

    FAQ: Visas, Health, Hotels, Food, Money & more

    PASSPORT/VISA

    • What do I need to know about the visa?    

    First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).  If you plan on extending your trip in another country (India, Bhutan, etc), you will need 3 empty pages in your passport.

    You will purchase your visa upon arrival in the Kathmandu, Nepal airport. The visa is $30 for 15 days and $50 for 30 days, depending on your pre- or post-trip plans.

     

    FOOD

    • I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?

    Nepali food is delicious and nutritious–and there is plenty of ‘Western’ food available in the area we’ll be staying, too!

    Vegetarians won’t have any problem in Kathmandu and will find the local cuisine quite tasty. Gluten is avoidable in Nepal by choosing rice over chapatis and other local breads. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local languages to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten. Click here for the Hindi version.  If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards, available in 60 different languages.

    When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns.

    • Can I drink the water?

    In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water. If you wish to bring a reusable bottle and the water sterilization treatment of your choice in order to save on plastic bottles, that is super!

    HEALTH

    • What vaccines do I need?

    None are required to enter Nepal, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you.  You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the Scottish NHS recommendations here.

    • What about rabies?

    Please refer to the separate toggle on this page “About volunteering with the dogs & the rabies vaccine” for more information.

    It is up to you and your primary care physician if you wish to explore preventative rabies vaccines. You can read more about that on the CDC’s page here.

    • What about malaria? 

    Malaria is no to low risk in Nepal (particularly in Kathmandu). Please see the NHS malaria map of Nepal here.  As always, though, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.

    • What are the physical requirements for this trip?

    Please see the separate section on this page titled “Suggested Fitness Requirements.”

    • Do I need travel insurance?

    Yes, travel insurance is required on this trip. Please find out what must be covered in the “Travel Insurance” tab on this page. You must give us your travel insurance company name, policy number, and emergency number before the start of the trip.

    MONEY

    • How much money should I bring?

    That is entirely up to you and how much shopping you want to do in Kathmandu!  All of your meals and transportation are covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras. You can easily change money or access an ATM in our Boudhanath neighborhood.

    • How do I get the local currency?

    You can either exchange cash in Nepal or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Nepal, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.

    HOTELS

    • What kind of hotel will we be staying in?

    We will be staying at Rokpa Guest House, one of the fundraising arms of a wonderful charity. Each room has a private attached bathroom with a shower and a western-style toilet (that is, not a squat toilet). Wifi is available, although it may be stronger in public areas. Be sure to bring along a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!

    COMMUNICATION

    • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

    You will have access to wifi on this journey, so connecting with your loved ones over WhatsApp or Messenger will be very easy.

    Before the trip begins we will give you a contact for our hotels; in addition, we will give you our Nepali phone numbers ahead of time, as well as an American number good for text messages and voicemails.

    An international phone plan will work in Kathmandu. If you have an unlocked cell phone and wish to purchase a Nepali SIM card for your time here, you can do that upon arrival at the airport (we will walk you through it!) However, a Nepal SIM card will most likely be unnecessary and wifi is abundant.

    Suggested Fitness Requirements

    This is not a particularly strenuous journey! There are no elevators in our hotel in Kathmandu, so you may be required to walk 2-3 flights of stairs to get to your room (although you can request a room on a lower or ground floor).  All walks (and one short “hike”) within the journey are optional. The terrain around Street Dog Care is uneven, located on a rural hill. Boisterous dogs at our volunteer locations may want to jump up to say “hello,” so those with balance issues will want to be aware of that before entering such spaces.

    Kathmandu, Nepal is at an altitude of 4,500 feet (1,400m) so altitude-related issues are not a concern.

    About your International Flights

    We are more than happy to recommend specific international flights for you, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself. There are more and more international flights that fly directly into Kathmandu, Nepal, which is wonderful. Here is some important information if you would like to research flights yourself:

    When must I arrive in Kathmandu?

    It would be great if you could arrive by the late afternoon of October 31, but since we will be in once location this entire trip, it’s OK if you need to arrive later. 

    When is it safe to book my departing flight?

    Again, since we are in one location the entire trip, we can make sure you make your flight any day or time that is convenient for you. We’ll have our farewell dinner on the evening of November 8th, and your hotel night on November 8th and breakfast on November 9th is included.

    Temperatures & Suggested Packing List

    Temperature

    The historical average temperatures in the Kathmandu Valley for this timeframe are 50–80°F (10-25°C).  Historically, the skies are clear, with very little precipitation and low humidity.  Learn anything you could possibly want to know about the weather in Kathmandu, Nepal in November over at Weather Spark!

    Packing List

    Coming soon! 

    Dog Wish List

    Coming soon–the more you bring for the dogs (that is not available or prohibitively expensive in Nepal), the more room you have for souvenirs on the way back!

    Contact RetreaTours

    Please write [email protected] for any questions you may have about this journey. If you have not received a reply within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder.

    About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours

    BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding.  In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)

    BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart.  Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.

    As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of. The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you!  So….let’s get going!

    A message from Lauren

    Hi there! You might already know that BJ and I have been on the road year-round since January 2013, designing and leading tours around the globe. As you can imagine, this lifestyle can be quite isolating, away from friends and family. Something that always grounds me and makes me feel connected are street dogs.  No matter where we are, I can typically find a fuzzy friend to sit with me on a curb for a few minutes of camaraderie. I don’t need to speak the local language, make small talk, or even have a pocket full of food (although you can imagine that helps!)

    Although we’ve always had a soft spot for street dogs, this feeling transformed into a true passion in Kathmandu, Nepal, many years ago. It was in Boudhanath that I had to good fortune to meet compassionate, smart, proactive people who made a difference, one dog at a time. Although I felt completely clueless, I also felt empowered to do something

    We cannot always do great things, but we can always do small things with great love. (~Mother Teresa)

     Our street dog routine quickly shifted into high gear: cooking meals for dozens of dogs, creating and carrying a simple first aid kit for dogs, and we even hosted a street dog in our Kathmandu rental apartment after getting him neutered. (That would be Dorje Bear, pictured here–he doesn’t walk so well on a leash so we’ve made many, many trips like this over the years for weekly medicated baths & sleepover movie nights. He’s a big fan of Captain America.)

    A lady with a shaved head carrying a mangy dog through the alleys of Boudhanath in Kathmandu, Nepal.

    The street dog welfare organizations we know and love in Kathmandu perform wide-spread rabies vaccination campaigns, arrange sterilizations, and even administer chemotherapy. They mend limbs broken by careless taxi tires, soothe acid burns inflicted by heartless shopkeepers, and they build custom wheelchairs for paralyzed dogs. They give hope where there seems to be none at all. They work in a tireless fashion, not dissimilar to the starfish parable, and what they do certainly makes a difference to the lives they touch.

    Kathmandu is where we’ve spent the most time in our 8 years on the road, staying for months on end. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my days revolve around the dogs when we are in Nepal. In light of that, it is simply criminal that we’ve not been able to celebrate Kukur Tihar there before! The holiday never fit in with our busy November tour schedule, so we decided that we had to make Kukur Tihar a priority in 2021. In light of recent events, this fundraising trip is even more crucial, bringing much-needed funds to these COVID lockdown-affected charities. Please join us in helping these non-profits continue providing care to as many of Kathmandu’s 30,000+ street dogs as possible.

     

    Street dogs being helped in Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal
    Kukkuripa was a Nepali Buddhist that was the ultimate dog lover

    Kukkuripa, the ultimate dog lover!

    There is a wonderful legend about a Buddhist named Kukkuripa. While he has nothing to do with Kukur Tihar, he was the epitome of a dog-loving Nepali! Read more about his story and see some beautiful images in the toggle below!

    Click here to read more about Kukkuripa

    Kukkuripa was a man who lived in ancient Nepal, a Buddhist practitioner who chose the path of renunciation. During his travels, he found a starving dog in a bush. Moved by compassion, he fed the dog and took care of her. By the time they arrived in Lumbini, Nepal, Kukkuripa had become so accustomed to her affectionate, good-natured company that he could not imagine living without her. And so he searched for an empty cave large enough for them both. Every day, when he went out begging, she would stand guard, waiting patiently for his return.

    So deeply involved was Kukkuripa in mediation and the continuous recitation of his mantra, that twelve years passed. The gods of the Thirty-three Sensual Heavens had taken notice. In fact, they were so impressed that they invited Kukkuripa to celebrate his achievements by visiting their paradise. Flattered, and amazed by their attentions, he accepted the invitation and embarked upon a ceaseless round of self-indulgent feasting and pleasure. On earth, his faithful dog waited patiently for her master to return. Although she had to root around for whatever she could find to eat, she never strayed far from the cave.

    And, in truth, she was not forgotten. Despite his luxurious existence, Kukkuripa sorely missed his loving companion. Again and again he told the gods that he needed to return to the cave to care for her.

    But his heavenly hosts urged him to stay, saying: “How can you even think about returning to a dog in a dark cave when you are enjoying our good favor and every luxury and comfort we can offer? Don’t be so foolish—remain with us here.” Time and time again, Kukkuripa allowed himself to be persuaded.

    But one day when he looked down from the Thirty-three Heavens, he realized that his loyal dog was pining for him—her eyes were sad, her tail drooped, and she was so thin he could see her ribs. Kukkuripa’s heart ached for her. Then and there he descended from paradise to rejoin her in the cave.

    The dog leaped and pranced with joy when she caught sight of her beloved master. But no sooner did he sit down and begin to scratch her favorite spot, just behind the ears, than she vanished from sight! There before him, wreathed in a cloud of glory, stood a radiantly beautiful dakini (sacred female spirit).

    “Well done!” she cried. “Well done! You have proved your worth by overcoming temptation. Now that you have returned, supreme power is yours. You have learned that the mundane power of the gods is delusory, for they still retain the notion of self. Theirs is the realm of fallible pleasure. But now your dakini can grant you supreme realization—immaculate pleasure without end.”

    Renowned as Guru Kukkuripa, the Dog Lover, he lived a long life of selfless service. Kukkuripa figures prominently in the education & enlightenment of Marpa, recognized as the founder of the Kagyü sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

    (Edited from Tricycle Magazine; you can learn more about each artwork below by clicking here)

    Kukkuripa was a Nepali Buddhist that was the ultimate dog lover

    Kukkuripa, the ultimate dog lover!

    There is a wonderful legend about a Buddhist named Kukkuripa. While he has nothing to do with Kukur Tihar, he was the epitome of a dog-loving Nepali! Read more about his story and see some beautiful images in the toggle below!

    Click here to read more about Kukkuripa

    Kukkuripa was a man who lived in ancient Nepal, a Buddhist practitioner who chose the path of renunciation. During his travels, he found a starving dog in a bush. Moved by compassion, he fed the dog and took care of her. By the time they arrived in Lumbini, Nepal, Kukkuripa had become so accustomed to her affectionate, good-natured company that he could not imagine living without her. And so he searched for an empty cave large enough for them both. Every day, when he went out begging, she would stand guard, waiting patiently for his return.

    So deeply involved was Kukkuripa in mediation and the continuous recitation of his mantra, that twelve years passed. The gods of the Thirty-three Sensual Heavens had taken notice. In fact, they were so impressed that they invited Kukkuripa to celebrate his achievements by visiting their paradise. Flattered, and amazed by their attentions, he accepted the invitation and embarked upon a ceaseless round of self-indulgent feasting and pleasure. On earth, his faithful dog waited patiently for her master to return. Although she had to root around for whatever she could find to eat, she never strayed far from the cave.

    And, in truth, she was not forgotten. Despite his luxurious existence, Kukkuripa sorely missed his loving companion. Again and again he told the gods that he needed to return to the cave to care for her.

    But his heavenly hosts urged him to stay, saying: “How can you even think about returning to a dog in a dark cave when you are enjoying our good favor and every luxury and comfort we can offer? Don’t be so foolish—remain with us here.” Time and time again, Kukkuripa allowed himself to be persuaded.

    But one day when he looked down from the Thirty-three Heavens, he realized that his loyal dog was pining for him—her eyes were sad, her tail drooped, and she was so thin he could see her ribs. Kukkuripa’s heart ached for her. Then and there he descended from paradise to rejoin her in the cave.

    The dog leaped and pranced with joy when she caught sight of her beloved master. But no sooner did he sit down and begin to scratch her favorite spot, just behind the ears, than she vanished from sight! There before him, wreathed in a cloud of glory, stood a radiantly beautiful dakini (sacred female spirit).

    “Well done!” she cried. “Well done! You have proved your worth by overcoming temptation. Now that you have returned, supreme power is yours. You have learned that the mundane power of the gods is delusory, for they still retain the notion of self. Theirs is the realm of fallible pleasure. But now your dakini can grant you supreme realization—immaculate pleasure without end.”

    Renowned as Guru Kukkuripa, the Dog Lover, he lived a long life of selfless service. Kukkuripa figures prominently in the education & enlightenment of Marpa, recognized as the founder of the Kagyü sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

    (Edited from Tricycle Magazine; you can learn more about each artwork below by clicking here)

    Want to support street dogs right now?

    The COVID-19 lockdown in Nepal has affected the street dogs deeply. The closure of restaurants since March 2020 means that the steady supply of leftover food has dried up for the dogs. In addition, the tragic loss of income for local families means there’s no food going to waste, no extra scraps for the dogs. The lockdown also prevents many well-intentioned Nepalis from even reaching the dogs outside their own neighborhood. Local organizations are paying for food and distributing it, but they need help!

    The dogs would have nothing to eat right now without these organizations.

    If you want to donate by clicking the button below, we’ll cover the transfer costs and pass it along to several different organizations. 

    Photo Album

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