3 rabies hotspots in 3 weeks - Encounters with "Holi" dogs, advising vet students and launching a campaign full of energy: The last stop of Andy's field mission brings him to the city of Nagpur:
"It’s been a whirlwind adventure to Nagpur city; the “Tiger Capital of India”. I didn’t see any tigers, but there are plenty of dogs and the team here have a real energy and urgency to get on top of the rising rabies problem. The eve of the mass dog vaccination launch was a packed day of planning. In the afternoon we were joined by the catching team managers and a group of volunteering vet students from Nagpur Veterinary College for a project briefing; an army had been recruited to vaccinate 5000 dogs in the south of the city.
Meeting the vet students reminded me of my time at uni and getting involved with abstract projects. It was fantastic to have their enthusiastic involvement and I hope they’ll take away some positive messages about animal welfare and rabies control. The following morning the vaccination campaign kicked off with an inauguration ceremony with attendance by key dignitaries, showing positive support from the local government for these rabies control efforts. After speeches highlighting the urgent need for this work in Nagpur, the four teams loaded up the waggons with nets, cool boxes and other supplies and set off to their designated regions in the field. It’s always a real buzz to join vaccination teams as they descend on a particular city to blanket vaccinate dogs – there’s a real sense of purpose and comradery.
You also see the culture from a new perspective and in it’s full, often having to excuse yourself as you pursue a dog through someone’s back yard or onto their roof terrace. Vaccinated dogs were marked with dye used in the colour festival, “Holi” and before long it was as if the dogs of the city were having their own Holi festival with 1100 painted and vaccinated dogs by the end of day two. During the drive a group of kids came over to see what was going on as we packed up. They were about 10 years old and full of curiosity, plus they all wanted to get their hands on one of the yellow Mission Rabies wrist bands. Before we knew it we were giving a quick class on rabies, how to behave with dogs and what to do if they got bitten, similar to the classes that we rolled out on a mass scale in Goa. A quick geography lesson was also thrown in as they were fascinated to see where the UK is in realtion to India on my phone map.
Dr Budhe, one of the project managers, gave his number and told them to tell their teacher about the project at school the next day. Sure enough the following morning the teacher was on the phone asking if we would go and give a talk at the school. By the afternoon we were greeted at the school by the cheeky chaps from the previous day and the school was buzzing with excitement as kids filled the playground. The students were soon settled into orderly rows and we were invited to sit in chairs at the front. Following previous experience I didn’t need to ask what to say when asked to stand up and talk – “just words from your mouth” is the usual response – a combination of my accent and the stage of the kid’s English teaching meant none of the students would understand anything I said and Dr Budhe would follow with a translation of what he wanted me to have said anyway.
I resisted the temptation to reel off a recipe for chocolate brownies and had a good crack at an animated talking about being nice to dogs and washing bite wounds etc. Dr Budhe followed with an engaging talk which didn’t require an understanding of Marathi to enjoy. It’s been great to see the campaign here off to a winning start and support the team here which are helping to reduce the incidence of rabies and save the lives of dogs and people in this vibrant and lively city in the centre of India."
The great team of Vets for Animals managed to surpass the goal of 5.000 dogs, vaccinating a staggering 5.188 dogs during their February drive! Congratulations!