The first stage of the Mission Rabies project in Goa was not just an amazing experience for us, but also for our international volunteers. Enjoying the project so much that she didn't just volunteer once but twice during the Goa campaign, sofia, an experienced veterinarian from Hungary, would like to share her experiences today.
I first learned about Mission Rabies when I participated in Dr. Jeff Young's 'Quick Spay' workshop this spring. There I saw his yellow bracelet with a Mission Rabies sign on it, googled it and not long later I submitted my application. I knew I would like to be a part of this project! Since I have never done anything like this and never been to India before, it seemed like a perfect way to explore a new world and try my skills under very different conditions.
My first two weeks in July I spent most of my time in the Panjim hub vaccinating and sterilising stray dogs. With the help of the Panjim Animal Welfare Society, the team could make a huge step forward to make the area rabies free. For a few days I also had the chance to join the Margao team. It was marvellous to see how so many people - Indians, non-Indians, vets, nurses, and dog catching boys - could work together so hard for one big goal.
I enjoyed being a volunteer very much and I met some lovely and wonderful people! Even after operating more than a hundred dogs in two weeks, I felt like I could do some more! So, after I got home, I signed up for another two weeks - the last two weeks of the 6 month project. This time, in September, I was lucky to see 3 different hubs. All were incredibly busy catching, vaccinating and operating as many dogs as they could to reach the set goal of sterilising 20.000 dogs in 6 months. It was amazing to see that we, even in sometimes poor conditions, without electricity and running water, still managed proper and sterile surgeries.
I could see some suspected rabies cases and sadly most of them came up positive. Once a young couple showed up with their Labrador. The dog was salivating and not able to close his mouth for a couple days now. There was no behaviour change, as he was friendly and wagging his tail. The dog was vaccinated against rabies the year before, but didn't receive any booster shots. The owners explained that he got bitten by another dog 4 months ago, so we kept him in our clinic to examine and observe him. Unfortunately, one day later the dog died and the rabies test turned out to be positive. Luckily, his owners were sure they did not get bitten, but they tried to feed the dog with bare hands. To be on the safe side, we sent them to the hospital for post-exposure treatment.
This awful disease is totally preventable and Mission Rabies can help to stop the spread of rabies. I am very proud that I had the opportunity to be there and to help making Goa rabies free!