The front line

Post by
Kate Shervell
September 22nd 2013

John Gaye, Vice Chairman of Trustees at Dogs Trust, describes the experience of working on the campaign in Guwahati:

“On the Home Page of the Mission Rabies website you will find the latest “count”. To those reading it at home it is an up to date figure towards the goal of 50,000. To those involved on the ground, whether as volunteer vets or vet nurses from abroad, Indian vets or the many dog-catchers employed locally, each one of those vaccinations is a personal achievement.

Today I joined the Guwahati teams at 4 am, just before dawn, and followed them through a very full day until after darkness had fallen on this capital city of Assam in North East India, sandwiched between Bangladesh and Burma.

Split into four teams, each team is given its own target and off they set to cover a specific area in the municipality or surrounding area. Many of the teams are highly qualified vets or vet nurses but the absolutely essential part of each team are the dog-catchers. Without the skills, energy and motivation of the latter, the former are just highly qualified men and women holding a fully-loaded needle in their hand to no purpose.

To catch a dog requires many personal skills and a large element of both coordination and team-work to prevent the trapping and catching becoming just many individuals chasing the more fleet-of-foot canine targets.

Most of the dog-catchers I saw today have only been doing this for a few days and have been specially recruited for the project. But they are very well led and highly motivated so some of the catching would have impressed even that great Tamil Nadu dog-catching Guru Nigel Otter.

Black dogs in dark courtyards at night must be the ultimate feat of dog-capture and caused no problem to Guwahati Team B. But to me, as an interested spectator, the biggest impression was of the pride and excitement as the team approached their target of 125 for the day. So much energy went into each dog caught or tracked down in gardens, muddy lanes, main arterial roads or even once in a large government research station building. 

At 4 am we were the only vehicles and people on the road and so it was only the community dogs running loose that were available. Three hours later people were up and about and many of them brought out their own family pets to be vaccinated and marked accordingly with green paint. Then each vaccination was recorded on a smart phone, together with details of the animal and its exact location identified by GPS before the dog was released back whence it came.

At 9.45 am all the teams were stood down as the thermometer reached 35º and, more importantly, the humidity went through the roof. But they all turned out again at 3 pm, despite some severe local flooding from the afternoon monsoon and they worked through into the darkness for another three hours.

In the afternoon I was with Team B when they hit their target for the day of 125 dogs. There were shrieks of joy, a lot of high fiving and much back slapping as everyone dodged the heavy evening traffic on one of the city’s major arterial roads. Then, with many of the exultant team hanging out of their truck, they drove home telling everyone they came across of their achievement.

To the home teams of WVS and Dogs Trust, and all those interested in the Mission Rabies project, it is just another 125 towards the important and ambitious overall target for this month; to all those involved on the ground each one of those 125 dogs caught, vaccinated, recorded and released back into the community had required a huge amount of energy, skilled determination and much hard work. Each one of that huge number on the Home Page means so much to everyone involved throughout the length and breadth of India.”