It was made apparent that for non-vets to access the magazine our article got published in it can be quite a chore so I’ve decided to re-post it on my blog for anyone who fancied a read. This was an article that myself and fellow traveller, Beth put together to sum up our time in India which was kindly published by our friends at Veterinary Practice Magazine. Please note that it was very well behaved as it had the potential to be read by our future employers ( you can never be too careful!).
So here it is….
This summer we spent four weeks in Jaipur working with Help in Suffering (HIS), one of the oldest and most established rabies vaccination and neutering clinics for stray street dogs in India. During our time we became fully entrenched in all aspects of the organisation; the Animal Birth Control (ABC) program, the Ambulatory Camel clinic, the Rescue Centre, and a small animal clinic for pet owners. The team at HIS cared for all species from peacocks to buffalo, it was a fantastic opportunity to think outside the box without all the comforts and high tech gear of the UK practices. We would highly recommend the experience for any student with a keenness to learn about veterinary in other countries, and for those concerned that a language barrier prevents communication, we found that frantic arm gestures and exaggerated facial expressions were much more successful than our vain attempts to learn Hindi!
On day one in the ABC we were greeted by the expected organised chaos of morning surgery and much to our surprise, half-naked men scuttling around the prep room! When the surgeons arrived, the chaos transformed into order and efficiency, a stark comparison to our experience of the rest of India! For population stability, bitches were prioritised and spayed via flank incision at an unbelievable rate. Male dogs caught in the morning were vaccinated against rabies and released to help maintain a stable and safe population of street dogs in the area. Just as we were finding some familiarity in the veterinary practices of India, we stumbled across a cupboard full of pickled gonads. Apparently, these were evidence of the sterilisation procedures undertaken at HIS. Despite our surprise and amusement, this was taken very seriously and would be meticulously counted by a ministry official annually to justify government funding.
We had some interesting and at times eye-opening experiences outside the ABC too… In the UK we have both had extensive experience with cattle and felt fairly confident dealing with them, however we soon found out this didn’t translate to ‘The Holy Cows’ of India! Their ‘God complex’ meant they believed they were invincible and they did not take kindly to being bossed around and would throw themselves around to prove it . Largely due to their nonchalant attitude with cars, bovine fractures were the norm so bandaging and splinting became a large part of our daily routine. After initial reservations we found that many of these animals recovered surprisingly well; which made us reflect on our attitudes to cattle in the UK and that in some cases we maybe give up on them a little too quickly. The lucky ones went to the Guyshala, a government-run “nursing home” for an unbelievable number of cows!
Whilst accompanying the Camel vet to a clinic set up in the middle of a busy highway we, noticed quite a crowd had gathered, we naively asked whether he often attracted an audience? He informed us, between chuckles, that we were the main attraction! We realised fame would definitely never suit us! The Camel team employed excellent preventative care, free of charge to the working camels in Jaipur. We gained a great appreciation for preventative medicine in the UK, which particularly hit home when a mare with tetanus arrived at HIS. Her devastated owners stayed with her for two days until she passed away. It was difficult to see so much distress for both owner and mare, without any ability to end her suffering, due to strong religious beliefs. India is beginning to see an increase in education about preventative animal health care, however the knowledge is struggling to reach the poorer communities. We hope that international support from the veterinary profession can help address this problem.
We both learnt a great deal from our time at HIS and gained experiences which we couldn’t have hoped for in the UK. We learnt techniques and skills that we will take forward into our careers but also an appreciation of the high standards of veterinary care accessible at home.
It wasn’t all work and no play, when joining forces with some French volunteers for a night-out we were told off by the Tuk tuk driver for making too much noise – we thought this was hilariously
hypocritical coming from a driver of the loudest vehicle, in the noisiest city imaginable! We have learnt that no matter the country or situation, in this job, you have to let your hair down now and then. But through the good and bad, we both would do it all again and would strongly encourage others to do the same!