6 years of running an “accidental charity”
Today is the 6th anniversary of the Dogstar Foundation and the most common question I get asked is how did you get involved with dogs in Sri Lanka in the first place ?
The answer I often give is “ by accident” but maybe it was fate , what ever it was I never planned it !
A little orange dog
In September 2006 I was volunteering for a Sri Lankan elephant charity and teaching English to children at a local Temple when I became aware of the abandoned puppies in the temple grounds. No more than 4 weeks old, hungry , full of worms and covered in fleas they were a pitiful sight. I returned later that afternoon with some frontline and food to try and do something but with no idea the path I was about embark upon. After watching me for about 15 minutes the Temple Monk approached me and said there was another dog that needed medicine. He led me behind the temple and pointed at a medium size dog laying in the shade of the building and said with a quite determination
“You can make her better , no ?”
I looked down at the animal in front of me , emaciated , almost bald from mange with a thick leathery skin in place of fur , huge open sores on her legs one of which was held up and bent at an odd angle. I with no veterinary training certainly could not make her better, I was not even sure if a vet could do anything to save her but then 2 things happened:
The dog turned slowly to look at me, her gentle amber eyes looked directly into mine and as she held my gaze all the pain and suffering of her life was clearly visible but yet I could see in that spilt second she trusted me and felt no fear , then the Monk spoke again
“You can make her better , no ?”
He did not say it like a question he said it like a statement , like he already knew the answer and was reminding me of something I already knew too but had forgotten. I promised I would get help and the Monk calmly sat down and said they would both wait for me to return.
I left the Temple with tears rolling down my face with no clear idea how I was going to fulfil my promise just a deep sense of responsibility that I must. Within 6 hours I had found and persuaded a veterinary team treating captive elephants nearby to come and see Mango, the treatment they gave saved her life and in some ways at that moment both our fates were sealed.
The path I took
The very next morning I woke with the idea for Dogstar fully formed in my head , I knew that I had to do more for Mango and the many dogs locally like her. Like many visitors to Asia faced with a sick dog I had briefly flirted with the idea of taking her and some of the pups back to England but I quickly realised the most effective use of my funds would be to work in situ not only to treat them but to tackle the root causes.
Every day when I went to the Temple I passed numerous dogs along the roadside many not much healthier than Mango , I tried to feed and treat as many as I could and I gave them all names. Many were so feral , or so frightened or injured that even when I could employ a vet we could not get close enough to treat them. Coupled with the very real fear local people had of these dogs due to Rabies or the belief that they would catch mange from these dogs even the young pups were ostracised and no one wanted to care for them.
A more sensible person than I would probably have walked away at that point , quite simply I had no idea the scale of what I was about to do , how much I had to learn of how much my life and that of my family was going to change
I knew I needed to reduce the number of dogs which is why Dogstars earliest work was almost solely focused on sterilisation programs, its still some of the work I am most proud of as it’s the only sustainable way to tackle over population and it was the gateway service that allowed Dogstar to build up vital links with our local community and permanently change the human – animal relationships around us.
Since Mango’s life was saved on September 28th 2006 Dogstar’s services have included:
Sterilisation and vaccination programs ~ Fixed and Mobile treatment clinics~ Education programs for children & adults ~Volunteer program for overseas veterinary students and graduates ~ Relief work during natural disasters ~ Feeding programs for street and temple dogs ~ Funding studies into rabies antibodies levels in street dogs ~ Donating equipment to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital ~ Re homing unwanted pups and kittens ~ partnership working with local and international groups ~ Mannar Donkey Project
At the core of every thing we do is the belief that humane sterilisation programs make the biggest and most sustainable differences to both animal and human health and in 2013 we want to increase the numbers of these services by at least 50 %. Everything we do has to make a real difference and be cost effective and with the ever present threats of dog culls our work is more vital than ever
Be part of our story
The biggest surprise to most people is despite treating thousands of animals yearly we are still a tiny charity, run by 3 unpaid volunteers and our last years total income was under £ 20k . All our services are limited by funding restrictions and I have to say “no” to both my team and those asking me for help far more than I would like
With more support we can help thousands more animals in Sri Lanka during 2013, as well as progress our plans to build and equip a permanent clinic before the lease on our rental property expires.
We could sterilise , vaccinate and treat thousands more animals from our clinic but we cannot do it without help from people like you world-wide . Donate , join our supporters fundraising club , raise funds when you shop online , give us a shout out on twitter , connect with us on Facebook . Give what ever time or resources you can to Dogstar and I promise you we will continue to change and save lifes with your gifts.
The most important I have learnt in the learnt in the last 6 years is simply no act of kindness is ever to small
Samantha Green ~ Founder and Operations Director ( Volunteer position ) Dogstar Foundation
September 28th 2012