When I came to Goa with my children, around ten years ago now, we all fell hopelessly in love with all the stray dogs. We felt desperately sad about their predicaments and our hearts would break to see their forlorn faces, their big, sad eyes staring back at us from mangey, flea-ridden faces. Alone and unloved, they would wander the streets and beaches, searching for scraps of food in piles of rubbish or standing outside the back of restaurants, waiting patiently for any kind person to throw them some food. Some fared better than others. Tourists in the beach shacks would often take pity on them and offer them food and a pat on the head. Others were left to die, starving and with their spirits broken, at the side of the road. It was simply heartbreaking and more than the children and I could bear.
Every day, I stopped the scooter and we would all pile off to offer them biscuits and a cuddle.
I used to take the children swimming at Williams hotel in Colva, South Goa. On one particular occasion, we stopped at the local shops there and to our delight, we saw a charity shop! I’m a massive lover of charity shops ( thrift stores in the US), so I was really excited to see what we could find. We were overjoyed to discover that the charity in question was GAWT. The Goa Animal Welfare Trust. I’d never heard of them before and I knew there and then that I wanted to be involved in some small way.
On subsequent visits to Goa, we started to become rescuers of dogs in need, carrying them back on our scooter and taking them home to feed them for a few days until we could take them to the GAWT shelter in Cacora, South Goa where, with the help from the incredible volunteers there, they would be looked after so beautifully and nursed back to health in the way of regular feeding, treatment for mange, vaccinations and being spayed.
Unfortunately, the GAWT premises just didn’t have the space to keep the dogs indefinitely and so following treatment they would be taken back to the place they were originally rescued from but not before a small V shape was clipped from their ear. This obviously would assist not only the staff with any future rescue missions, but also any tourists or kind hearted locals who wanted to report a sick dog, as it was a sign that they had been helped by GAWT in the past.
GAWT also used to advertise their ‘puppy camps’. These days were when the healthy puppies, following full treatment, would be sold in various locations in South Goa. I thought it was a wonderful idea, if not slightly bittersweet. It had become very popular and fashionable for Goan’s to own a dog. Mostly, the dogs would be used to guard the property and would spend their days tied on a short chain, often with no water. I cannot tell you the number of people’s houses I used to walk up to in order to tell the owner that their dog absolutely must have access to a bowl of water at all times! But still, they were at least fed and no longer living on the streets. And, of course, they could no longer breed and were vaccinated.
Fast forward ten years and GAWT is still going strong! Of course, there are still thousands of dogs in need with a massive number of them living in absolutely dire conditions on the streets. However, GAWT continues to do their fantastic work and this is evident from today’s situation when three staff members drove out to Benaulim in South Goa following a call from me regarding an extremely sick pup. He was so stick-thin he was virtually a skeleton and was suffering from mange so severely that he had absolutely no fur left on his body, the poor love. He must have been in so much pain! You can read about his story and how I came to notice him and his rescue HERE. You can also watch the video of the rescue here. He was in a real state but, thankfully, now that he’s in the good hands of GAWT, he will be loved and nursed back to health.
If you are an animal lover and have been touched by this post about the incredible charity, Goa Animal Welfare Trust ( GAWT), or by the story of TODAY’S RESCUE, or anything you have read on their website, then please do consider donating any amount to this wonderful cause. No sweet angel should live in such pain. Thank you!
Love Heidi xx