Puppy Rescue in Goa

Last August, in Goa during the rainy season, whilst I was driving along one of the back roads in Benaulim and marvelling at the electric green foliage everywhere, I saw a puppy at the side of the road. He was all alone and he clearly had the signs of the onset of mange. He just stood there, so tiny and stared at me with huge, scared eyes. Even with the sickest of dogs you can see a glimmer of hope in them, be that in a wag of a tail at their joy to be spoken to or an effort on their part to trot over for the hopes of a pat on the head. But this pup? Nothing. I could see that his spirit was already broken. How sad to have lost hope at such a young age. My heart was broken along with his spirit. 

There are just so many dogs looking like this in their sad and desperate condition in India and I just feel like I want to rescue them all, which of course I can’t, although I used to, many years ago now, when I fostered pups my children and I used to pick up at the side of the road before handing them over to the Goa Animal Welfare Trust. GAWT, for short.

This little chap, however, really broke my heart. I made a mental note to remember the location and phone GAWT as soon as I could.

The following day, with the intention of contacting GAWT, I drove back to the same place in search of the pup but he was nowhere to be found. I saw a woman who runs a local beach shack during season time sat on her porchway with her child and I asked her if she’d seen him. She said she hadn’t. I described the pup and the kind of condition he was in and, to be honest, she seemed as though she didn’t care less about this poor baby’s predicament. I wasn’t surprised. I mean, there are really good souls around who do care but the large majority of folk are so accustomed to living side by side with dying street dogs and small, begging children, it’s no wonder that those in desperate need are so cruelly overlooked.

The fact that I was unable to find this pup made me feel so sad. I knew he must’ve been around the area somewhere but it was time for me to leave Goa and travel North on the train to stay in Aurovalley ashram near Rishikesh so, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to search further for him. 

You can read about my 40- hour train journey here.

Fast forward to today ( February 2019) and I’m back in South Goa. On my scooter, I drove along the same route where I had seen the pup some six months previous. To my joy, he was still there! To my horror, sadness and despair, he was in the worst of worst conditions. He was slightly bigger, but not much so. I guess there’s only so much growing a baby can do when they’re starving beyond belief and so, so sick. The mange had got to him so severely that there was not a single bit of fur left on his poor, emaciated body. He was virtually a skeleton, barely possessing the strength enough to hold himself up. 

I knew I had to act quickly and without delay. Luckily, my location awarded a good 4G connection so I searched the GAWT website and phoned them immediately. I spoke to a lovely lady who asked me questions about the location of the dog and whether I would be able to donate some money to the charity. The donation would cover the van coming out all the way from Cacora, and the treatment of the pup which includes shelter, food, vaccinations and spaying. Of course I agreed!  She noted my phone number and assured me she’d be in touch later that afternoon to inform me when the rescuers would be coming out in the van and then they were to phone me when they’d reached the location and we could all meet up. 

I hung out in a local restaurant and used their wifi for some study of my Ayurvedic course and awaited the call from GAWT which came mid- afternoon. 

I jumped on my scooter and drove round to the planned location and immediately saw the GAWT van with three guys sitting in it waiting patiently for me. Following a brief chat about the situation, they followed me to where I thought the pup might be. I was slightly nervous at first that we wouldn’t find him and so on the way, I was mentally calling out to The Universe to let us help this poor baby. Wish granted! There he was. Curled up in a tiny ball in the large, sandy compound of someone’s property. 

The GAWT Van

The GAWT guys were brilliant. They each took large nets from the van and approached him from different sides with me calling him to me from my standpoint. Oh my God, that poor baby. He so wanted to come to me but he could barely move but thankfully his weakness made light work for the GAWT staff, who captured him in the nets in case he ran away ( which I don’t think he would have been capable of doing). 

Caught in the net for his own safety.

Oh, how he screamed! But all the while I was there to talk gently to him and tell him that he was safe now, that he was being helped, that he was loved and that his life was about to take a turn for the better. 

With the net covering him, a cage was bought from the van and little pup was cajoled into it and then this was carried and placed into the back of the GAWT van. 

Suffering from severe mange and just skin and bone.
Sweet baby!

Our pup had company! There was another cage with a mum and her pups inside and they all looked really plump and healthy. Evidently, some street rescues definitely look healthier than others. Perhaps this mum and her babies came from a household who no longer wanted the responsibility of a female dog once she’d given birth. Who knows? The really positive thing though is that that mumma and her babies will be treated for any fleas, ticks and lice and they will be vaccinated and spayed. 

Following our pup being placed in the van and the doors locked, I filled out and signed a form to document the case and donated 900 rupees, which is roughly £10 and an invoice was given. 

Backtrack ten minutes to the rescue…..

The owner of the compound where the pup was found, and her neighbours, came out to watch the rescue and mostly their reaction was laughter. Not laughter in a happy way that this poor, dying, starving, mange covered baby was being rescued. But laughter at the absurdity of it all. One woman asked how much I was giving and one of the GAWT staff said 900 rupees. She thought he had said 100 rupees and questioned him and when he repeated himself she laughed so damn hard. 

I get it. I do. I really do. 

What I don’t get, however, is how people, who’s whole way of lives are based on religion and the teachings of Jesus, can openly lack so much compassion for fellow sentient beings. 

How is it possible to attend church daily and listen to lessons of Jesus and recite prayers at every sundown and then watch a dog dying in your own garden and then laugh when someone tries to help? 

How is it possible to own a dog, to spend money on their food and buy them a collar to wear around their neck and at the same time, every single day, watch, right in front of your doorway, in your own garden, another dog starve to death? How? How does that work? Where is the love, the compassion, the mercy? 

Anyway, I videoed the rescue although I was unable to capture the beginning of it as I was busy calling pup to me and distracting him from the GAWT staff member who was approaching him from behind with the net. If you’d like to watch the video of the rescue, then please watch HERE. 

I’m writing this post late into the night now and I’m so, so happy that six months after first meeting that poor baby, he has finally been rescued and will now be on a new journey in his life. That journey is to recovery. I can sleep well tonight. He was on my mind for a long time. 

Off to a new home! Well done GAWT guys. You’re all amazing!

If you are an animal lover and have been touched by this post about the incredible charity, Goa Animal Welfare Trust ( GAWT) then why not pop over to their website and have a browse. Maybe you would consider donating any amount to this wonderful cause. No sweet angel should live in such pain. Thank you!

You can also read about how my children and I used to rescue dogs in Goa and how we came to know about GAWT in my post here.

Or watch the video of today’s rescue mission here.

Love Heidi xx

Goa Animal Welfare Trust GAWT

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.

This soul has a collar on so presumably he either belongs to someone currently, or he did use to. He’s fairly fat, so clearly not starving so I would think the former.

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. 

GAWT charity shop in Colva, South Goa. ( not my photo)

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. 

GAWT premisies. (not my photo)

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. 

A successful rescue mission for this baby yesterday.

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

Walking along to who knows where!


This is one of the twins in the above photo. They both live outside Varca church. I bought some biscuits and fed them the packet.