Jo

I have been working as a veterinary nurse for a few years and decided that I wanted to do something more challenging! I had met Kim Cooling previously through Liz Stewart’s rescue centre, and she told me about her plans to help the suffering strays in Sri Lanka and about opening a sanctuary/ veterinary clinic in Sri Lanka.

From this point I knew this was what I wanted to do. I came out here in July 2009 to assist our Sri Lankan vet with the charities aim of setting up an outreach programme for all the poor, neglected street dogs and also to treat as many animals as possible including our many site dogs. I have seen some terrible sights and it’s hard to understand how anyone can treat animals this way, but it has also been fantastic to see some of the transformations that have taken place with the facilities we have now on the site and just a little bit of tender loving care.

It has been a HUGE learning curve for me and very interesting gaining knowledge about the exotic diseases which thankfully, we do not have in the UK.
The best thing about the work is that you never know what you might be doing today and being challenged everyday treating such a wide range of complex health problems.

I have found Sri Lanka to be a great place to live (although I do really miss the shops in the UK!!) and the locals are always very friendly.
Just recently we went out to pick up a dog with severe mange and were watched by around 30 very curious locals, all were more than happy to help us try and catch the dog and at the same time learn about what we do and how we want to help.  

I would definitely recommend a visit to us if you want to spend time helping some gorgeous, very trusting street dogs, and staying in a beautiful country.

Vaccinations

All volunteers must have the full course of rabies vaccinations-a course of 3 vaccinations, before travel. Although all our site dogs are fully vaccinated, there is contact with unvaccinated strays and rabies remains a threat in Sri Lanka.

Please consult your GP for advice on other vaccinations that may be required.

Click on the pictures above to read our first volunteers' experiences of our project in Sri Lanka

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Barbara

My husband and I went to Sri Lanka for our honeymoon in 2009. We had a lovely holiday but whilst travelling around the island I couldn't help but notice the high scale of neglect of the animals around me, in particular the stray dogs. They were everywhere - in the roads, on rubbish tips searching for food, some injured or riddled with mange. As an avid animal lover, I found these sights very distressing and was in tears on occasions. I was particularly dismayed by the indifference of the people around these suffering animals.

When I came home, the images of the animals played on my mind. Luckily after some research on the internet, I found Animal SOS Sri Lanka and contacted them offering my help in some way. It was then that I decided to return to Sri Lanka as a volunteer for the animal sanctuary in October 2009. The sanctuary cares for puppies that had been found abandoned or injured on the streets and also older dogs that would find it difficult to cope due to old injuries and disabilities. The dogs in the sanctuary are now safe for life and as you can see from the photos, are really happy and contented animals that spend most of the day playing or sunbathing!

I enjoyed the experience so much that I am going back to Sri Lanka as a volunteer for Animal SOS Sri Lanka in the New Year and plan to help with the outreach projects which involves the vaccination and spaying of animals in the community. This also includes educating people on animal care and will reduce the number of strays and the risk of rabies.

Animal SOS Sri Lanka have taken on a massive project so I know that volunteering will greatly help to ease the workload and offer practical help for the cause which is much needed. The experience was life changing and I would recommend this wonderful project to any animal lovers who want to make a difference in a place where it really counts.

Russell

Hi, I'm Russell. I moved to Sri Lanka initially to look after a friend’s house whilst she globe-trotted. She had nine marvellous dogs - a mixture of pedigree German Shepherds and good old-fashioned Sri Lankan mutts. Whilst it was easy to look after them with an almost bottomless well of housekeeping cash and five staff to help me with bathing/feeding them, I found myself increasingly frustrated with the state of the less fortunate dogs in this [otherwise] wonderful country.

In the ten minute walk to the shops, I would see two dozen or so mangy, hobbling, emaciated dogs, and every now and then a batch of new pups would spring up out of the undergrowth and the cycle of littering and suffering would start all over again before my very eyes. I did what I could, which unfortunately could only stretch as far as taking dried food out in my pockets, and giving them as much fuss as possible, but alas I was under strict instructions NOT to bring any street dogs home so I would have to say "goodbye for now" and keep on walking.
 
When my year in Sri Lanka ended, and I came back to the UK, I had trouble conveying to my friends and family just how much these innocent dogs were suffering. People would look at their own dogs - well fed, exercised and loved, and struggle to understand how human beings could allow anything like that to happen to animals in this day and age!

For a couple of months, my life got back to western normality, but every time I thought about my time on the "teardrop of the Indian ocean" the images of poor little mutts kept coming back to me.

Thankfully, a friend put me in contact with Kim Cooling and when she explained her vision for the future of animals in Sri Lanka, the decision to move here as a permanent volunteer was an easy one. Within a fortnight I was on a plane to Colombo and I can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve ever made! 

Volunteering

As a charitable organisation endeavouring to help as many suffering animals as we can, self-funded volunteers will be most welcome to work with us.

Vets and vet nurses will be particularly valued to assist in our busy clinic and also to help with our outreach sterilisation /rabies control programmes.

Anyone else with an interest in animal welfare and a desire to ease animal suffering are also very welcome. We have many sanctuary based dogs to care for and assistance with feeding, cleaning, and socialising the animals will be a considerable help. 
The work is very rewarding and our site animals are delightful as you can see from the photos.    

We may be able to provide some on-site accommodation, there are also some very cheap guest houses and surf bungalows in the region. You would be expected to fund your own meals and other expenses including your flight to Sri Lanka.

Our project is based in Midigama, a short distance inland from Ahangama, a wide stretched village on Sri Lanka’s south coast. The area, which is very popular with tourists, is famous for the stilt fishing men who can be seen early in the morning and afternoon, stunning scenery and beautiful beaches with some of the best surfing on the island.

The nearest towns are Galle to the north and Matara to the south.

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Vet Students - Shereene and Kate

We are fourth year veterinary medicine students from the UK and in December 2009 as part of our clinical work experience, chose to come and work with the Animal SOS vets in Sri Lanka – a little more of an exotic location than the UK!

The Animal SOS team were extremely welcoming and friendly, so we knew from the beginning that we would have a great experience. With a growing number of on-site dogs with various ailments and requiring daily treatments, we were able to get involved in medicating the animals and assisting with their regular health checks. Due to the vast number of exotic tick borne diseases in Sri Lanka, which are thankfully not present in the UK, Animal SOS ensures that blood smears are taken from every dog that enters the charity premises. This was a great opportunity for us to learn about the different blood parasite diseases from the resident vet as well as being involved with screening/health assessing the dogs. We saw firsthand the devastating effects that some of these exotic diseases have on the animals and how essential this part of the charity's work is.

While at Animal SOS, we were actively involved in some outreach programs to local villages and towns to vaccinate the dogs against rabies and treat them for mange. With the supervision of the vets, we were also able to get fully involved in the outreach sterilisation programme. This was a brilliant experience and a huge contrast to England as we were operating outside in the locals’ gardens! With two vets now on site, the sterilisation programme is really getting into full swing and provides an excellent learning opportunity for other veterinary students.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, and both the local people, and the stray dogs are extremely friendly! We learnt so much and would definitely recommend volunteering with Animal SOS Sri Lanka for anyone that wants to experience great work with needy strays in an exotic location!

Lesley

I would like to share with everyone my experience of spending a month at the Animal SOS sanctuary in Sri Lanka in April 2010 and thank you to Kim for letting me have the most fantastic experience of my life.  I was like a child in a sweetie shop, dogs everywhere. At first I was not sure what to expect and a bit nervous at what I had let myself in for.  Well, there was no need...I was welcomed by dogs of all shapes and sizes and every one of them had waggy tails, it was awesome. The first morning I was allowed to observe and get used to the pack and watch individual dogs interact with the staff and each other.  The dogs are so lovely and incredibly humble and sweet. I started to learn some of the stories behind these dogs and the end results are amazing. The daily routine entails feeding the animals twice a day-breakfast and tea. The afternoon is spent playing with the dogs and making sure they are healthy and happy. This has to be a labour of love and all the people there oozed that!

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Debbie

I came to Sri Lanka for 2 months in 2009 to do voluntary work in a children's orphanage and at the elephant orphanage.  It was my first visit to Sri Lanka and I was shocked and saddened by the stray dog situation here-so many dogs on the streets, emaciated, sick and injured.

 I immediately started to try and work out what I could do to help.  Feeding as many dogs as possible seemed a drop in the ocean so I began searching for a charity to support. I came across the Animal SOS Sri Lanka website and on a return visit at Christmas came to the site to see what they are doing. I was very impressed with the set up here and decided to put my work in England as a Natural Health Therapist and teacher on hold and come to work here at the centre in Midigama. 

It is hard work and challenging at times because there is so much animal suffering-some of the animals we see would melt even the hardest heart. What amazes me most though is the strength of spirit these animals have-they have suffered so badly at the hands of humans yet they are full of fun, joy and unconditional love, they are truly humbling. 

My aim here is to promote this vision and the work of the charity and also to focus on education programmes which are crucial in changing attitudes towards the treatment of animals in Sri Lanka.

Janet

I was eager to volunteer for Animal SOS Sri Lanka since hearing about their wonderful work with the strays some time ago. I have run two marathons for the charity to help raise funds and had the opportunity to volunteer in May 2010. 

I can honestly say to anyone thinking of going out to volunteer that they will have such a rewarding time working with the wonderful dogs on site. It is hard work but if you are willing to put the effort in and give lots of love and attention to these amazing dogs then volunteering is for you.

I spent lots of my time in the clinic taking care of Hope and Princess, two absolutely adorable dogs who both had been knocked down on the streets and had serious injuries. The charity had special carts made for them so they can get around. Had it not been for Animal SOS they would not be here today. To see these two dogs playing in the clinic with some of the puppies that had been flung over the sanctuary walls is truly wonderful.

Whilst I was there a British man who lives in Sri Lanka, brought a dog that he had found in the road that everyone had ignored. The poor dog was so malnourished she was too weak to walk. Slowly with lots of love and care and giving her small meals every few hours with lots of vitamins, she started to recover and trust people again, which is quite amazing as when she arrived she would not look at anyone. She had probably been badly treated on the streets but her life has been changed now and will be happy and fulfilled like all the other dogs that have been saved from a similar fate on the streets of Sri Lanka.

The charity wants to change attitudes towards these street animals through education and children are the focus. These animals give so back when given the chance and reward you a thousand times over.

I miss the dogs and the friends I made at the site so much and will certainly return to volunteer again as soon as I possibly can.

John

I have been involved with animal rescue work for over 25 years. I have a lot of experience working in British sanctuaries but had limited experience with overseas centres. When I was given the opportunity to come to Sri Lanka to assist the charity with the important work they are doing here, this gave me the chance to combine my deep interest and passion in the teachings of Buddha and my other passion-animals. 

My experience so far has been that the work is challenging but also very rewarding. When you see a dog grow from cowering in the corner to wagging its tail it makes the whole thing worthwhile. 

One of the biggest challenges is how to integrate the western approach that we have towards dogs with the world of street dogs here in Sri Lanka and to get the local people on board. All animal lovers should support this essential and very worthy project.

May all beings be happy!

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Every day was different and brought new challenges. It is hard work but when you put your feet up in the evening with a nice cup of tea and watch the dogs playing happily and sleeping blissfully without a care in the world, the hard work of the day melts away. The sanctuary does get under your skin and so do the dogs, every single one of them.

 Rocky who is blind and the most gentle boy you could meet, Barbie and Kimmy the naughty girlies, Blondie the queen of the dogs, George the naughty boy who wants to be with you wherever you are, all the puppies who want to lick you and play, Charlie the Alpha male who adores everyone human and animal, Monty the second in command who surveys his land and keeps an eye out for problems within the pack, the naughty Amanda who does her daily sit in the drinking water tubs to cool off, scruffy Julie who dances when you speak with her, Sunny, gentle 3 legged Sunny, who is quiet and sneaks up for a quick cuddle each day, Lesley, Debbie, Jack, Daniel, Johnny, I could go on and on about all of the dogs in the sanctuary. 

Charlotte

I decided to come to Sri Lanka in June 2010 to help in some way with the terrible stray problem. I have been to Sri Lanka 5 times now for work and holidays. I am an international DJ and Model, so get to travel a great deal and Sri Lanka is a place I've played in a few times. Being a huge animal lover and veggie I was really upset on my last trip to Sri Lanka at the state of the dogs and the fact that nobody seemed to care! My Mum told me about Animal SOS Sri Lanka and I decided I wanted to help in some way with the amazing work they do. My friend Lisa, also a huge animal lover, decided to come too so after few months of planning we booked our trip. I also arranged a charity gig in Colombo to help raise money for the sanctuary. I was the DJ at the gig.

We had the most amazing time at the Sanctuary and didn't want to leave! I fell in love with quite a few of the dogs; they were all so sweet, loving and friendly. Even after the awful things some of them have been through they all still trusting and wanted love from humans which touched my heart. I have never met so many dogs that all just want to be cuddled. 

I enjoyed every aspect of working at the sanctuary especially feeding time which was the manic and hardest part of the day! I really got stuck in with the work including bathing which was a lot of fun! There are so many characters there and if I could, I would have brought quite a few home!
Volunteering gave me a great sense of achievement and I had a happy feeling inside when I left knowing that I had done my bit to help. I will continue to support the charity each month and hopefully make another trip to the sanctuary next year to see all my new doggie friends!

 

Emily

I visited the Animal SOS shelter shortly after graduating as a vet along with Sian, another veterinary friend from college. We were keen to use our newly acquired skills to help some of the unfortunate strays that had been rescued from the streets, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to give all the tiny puppies some TLC too! We were both really impressed by how well the shelter is run. All the workers seem to really care about the animals there and they are amazing at keeping the compound clean and picking up on dogs which seem a little off colour or have stopped eating.

Our first morning brought us a tiny puppy that had been dumped just up the road from the shelter. Luckily she seemed quite well although was very scared and lonely for her first few nights in the clinic. We called her Bridget after Bridget Jones and she soon made a new friend, the one-eyed kitten called Boris! We spent our days helping Nilantha the vet treat the in-patients and helped to manage some of the more difficult cases on site. We quickly developed more confidence in our own decisions and treatments and it was great to feel that we were really making a difference. We were also able to help with the outreach sterilisation programmes which helped to improve our surgical skills which are vital as a newly graduated vet.

 It was so refreshing to work at a shelter where the animals are cared for so diligently and being able to work in such beautiful surroundings was amazing. We saw many dogs which had been the victims of cruelty and neglect but watching these animals make a full recovery and develop into happy, bouncy little dogs was so rewarding. I was surprised by how friendly all the dogs on site were. You always had some company when you were walking around the compound, particularly when you’re holding bowls of yummy biscuits for the puppies! The dogs seemed to spend most of their days either sleeping in the sun or playing chase in the lovely open grass in the centre of the shelter.

 

The two paraplegic patients, Hope and Princess, were making an excellent recovery while we were there. After examining Hope, we are sure she will regain full use of at least one of her hind legs with the right physiotherapy from the dedicated team on site. Princess is a happy little girl who loves nothing more than going for a run with her hind legs bandaged to prevent injuries. She acts just like a normal dog, digging and rolling in the mud, and manages to keep up with the faster dogs in the pack.

 I was so sad to leave the shelter at the end of our stay. I felt that I had made some real friends there and can’t wait to book the next flights out there. I am particularly missing the two little puppies Frankie and Vincent who have both had a bit of a rough start to life. Luckily they are now in the perfect place to make a full recovery, safe from fear and harm. Everybody who works for Animal SOS should be so proud of what they’ve already achieved and I can’t recommend this more highly as a lovely place for veterinary students and newly graduated vets to get some practical experience in a beautiful, friendly country.

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Chris

As a third year vet student, with a love for travel, I wanted to do something both adventurous and animal related this summer. I stumbled across an advert for Animal SOS Sri Lanka and my plans were finalised. Arriving at the compound in August 2010 was a bit of a shock, I like dogs but the number that greeted me was breathtaking. However after a warm welcome from Debbie and all the fantastic staff there I took a leap and jumped straight in.

When Hannah, a fellow veterinary student, and myself visited we both had yet to enter the clinical years of our courses meaning the help that we could offer from a veterinary perspective was restricted, however we were always busy and hopefully useful, taking part in all of the daily activities such as feeding, cleaning, socialising with the puppies and helping in the clinic whenever we could!

Dr. Nilantha was brilliant at teaching, demonstrating and involving us with what he was doing, allowing us to get some really great hands-on experience.  In the two weeks that we spent on site, we both feel that we learnt a fantastic amount and that it will be hugely beneficial to the next three years of studying. 

It would definitely be an excellent place for vet nurses and vets, both qualified and studying, to practice skills and techniques and to use their training to make a huge difference in a country where there is a seemingly limitless amount of work to be done for the animals. Looking at some of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos we were shown, it was almost impossible to imagine that the happy and healthy dogs we knew at the sanctuary had ever been that seriously ill and suffering. It just highlighted the amazing work Animal SOS is doing and it was a privilege to be able to contribute to that even in a small way. 

 

Hannah

My mum has been visiting Sri Lanka for several years and I had listened to her glowing reports of this amazing country knowing that it was somewhere I definitely would like to travel to.  As a second year Veterinary student, I was required to carry out a number of work experience placements including working in kennels, so in an attempt to combine these two things and really make the most of my work experience, I did some research and found out about Animal SOS Sri Lanka. 

Although I had spoken with Kim before I left in August 2010, I really did not know what to expect and after a journey that felt like forever, I arrived in the tuk tuk to the sanctuary. I opened the gate to be greeted by over a hundred dogs of all shapes and sizes (with lots of barking wondering who this newcomer was) and I knew I was going to enjoy my time at the sanctuary!

I am very grateful to Kim for the opportunity to volunteer and to Debbie and all the staff in Sri Lanka for their help and kindness during my time at the sanctuary. If I am able to in the future, I would definitely love to return to Sri Lanka to volunteer again once I have qualified.

All of the staff were so welcoming and the fact they really cared about all of the dogs really reflected in their work. They took every opportunity to share their Sri Lanka with us, bringing food and fruits for us to try, teaching us some Sinhalese and telling us about the country and its people. By the end of our stay we really felt part of the team and I am sure we will both remain in contact with the charity for a long time to come.

  Chris and I would both highly recommend volunteering with Animal SOS to any vet students, but also to any animal lovers looking for a wonderful experience and adventure whilst making a difference to the lives of the numerous dogs and animals of Sri Lanka that desperately need it.

 

Lisa

My friend Charlotte told me about Animal SOS Sri Lanka and the work they do over in Sri Lanka. She had previously told me about the plight of the strays there so when she asked me if I would like to go and volunteer in June 2010, I jumped at the chance. I have always wanted to do something worthwhile like this and it seemed the perfect charity for me. Our first day there it was quite overwhelming because on arrival all the doggies wanted to meet us and get our attention. What fun we were to have.

The sanctuary is such a lovely place. I found it very tranquil and relaxing and I know the dogs do too. I was shown some pictures of how some of the dogs looked when they first arrived at the sanctuary and I could not believe how amazing they look now. Animal SOS Sri Lanka are doing such a great job there and the dogs are all so very lucky now they are safe and happy.

We spent our days giving lots of attention and cuddles to all the dogs; we brushed them, bathed them and played with them, generally having lots of fun with them. We spent a lot of time with the puppies as they needed socialising as hopefully they may be homed in the future. They really seemed to love all the treats and toys we took them as we could not help but spoil them.

The dogs just loved spending time with us, even after the ordeals most of them had suffered in the hands of humans. I really did enjoy every minute of it. Over the following days I started to get to know all the dogs and they really get under your skin. I would have happily sneaked a few in my suitcase and taken them home.

I would recommend anyone to go and experience this, it was one of the best things I have ever done and am happy to have helped. I would love to go back there next year and see them all again as I miss them dearly. I will definitely continue to help and support Animal SOS Sri Lanka in any way I can, they really are making a difference.

 

Saara

Hi, I'm fourth year veterinary medicine student from Estonia. Actually I'm Finnish but I live and study in Estonia. I had wanted to apply for UFAW vacation scholarship for a while and when I found Animal SOS webpage, I immediately came up with the idea to apply for it to do research on diagnostic methods for canine monocytic ehlichiosis. Dogs in Sri Lanka are constantly exposed to it because the bacteria Ehlichia canis is carried by ticks. I stayed in Sri Lanka for about a month in July 2010. I had never visited Sri Lanka or done this sort of research before so things were a bit challenging from time to time. Luckily with the help of our resident vet I got over all the obstacles.

 The research involved taking blood from the dogs for cultivation, blood and buffy coat (white cell) smears. I usually stayed at the site for the whole day and assisted Dr. Nilantha in the morning and then doing the research during the afternoon. Sometimes I also helped with the feeding or just spent time with the dogs. The whole experience was amazing. I still can't believe how friendly Sri Lankan dogs are! All of them are such characters! Despite all the cruelty and neglect they still wag their tails. I learned a lot while assisting Dr. Nilantha. A lot of illnesses caused for example by parasites that you can only read from textbooks back in Estonia, are very visible in Sri Lanka. Also, when you see the terrible affects of adenovirus on pups with your own eyes, vaccination programmes get a whole new meaning.

Assisting in surgeries was very exciting too. And not many in my class can say that they have treated a monkey! The dogs and the staff made such an impression on me that I know I will come back. Maybe not next year but after I have studied a few years more and can actively assist with their outreach programmes. I think spaying, neutering and vaccinating Sri Lankan dogs is so important.
I can definitely recommend volunteering with Animal SOS Sri Lanka for anyone who would like to help the dogs and get a great experience at the same time! I know I will remember my trip and the two and four-legged friends I've made for the rest of my life.

Gail

My name is Gail and I have just spent a wonderful month at the SOS site in Sri Lanka (September 2010) everyone was so welcoming and I felt at home there at once. This is a truly amazing place and full off lovely friendly and happy dogs, along with Boris the one eyed kitten, her tiny friend Bridget the pup and little Peanut the orphan monkey!!!! To see these animals so happy and healthy here is a reflection of the dedication of all the staff. They do an amazing job, especially at meal times which is very hectic but they still let me help them and were so kind and patient with me! They work so hard to keep the sanctuary clean and tidy, immaculate in fact.

There are many success stories here, Hope and Princess the two paraplegic girls who have tremendous personalities! Sunny, a three legged girl and absolute darling and so sweet. Fluffy, my 'boy' who was confined to a tiny cage before he came to the sanctuary, all alone for so long and has many issues, Phil with his cancer, such a proud boy, three legged Jimmy, what a character but you can't help but love him, Charlie whose bark is definitely worse than his bite, naughty Amanda and so many more, all with their distinct personalities.

There was a little pup we brought to the sanctuary that we had found lying in the middle of the road and screamed when we picked her up as she was so afraid. The day I left she was just beginning to show some interest in her surroundings and realising that there are good people in the world. She will have a forever home now if she cannot find a family to adopt her.

 

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Blossom was brought in so emaciated she could not stand and had not a hair on her poor body but after only a few days of care, medication and food, the change was amazing, she is so friendly and loves to be stroked and have a fuss made of her. She has her friend Melissa with her that we brought back to the sanctuary as she had severe mange, was almost blind and had lost most of her teeth. She is an old girl but now she will have no more worries about where her next meal will be coming from or where it is safe to sleep, she will be happy. 

The care all the animals receive is first class and the staff show such compassion for all the animals. All the dogs are so happy to see you, they love hugs and cuddles and can still trust humans even after all the traumas they have been through. The site is a peaceful haven for them all, somewhere they can be happy for the rest of their lives and I hope there will be many other animals that will be able to experience the peace and joy the others have already found.

There is so much heartbreak in Sri Lanka, so many dogs with nowhere to go, no one to love and care for them but Animal SOS Sri Lanka has made a step in the right direction by taking in the unwanted, ill, suffering and dying animals. For the ones that are beyond help, they have dignity in death. I would say to anyone thinking about volunteering, do go to this sanctuary, it will be the most rewarding experience and you will want to go back. I would love to visit there again, possibly next year and help to carry on with the wonderful work they are doing and I feel privileged to have been a part of Kim’s dream for the strays of Sri Lanka, so thank you Kim for giving me this chance, you are truly an amazing lady.

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Caron and Lisa

We met Kim in 2004 and we knew then that it was Kim's dream to start a sanctuary for strays in Sri Lanka. Caron had actually met Kim in Sri Lanka a year previously when she was on holiday and found a puppy on the beach in Negombo that needed medical help. He had no hair due to mange and Kim helped Caron to take the puppy to a local vet and also helped Caron to bring the puppy back to the UK where he did 6 months quarantine and is now living a happy and healthy life. There was no safe haven for him in Sri Lanka at the time.

We kept in touch with Kim through the years and were delighted to see that her dream had finally come true and the sanctuary was up and running. We went to the site in late September 2010 and stayed for 2 weeks, which was nowhere near long enough! We easily filled our days with bathing the dog's, clipping their claws, general grooming and spending lots of one-on-one time with the dogs. All the dogs touched our hearts although Princess, Poya, Hope and Fluffy were special cases, to name a few. Fluffy is a long term resident at the site due to being badly treated before his arrival at Animal SOS. Over our two weeks stay, Lisa was able to spend quality time with Fluffy - grooming and interacting with him. This attention makes a huge difference to any dog’s daily life but even more for a dog as special as Fluffy.

We spent time exercising Hope and Princess who also needed her legs cleaned and dressed daily. We also spent time playing with the puppies who were all sweet natured and loved the fuss. As a trainee veterinary nurse, Lisa was delighted to spend time with Nilantha, the resident vet. On World Rabies Day on 28th September, Lisa helped to vaccinate 157 dogs and a monkey. All of the dogs were brought in by local residents. The turnout was amazing and a great help with the ongoing battle against rabies in Sri Lanka.

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Considering how many dogs are at the site, it is kept so clean and tidy, proof of how dedicated and hard working the staff are. The centre has only been running for one year and already so much has been achieved and so many desperate animals helped. Plans are in place to develop the site further and with everyone's support Animal SOS can continue to treat, assist and save many more street dogs in Sri Lanka.

We really enjoyed our stay, it was a real life changing experience and we are counting the days until we can return next year. Well done Animal SOS Sri Lanka, it's all thanks to you Kim.

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Clare Armstrong VN

I am a qualified Veterinary Nurse and an Animal Behaviourist. Currently I work in a mixed practice that covers the borders of Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire. In October of this year I had the fantastic opportunity to volunteer for a month to work for the charity, Animal SOS Sri Lanka.

During my time at the charity I was able to undertake and assist in a variety of veterinary tasks and procedures both on and off site. On site I dealt with routine and emergency activities such as assisting the veterinary surgeon with trauma and injured patients, blood screening, sterilisation, parasite control, postoperative care, vaccinations, administering medication and other medical treatments.

Off site I assisted in outreach programs that enabled local people the opportunity to have their animals sterilised and vaccinated for free. By providing this service the charity is able to aid in the management of the stray population and to combat the every increasing rabies problem. These areas are an ongoing battle that the charity has to deal with on a daily basis.

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Sian

I recently qualified as a vet nurse in the UK and initially got in touch with Kim as I wanted to spend some time abroad, gaining experience with a charity and putting my qualification to good use. I am so glad I found Animal SOS Sri Lanka as having just returned from a month working with the charity, I can honestly say it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. 

It can be hard work at times and the scale of suffering amongst Sri Lanka’s street dogs is truly heart wrenching, but the transformations that are seen in the animals in such a short space of time makes it all worth while.

I spent my days assisting Dr Nilantha in the on-site clinic or with outreach sterilisation and vaccination clinics in the nearby villages and generally providing nursing care for any sick or injured animals on-site. I was greeted each morning by a sea of wagging tails and it was touching to see that these animals still have so much unconditional love to give, despite everything they have been through.

It is hard not to get attached to the dogs and having just returned home I am missing the centre and the dogs terribly and have already booked a flight back out to Sri Lanka for a longer stay! I am hugely grateful to Kim for the opportunity to work with such amazing animals and the dedicated team that look after them and can’t wait to get back out there.

Serena - Volunteer Vet

Touching down into a warm Colombo Airport in November 2010 brought me into a noisy, busy new Sri Lankan day. And within 5 minutes of my 4 hour taxi journey, my reason for being there was clear. Roaming the streets were emaciated dogs, dogs with hairless mite-infested skin, dogs limping due to recent injuries, or carrying milk for yet more pups destined for a similar life. I began to realise they were mostly ignored by the people living alongside them, seemingly immune to their suffering, the relationship made worse by high reported rates of Rabies. Relieved to reach the contrasting sanctuary, with its 140 dogs, it soon struck me that keeping so many dogs happy together requires an understanding of hierarchy and every character, which can only be learnt with time and patience, and was the amazing constant job of John and Nanda, who cared for each dog as if it was their own.

My first look at the medicine cabinet amazed me. Despite the sanctuary being off the beaten track in a developing country, the up to date range of medications in the clinic was excellent. Each day meant medications for a few dogs (spoon fed meat was invaluable for this!), health checks, and new medical problems, combined with neutering on-site dogs, and continuing to microchip, vaccinate, worm, de-mite, and remove ticks (which always got us itching in a paranoid fashion!!). Each day also meant a new bandage for “Brian”, a 2 year old dog with a cancerous growth on his foreleg which was infected and irritating to him. Found emaciated, Brian’s cancer was ignored, and invaded almost half his leg. One day also involved a local anaesthetic for him, so samples could be sent off for analysis.

 A spell of kennel cough during my stay caused a lack sleep for some dogs (and us!), and required daily antibiotics in the food (Getting 80 dogs to eat just from their own bowl was a little easier said than done!!).

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Next it was time for an anti-mite bath. Prime candidates for this included “Nelly” (named after the elephant due to her bald, thick skin!) and “Dusty”, a little dog who would take her daily dustbath to scratch every itch. Lunch was a fresh Sri Lankan meal with a banana picked from its stalk, and a chat with my new friends, followed by a sit down with the dogs and wild monkey-spotting in the sunshine. Evenings were spent giving medications and cuddles, followed by a well deserved sleep (rudely interrupted one night by a Gecko setting up house in a smoke alarm!)

With so much suffering on the streets, and Rabies such a problem, outreach vaccination and neutering days are crucial. On a Sunday at 8.30am a bumpy Tuk Tuk took us to a local classroom. Following encouragement of the locals, by 9am, dozens were queuing outside the school with dogs in tow. We set about checking, vaccinating and neutering these and more feral ones, and tried to keep a calm amongst the chaos (including a lot of surgery staring by locals!), to vaccinate 135 dogs, and neuter 23. We then headed home with 2 stray pups, one weak, the other collapsed. Both were anaemic due to hundreds of worms in their gut. Both were wormed, given fluids and TLC. The weak pup thankfully made a full recovery, but despite putting up a fight, the other little one died the next day, an upsetting and frustrating moment for all of us.

My last day at the sanctuary included a visit to the resident monkey (rescued from a villager), who enjoyed looking through the eyepiece of my camera whilst tugging at its strap! followed by a well deserved room invitation and bed snuggle for “George”, renowned for his lightening speed through bedroom doors to nibble any electrical item he fancies. (Luckily there were 2 consecutive doors to my room. He’d always outsmart me on the first, but I’d outsmart him on the second).

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Kathryn and Kelly

February 2011. Kathryn Knight (Veterinary Surgeon) and Kelly Edmett (Veterinary Nurse) spent two weeks volunteering at Animal SOS Sri Lanka.

It was an honour and a pleasure to be able to offer our time and knowledge to so many deserving animal companions at the sanctuary and performing outreach work within the local area. It was indeed an experience we shall treasure forever, the amount of unconditional love radiating from these animal companions is amazing considering the trauma they have all endured before reaching this kind refuge. It is a unique experience to see a pack of this size live so well together, you quickly know who’s who and find your favourites, although they are all special.

The SOS staff is fabulous, sharing their kind, caring souls in the hard work they perform each day, constantly smiling and aware of those who need that little extra some days. Dr Nilantha, Anura, Nanda, Diananda, Sisira, Asiri, Nandini and Tilika, thank you all kindly for your guidance. We performed our Veterinary tasks alongside Dr Nilantha- sterilising many dogs and cats and vaccinating and micro-chipping them. Our work also involved treating for ticks, fleas, worming, as well as treating animals in the hospital for various ailments.

We also assisted with feeding the 250 plus dogs and cats and sharing time to just be with and interact with them. We allowed the puppies within the hospital to have some extra valuable socialisation with each other and enjoyed seeing the rewarding developments in such a short space of time. The general and site managers Debbie and Tom are angels to behold.

We were fortunate and grateful to have been part of something so special. God bless each and every animal that enters Animal SOS, it is a safe haven for all.

 

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We are making such a huge difference on so many levels, to so many animals - whether it be a successful socialising of an unruly stray, or going out in the three-wheeler to collect a sick or injured animal (much to the amusement of the locals), or the first time a dog is able to walk after being stuffed into a tiny cage for its whole life, or just a simple bath for a dog who has been rolling in poop….. I get the same buzz.

We get a lot of dogs hurled over the walls, and although the manner of their arrival is horrible, the fact they HAVE arrived fills me with joy because I know that within days, sometimes hours, these pups will have sidestepped the horror of a life as a stray in Sri Lanka and will soon become a valued member of a balanced, energetic, constantly evolving pack. This for me, is the greatest reward on earth and as an animal lover, I consider myself very, very lucky to be a part of something so special and wonderful. I feel I am the richest man for this experience.

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Shereene and Kate

Shereene and Kate

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I fell in love with one particular dog called Phil.  He does not have a hair on his body and was all wrinkled. He had a very contagious form of mange and was isolated from the pack. In the afternoons I would go and sit with him and play for a while. Hope was another dog that was brought in the day I arrived.  She could not use her back legs and looked a very sad little girl. As the month went on this little dog showed me that her will to live was 100%. I am amazed at her guts and determination. Hope is improving as I type and is such a wonderful little girl. She has a cart now and is so happy racing around in it. It is amazing how quick the dogs heal with care and love. One day during my stay a box of puppies were left in the sweltering heat outside the gate of the sanctuary. They were dehydrated and one of them tested positive for tick fever. With the care of the people at the sanctuary they are now very happy little guys.  Jack, one of the puppies had been attacked and was near deaths door.  We didn't think he would survive as he was so young and under nourished. Well he did survive and is such a joy.  
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I feel very privileged to have been with them. The Charity are also doing outreach work where they are spaying and neutering dogs and giving them life saving injections against rabies, distemper and other canine diseases. They are also teaching animal welfare to the people of Sri Lanka. All of this work saves lives, stop rabies and also unwanted puppies being born to a life on the streets.

 I am so happy to have helped and be part of this project and would not hesitate to say to anyone-visit Sri Lanka and see the sanctuary for themselves. If you can give money even a £1, this will help to fund medication for dogs like Phil and the others.

Kim Cooling has a dream and she is starting to realise this dream and if it wasn't for the hard work and dedication that this lady gives Phil and all the others would not be here.  THANK YOU KIM

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Chris and Dogs
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I feel so privileged to have spent time at SOS Sri Lanka, and particular furry faces will always stay with me. One’s like “Fraggle”, a tiny lonesome pup picked up from the street, whose shy yet resilient nature melted my heart on day one. And disabled “Princess”, who had the challenge of hoisting her paralysed back legs behind her, yet learnt to move with as much ease as her friends. And of course “George”, who was constantly determined to never let any door close on him, which really summed up for me the spirit of all the animals and people I met at the sanctuary.

Thank you SOS Sri Lanka for letting me into your world for 2 weeks, you give the animals of Sri Lanka a chance of a normal life amongst a sea of suffering, which is truly a gift.
I can’t wait to see you all again soon x

Serena with Nilantha
Serena with Nilantha

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Serena
Outreach Day

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