Strange and challenging times

By Kaytie Grant

The eruption of the Taal Volcano devastated an area of the Philippines in January and February, but more importantly it affected and displaced a huge number of animals.

The subsequent earthquakes and threat of further eruptions meant that a huge number of people (those living within a 14km radius of the Taal Volcano) were subjected to evacuation from their homes, some for six weeks, resulting in many people having to live in temporary evacuation shelters. There was very little provision for domestic pets and livestock and so sadly many were left behind.

Fortunately we were immediately able to divert our mobile clinic team down to the Bantangas area and the towns affected on volcano relief missions. What the team discovered were eerily deserted ghost towns, with normally busy high streets empty and a thick layer of grey ash covering everything in sight.

They walked the streets, going house to house, searching for any signs or sounds of animals and when they found them they provided food and water for the very hungry and grateful dogs. They created makeshift feeding trays out of takeaway cartons and where necessary they leaned over fences or pushed food trays through closed gates, doing all they could to ensure the dogs received the food they so desperately needed. They discovered many houses that had been badly damaged in the earthquakes, all of which will take some time and money to recover.

The team continued to go back to the area on two day missions over the whole six weeks that the area was evacuated, armed each time with van loads of food and each time they managed to feed hundreds of hungry dogs.

We also came across a number of dogs that we just couldn’t leave behind, either because they were going to struggle to survive many more days without regular food or because their health was severely compromised.

A number of the rescued dogs were temporarily fostered at our treatment centre; those whose owners were unable to return back to their home during the evacuation. One of those dogs was Cotton (we named her Shaggy when we found her), who we found in her cage in the garden of a house that had been damaged by an earthquake.

We later discovered that Cotton’s owners had been in a neighbouring town when the evacuation occurred and they’d not been allowed home to collect anything. Although she didn’t appear too malnourished we couldn’t leave her, not knowing how long it might be before her owners were allowed back. So we left a note explaining that we’d taken Cotton back to our treatment centre.

About three weeks later we received a phone call from Cotton’s owners, confirming that they were home. They were incredibly grateful that we’d looked after their beloved dog and it was a lovely reunion when she returned home.

The other dogs that we temporarily fostered had been due to go home in March, but unfortunately the Covid-19 lockdown prevented us from doing this and so they are staying with us for a little longer – among them are Kitty, Lucky and Vulcan who’s home comings we hope to update you about in the coming weeks as lockdown eases.

There were also some stray dogs that we rescued during our relief missions, dogs that were just too vulnerable to leave behind. They were also taken back to our treatment centre where they’ve been cared for by our wonderful kennelmate Mark, together with all our other resident dogs.

One of those rescued was a very poorly chap named Tuesday, who was horribly malnourished and suffering from a severe case of Mange, the parasitic skin disease which causes painful itching and often results in dogs scratching off much of their fur, leaving terrible sores all over their skin. As a result Tuesday was incredibly weak when he arrived at the treatment centre, but after just one month he made great strides in his recovery, responding well to Mange treatment and eating well, just look below at the change.

Another of those strays rescued was Cheska, the little dog with the very big voice, whose story you can read in the previous blog post. These dogs are all now safely in our treatment centre, where they will stay until they’re well enough for us to start finding them forever homes.

Now that the situation in Taal has stabilised we want to continue to support the area in their recovery. The Covid-19 pandemic is obviously restricting our activity at the moment but we’re hoping that the lockdown restrictions will begin to ease in mid May, making it possible for us to begin our activities again.

We will continue to assist the farms where dogs were taken during the evacuation, helping those that haven’t yet been reclaimed. We’re also planning to help in the best way that we know, taking our Mobile Clinic into the worst affected towns and villages, offering FREE spay & neuter surgery, essential vaccinations and veterinary treatment.

We promise we’re not going to allow the dogs affected by this tragedy to be forgotten.

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