Our week volunteering at BAWA was a whirlwind that we got completely swept up in. It is definitely up there with some most challenging and rewarding weeks of our travels so far and had a big effect on us. It was a massive eye opener into animal welfare, the frustrations of limited resources and difficulty in changing attitudes, but most of all we saw how compassion and perseverance can make such a difference. At times it was overwhelming, so many animals needing help, so many stories of suffering and not all with happy endings, but then you see a wagging tail or an animal being re homed and know it is all worthwhile.
As we had no transport of our own and the clinic is a bit out of the centre of Ubud we would be making use of the BAWA shuttle service from their shop in the morning and back in the afternoon. We were starting on a Thursday and as the shuttle only runs on weekdays, we would have a break on the weekend which Dan will tell you about in the next blog. This one will focus just on our time with BAWA.
We would be volunteering for 5 days in total from around 9am - 4.30pm. Visiting the clinic beforehand meant we had an idea of what we had let ourselves in for, it was going to be intense but we were ready!
As a volunteer we would be involved in feeding, cleaning, laundry (and lots of it), walking the dogs, socialising the animals, helping the vets and any other random task that might come to mind to help. Dan turned into the BAWA handy man, and there was plenty of tasks such as coming up with a solution for draining the bins with soiled towels and bedding.
We also would be an extra pair of eyes to help notice any changes in the animals, had one just been sick, which one was not eating that morning, etc so we could alert the vets. There were several times when it was things we had spotted that alerted the vets to a bigger problem, it was good to be able to help. With about 120 dogs & cats to take care of it was all hands on deck!
We got stuck in helping Laurina with the morning feeding and cleaning of the cages in the quarantine area of the clinic. This is where the sick animals and young puppies are and also lead through to the office and operating area. As people walk through here all the time more eyes can keep a check on them throughout the day.
There was a constant need to change soiled bedding in the cages and refill water bowls, and you could pretty much guarantee once you did it someone would poop or knock the water over so you had to do it all again! (If you cant handle the sight and smell of a lot of poo this is not for you!) This is why the washing machine is constantly on the go and at times it was hard to keep up to have enough dry towels to replace them. It was lovely when you had a clean warm towel from the drier to put in as you could almost see the joy on the puppies faces as they snuggled down into it. Particularly the poorly ones that needed extra comfort.
BAWA is dependant on the generosity of others not only for volunteers but for donations. Whilst we were there we witnessed the random kindness of a couple on their holiday who came to the clinic in the morning and asked for a list of things the clinic needed. In the afternoon they were back with a car load of food and medicines for the animals. It was really inspiring to see. BAWA are always in need of essential supplies and have a wishlist you can check out here
Laurina has been volunteering for BAWA for several years dedicating months at a time to helping the animals here. The following day we would also meet Barb another long term volunteer and her friend Marilyn who had come over to give her time for a couple of weeks. These 3 wonderful ladies from Australia were a real inspiration. Volunteering is very hands on and they were right in the thick of it. There was no way they were going to go passed an animal in the street they were concerned about without doing something about it and would have no qualms about speaking to the owner and telling them to give their chained dog water or to move the cage out of the sun, and if that didn't change things then these ladies would just do it themselves anyway! On hearing some of their tales and being in the car when we pulled over on one of these saving missions I nicknamed them BAWAs (Charlie's) Angels!
We had such a great time with these girls and shared the ups and downs of life at the clinic together.
One day when Dan was hosing down some towels in the front yard he heard sounds coming from down the side of one of the buildings near the drain, and found a puppy! This is little Robin...turns out she was one of five puppies which had turned up in the last couple of days, one was even found in a cupboard.
It was not a happy ending for all of these though, on the second to last day I noticed one of them wasn't as lively as the others and when I picked it up I could feel a rattle in its chest. I told one of the vets and helped out giving the puppy medicine to open its airways.
The next morning we found out one had passed away. With suspected Canine Distemper being the cause, which is very contagious the rest were moved into isolation and I hear they are doing well, and fortunately there have been no more cases. This was the beginning of our final day at BAWA which was to be the most difficult with several animals passing away. With nowhere to store or dispose of dead animals we soon had several small bundles put out with the rest of the rubbish. This was hard to take as you would like them to have dignity but again with limited resources this is the only option.
In the late morning a man brought these beautiful puppies to the clinic.
I overheard bits of his story about how he had found the mother whilst walking his own dog, he thought she had been poisoned and as she was suffering he had 'no choice' but to drown her and bring the puppies here! Now like I said I didn't hear it all but clearly these puppies were well fed and not street dogs, if the mother was in distress why would you kill it by drowning rather than tell the owner or bring the poor dog to BAWA for help. Something was not adding up...but at least the puppies were at BAWA and luckily for them as they were healthy and old enough they were re homed later that same day. This does highlight though the difference in how people view non Bali dogs...there are plenty of gorgeous puppies waiting for homes but as these were 'breed' dogs they were snapped up whilst the others (like these guys) are overlooked.
It is not only dogs BAWA helps but cats and other animals in need too. On our first day a box of tiny kittens was brought in without a mother. Where possible these were fostered out as they need constant supervision and regular feedings.
Mid afternoon is more peaceful time at the clinic as all the dogs would have a siesta after their afternoon feeding. This was when I would get a chance to go in with the cats and have some kitten cuddles!
As much as I would love to take credit for this gorgeous photo I can't...its one of Dans!
Its hard to sum up everything in a blog but here are some of the stories that touched us during our time here...
I mentioned Atlas the Golden Retriever in our last BAWA blog, who was found in a gutter all skin and bones.
He would not have survived down in the main large dog run with the other adult Bali dogs and so was kept in a large cage in the yard during his recovery. Cooped up all day he loved to be let out of his cage but would get so excited that being big and jumping all over the place made him hard to handle. Dan took this challenge on and took great pleasure in walking this lovely boy.
On our very last day at the clinic we saw him being taken to his new home, and it was so wonderful to be shown photos of him with his new family and in the space he needed. Well done Atlas!
This is Damien, another legend who is such a cute character and a joy to walk, strutting along with a cool attitude.
He still needs a home and if we were living in Bali would ve taken him in a heartbeat.
We nicknamed this little one 'Houdini', as she was always squeezing through the bars trying to come find us all for a cuddle.
She had been lovingly hand reared by Laurina and there were several times where this little one scared us all by escaping and squeezing under the gate into the large dog enclosure. One morning she wasn't in her cage and she definitely wasn't in with the other puppies so we all feared the worst as it was likely that the older dogs would kill her. Miraculously she had managed to go from one side of their enclosure to the other and found safety behind the gate to the small garden area on the other side. It looked like she had taken a bite to the head as her eye was a bit swollen but it could have been worse and was almost better by the time we left. Dan and some of the guys took on the task of 'Houdini proofing' the run she was in. Attaching extra metal grids to the gate so she wouldn't be able to squeeze through.
It was definitely hard for me to leave this little one, who had got 'come hug me, don't leave me' puppy dog eyes down to perfection. I hope she finds a loving home, Dan wouldn't allow me to put her in my backpack!
Another escape artist is Kampil, the dog rescued from the meat trade I mentioned in previous post on BAWA.
He is such a beautiful dog and although big and can bark when he wants to, he would still come up for a stroke and could be surprisingly gentle despite the way he had been treated previously. One day we were walking back from lunch when I saw a dog that looked remarkably like him coming out of the paddy field next to the clinic, straight out to the busy road. I shouted to Laurina who was on the other side of the road "Is that one of ours!' and she leapt into action. Fortunately he came to her when she called his name and she expertly grabbed him, picked him up despite his size and took him back to the clinic.
How had he got out? Well he had found the drain at the corner of the large dog run and worked out that he could dig down, move rocks etc to squeeze his way through to the outside. If we had been a couple of seconds later he would have been gone! Yet again we put Dan to good use to try and make it Kampil proof. He spent some time hammering long poles in the ground so he could not dig them up although it was made difficult as Kampil insisted on standing right next to him, watching everything Dan was doing. You just knew he was trying to work out how to undo it all.
And sure enough he had ago straight away! So far its held up.
This is little ViVi.
Such a little darling, I was so scared to pick her up at the beginning in case I hurt her as she is sooo skinny. She loved being cuddled and despite being weak would always try to get up to have one. Even though lack of calcium had meant that her front feet were deformed she loved to have a little run around.
She was so poorly though, hardly eating and what she did eat she couldn't keep down. Despite all the best efforts of the vets and volunteers at BAWA we found out shortly after we left Ubud that the decision was taken to put her to sleep so she is not suffering anymore. Sleep well little ViVi
On a happier note this is the gorgeous Michelle, who is always smiling.
She would run round the clinic like a loon despite having a cast on her leg and was always wanting attention. The cast came off just before we left and I am so pleased to tell you that since then she has been adopted
This is Bella, the new love of Dans life, and who can blame him!
This little girl was always crying out for attention, awake when all the other puppies were asleep. I think she must have learnt how to call for Dan specifically as there were plenty of times I would walk in on them having a cuddle. She is still causing mischief.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many others all with their own story.
If you have been touched by any of the above and wish to help you can donate here
If you have some time you can give to this worthy cause you can find out more about volunteering on their website too. Just remember not to wear your best clothes as you ll get mucky and maybe chewed
I would like to take a moment to say a huge thank you to everyone at BAWA, particulalry...
Laurina, Barb, Marilyn, Aron, Debs & Kim
Thank you for making our time volunteering at the clinic so memorable, for sharing your passion, dedication and laughter with us. For showing us places to go for lunch, how to hitch a ride in Ubud, enlightening us about how some people dress up as animals, dancing and sharing a few bintangs...or a Margherita or 4!
Hope we can come back to Ubud in the future or catch some of you down under!
The Rabbits xxxx