On Jen's last day we decided to head back to Ark, we spend most of our time walking the dogs there as the staff are so busy looking after the sick dogs and preparing them for their medication etc. The dogs are very friendly and grateful for any fuss they can get. They also love - love - love the walks! It can be quite a crazy experience, we took out 14 dogs in total today... Some, a few escape artists 'sneaking' out with us. These escape artists made us a little apprehensive at first, worrying that they'd run off... But, as mentioned previously, the pack mentality is very strong here (probably due to being less domesticated) - so fortunately we've had no problems and are able to walk the dogs relatively hassle free. The only problems we may encounter are the other stray dogs we meet on the way, ones who don't belong to Ark. Walking into their territory can quickly turn into mayhem, so you have to be on your guard.
Ark is a charity founded and set up by Avis (not 'Mavis'😉 11 years ago.
She lived in London previously, packed up and left to help the dogs in India after travelling here one year. For the past 11 years she has worked tirelessly with the government (and the locals) to set up anti-rabies programmes and introduce better care to the stray dogs in Kovalam. Unfortunately however due to ill health, she can no longer continue and is looking to return to the U.K. She seemed very weary and tired when we met her, she has fought for eleven years but unfortunately the locals in other parts of Kerala are still 'managing' the dog population in their own way - they're killing them. Avis tells us there is so much corruption and cruelty here, after eleven years of fighting - you can physically see the impact Avis' fight has had on her. She has to be admired for everything she has achieved here and the copious amounts of dogs she's saved from death over the years.
We've really enjoyed helping out with the dogs, so much, such innocent creatures amid so much man made corruption. I shall continue to work there until
I leave for Singapore. To conclude our entry on Ark for now however, we thought we'd leave you with a quote we found at the centre: "As us humans have set ourselves up to be higher than animals, we should be their guardians and protectors, not their tormentors."
As Jen is heading back home (nooo!) we just wanted to add a quick note on our final reflections.
Before we left we checked the government website, which advised 'against all but essential travel to India'. I also read various reports stating that women should not travel alone, unless accompanied by a male. Our experience of India completely contradicts these reports - we've been treated with nothing but respect and warmth since arrival. Even with our rickshaw drivers, we've never had to haggle as they've always offered us a 'local' (and very reasonable) rate to begin with. To us, having now experienced the past few weeks travelling around India (not nearly enough time!) using public transport and living with the locals etc - it seems the U.K media tends to take situations completely out of context... And then makes generalised/sensationalised assumptions about the country as a whole.
However, having said the above - India is definitely not for the faint hearted or those with a nervous disposition. You have to go in with an open mind and be ready to throw yourself completely into everything it throws at you. It's manic, it's chaotic, it's noisy, it's full of extremities... In some places it's full of some of the worst poverty we've ever encountered. People are obsessed with the colour of your skin and hair, which can become very intrusive after a while. And yet, we've still found it to be one of the most beautiful, remarkable countries either one of us has ever been to. Such a country of contrasts. They do say, you either love India or you hate it. The fact that we want to return one day, without doubt, says it all.
The main things we will take away from this experience is an overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for everything we have: our health; our home; our friends, family and loved ones; our comparatively SAFE roads; our independence and freedom as women; our privileged lifestyles and the sheer amount of opportunities we have back in the U.K... Not to ever be wasted. We will also continue to take risks, trusting our gut instinct and will never, ever, listen to government reports(!)
Thank you soooo much for reading, Jen will look forward to seeing you all very soon and I'll look forward to seeing you in about a month. I'll continue with the blog throughout Singapore, Australia and L.A, but goodbye from India for now. It's been an absolute pleasure. Lots of love from the both of us x
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