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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 24.5823, 73.6882
Udaipur: the Venice of the East, the City of Lakes, the most romantic city in India. These are not undeserved superlatives for this lovely old city. We are staying at the Lake Pichola Hotel, sitting right on one of the largest lakes in India. Our room is absolutely beautiful: ancient different colored glass lamps hanging from the ceiling, a porch opening directly to the water below, a very large bathroom with lots of hot water, and the most wonderfully comfortable beds and pillows. A glittery embroidered Indian quilt hangs over our beds and paintings done by local artists grace the walls, plus I have internet available right in our room! Such luxury.
One of the places we visited nearby is the Animal Aid sanctuary. Here any street animal, small or large, can be rescued if it is injured or sick or dying, depending on the goodness of people's calling in to report the animal; over 3000 Udaipur locals call in annually about sick or injured animals, helping to participate in life-saving actions. Any time of the day or night Animal Aid will respond to a call; if a street cow or donkey or goat, pig, cat, or bird is hit by a vehicle Animal Aid will come; if a dog is sick or injured AA will come. (I don't know if they shorten their name to AA, but I will here, just for convenience.) Any street animal will be cared for, for as long as needed; many are rehabilitated and after recovery are returned to where they lived on the street, but some need to stay as life-long residents of the sanctuary.
Animal Aid Unlimited was begun in 2002 by an American family from Seattle; Jim, one of the founders, gave us a tour of the facility and answered our many questions. While we were talking blind dogs wandered past us; most of them will stay at AA for their whole lives. There are areas for the new animals, for dogs, for donkeys and cows. Cats roam freely within the compound; birds are in cages as is one monkey, who is mostly blind, but cared for as much as possible. Several animals had to have a limb amputated; there is also a large pen for paralyzed dogs who --amazingly-- are taught to walk on their front feet and pull their hindquarters behind them. Injured or sick elephants also are welcome here; any animal who needs aid will be welcomed; even if they are in the process of dying, someone from Animal Aid Unlimited will come and rescue them from the street, working to make their last hours on earth less painful, less traumatic, and less alone. To date AA has treated over 40,000 injured or ill animals; typically they receive 20 calls per day! Volunteers are needed to help care for resident animals; people come from many different countries, sometimes just to spend a day, but some come and stay for much longer periods of time. The little brochure AA hands out to visitors states that "Volunteers are vital for giving encouragement to animals in all stages of healing." I find this a beautiful sentiment, and, after talking with Jim, learned that their aim is to rehabilitate and to heal whenever possible, a totally ambitious and worthy goal, but, failing that, offering life-long sanctuary to any street animal who needs continued help.
AA has no government support; all financial needs are provided by donations. So for anyone who would like to help, to volunteer or to donate money, go to the AA website: www.AnimalAidUnlimited.com. Or even take a trip to Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, and visit these friendly people and animals yourself. You might end up staying there awhile, and you definitely will make new friends--of many species.
And, yes, by the way, we did do other things in Udaipur, but AnimalAid was the place that will remain in my mind the longest, I think. We also took a lovely boat ride on Lake Pichola (puttering by the palace where the James Bond movie "Octopussy" was filmed), we visited a beautiful garden irrigated only by centuries old gravity fed technology, and we also explored another gorgeous ancient palace. We have seen so many forts and palaces that sometimes they run together until I read my own journal or blog, but AnimalAid is unique in all of India. The founders are trying to change that and start educational programs in Delhi and other large cities, all with the focus on helping the ubiquitous street animals throughout India.
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