Breaking Barriers

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On 31st May, our team set off from Besisahar (760m), capital of Lamjung District. From here, we’d begin our journey into Manang District, the destination of the Himalayan Mutt Project’s pilot neutering and vaccination programme.

10252003_658874897499757_2134703097002595561_nMukhiya “Snowmonkey” and myself, met the team of nine from the Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust (HART) for the first time just hours before we began our journey. For manager of the medical team, Kageshwaar Bhattarai (far left), this was to be his second journey into the mountains. He first visited Manang in March with “Snowmonkey” for our recce trip.

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For everyone else on the team, this was to be the first time they were visiting Manang District, and working at high altitude. Just to get everyone psyched, “Snowmonkey” shares a little bit about what it’s like to work in the mountains.

“Snowmonkey” has worked as a trekking guide in Nepal’s Himalaya for 15 years, and he shared with me that this was the first time he’d done a briefing in Nepali! So he was a bit uncertain about the words when talking about the symptoms of altitude! Over this decade, all of his clients have been Western, or from Japan. And when I first joined him for a trek to Manang in 2008, I was the first, and remain the only Singaporean, he’s led!

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After about six hours of winding, rocky, road, and crossing three waterfalls, we arrived at the village of Tal (1,700m), so-called because this section of the Marsangdyi river is calm and quiet, much like lake. Tāla, means “lake” in Nepali. The village is established along the deposition zone of the river, and hence is thoroughly flat. This made it real easy for our team to carry equipment along the village trails. It also provided a comfortable and manageable introduction to our camp!

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As soon as we began to offload our equipment and prepare for the morning camp, some street mutts came to saw hello! Dogs were friendly and approachable. A few biscuits and they were to be our lifelong friends! I really hit it off with the one with the floppy ears (left), if I had a dog, I’d want one just like her!

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“Snowmonkey” visited Tal a week earlier (in fact, he travelled the route of our entire destination at least three times before our actual camp began!) to put up posters informing locals about our camp. It was so encouraging to see people arriving with their dogs some two hours before our scheduled start time. As the sun warmed up the village, more people dropped in with their pets, and a group of youths hiked surrounding trails to gather wandering dogs to be brought to our camp.

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Our camp was the first of its kind in Tal, and it was a huge opportunity for outreach and education! Locals got to witness the entire neutering process, and event that most of us don’t get to see in the city because the operation theatre is usually a closed-off area. Having a mostly open camp means people could quickly understand what the work was all about, and trust that their pets were not bring harmed. They got to learn how simple the procedure was, and that it is nothing to be afraid of! We neutered a total of 11 mutts in Tal, which according to Kageshwaar-ji, “is a good number!”

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For me, Tal was an emotional moment. Just four months ago, “Snowmonkey” and I were merely talking about the idea while walking along the trails of Solukhumbu. Neither of us had imagined that we’d be back together so soon, installing the first such camp in Nepal’s high Himalaya. There was a mix of excitement and anxiety, because we were laying a new milestone. Watching the team from HART work in synchronicity, underscored the importance and effectiveness of partnerships, and emphasised how much can be achieved with just a little bit of inspiration.

The Himalayan Mutt Project is raising funds for our 2017 neutering and anti-rabies vaccination camp in Nepal Himalaya. DONATE today