Deciding to add a dog as a new family member is usually not a snap decision and it is one that requires a lot of thought and planning on the part of the new owners. Deciding to rescue a dog from a shelter or rescue group instead of going to a breeder and hand-selecting a dog, is a decision that most decide to do because they feel compelled to truly “rescue” a dog. A dog that may never find a home and ends up languishing in a shelter or being euthanized due to shelter overcrowding. Imagine then, the thinking and planning that must go into adopting a dog from half a world away, sight unseen and with nothing but a photo and a description of the dog’s personality from the foreign shelter workers? Talk about a leap of faith!
Three American women recently did just that. They decided to take that leap of faith and adopt a street dog from Nepal, and to have the dog flown to the USA to join their new family. Two of the rescue dogs were adopted by amazing Veterinarians—Dr. Stacey and Dr. Michelle—during a spay/neuter week they were working at Sneha’s Care in the Kathmandu Valley. I wrote about that experience here on the blog. Two dogs that they decided they simply couldn’t leave behind. Both dogs were known to these women for a very short time, less than a day to be exact, yet they knew in their hearts that these dogs had to be theirs. The third woman, Amy, saw her adopted dog Maddie’s photo and rescue story on my Facebook group—Nepal Street Animal Rescue—and made an inquiry about her. The rest of Maddie’s adoption became a story that has inspired others to take a leap of faith and adopt from Sneha’s Care rescue in Nepal.
Here are their stories. Their trials and errors, their ups and downs, their growing love for one another and above all, the rescue of a living being that had no hope, no future, no one to turn to for help. Truly dogs that would have suffered greatly on the streets in Nepal had it not been for these 3 women and their desire to save a life from half a world away.
Dr. Stacy and Momo
Dr. Stacy came to Nepal as part of the World Vets International spay/neuter project at Sneha’s Care in the Kathmandu Valley in November of 2017. Here is her story in her own words.
Momo, the story of a Nepalese Street Dog
Activities start early in the morning in Kathmandu, Nepal: deliveries for businesses, wares being set out for prospective buyers to see, cooking stoves being lit. As we emerged from our hotel every morning, we were greeted by a small black and white dog. She always came up to us for a treat or a head scratch, she would even roll over for a belly rub. But as soon as she saw a Nepalese person, she would duck and skitter away. Unfortunately, dogs are not well liked or tolerated in Kathmandu. The locals think of them like a giant rat: vermin that get into the garbage, leave excrement and debris scattered and transport disease. The dogs are yelled at, chased, hit and kicked. Not a good life. But the amazing thing is, many of these dogs still seek companionship with humans! The dogs have learned that tourists tend to have treats, pets and nice words to say to dogs.
After watching this little dog for several days, I decided that she deserved a chance at a better life. I put a leash on her (panic! She had not appeared to have ever been leashed OR she had a bad experience) but after calming her down, I was able to pick her up and carry her on the bus to our World Vet spay/neuter clinic at Sneha’s Care rescue facility. Momo was thin, unkempt coat and had a lameness of her right hind leg. Otherwise she seemed to be in pretty good condition. She was a young adult with beautiful teeth.
After spaying and naming her, (Momo: a Nepalese dumpling!) it was time to try to figure out how to get her home to the United States. With help from Hillary, a US volunteer and Sneha’s Care supporter, and Abhi, Sneha’s Husband, lots of paperwork and a bit of time, Momo was finally on her way to the US. It had been weeks since I had seen her. She had spent that time in the shelter with a couple of hundred other dogs. How was she going to be after the long flight from the other side of the world?
After a 24 hour flight and several more hours waiting at cargo, Momo was finally released to me. After a short drive to a friend’s house I was able to take Momo out of the crate and take her for a much needed walk in a securely fenced yard. I’m sure she was anxious and overwhelmed, but was easy to handle. I gave her water and treats and let her stretch her legs before the three hour drive to my house. She was perfect traveling in the crate.
When we got home, Momo met the four dogs and two cats that already live at my house. She was very calm, everybody did their sniffs and normal dog greeting. I do a lot of rescue and fostering, so my current crew took it all in stride. The next day was spent going for walks and getting used to each other. But then we started seeing some of the differences in a street dog verses non street dogs. Momo became very possessive of everything: toys, beds, food and me. And it was not just a snarl or snap: she went after the other dogs as if her life depended on it. And, maybe in the streets of Nepal, her life DID depend on it. But not here in our home! My dogs were mortified and terrified! They had never been treated like that by other dogs. So Momo spent the next few weeks on leash, even in the house.
Soon we all left in the motorhome to travel from Washington State to Florida and back for the holidays! What were we thinking?!?!? Momo travels very well, she quickly learned how to jump into the RV, walks well on leash, would settle in her bed and chew on her toys. But in the small space, her possessiveness reached a new height. I had to keep her confined to a specific section of the RV to keep everybody safe and content. We were able to use dog parks for playtime and Momo enjoyed playing with other dogs while dragging her leash.
I immediately taught Momo how to sit for a treat. She learned it in about 30 seconds. She learned to down in about two minutes. She is incredibly smart and food motivated. Amazingly trainable! She only had one accident in the house. Perfectly housetrained. She learned our routine very quickly as far as when we have meals, go for walks or play in the yard and quiet time in the house. She may have had a home at some point because she seemed to realize immediately that couches are great for a nice nap!
Momo loves to play with one of my small dogs. They play chase and wrestle a lot. But sometimes Momo gets too aggressive and the play has to stop.
But, all is not perfect. Momo is very “prey” oriented. She has decided that the cats need to be chased. The kitties have never been pursued like that and are spending their time in the back of the house for the first time in their long lives. Neither cat will stop and give Momo a good, sharp swat (which I think would be pretty effective!) they just run from her. So there are baby gates up to keep Momo away from the cats. This is a behavior I have not been able to curtail.
She wanted to lunge at other dogs when on leash or in a yard, but redirecting her with treats has been working very well. Her recall is spectacular: when called, she comes running and slides to a sit in front of me for her treat or a pat on the head. As possessive as Momo is about “her things” (which is just about “everything in the world”) she is amazing when I am passing out treats to all the dogs. All five dogs, including Momo, sit quietly and wait for their treat. She does not fuss at all. But if a treat falls, she pounces on it immediately.
Now that we have been home for over two months, Momo has settled well into the routine. Momo improves daily, but her behaviors of chasing the cats and attacking the other dogs has left the household on edge. After almost three months, we still don’t have the calm environment that we are used to. We are starting training classes and see if we can improve on her problems. Otherwise, we may have to look for another home for her, with no other pets. But I want one day to tell people that Momo is the best dog I have ever shared my life with.
As a veterinarian, I have rescued, adopted and fostered many dogs over the years, including other dogs from other countries. With so many dogs in the USA that need homes, why in the world would I spend the time, energy and money to adopt a dog from another country? When a dog grabs your heart, no matter where they live, you form a connection and that is it! You do what it takes to get that dog to a better life. If that life for Momo is with me or another home, I would still do what it takes to get a street dog home to a better life.
The street dogs in Nepal deserve a chance at a better life. We cannot save all of the dogs in the world but we can make one dog’s world the best.
(Update: Dr. Stacy says that Momo is “Doing very well. Incredibly smart. Still wants to chase cats but not as intense. I don’t want to find her a home 10 times each day! In fact, if she keeps improving, she will stay here with me!”)
Dr. Michelle and Sherpa
Dr. Michelle also came to Nepal as part of the World Vets International spay/neuter project at Sneha’s Care. As there are so many dogs at the shelter, 200 at present, I am always looking for potential adopters, and when I met the Team of 16 from World Vets, I immediately began my sales pitch. Describing each dog in detail, pointing out my favorites and explaining how easy it is to transport a dog to the USA from Nepal. Once I made my way to Dr. Michelle and spotted her Sherpa dog transport bag, I knew I had a potential adopter on the line…Dr. Michelle told me straight up that she would NOT take a puppy from the shelter that was in good health and fully functional…Oh no! She would only take a puppy that was in a bad way, that needed a Veterinarian as an owner, a puppy that was injured or sick. As Dr. Michelle explained to me, there were plenty of healthy puppies in shelters in the USA and if she wanted a healthy puppy, she could adopt locally.
On the last day of the spay/neuter clinic, a local Nepali man drove up with an injured puppy. A puppy who had been hit by a car and whose paw and leg was so mangled that it broke all of our hearts. Dr. Michelle took one look at the leg and then at the puppy’s face and she was hooked! Dr. Michelle knew that without her bringing Sherpa to the USA, he would have to live his life in the shelter as a 3-legged dog and for Dr. Michelle, that was no way for a puppy to live out it’s long life when there was another option…her. Sherpa was going home with her and she was going to do everything in her power to save his horribly injured leg.
Dr. Michelle immediately jumped into action and began to clean what remained of the puppy’s paw and leg while administering the needed medications and wrapping it up in bandages. No way was Dr. Michelle going to leave the puppy at the crowded shelter. She bundled him up and took him back to her hotel where she could keep an eye on him until she left 2 days later. While looking into getting the newly named Sherpa on Dr. Michelle’s return flight to the USA, it was discovered that her airline didn’t transport animals of any kind. Not a problem for the committed Dr. Michelle. She canceled her flight and rebooked herself and her new puppy on a different airline several days later. When the date arrived for Dr. Michelle and Sherpa to leave Nepal, they were ready to go with the needed paperwork for Customs and a plane ticket for the both of them. Dr. Michelle carried Sherpa onto the plane in her Sherpa dog transport bag and they were off to the USA.
After a very long flight to the USA, Sherpa was finally in his new home. Sherpa was not bonded to any humans and he gravitated towards Dr. Michelle’s other dogs for guidance on how to behave. His injuries were very extensive which required Sherpa to be sedated every other day to have his bandage changed and to splint his leg. It was a very painful injury and poor Sherpa would bite at Dr. Michelle without the sedation because he has had no contact with humans before and he didn’t trust them. When Sherpa was allowed to get around and out of his crate, he had to be taught how to behave in the house just like any other puppy. As with almost all street dogs, having food at mealtimes was a whole new experience. When Sherpa spent time outside of his crate, he spent this time scavenging for food inside and outside of the house. Sherpa would eat anything, so Dr. Michelle had to keep a watchful eye on her new puppy lest he eat something harmful to him.
Sherpa came into a home with several other animals and because he was a puppy, he fit in fine once he figured out who the rest of the players in his new home were. There was the old lady dog who didn’t want to play at all, the older male dog who plays fairly rough and is vocal—who has taught Sherpa the way to play—and a small Chihuahua who is just glad to be able to jump up on a bed or couch to get away from the crazy goings on when play time begins!
Dr. Michelle will proudly tell anyone that Sherpa is very smart. Smarter than her other dogs because he is a street dog survivor. She says you can see it in his face when he is thinking and calculating the next bit of puppy trouble he is going to cause. Two of Michelle’s other dogs are street dogs as well and she sees that they all have similar street smarts and survival instincts in them. Toys and repeated training exercises are fun for Sherpa because he is now seeking out positive affirmation and attention which he knows he will always get when he has done a good behavior.
Sherpa has his quirks like any other dog—pure bred or rescue—and his good points far outweigh any lingering street dog behaviors like eating anything in his path. Sherpa, according to his proud Mom, is very smart, very trainable, stubborn, and likes to steal small things like Kleenex, pens and paper from the trash. Best of all Sherpa watches TV and not just the Animal Planet but any and all kinds of TV. As with any other puppy, potty training was a challenge but Sherpa learned from Dr. Michelle’s other dogs and through positive praise and treats. His most endearing quirk is when he is done eating. Without fail, Sherpa will pick up his food bowl in his mouth once it is licked clean and charge through the house to play with it. He has done this since his leg was healed enough that he could walk on his own.
Dr. Michelle says that Sherpa’s health is excellent. She finds street dogs to be healthier than most because they have been able to survive parasites and other disease challenges without vaccinations and this develops very strong immune systems. Her other two street dogs are just as healthy and strong as Sherpa.
As for Sherpa’s horrendous paw and leg wound? Dr. Michelle says that Sherpa endured many skin grafts surgeries, and months in the “cone of shame” in order to allow the paw and leg to heal without him biting the bandaging. After his fifth and final skin graft, Sherpa has a goofy shaped paw that is missing a few toes but the skin grafts have healed beautifully and he has full use of a leg that would have otherwise been amputated had Dr. Michelle not stepped in to save it.
When I asked Dr. Michelle if she though bringing a dog from Nepal was worth the effort she said “Absolutely and without a doubt!” She saw firsthand that Nepali dogs have very dangerous living conditions. That they are often sick and injured with no help in sight, hungry, riddled with fleas and parasites and always on the move looking for food and a safe space to rest. Any problems that dogs rescued in the US must face is small compared to what the dogs in Nepal face.
Dr. Michelle has some parting words for potential adopters of a Nepali street dog—or any street dog for that matter—and that is: “It is worth every penny and every effort made to change the life of one dog. Your heart will be joyful and you will never look back. It also makes for a great conversation starter because no one else will have a dog that looks or acts like yours. DO IT!”
Amy and Maddie
Fate. That is what brought Amy and Maddie together. Unlike Momo and Sherpa, Maddie was adopted by Amy through a photo I posted on Facebook. I had met Maddie at Sneha’s Care in Nepal in 2016. Maddie was brought into the shelter by Sneha Shrestha and her team to be sterilized and Maddie was so special, so hungry for human attention that I promised to find Maddie a home in the USA if Sneha would agree to hold her at the shelter until a home could be found, and not return her to the streets. Sneha quickly agreed and off I went to find Maddie a special home. I wrote about the first two months of Maddie’s adoption here beginning with her time on the streets of Kathmandu.
Amy had just lost her 13-year-old dog named Maggie when she saw my post featuring Maddie. Amy asked a few questions about her and I did all I could to describe how truly wonderful Maddie was and how she desperately needed to get out of the shelter and into a proper home. Amy said she needed to think about it and that she would get back to me. It didn’t take more than two days before Amy contacted me to say she couldn’t get Maddie out her mind and that she wanted her. Maddie’s name being so similar and her eyes spoke to Amy. And then the work began.
It took teamwork to get Maddie from Nepal all the way to New York. Once the paperwork was done and Maddie had her plane ticket, all that was left was a tearful good-bye for Sneha at the airport, and Maddie was off on her 24 hour journey to her new home. Maddie’s adoption was widely spread on Facebook—Dog International and people from both the USA and Nepal were anxious to get word that Maddie had arrived in New York safely. Amy was waiting when Maddie’s plane touched down ready to pick her up in cargo and drive her a few hours to her new and wonderful home.
Maddie was stinky when she first arrived and a bit tired but once she was out of her shipping crate and allowed to walk around Amy’s property on a leash, she settled right in with the family. And what a family it is. Chickens, rabbits, deer, bees, birds and so many more animals for Maddie to watch. Inside Maddie found an older dog brother and the dreaded enemy, the cats. Maddie had never seen a cat before and she feared them but she never chased them. Maddie quickly learned that some kitties are to be left alone and others can become best friends. Since Maddie had spent so much time socializing with so many dogs on the street and at Sneha’s Care, Maddie seemed to adapt to all of the new animals very quickly.
In the first few weeks at her new home Amy discovered that Maddie was scared of the stairs and had to be carried down them. Her house training was a longer process because Maddie had been able to relieve herself anytime and anywhere she wanted on the streets but she learned quickly with positive training and lots of opportunity to go outside throughout the day. Maddie could be a bit destructive in terms of chewing furniture and actually anything she could get her teeth on but Amy says she has seen this behavior in dogs at the same age that she raised from puppyhood, and Maddie has outgrown the need to chew on anything but her dog bones. Maddie took to the bed and sofa like a real champ. As with most street dogs, Maddie is a huge trash picker which seems totally normal to Amy given Maddie’s past. Amy says that Maddie has never, ever been remotely aggressive towards anyone or anything and she is a sweet as can be.
It’s been 10 months since their first meeting and Amy will tell you all about Maddie if you just ask her. She will tell you that Maddie is a good girl, smart as a whip and very easily trained. She eats things she shouldn’t and plays roughly with her cat boyfriend (who LOVES it!), but she can be quiet. She is friendly and loveable. She can be a runner so Amy doesn’t allow her off of her leash unless she is contained in a specific fenced area. She hates deer with a passion and it seems the only time that she will bark is when the deer are in Amy’s yard. Amy always knows when there are deer around! Maddie’s health is excellent and she has enough energy to tire out the entire house when Amy steps through the door after being away at work.
Amy will tell you that bringing a dog from Nepal is “Absolutely worth the effort. I would do it again!” She will also tell you to “Do it! You won’t regret it!”
Is Adoption from Abroad for You?
There are many things to take into account once you decide to adopt a dog from abroad. Ask yourself—are you willing to adopt a dog without ever meeting it? Are you willing to adopt a dog that may have a health issue or disability if it means bringing it to the USA so it can have better veterinary care and a better overall quality of life? Are you willing to put in the time needed to help your new foreign dog learn the rules of the house and learn commands? Are you willing to wait a few weeks to get your new dog flown to the closest airport near your home while getting the required paperwork prepared to get your dog into the USA? Are you willing to make a life-long commitment to your foreign dog so it doesn’t get passed on to other homes or, worse yet, a shelter where it may be euthanized due to overcrowding? Because, if you are willing to do all of these things, I can guarantee you that you will never regret the day you made the commitment to provide a street dog from a foreign country a good home with a loving family.
To see some of the adoptable dogs at Sneha’s Care please visit http://nepalstreetanimalrescue.org/for-adoption.html for more information and contact me if you want to take the leap of faith to add a street dog from Sneha’s Care to your family.
Editor’s note: I’ve been to Kathmandu and seen street dogs treated kindly by some residents of the city. I also have, and have had, Nepali friends who love animals and treat all dogs kindly. As Dr. Stacy noted, some residents do not treat street dogs kindly, and this is why many street dogs are in need of help from Sneha’s Care and other rescues, including the many victims of hit-and-run accidents.
© Sneha’s Care, © Stacy Steele, DVM, © Michelle Ward, DVM, © Amy Renaud-Mutart.
Latest posts by Hillary Kloetzli (see all)
- Rescuing a Dog from Abroad:3 International Adoption Stories - April 1, 2018
- Sneha’s Care Rescue and World Vets Team Up To Reduce Street Dog Overpopulation in Nepal - January 17, 2018
- Maddie’s Story Part 3: Forever Home - July 14, 2017