Last June, I spent a long weekend in Donsol. Although I visited the city after the infamous whale shark season had ended, I still enjoyed spending time on the rocky shores and exploring the sleepy town center. Instead of relaxing on the beach or swimming in the hotel pool, I spent four days scouring the town center, urban slums, and farming communities for dogs infected with sarcoptic mange, or galis as it is known locally.
Sarcoptic mange is a condition caused by microscopic mites, which embed themselves in the skin of an animal, causing severe itching, hair loss, and infection. It adds to the suffering of dogs who endure a harsh life on the streets of the Philippines every day.
I first learned about the widespread mange epidemic in Donsol from Claire and an intern who had visited during whale shark season. Armed with a massive supply of mange medication and medicine packs to leave with the guardians of infected dogs for follow-up treatment, I made the trip to Donsol. All in all, I treated 104 dogs. Here are just a few of the friends I made:
And numerous “dogs of the street,” or asong kalye as they’re called in the Philippines.
One night, as I was sitting at the hotel café using the Internet, a German tourist approached me. When I explained to him what I was doing on Donsol, he asked me, “Why help dogs? Why not spend your time educating children in poor areas or raising money to buy rice for needy families?” My answer was simple: I am doing what I can, trying to use my skills to prevent suffering. I am not the kind of patient person who can teach children to read and write, and I don’t have the drive to be a successful fundraiser. But I do know how to treat mange in dogs, and I am good with animals. Human rights and animal rights are rooted in the same principle: compassion for all beings. Whether you choose to volunteer for a local nongovernmental organization, raise money for those groups, or take to the streets yourself to care for stray animals, you are doing what you can to rid this world of suffering.
Posted by Ashley Fruno