A Celebration of Service Dogs

September was National Service Dog Month. Of course every month people are grateful for the invaluable work that service dogs perform; from medical assistance dogs to military dogs. Regular readers will know from this blog post here, that the Search and Rescue Dogs of Nepal hold a special place in my little ratty heart.

Photo of SAR Dog Hunter with garland

SAR Dog Hunter with garland of marigolds

Nepal is currently celebrating its most important festival, Dashain.  It is a lunar festival lasting fifteen days and coincides with the end of the monsoon season. It is celebrated slightly differently by the country’s Buddhists and Hindus, but the main concept is the triumph of good over evil. Shortly after this festival, there is a five day festival, Tihar. This is a festival of lights, similar to Diwali in India, which was mentioned in this post here. The significance of Tihar is that on the second day, dogs are worshiped for their honesty and loyalty. Dogs get to wear garlands and, more importantly, are given tasty treats.

In the midst of these celebrations SAR Dogs Nepal will be having their 25th anniversary on 8th October 2014. The Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad Nepal, to give them their official title, is the only rescue dog group in the Himalayas. Nepal is a very poor country and this organization has struggled through civil war and natural disasters to keep helping the poor people of Nepal, as well as foreign trekkers who sadly go missing in the stunning scenery of the Himalayas. They train and employ local people, along with the dogs, in search and rescue and disaster response. The training is to UN guidelines and standards, the teams can work in jungle gorges or avalanches. The recent floods and landslides caused by severe monsoon rains this year have resulted in many deaths and SAR Dogs Nepal’s funds have been depleted by their assistance with the disaster recovery.Photo of SAR Dogs Nepal in Himalayas

Please visit their website to learn more about their work, personal stories and for some beautiful photos of the dogs themselves: SAR Dogs Nepal

It would be wonderful if you could make a donation to help the SAR Dogs with their invaluable work. As little as $10 goes a long way in Nepal and they would be truly grateful for it. If you can make it $25 that would be very fitting for their 25th anniversary. If you are able to afford even more, then that would be fantastic. You can donate via their website : Donate to SAR Dogs Nepal.

If you wish to help more regularly, or in other ways, you could visit Rescue Dogs for Nepal. The site is in German, but you can run it through Google Translate, here is one I translated earlier. This is a sponsor organization, run by Daniela Neika, which helps SAR Dogs Nepal with funding and training. You can become a supporting member for as little as 12 Euros per year. An individual, business, school or community group could also sponsor a particular dog and handler. If you, or somebody you know, would be interested in this then please email sardogsnepal@sardogsnepal.asia or freunde@rettungshunde-nepal.de for details.

Meet some of the SAR Dogs and their handlers:

Dunston and Ambar Magar

Dunston and Ambar Magar

Photo of SAR Dog Uttam

Uttam and Purna Tamang

Photo of Aldo Uttam and Laxmon

Best friends Aldo and Uttam with Laxmon Chaudhari

photo of Bilbo

Bilbo’s fancy footwork

photo of Aldo

Aldo flying high

All of the photographs in this blog post are the copyright of, and used with the kind permission of, SAR Dogs Nepal.

Update:

Those clever SAR dogs have added a new page to their website for their 25th anniversary. The page has some very interesting information and photographs of the history of the organization. There are also very tempting details about their resort for anyone thinking of traveling to Nepal. The area is abundant in beautiful scenery and nature.

New page for donations here.

25th Anniversary page here.

Please do click on their pages and learn about Nepal and their wonderful SAR Dogs and if you can spare a donation, please consider them and share this information with anyone that you can. Thank you.

 

 

From the Brecon Beacons in Wales to the Himalayas in Nepal

Just over the border from Hereford is the Welsh mountain range, the Brecon Beacons. It is one of three national parks in Wales, along with Snowdonia and the Pembroke Coast.Photo of Brecon Beacons

The beacons were named after the fires that were lit on top of mountains during times of trouble, for instance to warn of the Spanish Armada during the reign of Elizabeth I. As well as being beautiful mountains, they are home to caves, waterfalls, forests and reservoirs. The moorlands are grazed by sheep and wild ponies. Secrets of their past are hinted at by Bronze Age burial cairns, Iron Age forts, Roman settlements, Norman castles and remnants of the Industrial Revolution. They offer a wealth of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding (especially off Hay Bluff – see photographs below), caving and star gazing – being an International Dark Sky Reserve. You can find out more by visiting the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority website here.

Photo of paraglider Hay BluffThe mountain range is also used extensively by the MOD for training. The town of Brecon nestles among the mountains. Well worth a visit is the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh, containing exhibits from the Anglo-Zulu wars, including the battle of Rorke’s Drift; recreated in the film “Zulu”. It is also home to the 160 Wales Brigade and the famous Gurkha Company.Photo of Hay Bluff

The Gurkhas are recruited from Nepal and have served Britain with distinction and valour since the Indian Rebellion of 1857 to the present day, earning 26 Victoria Crosses. The treatment of Gurkhas in Britain has been controversial with successive governments failing to represent the high regard the British people hold the Gurkhas in. There have been several hard fought campaigns to ensure Gurkhas receive equitable pension and residency rights. Since the recent abolition of the monarchy in Nepal there is also some doubt as to whether the British will be able to continue recruiting Nepalese into the Gurkha regiment.

Photograph of SARDOGS and their handlers

Photograph courtesy SARDOGS Nepal

Nepal itself is home to some mountains somewhat larger than the Brecon Beacons, including “Chomolungma”, better known as Mount Everest. Nepal is a poor but forward looking country, but there are signs that their economy is improving. Nepal has also abolished the death penalty and legalized same sex marriage. Tourism accounts for approximately 3% of Nepal’s GDP, wealthy people from the developed world flock there to enjoy the spectacular scenery, hiking and mountaineering. All too often hikers go missing in this vast wilderness and this is where search and rescue teams are essential.

SARDOGS Nepal is an organisation that employs and trains local Nepalese people to work with specially trained dogs. Not only do they mobilise when a tourist goes missing, but they are also there to help their local communities. Overlooked by the Western media, there have been devastating floods recently in Nepal, culminating in a landslide that has killed at least 155 people. 80% of people in Nepal live in rural areas, dependent on agriculture. It is the poorest of these people who live in the most dangerous areas, they have no choice but to return to their precarious homes. They have so little to start with and many have now lost everything.

Photograph of SARDOGS

Photograph courtesy SARDOGS Nepal

You can find out more about the work of  SARDOGS Nepal at their website here, you can also make a donation here. A donation of $10 (at the time of writing approximately £6.00) will pay for medicine and wound dressings for a person for  1 month; $20 (£12) will feed a family of 5 for 1 month; $50 (£30) will build a vital temporary shelter for a family who have lost their home. I hope that you will take a look at their website and consider making  a donation, most of us could spare $10 which would make such a significant difference to the lives of others. The ever friendly SARDOGS Nepal can also be followed on Twitter @sardogsnepal where you can learn about the dogs, their handlers and see wonderful views of the beautiful Himalayas.