Delhi’s Destiny Diary: From the Streets of India to USA

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The stamp of love on Delhi’s passport helped her take a direct flight to USA. We are talking about Jessica and Delhi – her furry friend whom she met in Old Delhi and their love flew over boundaries. Delhi and Jessica are the perfect wanderlust travelers. Gracing our 100th Issue is their inspiring story of friendship and love. –by Jessica Haltzman

In October 2017, I left for a solo-backpacking trip and bought a one-way ticket to India. My trip started in South India where I was volunteering at the Sadhana Forest, located right outside of Auroville, Tamil Nadu. After spending a month traveling around South India, I decided to fly to Delhi. Little did I know this city would change my life and help me find my best friend.
‘Black’ Magic of Old Delhi that changed my life

I was staying in Old Delhi the food, people, and the hustle bustle truly gave a sense of mesmerizing Delhi. I went to bed early thinking the next day I’d explore the myriad facets of Delhi. However, I was woken up that morning with the sounds of yelping and crying. I walked out of the hotel to find a tiny black puppy. I noticed he had a wound on his side so immediately went to the pharmacy to get him medication.

When I returned with the medication and tried to get near him, he tried running away. This is when I noticed he was unable to walk properly. At that moment I knew that if I did not rescue him, he was only days away from dying alone on the streets with no one to love him. I scooped him up and looked into his frightened eyes. Instantly I broke into tears wondering what I was thinking, what was I doing? I knew once I picked up this puppy there was no going back because I was already attached to him.

Delhi Diaries – Delhi became my best travel companion

I was able to find a rickshaw driver who knew a vet he could take me too. Little did I know I would be going to Friendicoes, an organisation that I would be working with in future. The vet knew limited English so communicating was difficult and I didn’t know what was actually wrong with the puppy’s leg. They performed x-ray, gave him vaccinations, and sedated him in order to bandage his leg. They also cleaned out his wound that was full of maggots. When the vet asked me what his name was, I blurted out ‘Delhi’ without even thinking. There I was at a vet’s office in India with a puppy that was no older than three months old with absolutely no idea how I would get this dog to USA.

The following day I was supposed to see the Taj Mahal and decided I would take Delhi with me. I bought him a little travel bag and he jumped right in and fell asleep. I knew it was meant to be when he slept during the entire train ride without making a sound. I hired a rickshaw driver to look after Delhi while I visited the Taj Mahal. To be honest, my mind kept wandering back to Delhi the entire time I was at Taj Mahal; I was so worried that something would happen to him, I barely paid attention to the epic marble marvel.

From Delhi to Nepal with the love of Delhi!

I was supposed to fly to Nepal in a couple of days and knew that this would not be possible with Delhi so I had to come up with a backup plan. I started looking at alternative routes to Nepal. I learned there was a bus from Varanasi to Nepal so Delhi and I took the 12-hour train ride from Delhi to Varanasi. A couple of days later we took the 24 hour-long bus ride from Varanasi to Nepal. Delhi was my perfect travel companion throughout the trip.

We spent about two weeks in Nepal and then I had to figure out how to get to Thailand with a dog since I would be meeting my sister and mother there. I do not advise doing this but I decided to sneak Delhi onto my flight. That is correct I snuck him onto my flight from Nepal to Thailand. Once in Thailand, I learned about the necessary paperwork to get him out of Thailand and to the USA.

Delhi wags her way to USA
Delhi flew in the cabin with me to the United States. As soon as we landed, I called Dr Ravi Murarka. I wanted to make sure Delhi was healthy and verify if his leg could be saved or needed to be amputated. Dr Ravi Muraka was our family veterinarian and through him I started volunteering for a local rescue organisation called the Kitty Adoption Team when I was in high school. Dr Ravi offered spays, neuters, and vet care for these animals and worked with hundreds of other rescue organisations. I had the privilege of helping prepare the kittens for surgery and got to watch multiple surgeries as well. This is where I learned more about the process; how to handle kittens and cats, their preventive care, vaccinations, and post-operative care.

The three legs of Delhi – Hope, Love and Affection!
Unfortunately the ultimate decision was that Delhi’s leg needed to be amputated. Dr Ravi did an amazing job on the amputation and Delhi and I moved to Seattle. While he quickly adapted to his three-legged life, I had in the back of my mind that in the future I would start an organisation to help dogs in India. In the far future, when I was financially stable.

The Dodo which serves up emotionally and visually compelling, highly shareable animal – related stories and videos to help make caring about animals a viral cause, reached out to do a story on Delhi and me. The video went viral with millions of views and I was flooded with messages from people in India asking for help. I decided that it was time to start a non-profit organisation to help Indian street dogs.

Delhi the Street Dog Foundation – Caring for street dogs in India with lots of love

In November 2018, Delhi the Street Dog Foundation became an official 501(c)(3) organisation.
The Foundation first focused on bringing dogs over from India to the USA or Canada to their forever homes but then operations quickly expanded. In less than two years almost 100 dogs have found their forever homes. Getting them to their forever homes would not be possible without PetFly. We are so thankful to the PetFly team who makes getting our dogs to the USA and Canada possible.

More than 1,600 Indian Street Dogs have been sterilised and vaccinated against rabies. Over 300 Indian Street Dogs have been vaccinated against Parvo and Distemper. We have distributed Emergency Feeding Funds to 46 feeders, and over 400 Reflective Collars and 200 Water Bowls have been distributed. We have also provided funds for emergency surgeries as well.

Moving beyond COVID crisis and taking small steps towards future
With COVID-19 we do not know what the future holds for the foundation. It seemed next to impossible to get dogs out of India and the financial state of the world made it even more difficult. Recently we have been struggling to raise funds. My goal is to expand spay and neuter and vaccination programmes. Dr Ravi Murarka, President of AAVIO, American Association of Veterinarians of Indian Origin and Meghavi Patel, Founder of Animal Care Zone Organization in Canada, discussed a collaboration programme with the vice chancellors of several veterinary universities in India and with Mission Rabies by Merck Animal Health.

With the help of the veterinary students attending these universities and non-government officials, they plan to conduct a high volume spay, neuter, and rabies vaccination camp in rural parts of India. One third of human rabies deaths occur in India. This is why expanding these vaccination camps is so important. Even though I don’t know what the future holds, I am glad that I have been able to make an impact in many street dogs’ lives.

Just like Delhi there are so many dogs who need a loving home and family. When you open your homes for a stray it changes their life and gives them an opportunity to live and you get to learn so much from them – unconditional love, how to be powerful, and the meaning of family. Give them a chance and they’ll fill your heart with immense joy and love.

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