I had the chance today to catch up with someone in animal rescue that I met back in 2014 at the HSUS Pet Expo. That year it was in Daytona Beach, Florida, and this person had travelled 8,564 miles to attend the conference that year. He travelled from Nepal, a landlocked country considered a 3rd world country given their abject poverty, and he came to Florida to learn what other animal welfare organizations were doing so we had the opportunity to meet as I was launching Doobert at that same show. We haven’t spoken in a few years but I’ve thought about him from time to time, particularly when I receive the Animal Nepal newsletter updating me on occurrences there with their amazing organization. I connected with him on Skype again today, and we had a great discussion about animal rescue activities, and particularly some of the challenges that he and his organization face on a daily basis. Kathmandu, Nepal has about 2.5 million people, if you include the nearby populations in the Kathmandu valley, and it is the largest city and capital of the country of Nepal. Ironically enough it compares in size (including suburbs) to Milwaukee, WI where I live. You probably have heard of Nepal because it is the home to Mount Everest, one of the tallest mountains in the world. However the state of animal welfare is very, VERY different than in the U.S. and their challenges are difficult to even begin to understand. Many of the residents still utilize mules, and donkeys to transport bricks for buildings. Brick manufacturing is one of the largest employers in the area and animal labor is often employed as the method of transport with animals suffering the consequences from difficult work, heavy loads and intense heat. Uttam and the Animal Nepal team take a very proactive and positive approach and try and work with the residents of the community to help them understand how the animals are supporting their livelihood and how the money spent on proper care, feeding and medication for the animals, allows them to be more productive and contribute to the families’ survival in this very poor and impoverished country. The point of my story is that during our conversation Uttam shared with me that I am often his inspiration when times are tough and he’s struggling to find the motivation to do his great work. We only met 1 time, and Skyped 1 additional time in the last 3 years but somehow my story and drive to keep going inspired him 8,000 miles away when he needed a lift to his spirits. It was a very humbling moment for me to hear this from someone that is on the front lines of animal rescue, facing challenges on a daily basis that I cannot even begin to fathom. HE is the one that is inspiring and HE is the one that I look up to and continue to fight for and HE has been my inspiration since our chance meeting at the expo that year. Our common bond is a love for animals and people, and an approach to educate, support and understand rather than condemn those that do not care for animals in the same way as us. My conversation with Uttam was a reminder to me that it is always important to keep things in perspective and realize the impact you are having on someone else’s perspective. Yes animal rescue in the U.S. may be hard, and yes we all work long hours for little or no pay to help those that cannot help themselves. Now imagine having to do what we do, with 80% of the population being rural, and with one-third of the population living below the poverty line. Add to that the recent issues of powerful earthquakes that leveled buildings and now a monsoon season of significant flooding, and the problems seem insurmountable. It is humbling to think that I can in any way inspire this dedicated animal savior a world away.
“We all get so caught up in the moment of what we’re doing every day, it’s hard to hit that reset button and get pulled away from all that and see life from a different perspective.” – Tony Stewart