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News - March 2014

We're busy catching you up to our new newsletter system - if you have already read a version similar to this, apologies!

AWARE, like all conservation organisations, needs to raise funds for its activities, year round. In February, we held a successful Valentine's Fundraising Dinner at Alo Alo restaurant, with generous sponsorship from CBZ Holdings, and raised over $7 000. Tickets included welcome champagne, a delicious three course meal, and plenty of wine, plus live entertainment throughout – a delightful string quartet and trumpeter from Hellenic Academy, which has adopted AWARE Trust as its environmental charity, plus well known singers Linda Frampton and Sheila Taylor, who kept people on the dance floor till the small hours! Students from Hellenic Academy were on hand as hosts and hostesses, and Alo Alo did a very fine job with the décor, sumptuous feast and efficient service. Formalities were kept to a minimum; just a few well-deserved thank yous, plus the raffle draw. This helped to replenish AWARE's coffers, and the funds were immediately put to good use on our Buhera sterilisation campaign. 

Buhera steriliastion teamLate last year, a rabid hyena attacked and wounded 5 people in the Buhera district. They had to receive preventative rabies innoculations, and as a result of these frightening incidents, local people called on the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to poison the hyenas. In response to this, AWARE Trust offered to carry out one of its campaigns for domestic dogs in this area, to address the threat of rabies to both people and their dogs, and prevent the spread of rabies from domestic dogs to adjacent wild animals. The hope was that this would also end the calls for hyena eradication. 

The resultant vaccination and sterilisation campaign which was carried out by AWARE, in co-operation with the Veterinary Department, offered free of charge services for dogs belonging to the people of Buhera in three wards from 17 to 24 February, using the local Animal Health Centre building as the base for vaccinations and operations. Though this drought prone area has still not received enough rain, it looked beautiful and green, with stunning mountainous scenery. For 8 days, AWARE's work began at 5 am. AWARE vets prepared for surgery, set up the recovery room, vaccines, equipment and record-keeping facilities, and performed countless other tasks. The sheer volumes of owners and animals who arrived daily often felt overwhelming – this was a massive task!

Buhera bitch 1Buhera bitch 2Buhera bitch 3Buhera bitch 4

Equally overwhelming was the poor condition and often cruel treatment of these dogs, with most, terribly undernourished. A little left over sadza is all many of these animals get, if they are lucky. This in turn leads to their hunting for their food in nearby wildlife areas, and amongst wounds and injuries treated were those inflicted by monkeys and baboons. Ticks, fleas and disease abounded. Some dogs were pulled along with rough, cutting leads made of wire, stripped bark, cables, thick sticks or forked branches, leaving the dog with little ability to move its head. AWARE distributed about 25 donated harnesses, collars and leads to as many of the worst cases as possible. 

Terrible leadterrible lead 2scarred dogPuppies

People here, and in all rural areas desperately need education on how to care for their dogs, a project AWARE Trust very much hopes to carry out soon, by distributing pictorial pamphlets in vernacular languages. Owners often grabbed dogs resisting restraint around the throat – making matters even worse, nearly choking the animal and leading to several bites to the owners. It was extremely noisy, with dogs yelping, crying and barking, people talking, shouting and trying to control frightened dogs, and repeated messages from vets on how to hold and carry dogs correctly.

gate sceneEach day was a hectic blur of streams of dogs arriving, and exhausting hard work in temperatures around 36°C. Assisted by two Veterinary Extension Assistants, 4 Dip Attendants and an Animal Health Inspector, AWARE vets vaccinated 1700 dogs against rabies, 200 of whom also received 5 in 1 vaccinations. 50 puppies received parvo virus vaccinations, many arriving in buckets, tubs and metal chests. Around 750 doses of de-wormer and donated Frontline were also administered to the first 750 vaccinated dogs until the product ran out. Each owner and dog was recorded, and the dog's ear tattooed to show it had been vaccinated, in line with the Vet Department's instructions. Some dogs had tick fever and were anaemic, and one of the AWARE vets came home with tick bite fever.

puppy with abscessRestraining an aggressive dogWatching the vets treat open wounds, injuries or illnesses and give antibiotics to those in need, I stood in complete amazement as they worked on animals I was too fearful to get anywhere near!  Somehow these frightened, snarling
dogs were coaxed into restraint using just a gauze muzzle and scruff-hold. When I enquired how they do that - the answer was - to show the dogs you do not mean to hurt them! Easier said than done! One dangerously exhausted, underfed and dehydrated dog trying to catch its breath, its tongue blue and swollen to twice its normal size, was somehow noted by a team member amongst the chaotic scene. It been led 7,5km to the clinic, slipped its lead, run all the way home and been dragged 7,5km back in the sweltering heat, its body temperature now dangerously above 42°C and near death by heat stroke. It was urgently administered a cool drip, ice packs and intravenous drugs to lower its temperature with a team member monitoring it while it cooled down, stroking and stimulating it until out of danger. Many of the dogs were lactating females in very poor condition, who can easily starve to death, making spaying critical. The AWARE Vets carried out 66 sterilisations, the majority female. The risk of doing this surgery

spaying dogson such weakened dogs is high, but thankfully all 66 went well, and those sterilised will certainly have a better quality of life. The vets scrubbed up in chlorinated water from a bucket and did these operations calmly, controlling oxygen levels through pulse ox readings and appropriate adjustments to the anaesthetic depth. Afterwards dogs were carried to the recovery room, breathing tubes removed, and a close eye kept on temperature, breathing, and vital signs, stimulating them until awake enough to lie on their chests. Blood samples were taken from most animals for disease surveillance.

dogs in recoveryEach recovered dog was returned to the owner with a gratefully received bag of nutritional dog food. Some dogs who had walked many miles for surgery, were driven home in the AWARE vehicle, to the delight of their owners. Detailed instructions were given on after-care – and that they should return immediately if there were any problems, pulled stitches or bleeding. After 72 hours, the owners were to return their dogs for the Vets to check for infection. Numbers for return visits were high, helped by the promise of a t-shirt for each owner who returned his dog for check-up! The exhausted AWARE Team was pleased with the success of the campaign, knowing we had made a huge difference for the dogs and their owners. The dog going home with kibblessight of so many dogs who, no matter how hungry, tick and flea ridden, or badly treated, showed unconditional loyalty and complete forgiveness, instantly wagging their thin tails each time their owners called them or met their eyes, demonstrated the rather tragic domestic animal's complete dependency on humans, who over the millennia, have bred them and bred them, till their only role has become, to serve us, and focus on us, and only us, as man's best friend – but are we theirs, in return? Carrying out a campaign like this really does make a difference, and the concurrent education, really does start to sink in. Kids with their dogsAnd clearly, there is a desperate need for many more campaigns this year, for which AWARE always needs funding.Plus, finances to print educational animal care leaflets in vernacular languages, collars, leads, blankets, dog food and so much more.....For more pictures please visit our facebook page!

A huge thank you to all our wonderful workers and supporters who continue to make a huge difference to these animals' lives. You know who you are and we salute you!