After a week working with a number of unruly pooches in dispensary, I was ready for a change of species and was glad that on that particular day there was an influx of horses to entertain myself with. I had noticed during my time on dispensary that the Indians seemed to be superb at controlling camels, donkeys, horses, cows, sheep, goats, basically anything classed as a “large animal” yet were completely hopeless with their pet dogs. Unfortunately like in Britain the dog breed was used as a status symbol, so I saw a great many hopelessly bred “pedigrees” that presented with a problem list as long as my arm. Give me a street dog any day over any of those! I was observing with great amusement three grown men trying to wrestle a Labrador puppy to the table, umming and ahhing whether I should step in to help when the first horse of the day came in presenting with signs of colic. Dietary indiscretion causing impaction colic is a common ailment in India’s horses (not really surprising with the amount of rubbish they have access to) this is usually solved with some pain relief and lubrication ‘at both ends’ one via a nasogastric tube and one via ‘the arse end’ as farmers in the UK would say. This is commonly a rather successful approach both here and in the UK. I successfully managed to catheterise a female horse which I was fairly pleased about as I had never done it before.
The monsoon hit and we had almost a full day of freezing cold English style rain which soaked you to the bone. I was busy trying not to walk around like I was wearing a soiled nappy as being soaked to your undergarments with cold water is not a fun experience, regardless of what country you’re in! I was not at all prepared for that type of weather, I had been told the monsoon rains were like a warm bath and came in short heavy down pours followed by sunshine and warmth. This rain much better resembled a particularly horrible winter day in Liverpool (where I would have at least been in warm clothes and some waterproofs, not a cool cotton top and some equally thin leggings)! We decided to take cover and try and pass a nasogastric tube in a second horse, also presenting with colic under the very crowded camel shelter. As a result, chaos ensued! The female resident camel thought this was an excellent opportunity to cause trouble and gleefully tried to kick anything be it man or horse that came near her. As consequence for her naughty behaviour, she was tied tightly to the post, but this meant her head was getting dripped on from the roof which she strongly objected to which resulted in her trying to climb the pole to free herself. All the while the horse, who was a flighty mare to begin with, was dancing around sillily and trying to buck and kick. So between the camel and the horse we had a right performance on our hands! The men then tried to hobble the mare (a common and very effective practice in India to prevent the horse kicking…. when done correctly) and made an absolute hash of it. All they ended up doing was not hobbling her successfully enough to reduce any danger but only to cause her to tie herself up, creating more panic and resulting in the horse throwing herself on the floor. I would like to highlight that while all this was going on the footwear of choice for all the men involved including the vet and assistants were flipflops…. The UK health and safety office would have been in an uproar! I would like to go on to say that thankfully no one was hurt in the process of tubing this horse and everyone went away miraculously with all toes intact!
That afternoon someone had donated some dog beds which the compounders put out for their “street pet” dogs. It was the sweetest thing to see every single dog proudly sat occupying one of the beds looking incredibly pleased with themselves to the point where they kept getting out looking at their new bed, wagging their tails and then getting back in them again. It was incredibly heartwarming to watch.
That evening Beth and I were packed and ready to go to Pushkar by taxi to meet up with two of the vets from home Amy and Charlotte who had booked us into their hostel for the night. We were looking forward to the change of scenery and (as awful as it sounds) spending 48 hours with some fellow Brits. However, as we should by now have been well aware of (yet every time it still managed to take us by surprise), nothing was simple In India. We had ordered a taxi from Uber, the company we’d been using the whole holiday, which turned up as planned but when we got in the driver refused to take us to Pushkar as it was too far, despite accepting to take the call! He then tried to convince us to go somewhere else instead and to top it off wanted paying for his troubles of driving all the way out to us to essentially be absolutely useless! After a bit of squabbling, we sacked off the taxi driver and then spent the next half an hour trying to get a new one but to no avail. By this point, we were both pretty moody as we had no idea how we could get there and had a pre-paid room waiting for us in Pushkar to fork out for whether we slept in it or not! This was when our knight in shining armour, Balchan, one of the compounders offered to drive us (for an extortionate fee of course but at that moment we’d have paid almost anything to get us to Pushkar).
The drive was quite entertaining, we listened to Indian dance music all the way at an ear-splitting volume all while trying to hold down a conversation with Prabu who had come along for the ride and to help direct (as to our surprise, like many lower caste Indians, Balchan was illiterate and therefore couldn’t read the road signs). He spoke about his time in Goa where he had gone to help set up another neutering clinic. He said it was the first time he had learnt to swim and that it was also the first time he’d seen girls in bikinis and he hadn’t known where to look. Both these revelations seemed completely bizarre to us but it also did a lot to explain their attitudes towards things.
We eventually got to Pushkar after a 2-hour drive where we were greeted with a much-anticipated pizza. We sat in the lounge of the hostel and chatted while we inhaled our pizza. Amy and Charlotte had done a fair bit of travelling around India and had also worked at another charity clinic in the state of Dharamsala. We had a 4-bed dorm room which suited the 4 of us fine and was absolute luxury in comparison to our apartments at HIS; it had air conditioning, hot water, comfy beds and most importantly no ants or mosquitoes so we got a welcomed relief from the bites in the night we’d had to resign ourselves to. After a well-deserved night’s sleep, we couldn’t wait to find out what Pushkar had in store for us!