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The amazing before and after of a street dog from India

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me … Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”― Shel Silverstein

The following story comes from one of my SARA shelters, TOLFA (Tree of Life for Animals) sanctuary in Rajasthan, Northern India. For those of us who work with shelter animals, where navigating heartbreak and hope is an everyday occurrence, stories like these—of animals who beat impossible odds—remind us why we do what we do.

“She has a severe blood disorder. She’s so emaciated, she’s going to need a blood transfusion to survive.”  The vet’s words confirmed the rescuers’ worst fears: The condition of Twiggy, as she was later named, looked dire when she first arrived at TOLFA.

Rescued from streets of rural India in the nick of time, Twiggy was so gaunt, she didn’t even have the energy to stand or eat, but was offered food, basic medical care and given time to rest in safety and peace.

Sanctuary volunteer Alison McKinnon remembers Twiggy’s first days. “Lying in her kennel and unable to move, she felt vulnerable and looked extremely worried, so I chose to sit outside her kennel a short distance away and offer Reiki,” McKinnon says. “We made an immediate connection, and as I felt her acceptance, some of the worry started to ease. She quickly got used to my visits, and before long I was able to lift her and carry her out into the warm sunshine, where she would lie soaking up the rays while I sat close by.”

Even in that weak state, Twiggy’s feisty nature was apparent from day one, remembers McKinnon. “She would raise her lip [while still lying flat] to warn off any of the shelter dogs that came too close.”

Holistic therapies such as essential oils and spirulina supplements—in addition to regular Reiki treatments and lots of love—helped to perk Twiggy up. Five days later, when the vet re-examined her, she was doing so well he decided against the blood transfusion.

It took a great deal of patience, continued medical care and a special diet, but after six months, Twiggy had returned to health and happiness! But soon things got even better for Twiggy: “Although most dogs are returned to their territory after treatment at TOLFA, it was felt that she had been away for too long to be accepted by her community,” says McKinnon. “It was decided that she should remain at TOLFA as one of the resident shelter dogs—a bit like winning the lottery for a street dog in Rajasthan!”

How does one explain that a dog so close to death like Twiggy ultimately found her “Tao,” or “way,” against impossible odds and back to happiness? I like to think that, “Where there is love and patience, there is hope.” Indeed, the people of TOLFA live each and every day with so much love and patience—despite the serious health issues they see. They truly have found a successful approach for turning hopelessness into hope for so many animals that others would have given up on. (Click here for more incredible transformations of TOLFA’s rescued animals.)

More about TOLFA’s lifesaving work in India

TOLFA’s vision is to bring healing, compassion and hope to India’s sick and injured animals, and empowerment to the communities of which they are a part.

In the 10 years of its existence, TOLFA has provided lifesaving care to more than 70,000 animals. TOLFA’s projects include rabies eradication programs, rescue and care for street animals, medicine and educational programs for people caring for animals residing in local villages, literacy programs for women, animal compassion classes for children and training courses in holistic therapies such as Reiki meditation and essential oils. Under the guidance of McKinnon, TOLFA is a proud member of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA), and Reiki is an important adjunct to the wellness program of all their animals. To send a donation and help the animals touched by TOLFA, click here.

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