If any of you have read my previous posts, you will know that I worked at a local animal shelter in Vietnam when I lived there in 2017. For those not so familiar; ARC (Animal Rescue and Care) is a hardworking rescue and rehoming charity run completely by volunteers.
There is a combination of locals and expats working together, and they are helped by Veterinarian Dr Nghia.
The charity takes in unwanted, abused and stray dogs and cats across Ho Chi Minh City. All the volunteers are passionate about helping animals, aiding their recovery, if injured or in poor condition, and rehoming them to loving safe homes.
They do a wonderful job and I was given the opportunity to work alongside these people during my time in Vietnam. This is without doubt a period of my life I will never forget.
In fact, I hope to return to Ho Chi MInh City and volunteer with ARC again one day. During my time, I worked predominantly with the canine community.
I met many dogs that came through the shelter doors. Some were re-homed quite quickly. These were typically the unwanted adorable puppies or small dogs without any existing medical conditions and fun loving personalities.
It was great to see them go but I often wished the older dogs wouldn’t be passed by so easily. Vietnam suffers from unwanted pets in the same way other countries do.
Unfortunately, some people do not really understand the commitment, responsibility and cost that comes with owning and looking after a dog.
Molly was a “long-termer”. She had been with ARC for 7/8 months before I joined the team.
She had been brought in by a local in the District 2 area that had found her on the streets in a very bad condition. At an estimated age of 7, it was impossible to know whether Molly had been on the streets all her life or was abandoned.
Molly was covered in mange, completely hairless from the severe skin disease. Her eyes could barely open due to the slimy unpleasant substance they were producing.
The poor thing had lost a lot of weight which most quite noticeable due to her sagging sunburned skin.
Molly was also extremely stinky! This could be from the scores and fluids being produced by her body to protect the skin or possible excessive yeast production, either it was pungent!
It took a good few breaths to get used to Molly’s perfume. And remember, it was 7 months into her treatment when I arrived. I couldn’t imagine the pong at first.
Molly’s mange was so bad that we needed to put her in a doggy baby grow to protect her skin from the sun when we went on walks. She wasn’t a fan – if looks could kill, we would all have been done for.
However, once all four legs were in and she was buttoned up, I thought she looked quite fabulous.
Sad and Solitary
Molly was quite a loner and quite disengaged from the rest of the ARC community – people and dogs. Each morning we needed to clean Molly’s eyes and administer her eye drops.
Every other day, Molly needed to have a bath with the specially medicated shampoos and conditioners and whilst she tolerated us at this periods, all other times she was unresponsive and unimpressed by our attempts at play. On our walks, we took the ARC pack to the gardens of locals and expats where they could run freely in large spaces.
They all loved this time with the exception of Molly. She would sit away from the group until it was time to leave again.
She would occasionally been persuaded out of her spot for a piece of boiled chicken but would retreat again instantly. You may think that we should leave her be if that’s just her way; but dogs are not naturally loners.
Dogs thrive from attention and love the company of others, so to see Molly totally unengaged was sad.
Mange is a skin disease that on the whole can be treated and clears up relatively easily, even extreme cases. Molly, however, was not getting better.
The vet had already tried two different types of medication – a combination of lotions and tablets – with no real success. This was not good as mange can be deadly if not treated.
When I arrived, one of the long term volunteers was talking of one more treatment they could try her on. This included 3 – 4 baths a week, a conditioner that had to be left on for 30 mins (much to the obvious annoyance of Molly) and antibiotics.
It was an expensive treatment and ARC were responsible for the cost. All of ARC funds come from donations and fundraising so spending a great deal one treatment was a carefully thought out decision.
Everyone was rooting for Molly and hoping that she would be third time lucky. In as little as one month we started to see the difference.
The skin around Molly’s face had started to heal and the hair was growing back. Not long after, all the skin across her body was healing and her hair was returning.
No need for the doggy baby grow any longer. To my utter amazement, Molly’s hair was bright white and super fluffy.
She was a huge fur ball of milky white thick hair. She was even more stunning than before.
An Amazing Transformation
Molly’s fur continued to grow after I left and soon after I saw pictures of her transformation. In one photo Molly had just been for a haircut with her foster family.
Her coat was now so thick she need it cut to cool her down in the Vietnamese heat. Of course, her physical appearance has improved dramatically but it is the character change that has brought me more happiness.
Molly now thoroughly enjoys playtime with the other dogs and cannot get enough cuddles from all the people she comes into contact with. Much of this change is contributed to the time spent at home with Gine, one of the ARC lead volunteers.
Gine took Molly into her home, stinking smell and all, and worked on her rehabilitation. Molly’s people skills developed quickly. She was soon enjoying the company of her human companion.
Ohhhhs, Ahhhhs and plenty of petting is lavished on her when visitors came round or on the neighbourhood walk. At the time of writing, Molly is in foster care with a loving carer who is teaching her that the world is a place to be a very enjoyable place.
I get to see all the updates on her progress and watch videos of her learning a new skill or playing with the others. She is certainly mischievous and, if may I say, a bit of a madam but she is also clearly a wonderful, gorgeous dog that needed a little love, attention and plenty of baths!
Want To Help ARC?
I continue to study dog behaviour and volunteer in whichever city I lay my head, but will never forget my time with Arc. I learnt so much from both the people and dogs there and have made life long friends.
If you would like help Arc with their mission to rescue Ho Chi Minh abandoned and abused animals I know they would appreciate it. If you live in Vietnam and can help walk, clean and foster please contact them – all their details are listed on their website: http://arcpets.com/
However, if you are not in the area but would still like to help there are many way in which you can do this. Follow their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/arcpetsvietnam/ to keep up to date on their activities, events and animal cases.
If you would like to Donate and help ARC, please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/arcpets – a fundraising site where all funds go directly to the charity.