In May of this year, I boarded a plane heading straight for India with the intention of completing my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Course (YTTC). I had read up about it here and there but no words from the About section of a webpage can prepare you for the physical, mental and spiritual roller coaster of a ride that is a YTTC.
Needless to say, when I completed my course I vowed to continue practicing yoga regularly; which brings me to the first hour of an average day when I was volunteering at Humane Animal Society (HAS) via a Workaway program in Coimbatore, India.
6.30AM – Beep Beep
I reach to swipe the little red x on my phone screen and turn off my alarm.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
My body is still half-asleep as I contort myself in a warm-up sequence that doesn’t flow quite as well as I had envisaged. Practice makes perfect though, and practice is what I do.
7.30AM – Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
I finish my yoga session and head towards the kitchen.
I share the apartment with two other volunteers. One is surely still asleep and the other should be in the kitchen finishing off her breakfast by now. She asks me how my self-practice went and offers to make me tea. I pretend to think about it as she starts boiling the water; we both already know I never say no to tea.
8AM – Beep Beep
I’m halfway through my breakfast as the other volunteer totters into the kitchen, wiping the sleep from her eyes. We exchange good mornings and spend the next hour or so procrastinating around the house. Our conversations always start with our lives back home and end up segueing into our lives at the animal shelter. Who our favourite dog is, who needs bathing, whether any other volunteers are expected today, the list goes on.
9AM – Shuffle Shuffle
There are two bicycles shared between the volunteers. I am training for the Oxfam Trailwalker (an 100km walk over 48 hours) so whilst I have the option of hitching a ride on the back of one of the bikes I almost always choose to walk the 3kms.* Besides, it’s strangely soothing to walk the streets in the mornings before the hustle and bustle truly kicks in.
*Unless it’s raining. I always hitch a ride when it’s raining.
9.30AM – Arf Arf
Puppies and kittens naturally require a bit of extra love, which as a volunteer in an animal shelter I had absolutely no problem with. One of my favourite puppies to this day is a little bugger by the name of Tinku. He came in with almost no fur and a heart full of fear. As the days passed and I got to know him, his fear began to diminish and as the weeks went past and the treatment for his skin condition continued, his fur grew back.
I knew Tinku for a total of two weeks and I can honestly say that the puppy that I met was a completely different puppy to the one I said goodbye to. It’s an indescribable feeling to know that you are an active part of such a positive transformation and it’s one that I wish everyone can experience at least once in their life.
10AM – Bruuuuuuno
Surely it’s not just me. Some people’s names just have to be pronounced in a particular manner if not it just doesn’t feel right. Apparently the same goes for dogs. Bruno is old, blind and incredibly friendly and adorable. Every morning I say Bruuuuuuno as I approach him to take him for a walk. His tail wags out of excitement as he hears the leash clink and it’s no secret to anyone at the shelter that I never get tired of cuddling him.
You know Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant (BFG)? That’s Bruno.
10.30AM – Splish Splash
The volunteer room of the animal shelter has a clipboard filled with sheets and each in-patient in the shelter has a sheet marked with treatments the dog has received. It’s a nifty system which was created by one of the volunteers in the past and it’s a good way to keep track of who needs what done. Every couple of days or so we go through the sheets and make a judgement on which dogs (if any) need to be bathed.
After a few weeks in the shelter you begin to learn which dogs like baths and which dogs don’t. Which dogs need special treatment and whatnot. Whilst this isn’t my favourite task of the day, volunteering is just like any other job. Some things you like, some things you don’t. But at the end of the day, what makes me happy is seeing dogs get better and ultimately, get adopted… and if that means me bathing a dog every few days or so then so be it!
11.30AM – Cuddles
One of my favourite things to do back home is to take my dog to the dog park so that she can run around and get to know other dogs. So naturally, my favourite task at HAS is to spend time with the dogs. It’s as simple as playing fetch, cuddling them and well, just being with them really. It sounds trivial but dogs are social animals by nature and the look the dogs give you when you come up to them is literally priceless.
12PM – Lunch Time (Humans)
My second favourite time of the day! Most days I am too lazy to meal prep, so I go down to the local tuck shop and ask what the rice of the day is. Depending on the answer I either stuff my face with rice or parotta. On particularly good days; both.
1PM – Lunch Time (Dogs)
The feeding frenzy for the shelter animals is no short of a frenzy. It’s all hands on deck as we wheel a trolley full of two giant pots of food. I personally love getting involved in this as I feel diet determines a lot of things, including recovery. By simply being there to watch over the pen and making sure that the more agile or aggressive dogs are not stealing from others, I felt like some kind of superhero. Brigitte, The Warrior of Fair Feeding Portions. I find it’s also important to note when dogs have a drop in appetite as this may be an underlying factor to an even bigger issue, and as with most things, the earlier it’s detected the better.
2PM – De-Ticking / Grooming / Nail Clipping / All The Fun Stuff
After lunch is the best time to get into the nitty gritty of the tasks; the dogs are calmer and quite frankly a number of them will fall asleep as you search their bodies for ticks and fleas.
3PM – Home Time
When I’m too lazy to walk the 3kms home I hitch a ride from one of the other girls but generally I walk. Somewhere along the commute to work, we befriended a local family. I honestly don’t know how it happened, but with limited communication we somehow agreed on a time one afternoon for one of the girls to do henna for us. The hospitality that I was met with in India was absolutely incredible and this instance was no exception.
I volunteered at HAS for a total of three weeks and if it were not for my plane ticket home, I would have happily stayed there for longer. The link to their Workaway ad is here if you want to check it out.