Finding Answers In India

The first time I traveled to India I was search­ing.  I was armed with my camera and spent my days search­ing for beauti­ful images.  I thought that it was the photographs that I was search­ing for, but what I ended up finding was much bigger than that.  Without being fully aware, I was search­ing my soul and in India I found a few answers.







It was a country so much more incred­i­bly complex than any other I had ever been.  My eyes were wide and my camera was busy! My mind was opening to the extreme differ­ences of India.  It seemed around every corner there was something waiting to shock and fasci­nate me. Every­thing from the simple acts of eating and going to the bathroom, to the complex­i­ties of family struc­tures and ethics were so very differ­ent that anything I had ever known.


I had completed a few months of travel­ing through India and was looking for something to do in Udaipur.  I found the website of an animal shelter and decided to take a break from my travels and volun­teer for a couple of weeks.  I needed to do something to ease the ache I felt in my heart for the street animals of this country.


Animal Aid Unlim­ited ( was situated about 10 minutes outside of the city center. Here a couple from the U.S. and their teenaged daugh­ter were doing their best to rescue and treat as well as spay and neuter the injured and ill owner­less animals of the area.  Like in most Indian cities the streets of Udaipur were filled with animals in constant risk of illness and injury with no one to help them.



The family acquired a small build­ing with a court­yard.  They built a row of kennels and a small area to house large animals.  The place was crammed. Chained, injured dogs in every direc­tion, puppies piled on top of each other, donkeys and cows confined in one muddy corner.  The staff of 12 didn’t care much for animals and were mostly afraid of dogs.  They were a mix of lazy, dishon­est, shady charac­ters that often didn’t show up for work.

The challenges of setting up an organi­za­tion in a foreign country had been presented to this family in major ways.  Recently, they had been robbed of $60,000 US, by a local “friend”, that was helping them with the hospi­tal.  There was a constant stream of name bashing and gossip from the local people who didn’t appre­ci­ate nor under­stand why they would want to help animals.  Despite all their strug­gles they contin­ued to devote their futures to helping the animals of India.  They sold their home in the US and deter­minedly trudged forward.





I was about to complete my 2-week stint of volun­teer work and I had mixed emotions about my experi­ence.  I was pleased that I had found a place that was helping some of the street animals in India.  But I felt unset­tled by the vast need of improve­ments at the shelter.  I wanted to make a list of sugges­tions, but who was I to assume that this smart, compas­sion­ate family had not already thought of all these things?  I wanted to help more but how could I?  For as long as I could remem­ber I had this longing to help animals.  The enormity of animal suffer­ing  around the world is overwhelm­ing, and painful to compre­hend.  For most of my life a feeling of helpless frustra­tion nagged at me but I kept quite.

Again with the same frustra­tion in my gut I turned to leave Animal Aid.  I had donated 2 weeks of my life.  I had comforted a bunch of puppies and had given many dogs long walks.  But I still felt unsettled.

It was the eve of my depar­ture and I was spend­ing my evening photograph­ing a festi­val happen­ing in the city.  I was search­ing.  I wasn’t paying atten­tion and I fell off of a high step.  I went over on my foot badly.  It only took me a minute to realize that I had broken my foot.  The next morning I had a plaster cast ½ way up my leg.

Travel­ing through India can be challeng­ing.  The thought of doing it on crutches and on an aching foot defeated me.

It didn’t take much to convince me that I should stay put.  After all I could handle another 3 weeks of helping the sweet angels in need at Animal Aid.  I decided that since I had some more time I would try focus­ing on making some perma­nent changes that may last longer than my stay.  I started with the staff.  I knew that if I could get them to see what I could see in these beauti­ful animals things could improve for every­one.  It was a bigger job than I imagined but after 3 weeks I did start to see some positive changes in the eyes of the staff.  But I had barely touched the surface.

As I worked to change the staff at the hospi­tal I was going through some major changes myself.  I was inspired.  I was learn­ing about what it means to be actively compas­sion­ate, to follow your heart, and to stand up for the rights of others.  I was learn­ing about giving, just for the sake of giving. And it felt good.

When the cast was finally hammered off my foot, it was my heart that was unable to leave.  I never did continue that trip through India.  It has now been 4 years since that fateful fall, and I have spent much of it right here at Animal Aid, in India.

In 4 years Animal Aid has trans­formed from that small, wobbly shelter, to a beauti­ful paradise which staffs 37 animal LOVING local people, on 8 acres of land.  There is a large paddock for injured cows and donkeys, an exten­sive sandy wing for disabled dogs and greens fields for all of the rescued animals to freely recover, rest and play in.  Animal Aid has frequent volun­teers from all over the world, who come and give what help they can.







Playing a role in the trans­for­ma­tion of this animal shelter in India has had an enormous impact on my life.  Not only am I very proud of the work that is done here for animals, I have learned of the power that we all have within us to stand up and follow our hearts.  I am not saying that my search is over and I doubt that it ever will be, but thanks to India, Animal Aid and the amazing animals that I have met here, I have discov­ered just what is possi­ble if we try.

For more infor­ma­tion on Animal Aid Unlim­ited please go to:

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5 Responses to Finding Answers In India

  1. Tina Takach says:

    It makes my heart sing.. I only wish I had known about all of this years and years ago.

  2. Ray Calver says:

    Great photos and beauti­ful blog!

  3. lynn braz says:

    Julie, I am both inspired and comforted by this post. As a volun­teer at Mysore’s nascent “People For Animals,” a shelter that is light on infra­struc­ture, but heavy on chaos, I have felt overwhelmed and hopeless about our ability to improve the lives of Mysore’s neglected, abused, ill and injured homeless dogs, cats, cows, ponies, goats, donkeys, etc. Reading that you had a similar reaction to Animal Aid but have also witnessed its blossom­ing into a success­ful organi­za­tion warms my heart and gives me hope for the Mysore rescue. Thank you for your work on behalf of animals and for your wonder­ful blog.
    lynn braz

  4. Bren McClain says:

    Julie, like you…I feel led to help the animals, those “sweet angels.” I’m doing a small part, mostly now by writing a novel that celebrates the amazing mater­nal connec­tion between a mother cow and her young and what these beauti­ful creatures have to teach us humans about that. But, after finding your website and reading of your work with Animal Aid, I want to do more. Thank you for the example you set.

  5. Barb Hautanen says:

    I started to read your blogs today & plan to go through all of them. This one got me even more excited to be at Animal Aid.

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