In a small hillock known as Payutar in Kopan, Kate and Doug Clendon take care of any dogs that are brought to them or little pups that are dropped off in the dark of night. The local community relies on them to look after unwanted dogs or dogs that need healing, and the Clendons have not betrayed their trust.

Bruce lost his right leg and shoulder because of an operation to remove a cancerous tumor. Zopa had a terrible accident which left him almost completely paralyzed towards the back portion, so he cannot walk. These are dogs that Doug and Kate talk so fondly about like they were people they are close to. Indeed there are all kinds of characters in the big cages and little cages; big dogs and small dogs, some with limps; some blind, others with garish wounds that are being treated, some with only three legs and some deformed at birth. One can easily get caught up in their life stories and their struggle to become whole again. “Many do, which is a blessing as they come regularly to help take care of the dogs as volunteers,” informs Doug.” A lot of them come down from Kopan Monastery where they study Buddhism. So we are in a good location.” Buddhism teaches compassion towards all sentient beings and where better to start than at a dog shelter!

There was much excitement when I entered the compound and was greeted with a cacophony of many dogs barking all at once. But they soon settled down and some promptly went to sleep. It was mid-day and I was in the Community Dog Welfare in Kopan, a shelter built by Doug and Kate Clendon about eight years ago. Chuen Man Chang, a very dedicated volunteer from Hong Kong was helping Zopa walk on two front legs while his back legs were supported by a wheelchair which was donated by people from Hong Kong.

Doug and Kate started helping street dogs but some couldn’t be left on the street again because of their condition, so they had to be accommodated. Hence the shelter was born, with half a dozen dogs as its first occupants. “We were given permission to use land that belonged to a monastery but had to move once it was sold off,” says Doug. After moving a few times, they have been in the current location in Payutar, Kopan since 2016. It’s an amazing coincidence that the couple is living in the house that was once the home of Susan Fowlds, the first editor of ECS magazine. And like Susan, the Clendons are also from New Zealand.

But their personal story begins way back in 1972 when they first drove overland in a Volkwagen van from Iraq via Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to arrive in Nepal. After their first visit as tourists, they came back with a purpose in 1979; to work. Douglas is a civil engineer, so he found a job with the Department of Agriculture under a World Bank funded program and was based in Biratnagar. After their stint in Nepal, they moved from country to country in Asia and were posted in Indonesia and Laos before finally returning to Nepal.

After living for decades in this country, they started helping street dogs in trouble. One thing led to another and a local suggested they needed a shelter as more dogs began arriving. The same man then brought in a truck load of cement, and a place to house the dogs was built. Soon after starting the shelter, they realized that they needed to work with the local community, so they organized three programs where dog owners could bring in their dogs for vaccination and neutering. The female spaying as it is called was done for free. “When that program was over, students were asked to go from house to house collecting information about the local dogs in order to understand their needs. After a year of communicating with the local community we started getting feedback and they began to see the benefits of not having unwanted dogs in their neighborhood,” recalls Kate.

During the earthquake of 2015, they were running a vaccination program for 200 dogs. It’s an annual program of vaccination against rabies and distemper which also protects them from hepatitis and virus infections. “People normally come for the anti-rabies shots and we take the opportunity to talk about sterilization,” says Kate. They have also received help from Pokhara based HART of the UK who have been organizing ‘on site vaccination’ for the last three years.

Kate and Doug have interesting stories about volunteers who come by and get hooked. “A Spanish couple from Barcelona came here and started visiting every day. They would spend a lot of time with the puppies. They had come for a week but stayed on for two months. They also rescued a puppy and want to take it with them. They are off to Malaysia now, but will be back,” informs Doug. Another volunteer, an Israeli woman would arrive at 6:30 in the morning to walk the dogs, after which she would meditate and then go back to Kopan for her studies. “Walking the dogs is the main task for volunteers as the dogs need human contact. It makes them calmer and less aggressive towards humans,” says Doug.

The four Nepalis on the staff come in at 6:30 am, take a two hour break and then work until 5 pm. Ramesh Shrestha who came from Nuwakot has been a big asset with his skills such as welding and repairing the roof. The last big storm did a lot of damage to the straw roofing and Ramesh has been busy fixing them back. Besides Ramesh there is Dilman Tamang, Saroj Shrestha and Phurbu from Khumbu. “Phurba has this amazing ability to understand the dogs’ problems. He has a good rapport with them,” reveals Doug. The other two have cooking and cleaning chores. The lucky dogs are given fresh cooked food twice a day, once at 9 am and the second meal at 4 pm. Their diet consists of rice and chicken, vegetables and eggs.

“Adoption is the biggest problem we face because people want breeds not street dogs. So their number keeps growing. At the moment we have about a hundred dogs. The other problem is funding,” informs Kate. They have had some help from a friend in Australia who started Go Fund Me and raised $3000 for construction expenses. They reached the target and the work was completed. Another funding program will raise money for treatment of the new dogs. They also receive donations from foreigners who want to help “We were lucky to get help from a UK charity. A woman left behind a legacy for our shelter. That’s a big help,” says Doug. Sponsors typically pay $ 20 which is used for medical fees but that does not cover emergencies. Many dogs arrive with serious injuries; some have open wounds while others have cancer. Those with cancer are treated with chemo therapy and are given weekly injections to which they respond well. “At the moment six dogs are receiving treatment,” says Doug. Sushil Poudel in Chuchepati is the vet they go to where all kinds of tests including ultrasound can be done.

There are many heartwarming stories involving dogs along with sad incidents. Doug remembers one time when somebody dumped ten two-week old pups outside the shelter at night: “We took them in and amazingly one female that had two grown up pups of her own, pushed the two aside and started nursing the new puppies that didn’t belong to her.” In January and February alone they had twenty dogs brought in by people. Pups are usually quietly dropped outside the shelter at night. Why would anyone do that? Because people know they will be taken care of. Dogs that recover completely can be taken back to the community neighborhood, but the rest remain at the shelter. Kopan Monastery may teach compassion but this is where it is practiced every day by Kate and Doug.

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1. “Walking the dogs is the main task for volunteers as the dogs need human contact. It makes them calmer and less aggressive towards humans.”

2. “We took them in and amazingly one female that had two grown up pups of her own, pushed the two aside and started nursing the new puppies that didn’t belong to her.”