The animal shelter in Paro is yet to obtain CSO status

Animal care: An overwhelming smell of urine and scabbed dogs greet you as you enter the iron gates of the Maya Foundation in Lango, Paro, along with a deafening cacophony of around 200 barking dogs.

But you are not in any danger of being ravaged by these highly excited packs of dogs. The dogs seem friendly, at least friendlier than the street dogs that prowl our streets.

Most of them are sick, injured or old.

There are also cattle, pigs, rats, cats and goats, all suffering from a range of ailments, either a broken leg, an infected eye or wounded in some tragic incident.

Welcome to Jamie Vaughan’s world. Jamie is an American citizen who came to Bhutan in 2007 after she married a Bhutanese. They are now divorced.

It was in 2011 that Jamie rescued an injured horse (named Maya), who survived against tremendous odds. But Maya died later from a condition, that was treatable with technology and expertise, but was not available in Bhutan.

Jamie fought back tears as she narrated Maya’s story.

Since then, Jamie has been housing and treating injured domestic animals from Thimphu, Paro and a few other districts.

On about two and half acres, she has more than 200 dogs, eight cattle, six mules, eight cats, seven goats, two pigs and even two mice. All have been rescued from illness, injury, neglect, abandonment or slaughter.

Jamie said that the foundation wants to be able to assist in making life-saving opportunities available to everyone – animals and humans.

“All humans and animals are sentient beings deserving equally of respect, kindness, and compassion, it is important to encourage and facilitate a happy and healthy coexistence between the two, which I feel is an integral part of Gross National Happiness,” she said.

Jamie has six local employees to help her with animal care and rescue.

There is no privacy for Jamie. Animals occupy her bedroom, toilet, cupboard, sofa, even her bed, and everything else available with a flat surface in her house.

Jamie has been now trying to get the Maya Foundation registered as a Civil Society Organisation (CSO). “Without any formal agreements and CSO registration, we will not be able to continue the current work of animal rescue and care,” Jamie said.

Jamie took a loan of USD 400,000 when she started the foundation and has been running it with this money obtained from the USA. To seek donations and other help she has to get her foundation registered as a CSO.

The foundation works closely with the district veterinary hospital and the community of Paro and other concerned individuals who regularly call about or bring in animals.

“It is only through this collaboration that we are able to make a difference,” Jamie said.

A recently brought animal at the foundation is a mule called Besa. It was rescued from Dechencholing in Thimphu. Jamie narrates that Besa had been on a trek when a load of CGI sheets fell from another mule onto her hind legs. The load ruptured her achilles tendon, leaving her leg useless and horribly infected. Besa was abandoned.

Jamie obtained a prosthetic leg for Besa from the USA. Usually costing over USD 2,500, Jamie was able to get it for a discount at USD 1,000 from the Animal Orthocare LLC based in Virginia, USA.

Animal Orthocare are also currently helping with a “leg” for another mule and “legs” for two rescued two-legged dogs at the Maya Foundation.

“Sometimes artificial limbs and other mobility devices are simply to enhance the quality of life, but for large animals it is often a matter of life and death,” Jamie said.

Although the foundation’s goal is to help both people and animals, it is able to take care of only animals currently.

Jamie said that combating injury, illness and overpopulation of animals is a challenge in every country worldwide. She added that Bhutan is very lucky in that the government is trying to compassionately and responsibly help animals as a part of GNH through sterilisation campaigns and free veterinary care.

She added that is important to teach children kindness and compassion towards animals. For that, Jamie’s foundation get student visitors once a while.

Jamie said that the public can contact her if an animal is in need.

Nirmala Pokhrel, Paro