It's 3:30 in the morning, and I'm fighting every urge to go back to sleep. I can smell breakfast samosas frying on the street and the temple bells begin to ring. We fill syringes with rabies vaccine and stuff How To Prevent Dog Bites pamphlets into a black duffel bag. By 4am we pile into our "Tata Magic" van and we're on our way -- winding past the open-air markets and department stores, chai stands and pseudo-Starbucks, slums and palaces that seem to define the unending contrasts of this city. We net our first street dog by 4:30am, vaccinate her, mark her with grease paint and release her in less than a minute. We'll repeat this process — “net, mark, release”— at least a hundred more times throughout the day. It's a typical morning for us in Guwahati, India, one of twelve cities where "Mission Rabies" is performing mass canine rabies vaccination. The program is aiming to vaccinate 50,000 dogs by World Rabies Day (September 28th); we'll ultimately surpass our goal and vaccinate over 60,000 dogs in September. I smile; this is "shelter medicine" too.
One of the things that I value working in "shelter medicine" is the variety that this field offers. I've sometimes joked that we call it "shelter medicine" simply because "companion-animal-population-management-and-human-animal-interaction medicine" just doesn't have the same ring to it. Projects like "Mission Rabies" draw upon the veterinary and non-veterinary skills that I developed and honed with the Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program. Thanks to the breadth of the program, I've been able to maintain variety in my work every day.
My interest in human-animal interactions and public health has brought me abroad. Back home, my interest in numbers and shelter management led me to team up with Dr. Jan Scarlett; I'm happy to report that we are just putting the finishing touches on a guidebook that aims to help shelters use their data to monitor progress toward established goals. I've been fortunate enough to work clinically in multiple shelters and will be starting a full-time position at a municipal shelter in the southeast in the near future; our goal there will be to continue to bring down the annual euthanasia rate.
It's apt that I'm writing this just before the holidays. At the risk of getting overly sentimental, I truly am thankful for the education and experiences that I had with the Maddie's® program. I feel that -- above all else -- it showed me that shelter medicine extends well beyond the walls of our shelters, and that it's ultimately up to us to decide where we want to go and how we want to help. I hope to see you out there!
Michael Greenberg, DVM