From TOLFA Founder Rachel Wright
I love animals. It’s as simple as that! I love their diversity, their loyalty, their mischievousness, their cunning, their intuition, everything about them fascinates me. I don’t think that it came as a surprise to anyone when I became a veterinary nurse after a childhood spent bringing home every waif and stray that I could find. After working several jobs in the UK, including at the Royal Veterinary College, I could no longer contain what was to become my second passion in life and that was to travel. For 8 years, I travelled the globe doing volunteer work along the way but in 2001 a seed was planted that started to grow and has been growing ever since.
Sitting on a beach in Sri Lanka, I was visited by a stray dog in a very bad condition. She had an old fracture of one of her legs and was absolutely emaciated. I examined her and found that she had a stick across the roof of her mouth that was preventing her from eating. Once removed, she heartily tucked into my breakfast! Each day after that she came back to visit us and every time she would bring another dog with her, all with problems of their own. With my skills learned as a veterinary nurse, a small first aid kit and a bit of time, all of them got better. A month later sitting on a park bench in Pondicherry, India, I had a light bulb moment – this is what I was supposed to be doing, setting up a hospital and shelter for stray animals living in a developing country that have no possible access to veterinary services. I set a date there and then. The 4th October 2005, that is when I had to open our hospital and the challenge had begun.
After visiting many more countries looking to find the perfect place, 2004 brought me to the right place. Having been shown a photograph of 4 stray dogs tied together to a wooden post and left out in the desert to die, as the local method of stray dog control, I knew that I had found what I had been looking for. In April 2005, a land had been purchased and construction started for the Tree of Life Animal Hospital (TOLFA) in Kharekhari, a small village situated between Ajmer and Pushkar in rural Rajasthan. As hoped, we opened our doors in 4th October 2005 and our services to animals and people have been expanding ever since.
I would like to thank all the people, all over the world that have helped to make a dream become a reality. With such a huge project, it would have been impossible to do it all by myself and so for that I am truly grateful. Every time we are able to release an animal back to their territory and watch as it skips away back to meet its old friends, every time we are able to release an animal from its suffering and pain and every time we are followed down the road by an animal who is tugging affectionately on our hands, that remembers us from a stay at the shelter, I know that what we are doing is making a huge difference to both animals and people in our community.