“I have no idea what exactly I’m supposed to do, or why”

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candolim_Beach_Goa.jpgNOTE: The purpose of my post is not to debate whether stray dogs are a menace, or whether people should be scared, or whether the right thing to do is to immunize them or kill them. The purpose is to highlight how some organizations should not function.

The fact is: Even non-profits are organizations. And I believe that any organization that accepts money (from investors, shareholders, donors or customers) has a duty to be clear about its purpose, and to do things efficiently.

* * * * *

When on holiday in Goa, my sister and I were strolling along Benaulim beach one morning. There were several stray dogs around and, without the slightest cue from me, they came running to me. We started petting a few of them. [My neighbours have nicknamed me the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” for the equation I have with dogs.]

Suddenly, all the dogs (except one) gave out an odd shrill bark and fled all over the place, disappearing from sight in seconds. Then we understood why: There were men in green T-shirts (their uniform) holding something like large lacrosse sticks—a stick with a large net attached to it—they were trying to catch the dogs.

Perhaps they were they from the dog pound? From an animal welfare organization? I was curious to know, so I walked up to them and got talking to them. They explained that they were from an animal welfare organization; the intention was to “treat” these dogs and release them back at the same beach. Here is my conversation with them. (All this while, that one dog remained by my side, getting petted by me.)

Me: What do you mean by treat—do you sterilize them so they won’t have babies, or do you give them anti-rabies shots?

He: <blank look> Oh, injection. [I guess he meant anti-rabies vaccination, since spaying and neutering require more than just an injection.]

Me: Then how do you keep track as to which dog is due for its annual shot? Do you have a way of tagging them? [I wasn’t being sarcastic; I was genuinely curious to know how this process worked.]

He: <blank look> Er…er…oh no, actually, it’s for operation.

Meanwhile, another guy called out to him, “Hey, all the other dogs ran away; at least grab the one she is petting!” So this guy proceeded to ‘net’ this dog, which was anyway offering no resistance.

Me: Wait a minute. This dog has already been spayed. Look at her ears; they are notched. So why do you need to operate on her? [This is the most common way to label stray dogs that have been sterilized—there’s a V-shaped notch at the tip, as shown in the picture below.]

He: Oh. <turning to the other guy> Hey, this Madam says this dog has been operated on…

Other guy: Oh, I see. Never mind, maybe we should just take it. What do we do? [I guess they needed to show ‘numbers’ to their bosses?]

I repeated this questioning with the other guy (and some of his colleagues, who had returned empty-handed by then), and all of them were equally clueless. I explained to them that their collective time, energy and diesel were being wasted—they could instead identify their “targets” by being clear about what they wanted to do with them:

– Sterilization? Go by the notched ears. Focus on the females first. [Know what to look for]

– Anti-rabies vaccination? Have a way of tagging them so they don’t get vaccinated more often than once a year (or it will be too expensive). But make sure they are vaccinated annually (or they may pose a risk). [Balance risks and costs]

Still looking clueless, the guys left.

* * * * *

Come to think of it, isn’t this exactly what happens at many organizations—even for-profit ones?

[Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candolim_Beach_Goa.jpg. The ‘model’ dog is “Goldie”, one of the two strays that we feed every day and immunize against rabies every year.]

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