NOVEMBER 2nd 2019

Life for dogs on the  island of  Nomuka, situated in the Ha’apai group of islands in the Kingdom of Tonga is far removed from our Western society.


Our dogs know only of life living as part of our families,  are treated to car rides, walks with their owners along a sandy beach or a windy forest trail.  If you are anything at all like me, your dog may get a birthday and Christmas present! And may also be allowed to occasionally sleep on your bed, or your comfy lounge suite!


We know them as man’s best friend, and they happily take on that role. They are often the first to greet you when you arrive home from a long day, always with that happy, excited wagging tail. They assist us to search for those that we have lost. they lead the way for those that cannot see, they provide us comfort and understanding when it seems no-one else in the world cares.


I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t imagine not having my four-legged friend in my life.



bag of puppies
sleepy pups

Recently I volunteered with South Pacific Animal Welfare on the island of Nomuka.

Nomuka is 7 square kilometres and around 400 people call the island their home along with an unknown population of dogs.


The goal of our trip was to de-sex 120 dogs and cats, provide general veterinary support, clinical examinations, parvovirus vaccines, parasite care, education and livestock animal husbandry.

Life for a dog in Nomuka is so far removed from our own dog’s life’s that it is like they live in a totally different world. Only some dogs are owned, they don’t have collars or leads. They don’t know the joy of going for a walk or having a ride in a car. And most definitely know nothing of a birthday or Christmas gift.


Instead dogs make up part of the Tongan diet.

They are mostly fearful  of people.

Dogs are chased, hit, and have to dodge machetes and vehicles.


It is a game of survival.

Survival to fight other dogs over resources such as food and water.

Survival to find a safe place to sleep.

Survival from discomfort from injuries and disease.

Survival from living in fear and distress in their overwelming environments.


It is hard to see these poor dogs being so afraid in the world they have been born into.

It was not their choice to be brought into this place.


But as with all things in this world we have to start somewhere although it was hard to see how dogs were being treated with the knowledge that life could be so much better. The road to better education and treatment of man’s best friend in Nomuka has begun.


The children were very interested and willing to learn and help us care for their dogs.


It was heart warming to see them take control and bring along their dogs to be de-sexed, vaccinated and treated for fleas and worms.


Change starts with a new generation.

I feel priveleged to be a part of this change.


pulse ox


Above Left: One of my patients that I was monitoring during a routine de-sexing surgery. There are no anesthetic machines. Paitents are mantained under IV anaesthetics, and are constantly monitored.


Above Right: One of the paitents that stole our hearts nicknamed ‘Dobby’

Dobby looked much like a walking skeleton with no muscle and all the bones in her body showing. There were many dogs and puppies in a similar condition.




Dobby in the sand


Above: Dobby, 3 days after having surgery,  some extra loving care, and food! Looking much healthier already and happily playing in the sand.


If you would like to donate to help support the work that South Pacific Animal Welfare do, you can donate to their give a little page here.