Kimmie Wright gives a scratch to Calvin, a 7-year-old German shepherd, recently at the La Plata County Humane Society. Wright headed to Nepal last week to help the animal population in that country./Photo by Steve Eginoire

Doggone do gooder

FLC grad heads to Nepal with Veterinarians Without Borders
by Jen Reeder

When you picture your dream vacation, what springs to mind? Is it lounging on a beach and drinking rum? Is it skiing in the Alps, or making your first descent of a famous river? Maybe you dream of a safari in Africa or a romantic tryst in Paris? Chances are it’s not working with 20,000 stray dogs on the streets of Katmandu, Nepal, but that’s exactly what Durango resident Kimberly “Kimmie” Wright will do for the next three months as a volunteer with Veterinarians Without Borders.

“I’m beyond excited,” said Wright, who left April 10. “I want to be able to travel and help other animals. I’m ready for everything Nepal has to offer.”

The experience should help move the 25-year-old closer to her lifelong goal of becoming a veterinarian. Wright says she’s had that career path since she was a little girl growing up on a farm in Dolores, where her family raised hay and boarded horses and cows. There were plenty of animals running around, like gerbils, chickens, rabbits, ferrets, ducks, cats and dogs.

“I wouldn’t call it a farm, though, because every animal was my pet,” Wright says. “I’ve always had such a great respect for them. They’re always there for people.”

Before graduating from Fort Lewis College last year with a degree in biology, Wright volunteered at a tiger reserve in Tyler, Texas, for three months to help boost her experience working with animals.

“We got to train them: how to sit and lay down. The biggest one was like 675 pounds, so these were not your average house cats,” she says with a laugh.

She’ll be taking a leave of absence from her current job as a kennel technician at the La Plata County Humane Society in order to go to Nepal with Veterinarians Without Borders – her first time traveling overseas as an adult. She said she chose to go to Nepal because the need is so great, and the program there has little funding. She’ll work with the nonprofit Kathmandu Animal Treatment (KAT) Centre, administering vaccines for diseases like rabies, spaying and neutering, and treating mange.

“It’s a huge problem there,” Wright says.

The KAT Centre opened in 2004 after the Nepalese government had poisoned thousands of street dogs in response to rabies outbreaks.
The goal of the KAT Centre is to help control the street dog population in a more humane way, educate locals, and rescue and rehabilitate dogs for adoption. Since its inception, the KAT Centre has given more than 24,000 rabies vaccinations to Nepalese street dogs, according to the organization’s website, despite working with limited resources.

“We have so much (in the U.S.) compared to what I’ll be working with in Nepal,” Wright says.

Each year, approximately 200 Nepalese people die of rabies (mainly children), and 16,000 people are treated for dog bites, according to the KAT Centre. So as part of her work with the organization, Wright will be going into classrooms and orphanages to teach children how to behave with dogs – like not playing with street dogs. She’s eager for the chance to work with kids as well as dogs.

“It’s kind of the best of all worlds there. I’ll be doing a lot,” Wright says.

One of her first tasks when she reaches Nepal will be to secure housing. She plans to stay in a hotel for the first few weeks until she finds a local family to host her during the three months she’ll be there.

Her mother, Anne McGinley, says this kind of self-motivation is typical of Wright.

“She has incredible determination and ability to get things done,” McGinley says. “I’m extremely proud of her.”

She’s also finding support from her boss, Chris Nelson, shelter director at the La Plata County Humane Society. Though it will be a challenge to be short-handed while Wright is overseas – she’ll be joined the first month in Nepal by her co-worker, Samantha Krueger – Nelson says it is worth it.

“I think it’s great anytime people are going somewhere – be it Durango or Nepal – to help get animals straightened out … end the suffering of animals,” Nelson says. “It’s a great thing.”

For her part, Wright hopes her time in Nepal will lead to more opportunities to work with animals. She plans to apply to veterinary schools in 2013 and then spend the rest of her life working as a veterinarian. She says she is “honored” to have been accepted to work with Veterinarians Without Borders in Nepal.

“I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to help animals that needed it most,” Wright says. “We can’t forget that there’s a whole world out there that needs our help.”

Donations to help cover travel and vaccination costs can be sent to: Kimberly Wright, c/o Anne McGinley, 508 N. Chestnut, Cortez, CO 81321. For more information, visit

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