Saturday, June 02, 2012

Day 6 - Burns Lake BC

We had a nice leisurely morning on our first day off.  
Our afternoon was awesome!  We caught the ferry over to the Northside and went horseback riding.  It took more then a little work for Valerie to find someone who could take our whole group out at once, but she did.   Liz, Laura, Kristie, Stapley, Shaena, Lorna, Jen and Justin all headed out. I think that when they heard "veterinary team" they were expecting more experienced riders, as only Kristie and Liz had any skill at all.  The rest of us balanced precariously on our horses, hoping they would head in the right direction.  They did.  We all made it back alive after our two hour tour.  The views were breathtaking, and our butts only hurt a little. 
Valerie had arranged for someone to take us out for a hike along a beautiful train around a very picturesque lake.  Our "Vet Team" had an impression on our tour guide's husband.  As we started filing out of the car, he looked quite surprised and said "I was expected a group of old men when she said a group of vets were coming."   He was expecting war veterans - not veterinarians and technicians! 
After seeing the ultimate "Coca-Cola" collector's bar, Kristie, Stapley, Shaena and Laura headed to Kager Lake Recreation Site for our hike.  If you are into mountain biking at all you want to come check this place out sometime.  We were all chicken.  There are also some wonderful camping sites on the site that we had to check out along the way.
We all wanted to stop at the local Artisan shop - which was, of course, filled with a variety of wonderful things. 
And what better way to end a day like this? A private concert by the "Flaming Pies," a local cover band for the Beatles.  More food, a little wine and some great music.  We were joined by another team member - Jackie, a technican from BC.  We are getting really close to having our full team together!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 4 & 5 - Burns Lake BC

Day 4:
This was a busy day in the clinic.  We had 10 dogs waiting for us when we arrived!  We got started as fast as we could and worked all day, and I think we would each say that we have done a great job. 
Our group of volunteers from the community showed up in force for us again today, which we appreciate so much.  Helping with the pets, bringing in food, even just chatting with us and asking questions - it really does mean a lot when community members are so willing to be a part of what we are doing.
A fun variety of dogs today - Chihuahua crosses and Great Danes.  Can't get much different than that!  There was one particulaly cute Dane puppy that needed a home, and he had one by the end of the day!
At the end we had 11 spays, 15 neuters, and another 13 vaccinations and deworming done. 

Day 5:
A slower day today - I think because people had been so aware of coming in early so they wouldn't be turned away. 
Today's totals were 8 spays, 4  neuters and another 13 vaccinations and dewormings.
We had to break down our lovely little clinic and pack it back into the bags and into cars to move across the lake into town.  Again, I have to say a big "thank you" to everyone who helped with the clean up! 
We'll be back at work on Saturday!

Day 3 - Burns Lake BC

So I was up half the night worrying that nobody was going to show up with their pets this morning, and I was up the other half worrying that too many pet would be there!  I should know better - it always works out on CAAT trips!
We got up this morning - to another super yummy breakfast I might add - and headed to the clinic.  When we pulled into the parking lot, Lorna was already there and had a line up waiting to register!  We were all so excited.  The first day on a project like this is always the hardest, as it takes a few surgeries to get the team working really well together and develop the flow.  But we did great!  It didn't take long before we had 20 animals on the list for spays or neuters, and some others waiting for vaccines and neuters.  We had agreed that 20 was plenty and we would ask anyone else to come back the next day - and some did.  But there were a few people who couldn't come back - so when Lorna asked me if we could fit them in - I said of course.  (I wonder how long it will take for the rest of the team to figure out I'm a sap and someone else should be in charge of saying "no.")
We met another member of our team today - Justin.  He is using some of his precious vacation time from his job as an RCMP officer here in Burns Lake to help us and the animals.  We all love him already.
There are so many people in this area who are coming out to help us.  I was blown away by these volunteers!  So willing to help us - adults and kids alike.  Feeding us, tidying up, helping restrain pets, walking dogs, cleaning kennels, sweeping.  So much.  It is not uncommon to see a bunch of eager people waiting for the next animal to come to the recovery area so that they can cuddle and help them wake up.  It was especially heartwarming listening to some boys from the school negotiating who's turn it was next, and how long each could hold the pet. 
Some super cute pets were in today too - pictures will be up soon!  
We had tons of visitors today too - this morning brought with it many kids from the elementary school.  They had lots of questions and were really eager to see what we were doing.  In the afternoon we had some highschool kids come in and check us out too.  It was so much fun having the kids there - you never know what they are going to ask you!
At the end of the day we had spayed 6 pets, neutered 12, and vaccinated 17 more.  Not bad for the first day!

Day 2 - Burns Lake BC

OMG - eggs benedict with smoked salmon.. fresh baked biscuits.. home made jams... sigh.. I think we are in heaven.
I can't believe that I didn't add Lorna's name to the list of Team members on yesterday's post!  Sorry Lorna!! Lorna is here as one of our assistants and our photographer.  She came here from Smithers, BC last year to help for a day or two, and got sucked in for the whole time!  So this time she actually planned to come for the whole trip. 
Today was set-up day.  After breakfast this morning we loaded up the vehicles and headed over to the Grassy Plains Hall to set up our clinic.  The hall turns out to be a perfect location for us - lots of space, lots of lights, tables waiting for us, a kitchen, bathrooms, a covered porch for pets who have to wait outside, and lots of space outside for walking dogs.  This Hall has just about everything we need, and we all send out a huge "Thank  You"  for letting us use the space!

Our clinic set-up
We all got to work - deciding how to best use the space, the flow of the pets, where the perfect spot for our recovery area would be... We came to a concensus and started moving tables and putitng down tarps.  Once we got the tables set up and postioned, we got to open the bags.  For those of you not familiar with our trips, let me explain.  All of the supplies that we get are packed into enormous hockey bags and brought with us.  Everything.  Every needle, every glove, every medication, sharps containers, cold sterile solution, gauze.. everything.  A lot of stuff to unpack (and we aren't even thinking about the re-packing when it's time to go home!)  This trip we were a little spoiled as most of the supplies were sent up ahead of time so we didn't have to carry them with us on the airplanes.  Four huge hockey bags, a portable anesthetic machine in its own suitcase, and a number of cardboard boxes were unloaded and emptied out so we could organize all the supplies and be ready to go.  Alistair was there making sure to fix everything just right - cutting wood to put under the table legs so the surgery tables would be the right height, attaching lamps to the tables, running extension cords, turning random hooks into IV poles.   Piles and piles of loaned pet crates arrived, at one point I'm pretty sure that Stapley and Shaena were trapped within the crate-mountain as they were sitting on the floor putting all of them together! 

Our first surgery.
Dr. Liz suggested that it would be good idea to have a "run through" surgery to do this afternoon, so that our first-timers could see how everything runs.  We all thought this was a wonderful idea, and somehow Valerie and Allistair made a dog appear.  I told you - they can do anything. :)   Us, I'm not so sure about.  We were so sure we had everything when we left the house this morning.  Absolutely, positively sure.  Then the first question - how are we going to prep since we left all the gauze back at the house?  No problem, lets drive back.  Next somebody remembered that we hadn't brought all of our anesthesia drugs.  Back to the house Alistair and Liz went.  Then we realized we hadn't brought the vaccines.  Back to the house went Valerie.  The good thing was that all of that was worked out before Goldie actually arrived, so we were fine.  Goldie's anesthesia and neuter surgery went perfectly, and we were raring to go!

"Goldie" and Stapley
 So what does the team do after that?  Well, EAT of course!!  We had a great dinner made for us by Pam at Keefe's Cafe.  Lasagna, garlic bread, salad. yum yum yum.
After dinner the next member of our team arrived - Jenn Buller from BC. I'm afraid she didn't get much of a greeting from us - we kinda tossed her a box of now lukewarm lasagna and told her to hurry up and eat it on the way.  We had to go meet Larry.  Larry was taking some of us - Lorna, Kristie, Stapley, Shaena, Jen and Laura - out for an evening cruise on his sailboat.  Pretty spectacular.  The landscape is beautiful and we all had a blast listening to his stories of sailing off the coast down to Mexico and Hawaii.  I'm pretty sure that Larry had a good time too, even with our less-then-stellar preformance as deck-hands.
The last item on today's agenda was a Team Meeting.  We basically decided that we are all awesome, this is going to be a great trip, we are going to get a lot of dogs and cats spayed and neutered, and we are going to have a great time here in Burns Lake!  :)

Burns Lake, BC

Day 1 - Sat May 5, 2012
We are going to call this "Day 1" of this adventure, because this was the day that most of the team met in Prince George.  Each of us flying from wherever home is to meet up with a bunch of strangers in a strange place to spay and neuter a bunch of pets.  What could be better?
First to arrive was Stapley - a veterinary technician student from Ontario and Laura a Registered Veterinary Technician from Ontario.  Shortly after arrived Liz Bartlet, one of our Veterinarians from BC, and Shaena a Veterinary Assistant also from BC.  We were all greeted by Kristie, a Registered Animal Health Technologist also from BC.
Then we were off on our three hour drive to Burns Lake.  A very pretty drive if  you ever consider doing it!
We were very close to arriving when we had to wait to get on a ferry to carry us over to the southside of Lake Francois, some of us used this valuable time to try out the local milkshakes and ice-cream sundaes.  Like we needed an excuse!  Shaena even got her's hand delivered onto the ferry!  She was still waiting for it to be prepared when the ferry started loading so she ran to the car so we wouldn't leave without her, leaving her poor milkshake deserted.  Well, didn't the awesome girl working the icecream counter come running along behind her with the rescued milkshake in hand!  We all agreed that some pretty nice people must come from around here!
Once we made it across, we came to our wonderful new home for our time here.  A fantastic Bed and Breakfast, the Lakeside Legacy, run by our hosts, Valerie  and Alistair.

Lakeside Legacy B&B

Valerie and Alistair have done much more than open their home to us for our stay, but they have been instrumental in bringing CAAT here.  They do wonderful work for the area animals through the Lakes Animal Friendship Society ( and Valerie is also a great contributor to CAATs education committee. 
We got a great tour of the property and got all settled in, and then were treated to a wonderful supper.
I think we are all going to have a great time on this trip!

Laura Sutton, RVT

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 14- April 27
Well, "around twenty" turned out to be 13. And they weren't all waiting for us when we arrived. Boro is a village in the loosest sense of the word, unless a more organized community exists further north of where we set up shop. Nation, Laz and I drove around briefly looking for an appropriately flat, shady location near the well, waiting for the ladies to arrive. They chose to go for the more obvious choice- the fenced military compound we had just driven past. 
Tana has been in Maun for over 20 years, and speaks fluent Setswana- unusual amongst whites. She explained to the guard at the entry post what we were doing, and they allowed us to set up our clinic in their fenced compound. We got organized quite quickly, and within minutes, our first patients arrived. One woman walked in with her young female, while another drove in with her tomcat. 
So far, both the tomcats we've encountered have been very tame and quite easy to deal with. I fear this will leave Jackie and Isabelle with a false impression of Botswana's cats. As previously mentioned, most cats in the area are feral, and would rather rip your face off than cooperate. We started with him since he'd likely appreciate not hanging out with a bunch of dogs all day.
People trickled in in a steady stream over the course of the day. Just when I thought I was catching up on things, along would come another dog or two or three. As usual, despite the change in venue things went quite smoothly. One skinny pup, Lion, with a swollen belly (likely worms) and the world's smallest uterus proved a bit challenging, but even she walked out under her own steam after a bit of a slow recovery. And I must say, this is the first time I've done surgery while men in camouflage uniforms walked around carrying machine guns. When I asked what they did here all day, the reply was 'We are on patrol'. I opted not to ask what it was they were patrolling for. 
Tomorrow the plan is to move a little further north- closer to the river, and likely a higher density of people and dogs.  

Day 15- April 28
We drove back to Boro bright and early. We got directions to the hut where Lion lived, and when we arrived, the pup bouncing around the dirt yard bore little resemblance to the one that staggered out the previous day. Feeling relieved, we went further into the bush towards another part of Boro. This turned out to be a low speed 40 drive over a 2 rut, sandy path that included one substantial water crossing. Other paths criss-crossed ours, but as usual, Nation knew exactly where to go. We arrived at a much larger village- several loosely scattered clusters of mud huts, and followed the road along to the banks of the Boro River.
The riverside was a bustle of activity- several larger boats with canopies were dropping off tourists who were being loaded onto mokoros. The mokoros were then poled past the buffalo fence to the west (a hoof-and-mouth disease barrier) into the hunting concession beyond. This was also the arrival point for goods of any sort, which were easier to deliver by water than over land, as well as the source for the residents' drinking water. 
We set up shop under the shelter of a massive fig tree and had a half dozen patients lined up almost immediately. My first patient was a young, healthy female. She was knocked out, clipped and prepped for surgery and delivered to my table. All went as per the several thousand spays I've done over the previous 20+ years, but when I looked up and found well over thirty people standing in a broad circle watching me, I suffered what can only be described as stage fright. I was nervous, my hands shook, I couldn't concentrate. This was made worse by the fact that I couldn't find this dog's uterus, and by the ever compassionate Isabelle inviting everyone present to come stand closer for a better look. 
I took a deep breath, tried to relax, probed around a little more, and felt a huge wave of calm return to my body when I saw her tiny parts at the end of my spay hook. From that moment it was full speed ahead for the rest of the day. We finished 12 surgeries before lunch arrived- Tana brought food as far as the water crossing, but didn't feel up to fording the creek, being a alone, without cellular coverage, and with a gas gauge approaching empty, so Nation drove back to meet her.
The crowd swelled and waned over the course of the day. An interesting mix of locals and a few tourists, all intrigued by what was going on. The tourists were especially intrigued to see fellow white foreigners doing surgery in such a remote area, and were full of questions. We plugged MAWS to the best of our abilities, but try as we might, we could not coax any donations in exchange for photos of the clinic. 
By day's end we had done a total of 17 procedures: 8 neuters and 9 spays. we were all exhausted by the time we packed up the bucky and headed homeward.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Going solo, sort of

Day 13- April 26 Eleven surgeries through the clinic today- 3 neuters and 8 spays, including one very pregnant girl. I guess I cursed myself with my comment yesterday. As I was closing I noted she was bleeding more than I was comfortable with for a local dog- Ehrlichia infection slows their blood clotting time, so they tend to bleed more than we western DVMs are accustomed to. I re-opened the partially closed incision and went hunting, finding the source at the last sutures I had tied- I hadn't incorporated a fairly significant vein into the knot, and it was pumping away quite happily. I placed another couple sutures around it, rechecked it a couple times before recommencing my closure. When I was convinced all was okay, I closed her up and moved on to the next one. Isabelle, Jackie and Lazarus are an amazing team, and without my saying so (even though I do) they always seem to know when to start getting the next patient ready for surgery. Being the only vet on duty, I just moved from one end of the long surgery table to the other, and happily let them clean up my mess (previously, when two of us were doing surgery, we were responsible for cleaning up after ourselves. I feel spoiled). The rest of the day was pretty uneventful- no other surprises, and the pregnant girl recovered smoothly. I just saw her in the back of Nation's truck (I've dubbed it the Nation Wagon) with the other 10 dogs, on their way home. After we cleaned up from surgery, we grabbed a quick lunch, then returned to the clinic to pack up for our outreach project in Boro tomorrow and Saturday. Nation has already been to the area to let people know we're coming, and KC, who knows the elders there, will also be joining us to help drum up business. From the sounds of it, this won't be necessary- apparently we have "around twenty" surgeries lined up tomorrow (could be 18, could be 23- we won't know until tomorrow). We'll do as many as we can before we run out of surgery packs or energy. Amongst numerous other benefits of this trip is that we have 3 new temporary pets. On last year's visit, we stayed off the property upon which the clinic is situated. Each morning we'd drive in from Jann and Virginia's, about 8Kms away. There is a gate at the entry to the Palmer property, and each morning we'd stop the car and one of us would hop out to open and close the gate (we have the remote this year- woohoo!!). This plus the noise of our approaching vehicle would stimulate an attack by a Border Collie and a Malinois who would lie in wait behind the bushes by the road, then vault themselves at our tires and run alongside the Venture barking their fool heads off until they reached the invisible perimeter of their territory. This year the Border Collie, Pye, the Malinois, whom we have dubbed 'not Pye' because we haven't yet found anyone who knows his name, and a new stooge, Scruffy II (there is already another Scruffy on premises) have become our close friends. We are greeted with tail wags instead of barks when we walk or drive up, and they have made themselves quite at home both on our verandah and in the cottage. They are great replacement pets for the ones we've left at home.


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