Monday, September 04, 2006

NWT--Day 5

DAY FIVE: Sept 1, 2006

A couple of important points from yesterday I had forgotten to write about. Firstly, a news crew from APTN (Aboriginal Public Television Network) showed up at the garage where we were working to film and interview us for a news report. More publicity for CAAT and for the difference our teams are making here in the north. We’ve been told that CBC North television is also coming today for a news piece on us also.

Also yesterday afternoon, several First Nations girls stopped by the garage, curious about what we were doing. They were very interested in watching the surgeries, bombarding us all with many questions, helped with holding animals and later delivering animals to their homes. Perhaps this is a start towards changes in attitudes here toward the treatment of their dogs. We realized that we need to begin setting aside time on each spay and neuter project to perhaps visit the elementary schools and begin to educate the children on how to approach/or not to approach dogs, proper feeding and handling of their dogs, etc, and hopefully the incidence of dog bites and therefore the shooting of dogs will be eliminated.

Today, unfortunately, was a day of emotional lows. We arrived in Rae by 1 pm and had a bit of lunch. CBC North told us they were going to come to interview us today, so we were hopeful we would have some dogs to operate on. However, we were having trouble finding and rounding up dogs that we hadn't already spayed/neutered. We have put a brightly coloured plastic tag (“No shoot tags” they came to be called) in each dog’s ear while they were under anesthetic, to show clearly that they had been operated on, dewormed and vaccinated. We have been surprised that the numbers were certainly quite less than we were told when we were planning this project. We were told later, by one of the townspeople, the reason for this. The day before we arrived to work in the community at the beginning of the week, the community’s chief administrating officer gave the order to go out and collect and shoot every dog which was running loose in the community. “Clean up the town” they were told. This explained the shortage of dogs in the community. This news was very hard to take. The people had taken care of the situation in their own way. Somehow communication and trust were not as good as we thought.

The first dog which was brought in gave us some anesthetic difficulties and challenges and we nearly lost her. She was very much in heat and was exhibiting some cardiac irregularities once she was given her injectable anesthetic. We decided not to go ahead with the spay and let her wake up instead. It is difficult to do field surgeries as we are doing because we are unable to do bloodwork to check organ function on the dogs before anesthetizing them, so risk of anesthetic complications or even death is increased.

We had a small Papillon-type dog whose heart stopped beating during her spay and we were unable to bring her around, despite desperate attempts to revive her. It certainly put a darker cloud over the rest of our day. Again, if we could have done bloodwork on her before anesthetizing her, we perhaps would have refused to operate on her or would have been able to change our anesthetic protocol somewhat.

We must remain encouraged that we have influenced the attitudes of many of the children who watched and helped us. When we first arrived on Tuesday, one of the public works’ foremen, Gary, had a very rough and tough exterior, complaining to us about the dogs in the community and how much he hates dogs. By the end of the week and his observing our ways with the dogs, we had talked him into taking a dog home with him. He would walk in to the building we were working in and would bend down and start petting and talking to the dogs. It was pretty amazing to see the attitudes change throughout the week.

CBC North appeared mid-afternoon and interviewed us while we worked. It will appear on CBC Arctic satellite channel this Tuesday evening, Sept 5 on the 6pm evening news.

We were hoping to see buffalo while in the north. Thus far on our hour long drives we have observed three fox, two wolves and many many ravens. We arrived home tonight at about 10:30 pm, had a bite to eat and went to bed.

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