Monday, June 04, 2007

The Final 6 Days in Guyana

FRIDAY, May 18, 2007, DAY 11

Terill, Gwen, Brenda and Tera were picked up by Syeada at 6:00 am for a one hour drive to the river, and then a 1 ½ hour boat ride upriver to the community of Bartica, population 14,000. Syeada had made contact with a couple of residents previously, and they had the day organized for the team upon their arrival. The team worked extremely hard and long hours and were able to complete seventeen cat spays, three cat neuters, six dog spays and one dog neuter, as well as vaccinate, deworm and give parasite treatment to them as well as fifteen others. A few cases of venereal tumours were seen; one was euthanized.

Meanwhile, back in Georgetown, Donna and a terrific taxi driver, Mark, left at 6:00 am for the always harrowing ride to the Cheddi Dagan International Airport to pick up Dr. Raymond Deonanan and his assistant, Shivani Maharaj, whom we flew in from Trinidad, a short flight away, to work with the team for the remainder of our time here. CAAT’s Trinidad Team, November of 2006, had worked daily with Raymond and Shivani and had come home with glowing reports of them. And they did not disappoint us. Raymond and Shivani both proved to be extremely competent, very pleasant to work with and hugely hardworking. For the remainder of the day, Dr. Ray, Shivani, Vince and Donna worked at the SPCA clinic, seeing many walk-in appointments for sickly and worm-filled puppies, to mangy and malnourished dogs, to flea and tick-infested dogs. They also completed many dog and cat spays throughout the day.

Donna received a telephone call from the Vice-President of the GSPCA at 12:50 pm, telling her she was scheduled to speak at 1:00 pm (in ten minutes) at a Primary school to over two hundred children. She scrambled to gather her supplies and was quickly transported to the school where she was met by two hundred plus smiling Grades one to six uniformed children. The room was one big very hot classroom upstairs. The children welcomed her warmly, standing up together to greet her and in unison welcoming her. Donna spent the next hour sharing information with the children, asking and answering many questions, showing photos of dogs and taking many photos of all of the children. The children love to have their photos taken and then eagerly look at their photo on the back of the camera, smiling hugely when they spot themselves on the screen. The teachers had all of the children stand and together said “Thank you Miss Donna” and they promised to take care of their dogs and cats. It was very touching.

Meanwhile, the team of Raymond, Shivani, Vince and Donna worked at the SPCA clinic for the day and were overwhelmed with seeing drop-in patients as well as fitting in the occasional spay and neuter. At 6 pm, just as they were finishing up for the day, a lady brought in her dog, Mice, which she stated “was in labour since Monday”, five days previously. The dog was very exhausted, dehydrated, and hadn’t eaten for five days. We immediately gave her Torbugesic, a painkiller, and placed an IV catheter in her vein. After hooking her up to IV fluids, we anesthetized her and proceeded to do a C-section on her. Dr. Raymond performed the surgery, and when he opened her up he discovered an extremely large bladder filled with urine. It was so full it had moved its way up under the rib cage to some degree. He attempted to express her bladder to empty some of the urine from it, but was completely unable to do so. We assumed, incorrectly, that the weight of the puppies was pressing down on the urethra, making her unable to urinate. He then removed the seven large dead puppies and was still unable to express her bladder. It was then that he discovered a tennis ball-sized tumour (venereal tomour) which had wrapped itself in a stranglehold around the urethra. With permission by the owner, Mice was sadly euthanized. It was not a pleasant ending to our workday.

Syeada Manbodh and her partner Jerry La Gra own a Bed and Breakfast home in Georgetown, and they invited Donna, Jen, Raymond and Shivani to stay there. We, along with Vince, met up with Neil who had returned late afternoon from his adventure into the interior in the Mazaruni region, working with the goats, and had a bite to eat together and retired for the night.

SATURDAY, May 19, 2007 DAY 12

The Bartica teams of Gwen and Brenda, Terill and Tera were up at the crack of dawn to meet the 6 am boat to come downriver and back to Georgetown. Their wonderful and gracious hosts arose at 4 am to cook Roti and curried beef for their breakfast. Syeada drove them back to Georgetown and they arrived at the SPCA clinic at 9 am, safe and sound. The SPCA had arranged for part of the team to travel to Enmore, a small community approximately thirty minutes east of the city. The SPCA had announced their visit previously on radio and in newspapers, so a large turn-out was expected. This was not to be the case though. Two veterinarians and their technicians were transported to Enmore. Gwen and Terill were the Veterinarians, Brenda, Tera, Vince and Jen were support staff. They arrived at the Enmore Community Centre, set up the surgery tables and laid out all of the medical supplies, and waited for the people and their animals to arrive. Over the next four hours, the teams did three dog spays and one dog neuter, as well as vaccinations, dewormings, and euthanizing a male dog with a very large venereal tumour.

Venereal disease (a sexually transmitted disease) is very common amongst the dog population in Guyana, and it is very difficult to treat and to cure, if not impossible. Several Veterinarians in Guyana attempt to treat this horrible disease with a cancer drug called Vinchristine, but it is extremely dangerous to humans if the correct precautions are not taken. Euthanasia is sometimes the only option.

A dog with suspected rabies was also brought in, foaming at the mouth, growling and showing his teeth. Terill explained to the owner that the dog needed to be immediately taken and put down, and not to have any contact with it.

Because the numbers of people bringing their dogs and cats were so low, the team remained in Enmore until 3 pm, and then traveled back to finish out their work day at the SPCA clinic in Georgetown.

At 7:30 pm the team was picked up by Jean Lowry who had invited us to her home for a barbeque and a visit. Jean was the Canadian contact we had met at the Canadian Embassy on our second day in Guyana. She is the Guyana Field Director for the BCCP (Building Community Capacity Project), funded by CIDA in Ottawa. The BCCP is the group who Dr. Neil McKenzie (our equine vet) flew into the interior with to help with the vaccination and care of goats that the BCCP had recently transported in to the Mazaruni area of Guyana. After a very pleasant evening with Jean, her husband and several other guests, we were in bed by 11 pm or so, anticipating our big day ahead tomorrow – our long-awaited visit to Kaietura Falls.

SUNDAY, May 20, 2007 DAY 13

Our day off! Our trip into the interior to visit Kaietura Falls had been cancelled on Thursday due to rain, and had been rescheduled for today. And what a glorious day it turned out to be! The team was picked up after breakfast by the bus and transported one hour to the International Airport, where we then boarded our plane (a twin propeller aircraft which seats fifteen or so passengers) for our one hour flight into the Amazon rainforest. The pilots informed us that today was the best weather the Guyana interior had seen in two weeks and we definitely picked the right day.

After a very scenic flight over seemingly endless and very dense forest, we landed on a short, unpaved landing strip within walking distance of the waterfall. Our tour guide, Lawrence Gibson, introduced himself and gave us a short history of the area, what we would expect to see on our tour, what dangers to watch out for, and then we were on our way. We walked through very lush vegetation at times, saw several types of small toads including the nearly extinct Golden Toad, as well as two gorgeous wild Macaws (red and blue in colour) flying closely overhead. Lawrence told us the area is just teeming with wildlife, especially towards evening, such as jaguars, monkeys and snakes.

As we approached Kaietura Falls, we could hear the thundering sounds of the water and our anticipation grew. We were not to be disappointed. The world’s tallest waterfall was breathtaking and we were filled with awe as we snapped many photos and took in the magnificent scenery. The air was cool and so fresh and pure. Lawrence told us that if you bathe your face in the water of the Falls or drink the pure water, it is very rejuvenating. Like the “Fountain of Youth”. We questioned Lawrence as to why the water looks almost dirty, and he said it isn’t that it is dirty; it is the coppery brown colour due to the tannin from the tea leaves falling in the rivers in the whole country. Interesting. We were able to approach the waterfall from several different aspects and were also able to stand at the top of the falls right where the water went over the edge, falling 750 feet below.

We walked back to the landing strip along a pathway which took us past the Kaietura Guesthouse, a house built for the visit of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the 1970’s. He apparently spent some time there with Barbara Streisand we were told.

We were given a nice picnic lunch of rice, beans, curry, roti and chicken, and then we boarded the plane to fly back to Georgetown.

We arrived back in town very sunburned and tired, but extremely content with the beauties of our day.

MONDAY, May 21, 2007 DAY 14

Today was Media Day!!!
The three Veterinarians, Terill, Gwen and Neil appeared on “The Guyana Today” show at 7 am this morning and were able to share with the public our reason for coming to Guyana and what we have been able to accomplish thus far.

At 11 am we met with Dr. Steve Surujbally, the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Committee and a Veterinarian in Georgetown. Dr. Surujbally is a past President of the GSPCA. He was instrumental in getting our drug permit and Customs clearances upon our arrival in Guyana.

At 2:30 pm we held a Press Conference in the lobby of the GSPCA clinic where approximately 8 – 10 reporters and camera crew from the four Guyana newspapers interviewed the team.

We were then able to complete some last minute souvenir shopping and errands, have dinner and retire early for the night. Tomorrow will be our last working day in this country so we wanted to be well rested to give it our all.

TUESDAY, May 22, 2007 DAY 15

After breakfast, Dr. Ray, Tera, Brenda and Vince were take to the GSPCA clinic where they began, which turned out to be, a full day of spays and neuters. Shivani, an avid horse lover, asked Neil if she could spend the day with him as Neil spoke to the Veterinary Technician students at their college, visited the Guyana Police Station to have a look at their horses, and possibly, if time permitted, to continue working on the streets with the cart horses. (see the end of the blog for Neil’s report on his work in Georgetown with the horses.) Meanwhile, Terill, Gwen, Neil and Donna met with Jean Lowry one last time, at her office, to speak further about possible future CAAT involvement with several CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) programs in the Caribbean Islands, as well as a possibility of work in the interior of Guyana with agricultural programs and the native Indian peoples there.

Terill, Gwen and Donna returned to the GSPCA clinic to join Dr. Ray in completing over fifteen dog spays and neuters, as well as many vaccines, dewormings and parasite treatments given.

At 7 pm the team was transported to a restaurant where we were given an ”Appreciation Dinner” by several of the GSPCA board members. They also awarded CAAT with a trophy, expressing their appreciation for the work we did over the last two weeks.

WEDNESDAY, May 23, 2007 DAY 15

Dr. Ray and Shivani were picked up at 7 am to be taken to catch their 10 am flight back home to Port of Spain, Trinidad. It was difficult to say goodbye to them both. We truly enjoyed working with them and getting to know and love them. They are so easy to love. They will be life-long friends.

The Team was transported to the airport also, arriving at 10 a.m. for check in for our flight to Toronto, scheduled to leave at 1:15 p.m. An hour late and with no serious hassles going through Customs or Security, we took off for our beloved Canada. As we flew, we were able to see below several Islands of the Caribbean, presumably Trinidad and Tobago and the Barbados. Donna and Jen later spotted New York City, Manhattan and Central Park as we flew five miles above. We arrived in Toronto at 9 p.m., very hungry and very tired, but relieved to be away from the heat and humidity of the tropical Guyana. A shuttle bus took the team to the nearby Travelodge, where we had dinner and retired at midnight. It would be a short sleep.

THURSDAY, May 24, 2007 DAY 16

After only four hours of sleep, Gwen, Neil, Donna, Jen and Brenda were on the shuttle at 5 a.m. to meet their 7 a.m. flight from Toronto to Vancouver. Terill and Vince caught a later flight direct to Kelowna BC, and Tera’s flight departed at 9:30 am for Edmonton and her home.

Reflecting back on the last two weeks and our time in Guyana, we definitely feel we made an impact on many people there. We were able to meet many important contact persons who will make a difference for the Canadian Animal Assistance Team in the future. We were able to assess the needs and the situation with the animals (both small and large) in that country. We were able to prevent close to 150 needless pregnancies, as well as prevent to some degree, the continued spread of STD’s (venereal disease specifically) amongst the dog population. We were also able to make many recommendations to the GSPCA for the future, and worked side by side with them on a daily basis. We were able to spend a total of four full days with Dr. Dexter Allen’s Veterinary Technician students, teaching them and answering many questions. Our veterinarians were able to work with three newly graduated Veterinarians, showing them specific techniques and thus improving the quality of their surgeries in the future. Neil was able to work with the cart horses in the streets of Georgetown (vaccinating, deworming and general treatments) and educated and connected with the owners. The talks to over 400 schoolchildren were invaluable and extremely important. The media coverage CAAT received will reach thousands and thousands of people and bring new awareness to their minds about the proper treatment and care of their dogs and cats for the future. And so much more!

We want to give special recognition and thanks to all of the volunteers and staff at the GSPCA clinic - Maureen, Piper, Claudine, Dominique, Deb, John, Mr. Abel and anyone else whom we have failed to mention or whose names we are unsure of. Our gratitude also goes out to the Guyana SPCA board members, such as Oliver, Jennifer, Shiromanie, and Dominique for providing for all of our meals and transportation, countless bottles of drinking water, as well as arranging the school visits and media interviews. Thank you once again for the wonderful trophy you presented us with and for the appreciation dinner. Thank you for all you are trying to do for the dogs and cats in the city of Georgetown.

To the very important persons who worked behind the scenes, primarily Joyce Gomes of Vancouver, BC, a native of Guyana. Joyce contacted CAAT approximately one year ago and shared her burden for the dog situation in Guyana. She had just returned at that time from Georgetown, and had even brought back a stray dog with her whom she named “Pickup”. He has since fit in nicely into their family and with her other three dogs. Joyce pled with CAAT to plan for a two week project in her native country for the near future, and planning then began. Joyce traveled to Guyana one week before the Team arrived and began to arrange for the Team’s accommodations, as well as organizing some of the work we were going to do. Joyce personally paid for the six of the Team’s accommodations during the entire time we were in Guyana. She has worked tirelessly over the last year to prepare for this project and we owe Joyce a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you again Joyce. You are an amazing woman and we love you!

Syeada Manbodh and Jerry La Gra - owners/operators of Rainforest Bed and Breakfast for accommodating Donna and Jen, Raymond and Shivani in your home. And so much more! Jerry – thank you for all of our talks and for your sage advice, recommendations and suggestions for CAAT. Also thanks for your delicious potato pancakes, mango pancakes and scrambled eggs you made for us. The work you have done, especially in Guyana over the last twenty years, for the Indigenous peoples in the interior is incredibly impressive, fascinating and inspiring. Thanks for your caring heart. You will not be forgotten. Syeada – your shining example of dedication and untiring love for the stray dogs, cats and horses (all of the animals) of Georgetown and of your country, has been an inspiration to so many of us, the likes of which you will never realize. Never stop doing all that you do!!! You were such a wonderful and caring hostess (sorry about the ink ruining your sheets), and for your friendship. It will be cherished always.

Zenobia Williams - you traveled from Toronto to your birthplace, Guyana, to help facilitate and organize for our Team’s arrival and for our work in Guyana. You worked alongside Joyce over the last two weeks and were a dynamic team together. Zenobia has been inspired to return to Georgetown later this year to live there again. Her burden for the dogs in that city is great, and she feels she needs to live there to make a difference and be most effective. Thanks Zenobia for your dedication to the animals.

And last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you goes out from the Team to Harry and his son, Chris. Harry is Joyce Gomes’ brother and resides in Guyana, just outside of Georgetown. On a daily basis Harry provided the use of his bus van to the team and especially to transport Neil to various parts of the city to work with the cart horses. Chris was Neil’s assistant extraordinaire and was a big help to Neil continually. Chris has expressed an interest in coming to Canada to attend Veterinary Technician school in the near future. Chris was also our tour guide and security guard as we traveled on foot through Georgetown to shop and to take photos. Thank you Harry and Chris for all you did. You are both wonderful people and we love you both.

CAAT is now preparing for the next project which will be in Igloolik Nunavut from July 9 to 23. Ten team members from across Canada will travel to the Arctic Circle to work primarily with the sled dogs in that community. We will be vaccinating, deworming, spaying and neutering close to 300 dogs, as well as having opportunities to educate and share with the residents of Igloolik. With thanks to all of our donors in the month of April for their generous donation of their Aeroplan miles for this project, all ten team members will be able to fly for free to Ottawa. First Air has offered us a 75% discount on our airfare from Ottawa to Igloolik and we wish to thank them in a big way. A daily journal with photos will also be placed here on this blog at that time.


Neil was able to work with the cart horses in and around Georgetown. These horses are used to pull small narrow carts and are seen all over the streets mixed in with the cars and trucks.

He vaccinated (horse vaccines donated by Intervet and Wyeth) against tetanus, sleeping sickness (which they call “horse sickness” in Guyana), treated for external and internal parasistes and consulted with many medical cases. Neil was surprised with the level of external parasites that he saw. He was also able to do dental exams on many horses and was pleasantly surprised at the good condition of their teeth. This is probably due to their high roughage and low concentrate diet.

In total Neil worked with and helped over one hundred of the cart horses.

Neil also flew into the interior with representatives from CIDA. While there he examined fifty goats and was able to treat some for lung worm, maggots and vaccinated against Rabies. Rabies is mostly a problem in the larger animals is Guyana. The vampire bats , especially in the interior, bite the goats, sheep, cows, and horses and can transfer rabies to them. The Rabies vaccine was all donated to CAAT by Intervet.

Neil has gathered very much information which will be useful for future CAAT projects.

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