Thursday, July 26, 2007

DAYS 16 & 17, July 24 & 25, 2007

Our flight last night was scheduled to depart from Igloolik at 5 pm. The weather was fairly good all day until just before we were set to depart. The fog rolled in quite thick. We then received word that our flight had been delayed, due to mechanical problems with the plane. It hadn't even taken off from Iqaluit yet.

At one point in the afternoon, we were informed by First Air that we would not be able to get all eleven team members on the flight. They stated that they had only eight seats remaining on the flight to Iqualuit and that three team members would need to stay behind until the morning. Donna immediately telephoned First Air's headquarters in Ottawa and stressed the importance of the team staying together and all eleven of us getting on the same flight, as we all had jobs to get back home to and we had already been delayed for nearly two days. She asked if there was anything they could do, such as rerouting a plane, so we could get out tonight. They said they would see what they could work out for us.

We received a phone call at 7 pm saying we should all head to the airport and that a flight for all of us was available, departing at 8 pm. After checking in at the Igloolik airport, the probability of our taking off in the thick fog which was now surrounding Igloolik being poor, we boarded the plane and with some trepidation,took off at about 9 pm. The plane was soon above the fog and the clouds and we flew the remaining two hours to Iqaluit in beautiful sunlight.

We arrived in Iqaluit at 9 pm and started to settle in for the night in the airport lobby. Francis, our security guard, introduced himself to us and said he'd be looking after us and the locked up airport for the night. Liz, Donna, Caitlin, Annette and Chris claimed the conveyor belt for their bed, spreading their sleeping bags out on the semi-soft/semi-hard surface. First Air was wonderful to us as they provided us with use of their lunch room fridge for the night to store our vaccines in. They also brought us a bag of pillows and blankets for us to use. The rest of the team claimed spots on the floor for their sleeping bags, except for Allison who somehow arranged herself on two chairs for the night. We had a hard time to settle down and sleep but finally managed to rest for a couple of hours, after a pillow fight between Isabelle and Donna, and some hilarious moments taking photos of Caitlin and Donna with Barb's retro glasses on.

The lights came on at 5:30 am and we packed up our gear, changed our clothes, washed up, and began to check in at the First Air Ticket booth for our 1 pm flight to Ottawa.

We had 7 1/2 hours to use up before our flight, so we made our way on foot down the road to the nearest restaurant for a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs,bacon, potatoes and toast. After breakfast, we continued to walk and ended up in Iqaluit, visiting the Tourist Info Centre and several craft shops along the way. We returned to the airport on time to check in for our flight to Ottawa.

The flight departed on time and after a very pleasant flight (a small lunch and a warm chocolate chip cookie was served) we landed in hot and humid Ottawa. After a team photo, three of our team members collected their luggage and raced to the Air Canada ticket booth to try to book tickets on the next flight out to Vancouver that evening. They successfully managed to get on a 6 pm flight and we said goodbye to them. Two team members managed to get on a flight to Toronto this evening, and Isabelle, after much frustration, was successful at booking her flight back to Calgary this evening.

And then there were four! Liz, Uschi, Barb and Donna were the last of Team Nunavut and spent the night in Ottawa in a hotel. Their flight was scheduled to fly home to Vancouver Thursday morning, arriving at 8:30 am. After ordering pizza and watching the Tour de France in their hotel room, they slept fitfully until 4:30 am. and then raced off to board their 6:30 am. flight to Vancouver.

It was such a relief to finally arrive at our respective homes, two days later than planned, but safe and sound.

Monday, July 23, 2007

DAY 15, Monday July 23, 2007

The team was up early, were all packed and ready to go when we received word that all flights into and out of Igloolik had been cancelled for the day due to inclement weather. Since Saturday, two days ago, it has been very cold here (about 2-3 degrees Celsius) with strong winds, rain and a low cloud cover making visibility for flying very difficult.

Initial response from the eleven team members was one of disappointment. Several members are expected back at work tomorrow so phone calls and e-mails started to go out. Donna spent the morning going in circles trying to communicate with First Air, Air Canada, and Aeroplan, and getting the run around by all.

The remainder of the day was spent reading, solving Sudoku puzzles, watching movies, sleeping, baking brownies and fudge, and housework.

It is now 8 p.m. and the weather appears to have cleared considerably. The winds have died down, the rain has ceased, and the skies are not so socked in with cloud. It is very hopeful that we will be able to fly out tomorrow. The only First Air flight out of Igloolik on Tuesdays is not until 5 pm, arriving in Ottawa at 8 pm. We telephoned several hotels in Iqaluit this morning to book rooms for the eleven of us for tomorrow evening, but we are looking at approximately $800 for the one night.

Caitlin had the idea to call the Iqaluit Airport terminal building to try and save us $800. She spoke with the manager who readily agreed to allow the eleven of us women to sleep on the floor of the terminal building for the night in our sleeping bags. There is a Security Guard there for the night while the airport is closed, so we are locked in to the building for the night. Almost like being in prison. A women's prison! Good thing we all like each other still, after 14 days of being together almost 24/7. It will be an experience and something we will long remember. Something to write about here on the blog and perhaps we can put a few photos on of our pyjama party on the cement floors of the Iqaluit International Airport.

Stay tuned!

DAY 14, Sunday July 22, 2007

We spent the morning cleaning up the clinic and repacking all of our left over medical supplies into their suitcases. We were told a spay was going to be brought down in the morning for us to do but it didn’t show up.

Today was very windy, rainy and cold and even looked like it was trying to snow. We didn’t spend much time outdoors today. We hope we can fly out of here tomorrow morning and that the weather will cooperate.

Chris, Annette and Uschi took the puppy to its home. It turns out the puppy belongs to the mayor, and the puppy’s name is “Rainbow”. The children in the home were so happy to see her again, and the puppy ran up to them so excitedly. It was a very happy reunion. We explained to them that she may have some permanent damage to her head but without more diagnostic tools we really don’t know for sure. She has improved greatly from when she was brought in to us, and we explained how she needs to stay on antibiotics. It was very comforting to realize that the Mayor and his family were the owners of this wonderful little puppy and that it has a great home and will live indoors.

We received a phone call this afternoon that the team was invited to come to one of the resident’s homes, Marie and Lukie, to have a taste of Arctic Char, similar to salmon. Marie is the lady who came to Igloolik Point with us the other day to be our interpreter, as well as the lady whose dog had the terrible neck wound. She wanted to thank us for saving her dog’s life (her husband would have shot the dog if we had not been here, we were told). The team arrived at her home to a very warm welcome from her family, Cynthia, Linda and two smaller grandchildren. She had baked us fresh bread, rice and Char which her husband had caught earlier in the day. She had the team play games and there were prizes to be won. The prizes were some of her personal possessions which I’m sure had much sentimental value to her. The team sat in a circle and played several games. Marie also shared stories about hunting and how hard it is to hunt walrus. She said the walrus are very scary and smell very bad. Her favourite hunt is a Narwhal whale but they are only allowed four a year. After a very enjoyable, fun and educational two hours, the team headed back home to finish packing for their departure tomorrow morning.

Barb cooked a delicious turkey dinner, complete with mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, turnip, mixed vegetables. Isabelle cooked her first pumpkin pies ever and they were very tasty.

We will call First Air in the morning to see if our flight will be departing or not. Hopefully the weather clears and we are able to go. Mark explained to us all at dinner that sometimes planes cannot come in or go out of Iqaluit for days and even weeks, let alone in Igloolik, due to adverse weather conditions. The sophisticated technical instruments are not available in the North at the airports or on the planes as they are in the south. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow.

DAY 13, Saturday, July 21, 2007

Isabelle and Chris did shift work all night with the puppy. She was much brighter this morning and starting to eat, drink, and walk around. Her face is still swollen and sore but her eye is beginning to open up. We gave her an injection of long-acting antibiotic and also an anti-inflammatory injection this morning. We will keep her for another day before returning her to her owner.

The day was spent with the team dividing up into two’s once again, and going back to their assigned areas throughout town re-vaccinating the dogs with their booster Distemper/Parvo vaccine. This took up a large part of the day. We also began housecleaning duties in the three homes we were assigned to stay in. Donna, Chris and Annette spent a few hours in the afternoon discussing the Ontario chapter, protocols and the future of possible projects in Northern Ontario and Nunavut.

We were invited to a “picnic” at the recreation centre/community hall in the evening which the Hamlet office put on for our team to thank us. There was a fairly good turn-out of about one hundred people. We had all brought many gifts to give the children, as well as a few things for the adults. We filled two tables with all of the gifts and the children (and a few eager adults) filed by and chose something from off the table. Everyone seemed very happy with their gifts. On the menu were egg sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, soup, coffee, and hotdogs. Two women got up and did what is called “throat singing” for us. It was like something we have never heard before! You have to hear it to believe it. The harmony between the two women was incredible. They held onto each others arms and rocked back and forth as they sang. A young Inuit man brought in a traditional drum and two girls danced while he played. We thanked everyone and headed back to Barb’s for more food.

The team gathered at Uschi’s, Brigitte’s and Barb A’s place for a couple of hours to visit and talk before heading off to bed.

DAY 12, Friday July 20, 2007

Today was full of surprises!

We headed to the clinic in the morning to spay (finally) the little, short-legged dog that lived next to the clinic and had barked incessantly at us daily. She’s quite a nasty, temperamental dog, but we were able to sedate her and begin the spay. Her surgery went very well and we returned her to her chain in her back yard before she was up and trying to bite us once again. Another female came in which was very thin and we had been told had had litter after litter of puppies for years. We were a little hesitant to operate on her but after much discussion and examining of her, we went ahead with her spay. She was hooked up to IV fluids throughout her surgery and monitored extremely close. Being a mature dog made the spay even more complicated and time-consuming, but she came through it fine. During recovery she started to bleed very slightly through her suture line, and we were a little concerned she was starting to hemorrhage. We observed her for another couple of hours before we returned her to her home. The owners promised to keep her indoors for a few days until she was fully recovered.

A small puppy was also brought in this afternoon that had been mauled by a larger dog, especially around her head area. Her right eye area and face were quite swollen. She had puncture wounds on either side of her neck and had a broken nasal passage and possible fracture to the top right side of her skull. Having no access to an x-ray machine to confirm our suspicions, we went ahead and treated her. She was nearly in shock, so we placed an IV catheter and hooked her up to fluids. Pain medication was given IV also. Isabelle volunteered to keep her with her for the rest of the night so she took her home with her. We were very skeptical that she would make it through the night.

We arranged a meeting with the Elders of the community at 7 pm. We brought them a very large container of freshly baked oatmeal cookies which they made disappear in no time at all. In attendance were three male elders and two females, as well as a couple of younger adults and a few teenagers. We also had an interpreter present. Donna thanked them for welcoming us into their community and allowing us to help with their dogs. They asked us several questions such as “what are boosters?”, if spays and neuters were reversible, what other types of animals we worked on, and what we are doing when we leave here, where we are going next, and if diseases which dogs get can be spread to humans. We answered their questions as best we could and also asked them if they had any concerns. They mentioned about the RCMP coming into Igloolik in the 60’s and killing all of their dogs. The dogs at that time, they mentioned, were bigger and stronger and healthier than the dogs here at this time. We mentioned how we respect their desire to preserve the pure Inuit breed. They thanked us for coming to the community and helping to protect their dogs from more distemper deaths.

We left the meeting and headed down to the clinic where Uschi and Annette had remained behind with the older female spay to watch her during her recovery.

We ordered pizza from the local Inn for dinner. The Vegetarian pizza was a unique one – it had carrots and cauliflower on it. It tasted pretty good though.

Friday, July 20, 2007

DAY 11, Thursday July 19, 2007

Today is Barb’s birthday! The team sang “Happy Birthday” to her at breakfast. At noon we headed out for the day’s work. Half of the team headed out to try to find Mosha’s dog (our carver friend) to neuter him, and the other half headed out to vaccinate a dog team owned by a gentleman, Samueli. This was the first team we were going to have to deal with without the owner actually present and able to hold the dogs for us to vaccinate. After searching for the dog team’s location, we finally spotted them. As we approached, we noticed one dog was lying on the ground and not moving. Further investigation told us the dog had died. We also found a skeleton of a dog still tied up to a chain and tangled in a fishnet. A couple of other dogs were tangled with their chains and one could not reach the small pond that was their drinking water source. The pond water was fairly dirty and slimy looking. Barb waded into the nearby water in the ocean and retrieved a small ice floe which we then broke up and laid in front of the dogs. They lick it and do get some water that way. Many of the dog team owners do this. The dogs were generally friendly but we were very cautious with them. We spent some time just quietly sitting nearby and trying to win them over. Then the catch pole was used to immobilize them enough to give them their two vaccines, as well as in injection of dewormer.

As we headed back to town, we made sure we spoke with a couple of people along the way, as well as stopped in at the Hamlet office to speak with someone there about the fact that we found a dog dead with the team, before we started to vaccinate. We realized it was important to cover our bases so we wouldn’t be accused of killing one of the dogs with our vaccines.

A few of the team baked a cake in the shape of an Inukshuk for Barb today, and a birthday card was passed around for the team to sign. Marie, our interpreter, gave Barb a gift also, something Barb will treasure always.

We worked the rest of the day at the clinic on several dogs. We even had an hour or so to sit and listen to some of Marie’s stories of how life used to be in the North. She was answering many of our questions. She said that things have changed in Igloolik over the years, in her opinion, not for the better. When the telephone arrived in the 1970’s, people stopped visiting each other in their homes. Television arrived in the 1980’s and it made it even worse. She said the teenagers are too involved in drugs and they get mean and angry. We asked her about her wedding to Luki (a very famous dog sled team owner and renowned carver). She was nineteen years of age and in love with a “white” boy whom she worked with. Her brother didn’t like this so he and the mother arranged for Marie to marry Luki, an Inuit man from another community. She argued with her mother and said she would not marry Luki. The family insisted and the next morning they dragged her to the church and placed her in front of the Priest and by Luki’s waiting side. When the priest asked her if she took Luki to be her husband, she said, “No”. The Priest kept telling her she had to say “yes”, but she refused to say “yes” until her brother pinched her arm so hard that she said “yes…. but no”. As they were walking out of the church, she took off the wedding ring from her finger, spit on it, and threw it at Luki. She and Luki have now been married for 46 years, have eleven children and six adopted children (grandchildren).

After several other fascinating stories about residential school life, Marie left to go home and the team closed up the clinic for the day and walked up the hill to the Research Station for a tour. Markus Dyck (the polar bear biologist/technician) met us and spent the next one and a half hours speaking to us about his role and his work with the polar bear research. He explained some of the frustrations he has had with some of the financial and personnel constraints for the amount of work they need to do. This is the last year of a three year population study to determine the “harvest” (how many bears each community is allowed to kill). We had a tour of the lab, learned at how they age a bear by its teeth, saw a p.bear fetus in a jar, skulls, hair, a dart gun, tracking collars, etc.

After dinner several team members (Aliesha, Allison, Barb, Isabelle and Chris) put on their toques and headed down to the water’s edge for a polar bear swim. The water is still covered in ice floes so it is very very cold. After some initial photographs were taken by the rest of the team (the wimpy ones), the five ran into the water, some up to their necks. The muddy bottom tried to swallow up some of their sandals. Many photos were taken, and the local people were watching from their homes, surely shaking their heads thinking how crazy those white women are. Hot showers and hot chocolate warmed everyone up as we gathered at Chris, Annette and Isabelle’s place of residence for a short visit before bed.

DAY 10, Wednesday July 18, 2007

After a day working at the clinic we loaded two hamlet vehicles at 5 p.m. to begin our drive out to Igloolik Point, approximately 30 km. away. The roads here are all covered with rock so the drive can be quite slow. We had Marie, our interpreter, with us, as well as her daughter and small son. Caitlin, Isabelle, Chris, Allison and Steve (the photographer we met yesterday) rode in the open box of the pick-up, while Liz, Donna, Marie our interpreter, and her daughter and son rode up front. Raymond was our driver. The other small vehicle with Barb, Brigitte, Uschi and Annette led the way. We made several stops along the way before actually reaching our destination at “the Point”. We stopped at different areas where hunters had set up camp near the water. The first area we stopped at was to vaccinate and deworm Eskimo Joe’s father’s dog team of approximately fifteen dogs, including several puppies. We also had the opportunity to meet a family who had just arrived on shore from a day of hunting walrus. They explained how they use all of the parts of the walrus. We watched them carry large piles of walrus that they had packed inside the hide to be buried in a deep hole until November when it will be dug up. It ferments during this time and is apparently quite a delicacy here. It is called “Igunuk”.
We also saw a very thin mother dog with a litter of five to six week old puppies who were taking everything out of her. She was so covered in mosquitoes that you could barely see her face. The mosquitoes were the worst that we had seen since our arrival in Igloolik. There was also a very heavily pregnant female dog hanging around us. The people in this camp mentioned that they had seen Narwhal and Beluga whales that day but we had missed seeing them.
After many other stops at various camps along the way and taking in the beauty of this area (the big, close sky, the ice floes covering the water, and the silence), we headed back to town. Along the way we stopped to look at a grave from 1832, as well as a few sod homes. We also helped our driver Raymond and our translator, Marie pick flowers growing along the side of the road, flowers that the people eat here.
After a late dinner, we slept fitfully.

DAY 9, Tuesday July 17, 2007

Our surgeries today began with Bob the Beagle’s neuter which went very well. Two residents, Billy and Lydia then brought Tiny in to us, most likely a Corgi mix with short legs and a longer body. Tiny had been given to Billy and Lydia as a wedding present four years previously and they were quite concerned about a persistent cough she had. Brigitte examined Tiny and decided she probably had an upper respiratory infection (URI) and gave her antibiotics to go home with, and also a deworming injection. The owners had mentioned that they had noticed a very long tapeworm coming out of her mouth earlier in the year. There is a worm here in Northern Canada which dogs can pass on to humans and can eventually be fatal to the humans. It is the Echinococcus granulosis or E. multiocularis tapeworm and can cause hydatid cysts in the lungs, liver and brain of humans. Therefore deworming all of the dogs for this worm is very important when we come to work in the North.
Another interesting thing we learned today was told us while Chris was absentmindedly pulling out the tufts of shedding hair from Tiny while she was holding her. One of the residents who was observing whispered to Chris and said, “you might not want to do that. The dogs here need their thick coats in the winter and if you pull out the shedding coat their winter coat won’t be as thick next year”. Chris thanked him.
Billy mentioned to us that he had once visited Vancouver. When asked what he thought about it he said “It was a culture shock.” He said he saw many things he had never seen before, but trees and grass were the most amazing things he saw. We found that quite humourous. Lydia had spent five weeks in Ottawa and saw her first horse and couldn’t get over how big they are. She said she would be too afraid to ride one. They spoke to us about the different types of meat they have here; caribou is rare to have, seal they do not eat often, but walrus and Arctic Char is wonderful and fairly common. They eat them both raw and cooked. We discussed all of the different types of hides and their uses. They say that everyone has caribou skin coats here as they are the warmest of all hides and each coat lasts for a couple of years. It was very fascinating hearing about their culture and traditions. Very wonderful and interesting people.
In the morning a few of us went up to the Recreation centre to Science Camp. Caitlin spoke to the children there (ages five to ten) for about thirty minutes and played an action game with them. She mainly spoke about bite prevention and safety around dogs to the kids. She’s a natural with the children. When the children were asked how many had ever been bitten by a dog nearly every child’s hand went up. We handed out colouring books and crayons to the children. She also went back in the afternoon and spoke to the older children, ages eleven to thirteen.
One of the other visitors to the clinic today was Steve, a freelance photo journalist originally from California but has lived in Igloolik for the past year. He interviewed us, took many photos and then invited us all to his home that evening for tea. His new wife, Lily, is a polar bear biologist here. We all quickly agreed to be there.
On our way back to our temporary homes, an Inuit man stopped Barb and Chris and told them how very happy he is that we came to Igloolik and thanked us for all that we were doing and for coming. He said he didn’t need to hear the radio show to know how good it was for us to be here! It was very uplifting and encouraging to hear some positive feedback.
We spent two hours visiting with Steve and Lily and had the opportunity to be educated with photos and by Lily about polar bears. Very fascinating, to say the least! Lily spends three months per year tracking, tagging and measuring polar bear populations. For the last two years the team has been working with the bears along the coastline of Labrador and Newfoundland and parts of Baffin Island. Last year they were able to tag 840 bears! They fly in by helicopter, dart the bear from the helicopter while the bear is in the water, and then they herd the bear to shore. Once the sedative in the dart takes effect they start their work. It takes Lily and her technician, Marcus, about twenty minutes per bear. They tattoo the bear with its own unique number (done inside the lip), put a tag in its ear, extract a tooth (similar to the wolf tooth in horses) to age the bear, take a tuft of hair for DNA samples, and check the bear over for any injuries and the general body condition. They leave before the bear is fully awake. It was extremely interesting and quite a learning experience for each one of us. Steve fed us herbal tea and peanut butter cookies he had made for us and then we headed back to our residence for dinner.
Tomorrow we are supposed to go out to Igloolik Point, which we’ve heard so much about, to vaccinate several dog teams out there and hopefully be able to interact and visit with some of the people there.

DAY 8, Monday July 16, 2007

Today we did several surgeries, including a stray male dog which has been given the name “First”, an owned dog named “Seven” (who had been fed a large amount of fish for breakfast and as we predicted, vomited it all up once we had given him his sedative. As a result the clinic smelled quite foul for awhile. We also spayed a small female named “Darcy” this morning. “First” was quite challenging to catch, but we managed to lure him to us with food and much patience. He is slightly lame and has bite wounds under his front left elbow. We also saw “Buddy” again, a dog we neutered last week who has come back in with a laceration on his paw which we shaved and cleaned thoroughly. A lady arrived in the afternoon with a beagle-cross named “Bob”, about three months of age, who had a nail torn off on one of his front paws. We vaccinated and dewormed Bob, as well as gave him Metacam for pain and an antibiotic injection. Bob is coming back tomorrow for his neuter.
We were told today that we would be on local radio tonight at 9 pm. After dinner, Brigitte, Uschi and Donna made their way over to the radio station building. The Hamlet Office had arranged for an Interpreter to meet them there to do the translating from English into Inuktitut. After speaking briefly about several topics such as the importance of vaccinating, deworming and spaying and neutering, we mentioned that people could phone in with any questions they might have. The phones rang nearly non-stop for the next thirty minutes or so. One elderly woman phone in and expressed her concern that the elderly people were not being given enough or proper medical treatment in this community, so why should the dogs be? Another gentleman asked if we were experimenting with our vaccines on the dogs of Igloolik and using them as “guinea pigs, or if they have been tested on other dogs in the “south” before. There were a few calls about their dog’s health issues and also about safety around dogs. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear the concerns some of the people in Igloolik have and gave us the opportunity to address these concerns.
As Brigitte, Uschi and Donna were walking to the radio station, a young couple stopped them and asked if they were with the veterinary team. They told us that they were here for a week running a science camp for the children and asked if we would like to come and speak to the children tomorrow. We immediately agreed on times and said we would be there.
We all took a walk and sat and ate popcorn for an hour or so and then called it a night. Hard to believe it’s night though, while the sun is still so high in the sky.

DAY 7, Sunday July 15, 2007

Several of the team members visited the community Anglican Church this morning. The service was held in the Inuktitut language. When the speakers up front looked up and saw seven white faces in the congregation, they made an effort to announce the bible verses and song numbers in English for us. They seemed pleased to have us visit them for church. The other team members went out to check on a few of our patients from the previous days, and at 1 pm headed out across the tundra, on foot, to vaccinate and deworm another team of dogs, this one owned by a musher named Natalino. We were told that one of his dogs was part wolf and less than a year old. The dogs were then fed walrus meat and we were told they are only fed once a week. Ice was carried up from the shore and this would eventually melt and be their drinking water.
The afternoon hours were spent on the other side of the island to a “camp” area where we spoke to the people who were living out there. The area is mainly rocky, white shale to a large extent, and very desolate looking. It almost reminded us of a desert, the Arctic Desert. Very barren. Most of the people we came to talk to were out hunting walrus and fishing that day, so only a few people were spoken with. One very old gentleman held out his hand when Chris walked by and said hi to him. As she shook his hand to say hello, he pulled her down to where he was sitting and gave her a big hug. The rest of the team had trouble containing their smiles, and began to tease Chris about him liking the strawberry blondes the best.
As we were hiking, we came across some very old remains of sod houses, which we found very interesting. We also saw some bones from a Bowhead whale, including his skull, which we found quite fascinating. Apparently, the people here are allowed to hunt bowhead whale only once every few years, as their numbers are becoming quite low. Nearby there was a hunter’s small cabin where we noticed he had started carving a piece of stone, and also saw a boat he had sewn together out of hides over a frame. The people here use every part of the animal they kill, and are very creative at what they make with all of it.
We headed home for a wonderful spaghetti dinner prepared by Annette and Chris and called it a day.

DAY 6, Saturday July 14, 2007

We have discovered that weekends are fairly slow in this community. A woman named Marie asked us if we could “fix her dog’s neck”. There was a large slash on his neck so we asked her to bring him in to the clinic to us. Her husband went on his ATV out to get the dog, about an hour’s drive each way. His injury turned out to be very severe, a long gash across the entire back of his neck. Two of our veterinarians, Liz and Brigitte, worked together side by side to shave, wash and stitch up his neck and put a drain in place. They believe the gash was caused by some kind of attack, as there were multiple teeth marks and tears.

Several team members went out and vaccinated more dogs door to door and out to Luki’s dog team to vaccinate a couple of more dogs we had previously missed.

Isabelle cooked the team a delicious meal and we spent the rest of the evening answering the doorbell, various artists trying to sell their crafts. Word spreads quickly throughout the community that we are looking to buy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

DAY FIVE Friday the 13th!

After another good night’s sleep, we headed over to the clinic by noon to start our work day. While several of the teams were doing surgery, Barb and Christine headed over to a home where we had noticed a very, very badly matted small dog a couple of days earlier. They wanted to ask the owners if they would be able to shave the dog to relieve him of his pounds of matted hair. They successfully convinced the owner to let them take “Mindy” to the clinic to receive his haircut. We had no idea what type of dog Mindy was, thinking perhaps a Lhasa Apso type breed. But once Mindy was shaved, we saw how wrong we were. Barb and Christine sedated Mindy and started the daunting task of shaving. One and a half hours later they were finished and we saw that Mindy is perhaps a cross between a poodle and a schnauzer or terrier, we think. Liz ran across to the Northern Store and bought a little baby t-shirt to put on Mindy so he could keep relatively warm. We gave him a bath and dried him off, and put his new t-shirt on him. When he awoke from his sedation, he must have felt like a new man. No more dread locks and the hippy look for Mindy. It was such a rewarding experience to do this for him. Chris carried him home to his owners. She thanked us and promised to keep him indoors for a few days during the night. Closing up the clinic at 8 p.m, we then walked back to our places of residence and handed out flyers along the way. The majority of the team members then walked up to the top of a hill overlooking the town and the water where the cemetery is. During the warmer times of the year, such as now, the Inuit people pre-dig shallow graves and then after a death occurs, the body is placed in the graves and covered with piles of rocks. All of the gravestones and crosses face toward the town and the bay. The view is breathtaking. On the way back home, Brigitte was stopped by one of the men and asked if she was interested in a stone carving. He brought it out and it was a polar bear carving. She was extremely happy to be able to purchase that. Apparently Friday evenings are party nights and the doorbell rang the remainder of the evening practically non-stop with craftsmen and artisans wanting to show us there crafts, hoping we will buy something from them so they could have money for the night. Several team members purchased different carvings and crafts. We headed to bed about midnight. We are beginning to get used to Northern time, even though it is hard to think it is time for bed when it feels like 5 p.m. instead. The lighting at midnight is very beautiful with long shadows. The sun is still very bright and the sky so clear a brilliant blue. Quite wonderful!

DAY FOUR Thursday, July 12, 2007

We started our day taking all of our medical supplies down to the temporary veterinary clinic, situated next to the water overlooking Foxe Bay and all of the melting ice floes. Three teams consisting each of one veterinarian and two technicians were chosen while our two assistants extraordinaire, Barb and Caitlin, were assigned to bringing the dogs into the building as well as working in the recovery room. We organized our surgery tables and prep and recovery areas. Our first patient to the clinic was a little black mixed breed dog named “Smurf”. Her owners were fascinated by the entire process. Dr. Craigdallie (Uschi), Isabelle and Annette performed her spay, while Dr. Rudolf (Brigitte), Donna and Chris performed a neuter on Kairu. Kairu also had a severely fractured canine tooth and Donna and Chris extracted that after a long struggle with inadequate instruments. His owner, Marcus, is a very large German gentleman who lives and works here as a polar bear biologist. We call Marcus “the mountain man”, as he has a long red beard and is very tall and rough looking. He also owns two Persian indoor cats with runny sore eyes. Our veterinarians had a look at them and left some medication for their eyes with Marcus. For the rest of the day we spayed and neutered many more dogs and called it a day at 8:30 p.m.
Aliesha, Liz, Donna, Allison and Barb followed Simon (a sled team owner) out to where his team is tethered at about 10 pm and worked there with them until close to midnight, vaccinating and deworming each of them. The remainder of the team passed by Mosha’s home, a local carver, as they walked home, and spoke with him while he was working outside his home. They have asked him to carve different small pieces for them. He is especially talented at carving baleine, which comes from the inside of the whale’s mouth. The whale uses it to filter it’s food before swallowing. Mosha is able to create something quite beautiful out of a whale’s filter.
One thing we’ve each noticed since we have arrived in Igloolik is the large numbers of children we can hear up playing all throughout the night. They just seem to do as they please, with no adult supervision or interference. They seem to especially love to climb on top of wood crates and jump from one to the other. The wood crates are brought in by Sea Lift, a large barge which brings a variety of supplies such as building materials, food, paper goods, as well as ATV’s (quads) and even SUV’s and trucks in for the residents.

DAY THREE, Wednesday, July 11, 2007

After breakfast, the team walked to the Hamlet office in town where we met in the council chambers with Mayor Paul Quassa and the Senior Administrative Officer Brian Fleming. It was very interesting to learn more of the history of Igloolik as well as about the “Inuit dog”. Igloolik has been instrumental in preserving this very unique breed, and are very similar looking to malamutes and huskies. The Mayor also told us the story about the recent search and rescue of an 81 year old “Elder” named Inuke from Igloolik, who went out hunting towards Baffin Island and didn’t return. A large search and rescue operation was launched by the government and was eventually called off. The community insisted that they keep looking and the gentleman was finally found after being missing for about one month.
After the meeting we were taken to the building we would be holding our clinic in. Today, the Mayor went on local radio and announced to the hamlet our arrival and that we would be coming door to door today to ask if they wanted us to deworm and vaccinate their dogs.

Before coming to Igloolik we were told that there was a distemper outbreak in Nunavut and many dogs had died. We came with enough vaccine to give the dogs in Igloolik their Distemper/Parvo vaccine (including a booster) as well as a Rabies vaccine. We were given a map of the location of every home in the hamlet, divided ourselves into five teams, and spread out to go door to door to vaccinate as many dogs as we could. The people seemed very welcoming and grateful for what we were doing. Many dog sled team owners have mentioned to us already that they definitely would like their dogs vaccinated and dewormed. Many children followed us around and wanted their photos taken.
Donna spent some time filming three teenage boys playing on the ice floes by the shore. They would run and jump from floe to floe. One boy in shorts slipped and fell off the side of an ice floe, and the other two ran over to him and pulled him to safety. He jumped up and down for several minutes trying to warm up and thaw out his bare legs. It was quite amusing to watch.
After a full day we returned to Barb’s and had another wonderful dinner around the bonfire. There was a storm on the horizon and rumbles of thunder could be heard off in the distance. The locals mentioned that they hadn’t heard thunder since 1986, being a very rare occurrence here. The storm fortunately passed us by.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


DAY ONE AND DAY TWO, July 9-10, 2007

  • Dr. Liz Bartlett, Langley BC
  • Dr. Brigitte Rudolf, Burnaby BC
  • Dr. Ursula Craigdallie, Vancouver BC
  • Barb Ashmead, Assistant, Qualicum BC
  • Aliesha Timms, Veterinary Technician, Squamish BC
  • Caitlin McLagan, Assistant, Vancouver BC
  • Donna Lasser, Veterinary Technician, Team Leader, Hope BC
  • Isabelle L'Hebreux, Veterinary Technician, Calgary Alberta
  • Allison McLean, Veterinary Technician, Glenwalter Ontario
  • Annette Pecak, Veterinary Technician, Ontario Chapter Coordinator, Cambridge Ontario
  • Christine Robinson, Veterinary Technician,Ontario Chapter Coordinator Cambridge Ontario

After greetings and introductions, the seven British Columbia team members tackled the daunting task of distributing all of the medical supplies amongst themselves. Suitcases were open on the floor near the Air Canada ticket booths as we attempted to meet the fifty pound per person baggage weight allowance, ten pounds less than we were previously permitted. After an uneventful check-in, we boarded the "red-eye special" to Ottawa where we joined up with our remaining four team members the next morning at 7:30 a.m. Isabelle had safely survived her sleepover on a bench at the Ottawa airport.

Going through Security at the Ottawa Airport, Annette, Caitlin and Donna were pulled aside and given a “frisking”. We had a few questions about the vaccines we were carrying in the insulated bags, but otherwise our check-in was problem-free. On our flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit (approx. 3 hours) we were assigned seats where we were not sitting together as a group. This turned out to be a positive thing as several team members sat next to some very informative and interesting persons. Barb, for example, made a very important connection with the lady next to her, a lady from Iqaluit who volunteers with an animal group there and is working towards bringing a CAAT team to that community in the very near future. First Air was the airline we flew on from Ottawa to Iqaluit and from Iqaluit to Igloolik. We were very impressed with the level of service we received from First Air. The Flight Attendants were very friendly and attentive, we were given free hot meals, including a warm chocolate chip cookie part way through the flight. And as the plane begins it’s descent they hand out candies for everyone to suck on to help with the ear problems which often go along with landing.

First Air has been one of our main sponsors for this project, discounting our flights (eleven seats) by up to 75% of the regular cost. A huge thank you to First Air for doing this for us. Flights to northern Canada are very very expensive normally and this makes it difficult for CAAT to work in the Northern remote communities which so desperately need our assistance.

When we landed in Iqaluit we were surprised at the “smallness” of the community, considering it is the Capital City of Nunavut. The airport terminal building is bright yellow in colour. We were met as we entered the terminal building by a reporter from CBC North radio, and Donna and one of our veterinarians, Brigitte Rudolf, were interviewed. It will be aired this week on several news broadcasts all over Nunavut. We then had time to walk across the street to the Art Gallery and see some of the native arts and crafts from the area. At 1:00 p.m. we were met by another reporter, this time one from the Nunatsiaq News, the primary newspaper of Nunavut. Christine, Donna and Dr. Liz were interviewed for this article, and had our photo taken. The weather in Iqaluit was sunny but very chilly, probably close to five degrees Celsius. We could even see our breath. We quickly put on our sweaters and jackets as we slowly tried to acclimatize.

At 2:00 p.m. we boarded a smaller, turbo-prop plane for the last leg of our journey to Igloolik Island. The flight was two and a half hours in length. We were amused by our flight attendant who was a male dressed in coveralls who was both our baggage handler/flight attendant. He handed out snack lunches to us during the flight as well as the candies again on our descent into Igloolik. Igloolik Island is in the Canadian Arctic and we were impressed by the isolation of this community. The airport is very tiny with a gravel landing strip. While the team waited for their baggage and supplies to be taken off the plane, we all had our team photo taken in front of the “Welcome to Igloolik” sign, surrounded by Inukshuks. Our contact in Igloolik, Barb Pimlott, greeted us and our baggage was then collected and loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck and we were transported into the hamlet of Igloolik. Stephen and Lazarus, two employees from the Hamlet, helped to transport all of us women to where we would be staying.

Barb and her husband, Mark, fed us a delicious meal as we sat outside around a bonfire (they burn old hydro/telephone poles here, as trees cannot grow here), overlooking the water – ice floes as far as the eye can see. It was quite amazing to see. We were then introduced to Jay and Marin, a couple from Ontario who are working in Igloolik and went for a walk out to where their sled dog team was kept. We vaccinated and dewormed all eight dogs, beautiful dogs. The sled dogs in Igloolik are very unique as they are some of the only Canadian Inuit dogs remaining in the Canadian Arctic.

Several of the team stayed up late and visited together. While we were chatting, the doorbell rang and a lady from the community came in with a baby on her back and two other young children following behind. She had crocheted a hat and made a couple of other handicrafts she was hoping to sell to us. Her English was excellent as well and we were told that the children are schooled in their native language, Inuktatuk, until grade three, and then from then on they are taught in English. The children are so lovely with round, chubby faces. Our first night in the Arctic Circle was a bit challenging trying to sleep, as the sun doesn’t set. We will need to get used to sleeping in the sunlight during our stay here.


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