Wednesday, December 10, 2008



Approximately one month after receiving approval from the BC Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA), the Canadian Animal Assistance Team has completed a very successful two-day Animal Wellness Clinic in the small Vancouver Island west coast community of the Ucluelet First Nations UFN (Ittatsoo Reserve). An invitation in March of 2008 was extended to CAAT from the UFN Band administration office and CAAT began the necessary preparations to gain permission from the BCVMA to travel to this community and assist in their pet overpopulation problems. CAAT team member, Dr. Ken Seaman (Puntledge Veterinary Clinic in Courtney, BC) became the mediator between the BCVMA and CAAT and relentlessly went to bat for the approval of this project.

By mid-summer, we were told we could do everything except surgical procedures until permission was granted. From August 6-8, 2008, six CAAT team members traveled to the UFN community and vaccinated, dewormed, and gave flea treatment to approximately 60 dogs and cats. The team consisted of Dr. Brenda Bernhardt (Duncan, BC), Barbara Ashmead - assistant from Qualicum Beach, BC, Corinne Barker - assistant from Bowser, BC, Caitlin McLagan - assistant from Vancouver, BC, Jen Picard - team photographer from Vancouver, BC, and Team Leader and Registered Animal Health Technologist Donna Lasser from Hope, BC.

On December 4, eleven team members traveled to the remote seaside community of the Ucluelet First Nations to conduct a two day spay and neuter clinic. The community is located approximately one and a half hours drive from the nearest Veterinarians (Port Alberni). Our team consisted of two Veterinarians (Dr. Kenneth Seaman and Dr. Jennifer Buller - both from Vancouver Island), three R.A.H.T's (Chelsea Dillon of Campbell River, Lynn Burks of Abbotsford, and Donna Lasser of Hope, BC), five assistants (Barb Ashmead of Qualicum Beach, Kristine Riggins of Nanoose Bay, Jackie Ward of Denman Island, Jessica Gibson from the Sunshine Coast, Katrina Wutke of Vancouver), and our team photographer, Jennifer Picard of Vancouver.

The team was housed in a lovely, but small apartment unit on the Reserve, facing the ocean. With wall to wall air mattresses and sleeping bags covering every square inch of the apartment, and an amazing display of adaptability with eleven people sharing one bathroom and shower and a tiny kitchen, the team managed to share many laughs, good food (thanks to our great cooks - Jackie and Kris), and comraderie. Being awakened in the mornings by the grunting of sea lions in the bay (a nice alternative to roosters), the team was up and ready to work by 9:00 a.m. We would work straight through until 6:00 p.m. or so, with both days filled with a steady stream of patients, especially cats, being brought in my their owners. By the end of day two, thirty-seven cats and dogs had been spayed or neutered, had been given vaccinations, dewormer and flea treatments and had received physical exams. The team worked exceptionally well together. In the recovery area (post-surgery), one could see our fabulous assistants cradling one or two cats in their arms as they awoke from surgery or lying on the floor next to a large recovering dog to ensure a smooth and uneventful recovery.

The team was especially impressed by the residents of the community and how well-socialized and happy the dogs and cats were. We were so well-accepted by the community and many expressed heartfelt appreciation for our being there. We have plans to return to this lovely community every six months or so until the pet population is under control. Special thanks goes out to Suzanne Williams (UFN band office), the BCVMA for allowing this to happen, our mediator Dr. Ken Seaman and Puntledge Veterinary Clinic, the Port Alberni SPCA for the loan of dog and cat carriers, the Qualicum Beach Pet Store for the donation of clippers and blades, to each and every team member who worked tiredlessly and made many sacrifices to be present on this project,to all of the companies who donated medical supplies to make this project possible and especially to all residents of the UFN and their wonderful pets. Thank you!

To view photos from this project please visit our website's Photo Galleries ( and click on Ucluelet part one and part two.

Monday, July 28, 2008


We still can not believe that today is our last day in Pond Inlet. It has been such a fun and productive trip, with a great team. Yesterday was our "day off", which was lots of fun and one of the coldest days so far. Kim and Kris held a bite prevention program at the local library for the children, which was a huge success. There were lots of kids that came to see us and I think that they learned alot. The rest of the day we relaxed and vaccinated Andrew's dog sled team.

Our last day in Pond Inlet was a day for clean up and vaccines. The clinic was open all day to vaccinate any pets that have not been done. There were no surgeries scheduled for today so we all took shifts in the clinic. Some of the team went to the Northern to look at the local artwork and there were many walks around town. We also hosted a vaccination workshop with several members of the community. We were able to go over proper handling and how to give vaccines. I think that this is one of the most important things that we have done so far to make sure that the dogs in Pond Inlet will stay healthy once we leave.

Our last night was spent at Debbie's house for a wonderful supper and homemade ice cream, which turned out to be more like a milk shake but very delicious. It was really sad to know that we were going to be getting on our plane home tomorrow morning. After supper we decided to do a polar bear dip in the ocean. All five team members went in for a little swim in the icy water. Ashley did not go in the first time so that she could take pictures of the dip, so Kris and Allison went in a second time so that Ashley was not going in by herself. Once we went back to the house we all had hot chocolate to warm up and the final packing was started.

We were picked up early and taken to the airport where we were met by Lindsey one of the local children that came there to say goodbye. She is such a wonderful and smart little girl. We were also met by Sheba, who was a local woman that was making us all mitts, and she was dropping them off for us just in time.

When we landed in Iqaluit we were met by Janine, who is the person who runs the Humane Society there. We had some extra vaccines and we were leaving them there with her. Janine took us for a little tour of Iqaluit and brought us to one of the first Hudson Bay trading posts. We did a little bit of souvenir shopping and then we were on our way back to Ottawa. Our flight from Iqaluit to Ottawa was alot of fun, I am really sad that this will be that last time for awhile that we will all be together. I will say it again, our team was awesome and I am lucky to work with such wonderful and caring women. Once we landed in Ottawa, Stephanie was met by her parents to continue her vacation in Ottawa, Ashley went to check in for her flight back to Toronto, Kris and Kim were traveling on the bus back to Toronto together and Allison went to the park-n-fly to pick up her car and

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Tuesday morning - we've had an amazing last two days (although I guess you could say that about every day). Sunday was an interesting day of surgeries (4 in total); we started off with two spays, which we later found out were mother and daughter. When our scheduled neuter came in, Kayou, we found out he was the father of the mother, and with her the father of the daughter. He seems to be the one responsible for all of the collie crosses in town. As the owner said, anyone with a white crest is his (and we've seen quite a few already).

We had scheduled the day well, and things hadn't been as busy as the first couple days. Everyone dropped by after our first radio announcements when we got into town, and there is also a search and rescue effort going on for a missing person, so most of the town is off doing that. That being said, we thought we could get back to the house for dinner at a decent time, but our neuter, Kayou, was taking a long time to come off his anesthesia. A couple of us stayed at the clinic/arena for a long time while the rest went back to the house to prepare for Debbie, our host's birthday. As it turned out, Kayou had to join us as well for a couple of hours at the house so we could keep an eye on him as he recovered.

It was a wonderful evening of food and celebration, with two cakes, one of which we are still eating! We managed to surprise Debbie, and made a card and banner. She has been an amazing hostess, always full of advice and encouragement, and has introduced us to so many others here in Pond Inlet.

The Monday only consisted of 3 surgeries, but again we had to take two of them home! It seems as though our house has become an extension of the clinic. Earlier on the trip we had met Patty, the doctor in town (Pond Inlet is one of the few communities with a doctor, and their new health center is amazing - the Arctic College also offers a B.Sc. in Arctic Nursing in connection with Dalhousie University). Patty had scrubbed in once with Ashley, and we saw her again today, and discussed going out on the water. We had had high hopes of going sea kayaking with Polar Sea Adventures, but Dave who runs the company was in California for the week (which we found out after several days of trying to track him down). Luckily Patty and her husband Mike had a boat, and they generously offered to take us out on the water. Since we had two dogs at the house, we had to take shifts, which turned out well as the boat could take 3 at a time, so Ainslie got to come out with us as well. It was a breathtaking ride that made all the hard work worth it. We were taken out to an iceberg, and then to the remaining ice and were able to walk out on it. The fresh sea air gave us such a boost that when we were all back at the house we were still up for hours, mostly organizing pictures. We were finally able to catch up on our sleep, as we designated Tuesday a bit of a 'day off', but we do have the bite prevention talk to give to the kids!


Saturday night - we've just come back from an evening of hiking, fishing and BBQing at nearby Salmon Creek. It's been a busy couple of days at the clinic. We've had a total of ten surgeries over the past two days, along with vaccinations and dewormings of many sled dogs and a few pet dogs. We usually send two or three team members to do the visits outside of the clinic and the rest of the team stays behind to do the surgeries. These visits are a great opportunity to get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of Pond Inlet. Pond Inlet truly deserves its name "The Jewel of the North". It's a small community with much of the town perched up on a hilltop. Everywhere in town has a wonderful view comprising of either arctic tundra, snowcapped mountains from Bylot Island, or the ocean with icebergs in the distance. Pond Inlet is a typical northern town. All of the houses are built above ground due to the permafrost, which means there are no basements for storage. Outside almost every home you will see fishing boats, dogsleds, snowmobiles and more, haphazardly dotting the landscape. There are many different dirt roads in Pond Inlet and all the houses have very orderly street numbers, but none of the roads have names. It doesn't seem to be a problem because Pond Inlet is quite small, so most people know where everything is. Most people in town drive around in either pick up trucks or ATVs. Most of the sled dog teams are kept on long chains by the beach. Much of their diet is seal meat, so it makes it easier for their owners to feed them if they are close to the water.

On Friday evening, Allison, Stephanie and Ashley met up with our hosts, Debbie and Dave, to go on a hike across the arctic tundra. We didn't set out until after 10 pm and it was close to midnight when we got back. The weather was beautiful and it was wonderful to hike amongst the wildflowers and the cotton grass. When we got back, Debbie and Dave invited Matt and Ainsley and our other team members, Kris and Kim over to their home. We had an opportunity to look at some the Inuit art Debbie has bought. She has some beautiful carvings from various local artists. She also showed us mittens that are handmade by a local woman, Sheeba. We decided we would ask Sheeba if she could make us each a pair as well. Unfortunately, we could not stay as long as we would have liked. We were having a great time, but although it was the weekend for our hosts, the CAAT team had an appointment scheduled for 9 am. We walked back just before 2 am and still saw a few kids out by the creek on our way home!

This evening after work, Debbie stopped by the house to lead the hike to Salmon Creek. The hike, once again, showcased the spectacular scenery of this area. It is great to have Debbie as a host because she is a cariboo biologist, so is very familiar with the area through her work, plus she has boundless energy and enthusiasm. We met up with Dave, Matt and Ainsley at the campsite at Salmon Creek. We all tried our hand at fishing for Arctic Char. The fish weren't biting, but a local fisherman named Simon had set up a net and caught over a dozen Char in a very short time period. We had a great time at Salmon River, despite the mosquitos the size of dragonflies. After a delicious BBQed meal of Arctic Char, curried pasta with vegetables, and foil-steamed veggies, we set off with Debbie again to hike further down to Salmon River. We had a very steep climb up to a high ridge so we could get a nice view and then hiked down again to reach Salmon River before hiking back along the beach to Salmon Creek. We were all tired by this point and still had to go to the clinic the next day, so we all got rides back to town.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


DAY ONE - July 9, 2008
Our first day of the Pond Inlet project started at 7 am when the team met in the Ottawa airport. It was very easy to spot the team thanks to the blue CAAT shirts. Once the introductions were made with the five members, Our Veterinarian Dr. Ashley Boultbee, Veterinary Technicians Allison McLean (Team Leader) and Kris Burns, and Assistants Kim Painter and Stephanie Cruise were ready and very excited to be on their way to Pond Inlet. After transfering supplies to different suitcases we were ready to check-in our very heavy bags at the First Air ticket booth and go through security. We are so thankful to First Air for once again, this year, discounting our tickets to Nunavut by 75% of the regular rates, thus making this project possible.

Before long we were on the first of three flights to our final destination. Luckily we were able to sit together on the flight. In one row there were Kim and Kris and just in front of them were the rest of the team, Stephanie, Ashley and Allison. The first flight gave us some time to get to know each other and Allison was able to explain some of the procedures and protocols followed on CAAT trips. It was not long after we took off that the the flight attendants came around with breakfast, which for airline food was very good. Next there were warm chocolate chip cookies that were handed out and they were so good that we each had a couple.

Upon landing in Iqaluit there was a short layover before our flight to Clyde River on Baffin Island. The team was able to look around the gift shop and the art gallery that is across the street from the airport. Allison also showed the other team members where the Igloolik CAAT team from last year slept in the airport. In the airport there was a local artist that was selling a canvas painting and Kim bought one, the first of hopefully many artwork that we will be buying. We all boarded our next flight, which was a smaller prop engine flight and we were on our way to Clyde River. Once again the flight attendant served us lunch; the First Air people really like to feed us. The view from the plane was aweome, we were able to see beautiful cliffs and rivers. We were told that the view from Clyde River to Pond lnlet was even more spectacular. Once we landed in Clyde River for a very short refueling, we realized that we might want our hats and gloves, since it was alot colder than Ottawa. The pilot took a group picture in front of our airplane, this will be one of many team pictures. We still cannot believe that we are in Nunavut. The last flight was the most exciting for many reasons. We wanted to get to Pond Inlet and the view was breath taking.

Upon landing in Pond Inlet we were met in the airport by Debbie, Aisley and Matt, who were some of the people that were organizing our project. They took us and our luggage to Andrew's house which was called 'The Team House' and started the final preparations for a wonderful supper. The Team look a short walk to the edge of town, where we had a jaw dropping view of water and mountains. It really looks like we are in a postcard! After supper there was a Team meeting to plan our first day and we were all off to bed, which was weird because the sun was still up. It will take some time to get used to 24 hour daylight.

DAY TWO - July 10
On our first day of work, Debbie and Aisley gave us a quick tour around town. It started at the arena which is where our 'clinic' is going to be. From there we went to the Hamlet office to meet Colin the acting SAO (Senior Administrative Officer) in town. We also had a tour of the Health Center, where we met Flo who is the head nurse. Thanks to Flo we were able to get a sharps container and some gauze squares (we realized at our meeting the night before we did not have enough). The visitor center and library were awesome and we are all hoping to go back there and possibly buy some books.

Aisley and Matt wanted two of their dogs to be spayed so we decided to make them our first patients. 'Nuna' was the first spay and once the surgery started it was determined that she was pregnant. Kris scrubbed into surgery with Ashley to help her out and the surgery was done without any complications. Their second dog 'Aklaq' was next and thankfully she was not pregnant. Throughout the day many locals were stopping by our clinic to see what we were doing. Everyone in Pond Inlet are so friendly. The team was able to vaccinate several dogs and by the end of our first day we neutered one dog and spayed two more. We were all happy with the turn out for our first day. After another great supper we had a meeting with Debbie and Aisley to go over our first day. Everyone was tired from our first day and I think a little easier to fall asleep with the sun up. We now just have to get used to sleeping with the noise of children playing outside.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Humane Education in Iqaluit Nunavut

Iqaluit Humane Education 2008

Barb Ashmead and Kristine Riggins, as members of the Canadian Animal Assistance Team, were invited to Iqaluit, Nunavut, from March 7-17, by the newly formed Iqaluit Humane Society. The society had received a grant to teach children how to be safe around dogs. The Humane Society members also wanted to learn how to become “community vaccinators” in order to reduce the incidents of canine disease in the area.

We left Vancouver Island when the temperatures were 10 C and arrived in Iqaluit to -35 C, quite a shock for “Islanders”. Nostrils and eyelashes quickly froze together and glasses froze to the face. Who knew?? Thank goodness they had “northern parkas” waiting for us upon arrival.

The Territory of Nunavut has the highest incident of dog bites in all of Canada with most bites involving children. The Capital City of Nunavut, Iqaluit, with a population of 7,000 people, has 2,700 dogs, many of which roam the city unleashed and unconfined. When speaking to the children in the class rooms we would ask how many had experienced dog bites, often one third to one half of the classes raised their hands.

Craig Naherniak, BC SPCA General Manager of Humane Education, generously donated the “Bite Free” education materials we brought to Iqaluit to teach the children how to safely approach dogs and what to do if dogs continue to act aggressively. During our 10 day stay in the city we spoke to over 650 children, ranging in ages from 4 to 18. Included in this number were inmates of the young offenders institution and teenagers from the youth club. The Bite Free DVD was a big hit with all ages of children as well as the teachers. All the education materials were left with the Iqaluit Humane Society so they can continue to educate the children on how to be safe around dogs. This program will hopefully reduce the incidents of dog bites in their community.

The Humane Society has plans to produce their own northern more “culturally sensitive” film in the future. Many of these children had never seen trees, so when asked to “stand like a tree” while being approached by an unknown dog, we felt some of them might not relate to this analogy. We therefore changed some of our pictures and materials to say “stand like and inukshuk” and “lay like a seal”, rather than a “log”. It seemed to make more sense to the younger children.

Iqaluit is a wonderful community to visit, especially during winter. We were fortunate enough to be there during the dog sled racing season and watched their amazing “Inuit sled dogs” race across the ice during a 3 day event. We experienced the “celebration of the seal” where local culture was demonstrated. Throat singing, a seal skin fashion show and “country foods” were all available to be tasted and experienced.

When the schools were not in session we were asked to train the Humane Society members to vaccinate dogs, train dogs, safe dog handling and answer any other questions regarding dogs. The incidents of parvo and distemper are incredibly high in Iqaluit, however, with the newly trained “community vaccinators” the cases should be reduced.

We met some wonderful, dedicated people who are trying to help dogs and make a difference in their community. It was an honour to be invited to such a vibrant city, so far from home, yet still part of Canada. We hope to be invited to back soon.


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