Sunday, October 18, 2009

Baker Lake- Day 8

On Monday morning, the team was greeted once more by a barrage of dogs and cats awaiting surgeries. Six of the dogs belonged to Nicki, a 15 year old Inuk teenager who lives and breathes dog sledding. Her dogs are much-loved working animals and, though she is a young woman of few words, Nicki soaks up dog care information like a sponge. One of her husky crosses has four young puppies, who are about 4 weeks of age. The pups were too young to do much with, but Dr. Jess examined each of them and gave them a dose of wormer. Much fuss was made when Nicki announced that she wanted to give the babies away, and a few members had to really deploy the willpower to give them back to their mum!

Many team members headed out onto the tundra to vaccinate sled dog teams. Dr. Jessica swiftly became the sled dog vaccination champion! Working with her faithful "A Team", consisting of Dee, Laura, and honorary member Christina, she examined and vaccinated both Joe's and Victor's teams. In some Arctic communities, the increased use of ATVs has rendered the necessity of keeping sled dogs obsolete. That said, dog team is still the preferred method of long distance travel for many. Unlike ATVs, dogs don't break down or run out of gas when one is hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town in an unforgiving landscape.

Back at the ranch (or, in this case, the clinic in the Arctic College), the rest of the team continued with intake for surgeries and vaccines. One three-month old Lab mix arrived with an excruciating ailment- she had been unable to resist the tempting smell of a piece of bait fish outside of her owner's house. The catch? The fish was already on the hook when she chewed and swallowed it. The result was that the hook had firmly embedded itself through her soft palate, upper lip, and tongue. Gina located some bolt cutters from a local resident and, after the puppy was sedated for the procedure, she was able to remove the hook in several parts from the pup's mouth. These are the sorts of cases that are extraordinarily satisfying for the team, as without veterinary intervention, the pup would surely have died a very painful death. After an injection of long-acting antibiotics, the puppy returned home with her grateful owners.

Monday evening after work, Janet and Caitlin set up next door in the library in preparation for a vaccine information session for interested members of the community. They hoped that dog sledders in particular would make use of this opportunity to learn more about the benefits of administering vaccines to their dogs. Unlike dogs kept as companions either in or outside of homes, sled dogs are typically tethered together out on the land, ranging from just outside of town, to several kilometres away. This means that they are subject to increased vulnerability to wild animals attacks, and the ever-present risk of rabies infection.

Various dog sledders came to the info session to learn more about vaccines, and to ask questions. Janet and Caitlin discussed rabies, distemper, and parvovirus, among other diseases covered by vaccines. Many of the attendees were surprised to learn that, for instance, rabies virus is not airborne. It is the team's hope that increasing the knowledge base of the community will help somewhat to avoid the confusion and fear surrounding a rabies incident, such as the one that occurred most recently. The casual meeting allowed people to ask questions about not only vaccines, but deworming and sterilization procedures. CAAT seeks to provide ongoing information over the next year to residents of Baker Lake, until a team returns next fall to resume the work started on this trip.

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