Saturday, June 02, 2012

Day 6 - Burns Lake BC

We had a nice leisurely morning on our first day off.  
Our afternoon was awesome!  We caught the ferry over to the Northside and went horseback riding.  It took more then a little work for Valerie to find someone who could take our whole group out at once, but she did.   Liz, Laura, Kristie, Stapley, Shaena, Lorna, Jen and Justin all headed out. I think that when they heard "veterinary team" they were expecting more experienced riders, as only Kristie and Liz had any skill at all.  The rest of us balanced precariously on our horses, hoping they would head in the right direction.  They did.  We all made it back alive after our two hour tour.  The views were breathtaking, and our butts only hurt a little. 
Valerie had arranged for someone to take us out for a hike along a beautiful train around a very picturesque lake.  Our "Vet Team" had an impression on our tour guide's husband.  As we started filing out of the car, he looked quite surprised and said "I was expected a group of old men when she said a group of vets were coming."   He was expecting war veterans - not veterinarians and technicians! 
After seeing the ultimate "Coca-Cola" collector's bar, Kristie, Stapley, Shaena and Laura headed to Kager Lake Recreation Site for our hike.  If you are into mountain biking at all you want to come check this place out sometime.  We were all chicken.  There are also some wonderful camping sites on the site that we had to check out along the way.
We all wanted to stop at the local Artisan shop - which was, of course, filled with a variety of wonderful things. 
And what better way to end a day like this? A private concert by the "Flaming Pies," a local cover band for the Beatles.  More food, a little wine and some great music.  We were joined by another team member - Jackie, a technican from BC.  We are getting really close to having our full team together!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 4 & 5 - Burns Lake BC

Day 4:
This was a busy day in the clinic.  We had 10 dogs waiting for us when we arrived!  We got started as fast as we could and worked all day, and I think we would each say that we have done a great job. 
Our group of volunteers from the community showed up in force for us again today, which we appreciate so much.  Helping with the pets, bringing in food, even just chatting with us and asking questions - it really does mean a lot when community members are so willing to be a part of what we are doing.
A fun variety of dogs today - Chihuahua crosses and Great Danes.  Can't get much different than that!  There was one particulaly cute Dane puppy that needed a home, and he had one by the end of the day!
At the end we had 11 spays, 15 neuters, and another 13 vaccinations and deworming done. 

Day 5:
A slower day today - I think because people had been so aware of coming in early so they wouldn't be turned away. 
Today's totals were 8 spays, 4  neuters and another 13 vaccinations and dewormings.
We had to break down our lovely little clinic and pack it back into the bags and into cars to move across the lake into town.  Again, I have to say a big "thank you" to everyone who helped with the clean up! 
We'll be back at work on Saturday!

Day 3 - Burns Lake BC

So I was up half the night worrying that nobody was going to show up with their pets this morning, and I was up the other half worrying that too many pet would be there!  I should know better - it always works out on CAAT trips!
We got up this morning - to another super yummy breakfast I might add - and headed to the clinic.  When we pulled into the parking lot, Lorna was already there and had a line up waiting to register!  We were all so excited.  The first day on a project like this is always the hardest, as it takes a few surgeries to get the team working really well together and develop the flow.  But we did great!  It didn't take long before we had 20 animals on the list for spays or neuters, and some others waiting for vaccines and neuters.  We had agreed that 20 was plenty and we would ask anyone else to come back the next day - and some did.  But there were a few people who couldn't come back - so when Lorna asked me if we could fit them in - I said of course.  (I wonder how long it will take for the rest of the team to figure out I'm a sap and someone else should be in charge of saying "no.")
We met another member of our team today - Justin.  He is using some of his precious vacation time from his job as an RCMP officer here in Burns Lake to help us and the animals.  We all love him already.
There are so many people in this area who are coming out to help us.  I was blown away by these volunteers!  So willing to help us - adults and kids alike.  Feeding us, tidying up, helping restrain pets, walking dogs, cleaning kennels, sweeping.  So much.  It is not uncommon to see a bunch of eager people waiting for the next animal to come to the recovery area so that they can cuddle and help them wake up.  It was especially heartwarming listening to some boys from the school negotiating who's turn it was next, and how long each could hold the pet. 
Some super cute pets were in today too - pictures will be up soon!  
We had tons of visitors today too - this morning brought with it many kids from the elementary school.  They had lots of questions and were really eager to see what we were doing.  In the afternoon we had some highschool kids come in and check us out too.  It was so much fun having the kids there - you never know what they are going to ask you!
At the end of the day we had spayed 6 pets, neutered 12, and vaccinated 17 more.  Not bad for the first day!

Day 2 - Burns Lake BC

OMG - eggs benedict with smoked salmon.. fresh baked biscuits.. home made jams... sigh.. I think we are in heaven.
I can't believe that I didn't add Lorna's name to the list of Team members on yesterday's post!  Sorry Lorna!! Lorna is here as one of our assistants and our photographer.  She came here from Smithers, BC last year to help for a day or two, and got sucked in for the whole time!  So this time she actually planned to come for the whole trip. 
Today was set-up day.  After breakfast this morning we loaded up the vehicles and headed over to the Grassy Plains Hall to set up our clinic.  The hall turns out to be a perfect location for us - lots of space, lots of lights, tables waiting for us, a kitchen, bathrooms, a covered porch for pets who have to wait outside, and lots of space outside for walking dogs.  This Hall has just about everything we need, and we all send out a huge "Thank  You"  for letting us use the space!

Our clinic set-up
We all got to work - deciding how to best use the space, the flow of the pets, where the perfect spot for our recovery area would be... We came to a concensus and started moving tables and putitng down tarps.  Once we got the tables set up and postioned, we got to open the bags.  For those of you not familiar with our trips, let me explain.  All of the supplies that we get are packed into enormous hockey bags and brought with us.  Everything.  Every needle, every glove, every medication, sharps containers, cold sterile solution, gauze.. everything.  A lot of stuff to unpack (and we aren't even thinking about the re-packing when it's time to go home!)  This trip we were a little spoiled as most of the supplies were sent up ahead of time so we didn't have to carry them with us on the airplanes.  Four huge hockey bags, a portable anesthetic machine in its own suitcase, and a number of cardboard boxes were unloaded and emptied out so we could organize all the supplies and be ready to go.  Alistair was there making sure to fix everything just right - cutting wood to put under the table legs so the surgery tables would be the right height, attaching lamps to the tables, running extension cords, turning random hooks into IV poles.   Piles and piles of loaned pet crates arrived, at one point I'm pretty sure that Stapley and Shaena were trapped within the crate-mountain as they were sitting on the floor putting all of them together! 

Our first surgery.
Dr. Liz suggested that it would be good idea to have a "run through" surgery to do this afternoon, so that our first-timers could see how everything runs.  We all thought this was a wonderful idea, and somehow Valerie and Allistair made a dog appear.  I told you - they can do anything. :)   Us, I'm not so sure about.  We were so sure we had everything when we left the house this morning.  Absolutely, positively sure.  Then the first question - how are we going to prep since we left all the gauze back at the house?  No problem, lets drive back.  Next somebody remembered that we hadn't brought all of our anesthesia drugs.  Back to the house Alistair and Liz went.  Then we realized we hadn't brought the vaccines.  Back to the house went Valerie.  The good thing was that all of that was worked out before Goldie actually arrived, so we were fine.  Goldie's anesthesia and neuter surgery went perfectly, and we were raring to go!

"Goldie" and Stapley
 So what does the team do after that?  Well, EAT of course!!  We had a great dinner made for us by Pam at Keefe's Cafe.  Lasagna, garlic bread, salad. yum yum yum.
After dinner the next member of our team arrived - Jenn Buller from BC. I'm afraid she didn't get much of a greeting from us - we kinda tossed her a box of now lukewarm lasagna and told her to hurry up and eat it on the way.  We had to go meet Larry.  Larry was taking some of us - Lorna, Kristie, Stapley, Shaena, Jen and Laura - out for an evening cruise on his sailboat.  Pretty spectacular.  The landscape is beautiful and we all had a blast listening to his stories of sailing off the coast down to Mexico and Hawaii.  I'm pretty sure that Larry had a good time too, even with our less-then-stellar preformance as deck-hands.
The last item on today's agenda was a Team Meeting.  We basically decided that we are all awesome, this is going to be a great trip, we are going to get a lot of dogs and cats spayed and neutered, and we are going to have a great time here in Burns Lake!  :)

Burns Lake, BC

Day 1 - Sat May 5, 2012
We are going to call this "Day 1" of this adventure, because this was the day that most of the team met in Prince George.  Each of us flying from wherever home is to meet up with a bunch of strangers in a strange place to spay and neuter a bunch of pets.  What could be better?
First to arrive was Stapley - a veterinary technician student from Ontario and Laura a Registered Veterinary Technician from Ontario.  Shortly after arrived Liz Bartlet, one of our Veterinarians from BC, and Shaena a Veterinary Assistant also from BC.  We were all greeted by Kristie, a Registered Animal Health Technologist also from BC.
Then we were off on our three hour drive to Burns Lake.  A very pretty drive if  you ever consider doing it!
We were very close to arriving when we had to wait to get on a ferry to carry us over to the southside of Lake Francois, some of us used this valuable time to try out the local milkshakes and ice-cream sundaes.  Like we needed an excuse!  Shaena even got her's hand delivered onto the ferry!  She was still waiting for it to be prepared when the ferry started loading so she ran to the car so we wouldn't leave without her, leaving her poor milkshake deserted.  Well, didn't the awesome girl working the icecream counter come running along behind her with the rescued milkshake in hand!  We all agreed that some pretty nice people must come from around here!
Once we made it across, we came to our wonderful new home for our time here.  A fantastic Bed and Breakfast, the Lakeside Legacy, run by our hosts, Valerie  and Alistair.

Lakeside Legacy B&B

Valerie and Alistair have done much more than open their home to us for our stay, but they have been instrumental in bringing CAAT here.  They do wonderful work for the area animals through the Lakes Animal Friendship Society ( and Valerie is also a great contributor to CAATs education committee. 
We got a great tour of the property and got all settled in, and then were treated to a wonderful supper.
I think we are all going to have a great time on this trip!

Laura Sutton, RVT

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 14- April 27
Well, "around twenty" turned out to be 13. And they weren't all waiting for us when we arrived. Boro is a village in the loosest sense of the word, unless a more organized community exists further north of where we set up shop. Nation, Laz and I drove around briefly looking for an appropriately flat, shady location near the well, waiting for the ladies to arrive. They chose to go for the more obvious choice- the fenced military compound we had just driven past. 
Tana has been in Maun for over 20 years, and speaks fluent Setswana- unusual amongst whites. She explained to the guard at the entry post what we were doing, and they allowed us to set up our clinic in their fenced compound. We got organized quite quickly, and within minutes, our first patients arrived. One woman walked in with her young female, while another drove in with her tomcat. 
So far, both the tomcats we've encountered have been very tame and quite easy to deal with. I fear this will leave Jackie and Isabelle with a false impression of Botswana's cats. As previously mentioned, most cats in the area are feral, and would rather rip your face off than cooperate. We started with him since he'd likely appreciate not hanging out with a bunch of dogs all day.
People trickled in in a steady stream over the course of the day. Just when I thought I was catching up on things, along would come another dog or two or three. As usual, despite the change in venue things went quite smoothly. One skinny pup, Lion, with a swollen belly (likely worms) and the world's smallest uterus proved a bit challenging, but even she walked out under her own steam after a bit of a slow recovery. And I must say, this is the first time I've done surgery while men in camouflage uniforms walked around carrying machine guns. When I asked what they did here all day, the reply was 'We are on patrol'. I opted not to ask what it was they were patrolling for. 
Tomorrow the plan is to move a little further north- closer to the river, and likely a higher density of people and dogs.  

Day 15- April 28
We drove back to Boro bright and early. We got directions to the hut where Lion lived, and when we arrived, the pup bouncing around the dirt yard bore little resemblance to the one that staggered out the previous day. Feeling relieved, we went further into the bush towards another part of Boro. This turned out to be a low speed 40 drive over a 2 rut, sandy path that included one substantial water crossing. Other paths criss-crossed ours, but as usual, Nation knew exactly where to go. We arrived at a much larger village- several loosely scattered clusters of mud huts, and followed the road along to the banks of the Boro River.
The riverside was a bustle of activity- several larger boats with canopies were dropping off tourists who were being loaded onto mokoros. The mokoros were then poled past the buffalo fence to the west (a hoof-and-mouth disease barrier) into the hunting concession beyond. This was also the arrival point for goods of any sort, which were easier to deliver by water than over land, as well as the source for the residents' drinking water. 
We set up shop under the shelter of a massive fig tree and had a half dozen patients lined up almost immediately. My first patient was a young, healthy female. She was knocked out, clipped and prepped for surgery and delivered to my table. All went as per the several thousand spays I've done over the previous 20+ years, but when I looked up and found well over thirty people standing in a broad circle watching me, I suffered what can only be described as stage fright. I was nervous, my hands shook, I couldn't concentrate. This was made worse by the fact that I couldn't find this dog's uterus, and by the ever compassionate Isabelle inviting everyone present to come stand closer for a better look. 
I took a deep breath, tried to relax, probed around a little more, and felt a huge wave of calm return to my body when I saw her tiny parts at the end of my spay hook. From that moment it was full speed ahead for the rest of the day. We finished 12 surgeries before lunch arrived- Tana brought food as far as the water crossing, but didn't feel up to fording the creek, being a alone, without cellular coverage, and with a gas gauge approaching empty, so Nation drove back to meet her.
The crowd swelled and waned over the course of the day. An interesting mix of locals and a few tourists, all intrigued by what was going on. The tourists were especially intrigued to see fellow white foreigners doing surgery in such a remote area, and were full of questions. We plugged MAWS to the best of our abilities, but try as we might, we could not coax any donations in exchange for photos of the clinic. 
By day's end we had done a total of 17 procedures: 8 neuters and 9 spays. we were all exhausted by the time we packed up the bucky and headed homeward.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Going solo, sort of

Day 13- April 26 Eleven surgeries through the clinic today- 3 neuters and 8 spays, including one very pregnant girl. I guess I cursed myself with my comment yesterday. As I was closing I noted she was bleeding more than I was comfortable with for a local dog- Ehrlichia infection slows their blood clotting time, so they tend to bleed more than we western DVMs are accustomed to. I re-opened the partially closed incision and went hunting, finding the source at the last sutures I had tied- I hadn't incorporated a fairly significant vein into the knot, and it was pumping away quite happily. I placed another couple sutures around it, rechecked it a couple times before recommencing my closure. When I was convinced all was okay, I closed her up and moved on to the next one. Isabelle, Jackie and Lazarus are an amazing team, and without my saying so (even though I do) they always seem to know when to start getting the next patient ready for surgery. Being the only vet on duty, I just moved from one end of the long surgery table to the other, and happily let them clean up my mess (previously, when two of us were doing surgery, we were responsible for cleaning up after ourselves. I feel spoiled). The rest of the day was pretty uneventful- no other surprises, and the pregnant girl recovered smoothly. I just saw her in the back of Nation's truck (I've dubbed it the Nation Wagon) with the other 10 dogs, on their way home. After we cleaned up from surgery, we grabbed a quick lunch, then returned to the clinic to pack up for our outreach project in Boro tomorrow and Saturday. Nation has already been to the area to let people know we're coming, and KC, who knows the elders there, will also be joining us to help drum up business. From the sounds of it, this won't be necessary- apparently we have "around twenty" surgeries lined up tomorrow (could be 18, could be 23- we won't know until tomorrow). We'll do as many as we can before we run out of surgery packs or energy. Amongst numerous other benefits of this trip is that we have 3 new temporary pets. On last year's visit, we stayed off the property upon which the clinic is situated. Each morning we'd drive in from Jann and Virginia's, about 8Kms away. There is a gate at the entry to the Palmer property, and each morning we'd stop the car and one of us would hop out to open and close the gate (we have the remote this year- woohoo!!). This plus the noise of our approaching vehicle would stimulate an attack by a Border Collie and a Malinois who would lie in wait behind the bushes by the road, then vault themselves at our tires and run alongside the Venture barking their fool heads off until they reached the invisible perimeter of their territory. This year the Border Collie, Pye, the Malinois, whom we have dubbed 'not Pye' because we haven't yet found anyone who knows his name, and a new stooge, Scruffy II (there is already another Scruffy on premises) have become our close friends. We are greeted with tail wags instead of barks when we walk or drive up, and they have made themselves quite at home both on our verandah and in the cottage. They are great replacement pets for the ones we've left at home.

Meanwhile, back at MAWS....

Day 11- April 24 Fourteen seems to be the magic number for us. It probably has to do in part with the fact that we have 14 surgery packs, but also takes into account the time we'll finish all the surgeries and allow enough time to monitor the dogs through their recovery before Nation returns them to their homes. Today's batch had an unusually high number of males- ten compared to 5 females. I realize that adds up to 15, but one of the surgeries was a cat neuter- something that can easily be done in under 10 minutes once the cat is under anaesthetic. Most of the cats seen at the clinic are feral, collected from around the airport. They do a good service controlling rodents, but rare is the house cat in Maun. This one was a house cat. As intimidating as he appeared in the heavy wire mesh live-trap cage, he did not show the ears-back, crouched down, puffed up posture that a trapped cat will demonstrate. Quite the opposite in fact, pressing his nose against the bars of the cage to sniff and receive a scratch. Cats are kept in the washroom to keep them away from the canine patients. When Lazarus came out of the washroom after changing into his work clothes, he seemed concerned that the cat was having respiratory difficulties. I went in with my stethescope to check him out, but found him purring loudly and looking quite content. Since cats at the clinic are nearly always wild, Laz had never experienced one purring loudly like this, hence his concern. We assured him this was quite normal behaviour for a cat- sad he didn't get to see it more often. Today was also chemo day. We had seen 3 dogs last Tuesday with TVTs (transmissible venereal tumours), and all had received their first of three or four weekly doses of vincristine. Since one of the dogs had been at the clinic all along, I'd had the opportunity to keep an eye on her tumour, and noticed a substantial reduction in size when I checked in on her on Sunday afternoon. The other two were a couple males from surrounding villages. Both had been fairly aggressive when we saw them last week, but be it the lack of twelve other dogs in the back of the truck, or the effects of neutering, both were much easier to deal with today. Dr Richard Welland is leaving us today- he'll be out of town for the next week, but will be returning to help out with MAWS the week after we leave, able to ease the new volunteer veterinarians into the ways of the clinic. Our surgery load will be lower in number from here on in, but since I'll be the only veterinarian working, my workload will be a little higher. I'm comfortable that working with a group of top notch techs like Jackie, Isabelle and Lazarus will make it a breeze! Day 12- April 25 Time is flying by us- in less than a week we'll be leaving Maun. Hard to believe it's gone so quickly. Things went well today on my first day as a single vet practice. 10 dogs were brought in- 6 spays and 4 neuters were done and we were finished, not including recovery time, by 1PM. Nation had it easy today- Tana brought in three dogs, Marie dropped off four, and a gentleman from the area brought in his three. The fact that local people are booking time to have their dogs spayed and neutered is a good indication that MAWS is having a beneficial effect. People are learning the benefits of having their pets sterilized and vaccinated. Another thing that brought this to mind was the pregnant dog I spayed today-6 fetuses present- probably about mid-way along (25-30 days) the gestation period. She was the first pregnant dog I had seen since I got here, and Richard had only spayed one other. Last year, both at the MAWS clinic and at outreach projects, we were seeing at least one pregnant dog per day. Ally returned sometime last night with a half-dozen dogs from Ruretse Dog Rescue outside Gabarone (pronounced Ha-ba-roe-nay, I was corrected) which had recently shut down. We gave all these guys a once over, and apart from some minor ailments, all seemed to be in good form. We boosted some vaccines and returned the dogs to their kennels to recover from their 9 hour road trip yesterday Another indication of the impact MAWS is having in the area came when we were grocery shopping. They were out of tomatoes and peppers at Spar, so we went acvross the street to Choppies to see if they had any there. Jackie waited in the 4X4 while Isabelle and I went inside (sometime produce runs out of stock in town. This week it appears tomatoes aren't available). A gentleman named Sarifo approached Jackie, having noted the MAWS logo on the side of the truck. He had some concerns about a problem his dog was having and was wondering how he could get her checked out. We gave him the clinic number and asked him to call Laz in the morning- probably easier being able to discuss things in Tswana. We hope he calls- it could be just an infection, but it may be another TVT. Early treatment, including spaying, is the best way to approach these cases.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Back to the old grind...

Day 10- April 23 Back to work, back to reality. Fourteen dogs awaited us this morning. Nation asked how many we wanted before we left on Friday, and he delivered. He spent his Sunday afternoon rounding up dogs from one of the local villages.Unusually for a Monday, there was no onslaught of walk-ins over the course of the day. All dogs were done and back in the recovery kennel by 1:30. All in all, we are quite pleased with this anaesthetic protocol despite it not being quite what we'd choose if other options were available to us. But this is what we come to expect on trips of this nature- we won't have all the drugs and machines that go beep that we have at home, and we have to make do with what we have. Under the circumstances, we are doing quite well. The MAWS clinic provides us with facilities superior in many ways to what we operate in at other projects We did have one mid-day drop off- a very skinny pup, about 3 months of age. He was quite anemic (pale gums) from both fleas as well as a probable load of internal parasites.He's a sweet little guy- very receptive to attention, and eager to eat anything we offered- he would have eaten a full can of Ecco Dog and Cat food had we offered it. He'll be at the clinic for a week or two getting back on his feet before MAWS starts looking for a new home for him.

Vumbara Bound!

Day 7- April 20 We woke bright and early, looking forward to our trip to Vumbara. We checked in on our two overnighters at the clinic- both were doing well and were to be discharged later in the day. Richard picked us up promptly at 8:30 and we made it to the Wilderness Safari HQ well ahead of our departure time. Tana gave us our tickets and took us to the airport to drop off our bags, then left us at Bon Arrive to grab a coffee and kill some time until our flight left. It turned out we were on the milk run- not a direct flight to Vumbara. Not a problem- the delta is breathtakingly beautiful, and flying over it gives you a true sense of its size. We stopped at Chitabe and Tubu Camp prior to landing at the Vumbara airstrip, each strip littered with the poop of various species from impala to elephant. There were random wildlife sitings from the plane- elephants, giraffes, zebra, but nothing that prepared us for the drive to our lodge. We were greeted warmly by our guides for the weekend, Go and Zee, who informed us we might see some animals between here and the lodge. Less than 5 minutes into the drive, Eagle-eyes Richard spotted an elephant several hundred yards away. Zee maneuvered the truck into the best viewing position, which turned out to be unnecessary- while we were watching elephant number one, a mother elephant and her calf walked out of the brush behind us, not 20 metres away. They passed slowly within 10 metres of the vehicle. She seemed unfazed by our presence- her baby separated itself from her several times, and she waited patiently for it to catch up, but always keeping a watchful eye on us.Once they'd crossed the road, we moved on. The wildlife came fast and furious over the course of the 30 minute drive to the lodge. We saw a few giraffes, two herds of zebra, several more elephants, as well as kudu, impala, wildebeest, and wart hogs. Wow! Upon arrival at the lodge, we were greeted warmly by Cara (a Toronto ex-pat) and Tizzar, a Motswana being trained for a management role at the lodge (I learned from the map on the flight in that Botswana is the country, Setswana is the language, Batswana are the people as a whole, but each individual is a Motswana). The rest of the staff came and introduced themselves- Ruby, Gladys, Kenny, and Owner. We had a quick lunch while getting an orientation and a rundown on the rules of the lodge. While there are lions in the vicinity, when walking after dark it's the hippos and elephants that are the real danger. The lodge is built on the shores of a large wetland, so over the next 48 hours we'll have the option of seeing wildlife from both a land cruiser and at water level in a mokoro- a traditional dugout canoe. Our choice. We feel so incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity. Our rooms are massive- larger than many a Vancouver apartment. There are seven in total, separated by enough tress and brush that you truly feel like you're in your own private home. Each looks out onto the wetland. As hard as it was to tear ourselves away, we gathered in the lobby area at 4, as instructed, for tea (very civilized). Then we piled into our Land Cruiser for an evening game drive with Zee and Go. One objective was to return to an area where lions had been seen earlier in the day. While there were none to be found, we did manage to see kudu, impalas (of course), zebra, more elephants, and a bull giraffe with 2 cows nearby. The sun was setting, so we made our way back to the lodge, only to get very effectively stuck in a stream bed. Zee is a wise man who knows better than to try more than once or twice to dislodge the truck, so he and Go went towards a nearby thicket to grab some wood to use as traction under the tires. The thicket also contained several elephants. They scratched that plan and called for the assistance of a tractor to come pull us out- apparently this has happened once or twice before. We had our sundowner (an evening cocktail consumed whilst watching the sun set) sitting in the truck, watching the light fade and the mosquito count escalate. Eventually we heard the growl of the tractor and directed the driver our way with flashlights- these guys truly have an amazing knowledge of the area and an uncanny ability to locate the lost and stranded. They truck was chained to the tractor and we were pulled free. The driver then towed us another several hundred meters down the stream/road until we were on dryer land. We made out way back to the lodge in total darkness, much of the route under water ranging from 4 inches to 3 feet deep. Fireflies flashed off to our sides. We made it back to the lodge within minutes of dinner, and were invited to have a seat at the bar while the table was set- our choice of beef or bream. Cara recommended the beef- Botswana beef apparently ranking among the best in the world. I'm not much of a red meat eater, and that dinner made me seriously question why not. It was amazing! Our dining companions were an entertaining quartet from Santa Barbara touring SA and Botswana for a few weeks. Dinner and dessert were finished by 9. We were escorted back to our rooms by Tizzar, and in bed by 9:30, so as to get 8 hours of sleep before the 5:30 wake up call for the morning game drive. Days 8 & 9- April 21 & 22 Suffice it to say, the next day and a half were incredible. 5:30 wake up calls to make sure we were ready for 6:30 game drives. An incredible wealth of wildlife in a relatively small area, our guides did all they could to ensure we saw as much as possible. Their skills and mother nature combined to give us a weekend we'll not soon forget. It was very hard to leave on Sunday afternoon- we'd seen so much and been made to feel so welcome. We found ourselves hoping that Zee wouldn't make it through the next stream, or that we'd be stopped by a herd of rogue water buffalo. Alas it was not meant to be. We arrived back in Maun around 4, and returned to the cottage to prepare for work tomorrow. For a full detailed report of the weekend, visit my blog on the Yaletown Pet Hospital web site, but then please return here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 4- April 17 I find myself getting back into the routine. We all met at the MAWS clinic for 8AM- all our patients were already present, having been dropped off the day before- Nation goes and picks up dogs from the surrounding villages mid-day, by which time our surgeries would be well enough recovered to pile into the 4X4 and be dropped off at their homes. 14 dogs were brought in for today, although one was surrendered to Nation for euthanasia- an ancient old man with generalized mange- not treatable under the circumstances. The remaining 13 cases were pretty straight forward spays and neuters, and we add the old girl with the TVT to the roster. Lazarus and Michelle have their technique down, and as soon as Richard or I finish one surgery, another patient slides onto the table. We're finished by noon, even with an unexpected baby-tooth extraction thrown in. I was successful, but had to improvise my technique since there was no actual dental equipment on hand. The old girl did well through surgery, and since we'll be here for 2 more weeks we'll be able to monitor how here TVT improves. While we're waiting for the last couple patients to recover, Ally arrived with Jackie and Isabelle in tow, fresh off the plane from Jo'burg. They're looking incredibly refreshed and awake considering their time in transit. They get the grand tour of the clinic and the 'Palmer Compound' and get introduced to the dogs before settling into the cottage. Day 5- April 18 Isabelle and Jackie seemed to sleep well last night, and I'm up puttering in the kitchen making coffee and eggs for quite some time before the door to their room opens. Jackie had expressed a concern for spiders last night, and after staking her claim on the big bedroom, changed her mind after finding spiders in the room. We cleared out the first one- a specimen about an inch in diameter, legs included, but very flat, coming only about 3mm above wall surface. But boy those suckers can move!! After discovering a couple more on the ceiling above her bed, she opted for a mosquito net and a single bed in Isabelle's room. After breakfast, we made the (2 minute) trek to the clinic where awaited a local woman, Helen, who wanted to have her dog spayed. "What's your dog's name?" we asked, thinking we'd discover a new Batswana word. "Lipice" she replied. Interesting. "What does Lipice mean?" She made a motion around her mouth as though putting on lipstick- her dog was named after a local brand of lip gloss! Lipice was amongst the 16 dogs we did surgery on- an equal mix of spays and neuters. Isabelle and Jackie got quickly up to speed under the expert tutelage of Lazarus, giving him time to do things he usually reserves for after the days' surgeries are finished. The recovery period is still the rate limiting step, and we stop early to allow the slow ones sufficient time to wake up before Nation loads them into the 4X4 and takes them back to their homes. We took advantage of Richards Monster Safari Truck, and had him chauffeur us around town. We stopped at Kalahari Kofi to use their free wifi- catch up on a couple hundred e-mails, mostly junk, that had accumulated over the previous 4 days, post a few gloating comments on Facebook, and have a decent cuppa coffee. This followed by a visit to Spar, one of two local grocery chains, for a few staples. On the way back to the ranch I received an urgent text from Ally- 2 dogs at the clinic had opened up their incisions and needed attention. I had left the MAWS phone at the cottage to charge- this made certain that we'd need to return to the clinic. We pulled into the clinic 5 minutes later and located the two dogs in question and assessed their situation: both had licked out their skin sutures, and one had pulled a little subcutaneous fat through the incision- it looks very dramatic, but only needs a little trimming. We sedated them, cleaned their incisions, restitched them, and reversed the sedative. In and out in less than 30 minutes. We thawed a couple tubs of chili for dinner- much of the food provided for the veterinarians has been donated to MAWS by local restaurants, so our freezer is full. A yummy dinner, a couple bottles of Windhoek lager, some entertaining chat and then off to bed. Day 6- April 19 Yesterday it was confirmed that the trip to the Cheetah Conservation Preserve at Ghanzi had been cancelled. The staff had apparently dispersed, so there was no one present to round up dogs for us. This morning we learned that instead of working this weekend we were being flown to Vumbara Plains on the northeast shore of the delta to spend a couple days at one of Wilderness Safari's lodges, as thanks for work done and work we'll be doing next week. Not bad work if you can get it! We are now working like a well oiled machine. The 14 surgeries were finished by 12:30- 12 spays and 2 neuters- and they had all recovered by 2. We kept one old girl at the clinic for observation, simply she because she's old and recovered slowly. We'll look in on her tonight and again tomorrow before flying to Vumbara, before sending her back home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Maun, Botswana- April 2012

DAY "1"
I call it day "1" because it started at 6AM on April 12th in Vancouver, but is only just winding down at 9:30PM, April 14th, having traveled more than half way around the world to Maun, Botswana. This is my second trip to Maun, and I look forward to sharing the experience with two other CAAT members. I'll have to wait to do that since they are currently spending a couple days in Frankfurt, having been sufficiently delayed leaving Calgary that they missed all their subsequent connecting flights. They won't be here for another couple days due to limited availability for the last leg of the journey: Johannesburg to Maun.
This was not a problem for me, even though it meant a delay getting up to speed with our efforts here. I must admit to having some feelings of trepidation as I made my way here via Beijing and Hong Kong- amongst the joys of traveling on air miles are the interesting itineraries they come up with. My concerns were quickly allayed as soon as I touched down at Maun International and that sense of comfort that comes with familiarity set in: Even though the box of medical supplies I brought along was held up at the airport awaiting the arrival of the appropriate permit. Even though all government offices are closed for the weekend and nothing would be done until Monday. Even though the official at the airport is the same one that Ally, one of the MAWS team, has been speaking with over the past week to ensure the supplies won't be held up, but still seemed completely unfamiliar with it all. Even though the only thing preventing me from opting for the 'Nothing to Declare' line at the airport, and bypassing the minimal security they have in place, is the fact that I'm Canadian, and it's what we do.... Even before Ally came through the doors of the customs area to my rescue, I was at ease- this was Africa. This was Botswana. This was how they do it here.
Ally and I got caught up on the ride from the airport- staffing changes at MAWS over the past year; our new quarters on the Palmer property a couple hundred feet from the MAWS clinic; the amazing success the group has had in their efforts last year, and that they're set to break those records again this year; the number of crocodiles still at large in the Thamalakane after a spring flood unleashed them from a local crocodile ranch. That sort of thing. We stopped at Choppies for some supplies, and the liquor store for a sixer of Windhoek, and made our way out of town to my home for the next couple weeks.
Once settled, we wandered down the road to the clinic to check things out. The calf who has been a resident for the past couple weeks following an altercation with a couple dogs, is still in the yard, keeping the grass trimmed and fertilized- her owners are taking their time retrieving her, but she should be gone tomorrow. Lucy, a recent tail amputee following an altercation with a car, is happy to see us, and even happier to be let out of her kennel for a run. Ally is twisting my arm to suggest she might need long term care at the clinic- perhaps for the rest of her life. She's sweet and rambunctious. The two other patients in the clinic will need attention tomorrow- one was hit by a car and has sustained pelvic fractures, but the last veterinarian through the clinic was optimistic that strict rest should get her through her predicament. The other is an older dog with several litters under her belt, and a transmissible venereal tumour (TVT)- something seen with significant regularity in these parts. She'll be on the to-do list for next week- spaying and the first of three or four weekly doses of vincristine, a chemotherapy agent, to address the tumour. She should do well.
The jet lag is kicking in. My eyes are becoming more and more challenging to keep open. I'm looking forward to these next two weeks perhaps even more than last year, since I kind of know what to expect. I'll keep you posted.

Day 2- April 15
It was Sunday- the clinic, like everything else in Maun, was closed. Spent the day with friends of Tana, another of the MAWS group, at a birthday party, then dinner with Virginia and Jann, our hosts from last year. I impressed myself with both my comfort behind the wheel of a right-hand drive vehicle, except for the part where I turn on the windscreen wipers when I mean to signal a turn- and my sense of direction, finding my way down the 2Km dirt track to their home. All 11 dogs were still present and doing well.

Day 3- April 16
It's so peaceful here. Until about 6AM when it starts to get light. The the ring neck doves start their rhythmic cooing, which wakes up not only me, but also every hornbill, rail, and 'Go-Away' bird (so named because their song sounds like a sheep saying 'Go away') in the 'hood. I'm feeling pretty well rested- jet lag seems to be a thing of the past. I'm also getting the hang of this 'cooking breakfast' thing- I'll have to dazzle Isabelle and Jackie when they arrive. Eating breakfast on the verandah seems to attract all the dogs on the property. They're good company, and don't really beg, so much as try to will my food into their mouths.
Richard, a veterinarian from Austin, Texas, who I met yesterday, and would be assisting us through some of CAAT's time here, arrived shortly before 8, and we walked down to the clinic. The dozen dogs Nation had dropped off the night before were resting comfortably, not knowing what awaited them. Once Lazarus, MAWS' full time veterinary assistant, arrived, we got started. Considering our unfamiliarity with the anaesthetic protocol, he and Michelle, a tech from Boston also volunteering her services, took control, calculated drug doses, and proceeded to knock out, catheterize, clip and prep all our patients, and get them on the surgery table. All Richard and I had to do was spay and neuter. Easy peasy.
We were done much sooner than anticipated, and in the meantime Nation was out rounding up tomorrow's surgery dogs- eleven as I write this, but that number has been known to change.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mulege Mexico 2012

FRIDAY, February 3rd

The team, after travelling on different days from different locations all met in Mulege today to begin our project with PAW (Patrons of Animal Welfare).   Liz and Ashley were our vets, Laura, Chris and Jackie our techs and Kris was our tech assistant.    Once we had settled into our accommodations (graciously provided by Joyce and Cliff) we headed to the clinic location for a tour, meet some of the PAW volunteers and to get organized before starting work tomorrow!    The clinic is in a storage facility outside of town and PAW has done an amazing job of stocking the clinic with as much equipment and supplies as they could get in.    Joyce is our main host and she is fabulous, she is making sure that whatever we need (transportation, food, information) she is providing!   CAAT's goal is to assist them in sterilizing as many animals as possible during this project.  

SATURDAY, February 4th

We arrived at the clinic to meet the PAW volunteers that were going to be assisting with admissions today.    We discovered, quite quickly, that Chihuahuas were going to be our main breed here!   Makes sense in Mexico!   Our first case arrived immediately, a Chihuahua Mix named Pecos that had eaten bones and had been vomiting for several days.  We went on to treat two more Chihuahuas for possible foreign body obstructions and the other for bruising and possible internal injuries from begin bitten by a larger dog.   It is quite common for dogs to eat alot of garbage and bones here so it is not uncommon to have issues!    We started our surgeries as well and got a system going with our two teams working together.

We ended the day at a restaurant called Sr. Geckos where there was a dinner celebrating the PAW organization and their sponsors, discussing animal welfare and the work that PAW has been doing locally.   Quite impressive work!   CAAT was asked to speak about the work that we do as an organization, there were many questions asked and the evening was quite a success.

SUNDAY, February 5th

Today we arrived at the clinic to a line up and a full house!    The PAW group did a stellar job with admissions and Chris worked steadily with pre-surgical exams, sedations and triaging walk ins and emergencies while Ashley and Liz did surgeries and Jackie and Laura did the anesthesia and monitoring.   The PAW volunteers changed every day but were quick to assist wherever needed as was our CAAT tech assistant, Kris.   All hands were needed on busy days and we worked together to keep the patients well cared for.   We were heading out to the car at lunch to go to the local unused school where some dogs were and found a very sweet, young, chocolate coloured mixed breed female lying under the car (shade).   We coaxed her out and she stole all our hearts immediately.    She was a stray and we decided to spay her and PAW would find her a home.  We completed 18 surgeries and had 12 walk in medical cases/vaccinations.

MONDAY, February 6

Along with our full house for surgeries we treated a puppy that had been hit by a car and a young dog whose face had been hit a few weeks ago and now had constant nasal discharge, he had a lab type face but sounded like a Pug when breathing!    We neutered him but also flushed his nasal and sinus cavities.   Technicians are an odd bunch - we all took great glee as Laura flushed out all the big chunks of mucus out of his nose!    Hoots and hollers each time one emerged!   He went home with one of the PAW volunteers, thanks Terry, to recover and get his antibiotics regularly.    We were also very excited that a Canadian couple from British Columbia came by and adopted our little chocolate girl we had found under the car the day before!    She is the sweetest little dog and we all were thrilled she is going to become a Canadian citizen!!

TUESDAY, February 7

BUSY BUSY place today, people everywhere!   Our usual surgeries were streaming in first thing in the morning, it was very hectic for the first hour or so, getting everyone admitted and weighed and examined, but then we fell into our routine and worked away.   We had a tiny Chihuahua mix with a gun shot wound, upon exploratory surgery Ashley discovered that, sadly the BB pellet had perforated the bowel and the spleen and we had to humanely euthanize the dog.   The owner, who did not speak English came up to us afterward, with her little dog in her arms, with tears streaming down her face, and put a hand on Chris's shoulder and said "Gracias".   :(   Although you see difficult things on these trips at times, people that don't seem to care about the dogs or cats, there is no doubt, that in every place we have been, there are people that care a great deal. 

WEDNESDAY, February 8

We woke up to torrential rain today!   It is very uncommon, according to the locals, to have rain in Mulege, let alone this heavy rain.   We headed to work bright and early as usual.  

Kris Riggins, our education coordinator for this project, met with the PAW volunteers interested in starting and education program there, and demonstrated the Bite Free program and discussed the need for education with animal welfare work.     The PAW group will continue to work with Kris through emails to get an education program going in Mulege and area.  

A local boy that lives right beside the clinic, Davida, brought his horse to show us, it was not in need of veterinary care, he was just very proud of his horse.   The horse was in great shape and it was obvious Davida took very good care of him.  We continued our surgeries and medical cases and it continued to rain.   By the end of the day, we went in to Mulege for groceries and found a very muddy Mulege!   Some of the side streets were being washed away, one of the stores had 2 inches of water on the floor (leaky roof).  It continued to rain all night!

THURSDAY, February 9

It is unbelievably, our last day in the clinic!  Time has flown by but we have been busy and never turned anyone away.   One of the things we have noticed during our time here is that alot of the feral (stray) cats are absolutely stunning!   Flame point Siamese types, Himilayan types, very interesting coat patterns, truly beautiful and unusual cats.   The dogs have ranged from a Weimeraner, Schnauzer, Spaniel types, LOTS of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua Mixes, PitBulls, and the usual reddish brown, short coats, mid sized dogs we see everywhere we go!     We had a busy day with several extra cases thrown in but we finished them all.    

Throughout the course of the week, we had several "observers" and young volunteers.   Our youngest volunteer was 4 or 5years old and came with his grandfather every day to volunteer, he observed surgeries, asked lots of questions, and cleaned instruments (the dull ones) and cages.   Two young girls on different days, who were interested in veterinary medicine came in to assist, both very inquisitive and mature.   We also had a young veterinary student come in that observed surgeries and (through a translator) was able to learn a few new things from our technicians and vets.   We also had a human orthopedic surgeon in for a couple of days to observe and assist.   Each a very interactive and educational experience on many different levels for all (including the CAAT members!)

We passed on some of the knowledge and experience we have gained with field hospital veterinary work to the PAW group for their visiting vet program for which we were the inaugural group.  The PAW volunteers told us they were thrilled by the accomplishment of the past week, 78 surgeries were completed and 130 vaccinations.   PAW is doing a wonderful job in Mulege and with their local vet one day a week and their visiting vets program should be able to continue to do so.   During our time here, often through translators, we met many wonderful Mexican locals who absolutely loved their dogs and cats.    We were very happy to have been able to reach so many of them.    
PLEASE visit our FLICKR account on our website for pictures of this Project.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


We are very excited to be sending a team down to Mulege, Mexico next week.   The team of six members will be assisting the PAW (Patrons of Animal Welfare) organization there with a sterilization and vaccination clinic as well as starting a humane education program.    We will keep you posted on the daily work once we are there!  


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