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.