Wednesday, November 24, 2010
New kid on the…mountain!
Hello everyone. My name is Joye and I´m a technican from Nova Scotia taking part in this amazing experience in Guatemala. You may have read the blog entry about my clinic, Truro Veterinary Hospital, and their huge contribution enabling me to be here. If so, you know that I only had 1 week to prepare for this trip. We are now a week and a half into things and I think I´ve finally figured out what I´m doing here! 🙂
So many things are different here from the dogs we see back home, of course. The average body condition score is 2 out of 5 rather than 4 and the dogs are all infested with fleas and intestinal parasites. Of course, the clients speak mostly Spanish or Mam (a traditional language), so I have a hard time communicating most of the time. That being said..the “appointments” are similar to those at home in many ways. We discuss diet and parasite control and vaccination and the importance of spaying and neutering, in much the same way we would in Canada. As at home, some people are very receptive to our comments, and some are not. I guess some things are the same all over the world.
Last week we visited the community of San Martin and stayed with families there. The family I stayed with was so helpful and pleasant to be with, even if I´m pretty sure we had to walk to Mexico to get to their house! The people in San Martin, and their dogs, were very different from those we´ve seen in the central portion of Todos Santos. The dogs were thinner and in many cases more fearful or hostile to us during exams. The community seems much less traditional and more Westernized, with more Mexican influence. It´s only an hour by bus away, so the differences were very remarkable.
This week is spay week and so far it´s progressing very well. It´s sooo cold here in the mornings, however, so we are often off to a slow start. I spend much of the early morning shivering and huddled by our meager heater, and I developed a cold on Monday that has been hanging with me throughout the week. Today some members of the team presented a show and activity for the children here on dog safety which was very entertaining and well received. Roberto as Scooby Doo was a huge hit! 🙂
Well, that´s all my news for now. One more day of spays left and then some catching up and organizing..so hard to believe it´s almost over already. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this experience so amazing for me!!
Joye Posted by Joye at 3:24 PM 0 comments Wednesday 5h30pm….my first time blogging since I arrived in Todos Santos. So much to say but lets concentrate on the kid activity that took place today. It was just GREAT! The afternoon consisted in a play teaching kids how to avoid dog bites and how to feed them more proteins by giving to their dog one to two eggs per week, followed by an english class (veterinarian related) for kids 9 years and older and some drawing for kids 8 years and younger. We were hoping to be able to have 200 kids, I would say we got about 100 kids and I was told its a pretty good turn out for Todos Santos. Roberto was wearing a Scoobie Doo costume for the play, I was a veterinarian and Kelly (Peace Corp volunteer) was Rosita (Scoobie`s owner)
Disons que la piece de theatre fut un succes! Tous les enfants voulaient des photos avec nous et tous ont, je l`espere appris comment eviter les morsures de chiens en lisant le language corporel des chiens, en immitant la roche ou bien l`arbre! Nous avions a la fin de l`activite une collation consistant en un chocolat chaud (pour nous rechauffer en fin d`apres midi) et un morceau de pain rempli de confiture a la banane.
Apres la piece de theatre, Roberto s`est occupe de la classe d`anglais avec les plus vieux et moi des dessins avec les plus jeunes. Les dessins apprenaient aux enfants comment se comporter avec les chiens. Ne pas deranger une mere qui allaite, un chien qui mange, ne pas les frapper, ne pas toucher un chien inconnu, etc…Chaque enfant avait une feuille differente et etait en groupe de 4 pour partager une boite de crayon. J`allais d`enfant a enfant en leur expliquant la signification du dessin. Une chance que j`avais l`aide de Benita (notre traductrice MAM, leur dialecte Maya) car les petits bout de choux ne parlent pas beaucoup l`espagnol.
Bugs, bugs and more bugs
Buenas tardes from TS. We have been super busy over the past few days. We have all had a bit of a touch of some respiratory issues here….lots of colourful things living in our lungs i think…which makes the climbs at this elevation somewhat difficult. It makes the flea and bed bug bites seem less of an issue…although Roberto, like last yuear, seems to have the right blood type for the fleas!
Last week we spent 3 days in San Martin, another community about an hour away. It was an interesting experience for us. We were billeted two by two with local families. Our sleeps were not always great as we often had cannons going off at 5 am (religious celebrations ???), roosters crowing starting at 2 am (where are their watches?), dog fights all through the night and fellow roommates who snored loud. The families were gracious and welcoming to us and opened their homes and fed us well. The dogs in San martin were very different than those in Todos Santos. They were very untrusting of people and uninhibited…which was somewhat dangerous and less than relaxing at times. They were also very very thin….which reminds me of the importance of the dump here in Todos Santos and the small slaughter facilities as very important sources of nutrition for the roaming dogs. We only saw a couple dogs out of the many that were in decent body condition. And the puppies were in exceedingly poor condition….a bad combination of intestinal parasites and malnutrition. We were glad to be able to help out there a bit and will see what next year brings. It was a tiring three days for us and we were glad to get back to the simple comforts (??) of Todos Santos.
We started our spays yesterday and i think have done about 8 or ten. It is soooo cold in the morning that we are having to wait until 9 am before the room is warm enough to even consider opening up an abdomen. They are going well so far and we have just two more days of it left. Tomorrow is the grand VWB-VSF fiesta for the kids. Big Dr Roberto has his Scooby Doo costume and a play is planned for the children to discuss responsible pet ownership with the kids as well as proper dog handling and how to avoid dog bites. Plus there awill also be a bit of an english lesson. We are expecting about 200 kids and of course snacks will be provided! It should be great.
Well i must sign off now. It is great being here and seeing so many familiar faces. What has been striking for me is how many return clients we are seeing with their dogs….and most of the males have been castrated by us. All seem to be in good health and are in good body condition. It is wonderful to be able to continue our talk with the clients about parasite control and nutrition. We have figured out that it takes roughly 2 tortillas/kg of dog to have a decent body condition….that means about 30 tortillas for the average size dog here….which would keep the tortilla maker of the family very busy! Most dog receive just 10 tortillas a day…which means they must scavenge the rest off the street. Our talks on nutrition have probably helped these dogs the most.
2 Tortillas per Kilogram of Dog
You learn some unexpected things when you work in a foreign country. The dogs in Todos Santos aren`t fed dog food and a routine question during our exams, especially if the dog is thin or the owner reports it isn`t eating, is to ask what they are feeding the dog and usually the answer is ‘tortillas’.
During our clinics in San Martìn we learned that it takes 2 tortillas per kilogram of dog to keep a dog in good body condition. This was our 1st time working in San Martìn and we were billeted in local families homes, two of us per house. At one house the woman keeps her dog in the yard – so he doesn´t roam and can´t scavenge. So we know that all he gets to eat is what she feeds him and what she feeds him is tortillas only. She feeds him 30 tortillas per day – which she makes by hand as well as all the tortillas for her family – and he is in good body condition. He weighs 15 kg so now we know that it takes 2 tortillas per kg to feed a dog.
Things they don`t teach you in vet college.
The clinics in San Martìn went well but the people there are less familiar with our project so it took awhile for word to get around about what we were doing. The dogs seemed skinnier than the ones we`ve been seeing in the communities so far and we`re not sure why. We`d love to think that it`s our influence but it`s more likely that they have access in El Centro to the slaughterhouse and meat markets. Maybe it`s a combination.
One little puppy in San Martìn broke our hearts. She came in with a dog that was getting sterilized and she stayed in our clinic (which was held in one of the classrooms in the local school as classes are out until January) through the afternoon till the other dog woke up from his anesthetic. She was very snmall and skinny and ate ravenously when we gave her some of our food. After the other dog`s procedure she went over to curl up beside him on his blanket and they both slept the afternoon away until the owner came to get them. He carried the bigger dog home and a little boy was supposed to carry the puppy home but we saw them way down the main street with the old man carrying the big dog and the puppy trotting along beside – and the little boy nowhere to be found. About 20 minutes later the little puppy came trotting back in through the gate all by herself and back into the classroom. We had to carry her back and find her house – where they hadn`t realized she was gone.
The kids in San Martìn were great. Because school is out we were an attraction so we had groups of them hanging out with us as we recovered the sedated dogs. They chatted away, asked about all our equipment and were particularly fascinated by our hot water bottles.
Back in El Centro we did two more days of clinics and last Monday we started our spay clinics for the females – which we`ll do all this week.
Hasta luego. Posted by Tracy at 1:23 PM 0 comments Tuesday, November 16, 2010
We had an incredibly busy day today at Los Pablos. We haven´t counted up our final numbers today but we´re estimating we saw 125 to 150 dogs today. Lots of vaccines and some chemical sterilizations of the males. It´s been interesting rechecking the male dogs we did in 2009. Their testicles are still present but usually palpably smaller, firmer, often assymetrical.
We made appointments for the females for next week when we do our surgical spays.
Again it was great to see some familiar people and dogs. We saw one of the 3 puppies we saw last year with Rawant´s owner. All grown-up and feisty. His name is Muñeco, very healthy. Most of the dogs are very fearful and can be challenging to handle but a few of them are incredibly relaxed and friendly – often dogs from the same households so it likely has a lot to do with how they are raised.
Many of the dogs we are seeing are not as skinny as before. Some quite healthy and with one dog we actually had to have ¨the talk¨about being too heavy. Still seeing a few of the venereal tumours (TVTs) which is depressing especially in dogs that have been sterilized – just not soon enough! Hopefully we´ll see the incidence of this decrease as more dogs are sterilized before being sexually active. It´s a treatable disease but requires once a week IV injections for 4 to 6 weeks and we are not here long enough to do this and it can´t be done by anyone in Todos Santos after we are gone. One owner is willing to go to HueHuetenango every week for 6 weeks for treatment if we can find a vet willing and able to do the treatment. That´s a 2-3 hour bus ride there and back. We´ll look into it for her.
1st Clinic Day
Just finished our 1st day of clinics. We’re in the community of Los Mendozas in Todos Santos. The rest of the team arrived late yesterday afternoon on the bus from HueHue (Huehuetenango) after a 5 hour ride up from Guatemala City. Poor Kate (our indefatigable team leader) had to hop right back onto another bus with Marjo (head tech) heading to San Martin, another hour away. They were meeting with the local council to finalize some arrangements for Veterinarians Without Borders Canada’s 1st project in that community. The local council are each going to billet 2 team members and we’ll be doing the clinics in the local school since the kids are out of school until January. Lots of dogs there so we’ll be busy!
The rest of the team got the supplies together for today’s clinic and Roberto went on the radio to make another announcement about our 2 week project in Todos Santos.
We all got up bright and early this morning to get ready and our 1st patients arrived shortly after 8 AM. The dogs are looking pretty healthy – better body condition than previously. A few dogs with skin problems, one dog with an infected elbow from a dog bite, a couple of males with TVTs (Transmissible Venereal Tumours) and one poor dog with a massive facial tumour.
We helped the ones we could (antibiotics, pain control) and we’ll do some housecalls later in the week to follow up.
Most of the dogs we could manage with muzzles and soothing words but we had one dog that its owners couldn’t manage so we’ll try again early tomorrow at our next clinic and see if we can get a muzzle on. The owners want the dog sterilized so we’ll do our best to make it happen.
We saw a few old friends including Terry the Rottweiler with the infection from last November. He’s looking good, doing well.
Many of the dogs coming in have been sterilized already but their owners want a health check. A few puppies for checkups that we’ll see next year when they are older.
It feels good to be back and nice to see familiar faces and walks the streets (and CLIMB the hills) we knew last year. We have 5 returning team members this year and one new tech, Joye, who amazingly, was able to make arrangements to come at the last minute when we were down a tech.
We are fewer team members this year so we’re going to have to be as efficient as possible.
Time to head back to the clinic to help load up the truck to take our gear to Los Pablos, where we’ll be holding our next clinic tomorrow.
Just wanted to give you a little update on the Todos Santos clinics – starting next week! We have a great team and Tracy and Marjo are already there preparing everything. We are reaching out to an additional community about an hour away this year too – so hopefully that will go over well. I can’t wait to hear what happens this year! Last Friday, we weren’t so sure if we would have a complete team to send because our new additional technician had to withdraw from the team due to visa problems. We were very sad and of course, stressed because the team was already quite small this year!
I decided to write to Joye Sears, a technician in Truro, who had applied after we sent out our call for volunteers in September. She was very keen but did not speak any Spanish so we did not select her. With only one week to organize – she is GOING! It’s really great and I can’t believe it has worked out. She, like all the others, is responsible to pay for her flight, which given the short notice ended up being something like 1300$. Plus she is having to take 2 weeks off work without any notice.
I just spoke to her on the phone and she told me that her clinic, Truro Veterinary Hospital, (165 Arthur St Truro NS) decided to pay for her flight and give her one week’s wages!!!! They have decided that this is important for the global community and will be making a fund available, from now on, to their staff for community services, etc. WOW. I wanted to share this because I think this is a great example of clinics getting involved and giving back!
Thank you Truro Veterinary Hospital for helping to support Joye and the Todos Santos Project! -Enid