October 30, 2009

A Life or Death Sentence for Sabrina the Dog.

October 25, 2009:  Iquitos, Peru

by Molly Mednikow

I have been blogging about our visit to the Amazon Animal Orphanage.  Nobody could actually describe things more clearly than the Vet Adventurer himself, Luke Gamble.  So be sure to read his thoughts on the day on his blog

We continue to delay our river voyage as emergency cases turn up.  We visited a very poor family with a 10 year old dog, Sabrina. She had such massive tumors hanging from her mammary glands that even walking had become difficult and painful for her. The family live as many families do in Iquitos.  They have a pre-teen and two children under 5 in a two room hut with a combo tin and dried grass roof. Other features included a queen sized mattress on a bed frame, a hammock across the middle of the room, a fridge, gas stove, a assortment of roosters, hens, chickens, and baby chicks. They had a TV and a booming stereo system. They had a rustic outdoor shower outside the kitchen, a large backyard filled with an array of trash or treasure, and a second "bathroom" at the back of the yard.

The front room had a concrete floor and was basically empty. They kept their door locked and windows open and children and some adults come to knock on the windowsill to request medicines, candy, cold drinks, etc. The tiny store had a bit of everything! The man in the family, named, seriously, "Hitler," is a "Nurse Technician," which, honestly, could mean anything.  But apparently this was the neighborhood "pharmacy."  No prescriptions needed.

Luke and Veterinarian Annie Cook performed a 3 hour operation to remove the massive breast cancer tumors from Sabrina.  They estimated she had born ten litters of puppies.  Luke has described so much about her condition on his blog today.  Check out his entry entitled "Sabrina."  He is too humble to mention the conditions that he faced while operating on her.  Removing cancerous mammary glands can be quite tricky as several central veins run through this area.  Had Luke cut one, things would have turned very bad, very quickly.  I watched a large part of the surgery and learned a great deal, and Luke has amazing techniques to prevent such disasters.

The surgery was performed in sweltering heat and humidity.  During the last half hour, however, it began to rain.  Hard.  Luke finished the surgery crouching under tree branches and under a thin shower curtain two men held over the surgery table.  I had come along as a translator, and spent most of the time off camera.  During the downpour I huddled in the house with the kids, puppies, assorted chicks, roosters and a hen trying to lay eggs on the bed. 

We brought Sabrina back to the CARES clinic for recovery.  I slept next to her on the floor for an hour at one point during the night.  Annie and Luke came to check on her and "relieved me," although it wasn´t a burden to watch over and keep this loving animal warm.  I returned to a bed upstairs and at some point I heard the door close downstairs.  This is when Luke left at 4:45 AM.  He apparently spent some quality time on the floor comforting Sabrina as well.  I went down and added to the small pillow he´d placed on the floor and showed her affection until I fell asleep.  I am unsure at what hour the Vets came in again, but they are so thorough in their careful monitoring that I´m sure I wasn´t asleep on the floor for long.

With the Amazon CARES team already in CaballoCocha on their trip with Worldwide Veterinary Service volunteers, Luke decided it would be best to monitor Sabrina 24 hours a day by bringing her on the boat.  We are finally off on our river voyage on "La Neñita" for four days.

Support for the CaballoCocha spay/neuter project is being provided by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.  Their grant has paid for all needed medicines.  The Worldwide Veterinary Service generously provided eight veterinary volunteers as well as in-kind donations.

To learn more this exciting documentary which will feature Amazon CARES, visit Red Earth Studios.

*Check back for updates on Sabrina.

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