November 25, 2009

A kitten's fight against the laws of nature.

Can sheer will and determination help a tiny kitten survive?  I've tried before.  Most recently with Sabrina.  When Amazon CARES first started I remember nursing a tiny puppy with a syringe of puppy milk substitute.  She had been abandoned at two weeks of age.  She did not survive.

Animal rescue is more than tending to the abused and ill.  There are certain natural laws that, no matter how hard we try, can't be broken.  In this case, the mother cat could not deliver her litter.  Her owner brought her to us and we had to deliver her babies by C-section.  The cat, already traumatized, is suffering greatly from the pain of the surgery, and, one wonders, from the emotional aftermath of the surgery.  One kitten was stillborn.  Two survived.  The mother (still under the effects of anesthesia and pain medicine), fell asleep on top of one kitten.  Another sad outcome, and one kitten remains, struggling, yet surviving.  (S)he is seeking affection and milk from a mother cat than is unable to provide it at this time.  The cat has no milk.  The cat is in recovery, barely able to stand up and open her eyes.

We have been feeding the kitten a substitute milk with a tiny syringe.  Luckily, the kitten drinks it.  Last night I stayed up all night with the kitten.  The plan was to set my alarm at two hour intervals, but the alarm didn't work, and I remained so uptight that I couldn't sleep.  Still bearing the guilt of Sabrina's death, I imagined that this little kitten would not die without a fight.  I am happy to say the kitten is still alive.  (S)he drinks the milk, eagerly at times, and then nestles up to his/her mother seeking warmth. 

I checked on the cat and kitten throughout the night.  This morning the mother cat was recovering a bit, and more aware of her baby.  If we can make it another week or two, I will feel a lot better.

Ironically, when I was a child I was afflicted with an illness that prevented me from eating.  I eventually ended up in the hospital, but my parents did not want that to happen.  I'll never forget my father waking me up every few minutes to feed me a teaspoon of sugar water.  He stayed by my side throughout the night.  My Mom stayed in the kitchen, supporting my Dad, and bringing little teaspoons of glucose for me.  How lucky I am to have had devotion and will of both parents on my side.  I'm no cat, nor am I a parent, but I'm doing my best to share their devotion that I so fondly remember from my childhood.

Thanks Mom and Dad.

November 23, 2009

4:30 AM greeting by police and their dogs....

by Veterinary Volunteer Naimi Collins

Day 1:  The day started very early with a 4:30 AM wake up call.  We struggled out of bed, gathered our things, and stumbled out to pack all of our medical equipment and our tired selves into the motorkarts to get to the port.

We were greeted by police men and 2 sniffing dogs because our destination is located very close to the Columbian border.  Our boat was a very long speedboat that looked like an old airplane inside.  Amazingly we were provided with food, drink and even a pull down TV on the 7 hour journey along the Amazon!  We had a good laugh on the trip.

Our arrival to CaballoCocha included a transfer to a smaller wooden boat.  CaballoCocha was not what I expected.  Instead of a dirt road jungle village it had paved roads and a pretty village square.  The square busted with street food stalls, a huge church, and lots of dogs.  That's when we first met a mange ridden dog who adopted us for the whole trip.  We called her Fluffy.

The hotel was filled with art and run by an American speaking Peruvian with long hair and a goatee beard.  He was very animated and we learned that his style is part of the local religious community, the Israelites.  The hotel was fine, but the toilet didn't work and shower offered just a small dribble.  Instead of fixing those things though, he brought us a plasma flat screen TV.  We laughed at the irony.

That night and had a few local beers and went to sleep prepared for the very next day . . .

November 21, 2009

A Nurse´s Fight for Fluffy

Fluffy’s Rescue Story by Veterinary Volunteer Naima Collins

The volunteers feared for her survival.

It was the first day of our neutering project in Caballococha. A few of us decided to go for a well deserved beer after our 8 hour journey down the Amazon to get there. We were all sitting along the outside bar laughing and sharing our experiences so far. As we were sitting there I noticed this very pretty but mange ridden dog sitting staring at us. I got of my stool and called her over. She took on that hunched doggy stance with her little stump of a tail wagging furiously say I’m a bit nervous but I’m really happy your talking to me. I stroked her and that was it. Slowly she introduced herself to all of us! Clearly she had decided “I like these guys, I know they will help me, I’m sticking around”.

From then on she followed us everywhere. She slept outside our hotel; she followed us to breakfast, then to our clinics. If we went somewhere by boat or motorkart she would be back at the hotel waiting. We treated her skin and neutered her. I estimate she is about nine months old. Daily her confidence grew. She let us pick her up and wash her with complete trust. This is unusual for a street dog.

Even the hotel owner said she has chosen you; you guys have to take her back.

On the last night she followed Bruno, Maria and I into a night club! I tried to shoo her out and went up on a balcony. Worriedly I watched her run around the floor of the club when she spotted us and took a flying leap up the stairs to join us amazingly there she remained!!

And the volunteers named her Fluffy  A photo of Naima Collins, the volunteer determined to rescue Fluffy!

The next day we took her back. It was a traumatic journey because they would not let her on the boat because she smelt. They said to put her on the roof. I protested and could not help but cry, she would have died in the heat. Grudgingly they put her in the engine room and I was so worried all the way.

I was frantic for her when we finally arrived. We had to wait for all the luggage to be offloaded before we got her. I scooped her in my arms as she cheerfully ran up to us. They are tough cookies these dogs. Molly and I took her back to the shelter after a night at the clinic.

It will be a while but slowly her hair is growing in little tufts and fluff (hence Fluffy). She had a little bit of conjunctivitis but on the mend. She is the most friendly, loving girl with dogs as well as people. She craves affection. All the dogs are special but Fluffy stole my heart. I do miss her.

So please help Fluffy recover. These dogs need help as there are not many places of refuge for these dogs. Thanks to Amazon Cares she is ok.

Fluffy is comfortable at the CARES shelter. Fluffy, recovering at the Amazon CARES shelter.

Click here to lend your support to: Fluffy needs medical care. and make a donation at !

You can make a micro-donation for Fluffy´s continued care.  Thank you to Fluffy´s sponsor´s thus far:

Vince Cowdry
Mark Riddle
Darlene Davis
Naima Collins



November 19, 2009

Trip Report by "bad actress" Dr. Annie Cook

“You are a terrible actress!” These words were directed at me on the second day of filming a documentary for the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) in Peru. Fortunately I am a better veterinarian and I am happy to stick with my day job. I could say that the WVS /Amazon Cares trip was “the most amazing trip of my life”! In the context of having participated in more than ten WVS trips over the past 2 years to a variety of locations this is hardly insignificant. What made this the most memorable trip?

I arrived in Iquitos, Peru having flown from Australia through the UK and the USA. It was a five day journey through five continents and I was shattered. I was last in Iquitos in 2007 (picture on left)on my first WVS trip. It was amazing to be back – to see the brown river snake through the trees as the plane landed and feel the rush of humid air as the doors opened. I was straight to work neutering dogs at the clinic with the familiar team Esther, Miguel, Harry, Behtjane and Molly and the WVS team. There is really nothing like neutering a stray dog in the jungle. The 30 degree heat and 80% humidity mean it is a race to complete the surgery before the parasites or your own sweat land in the surgery field.

The next day we were in Belen market. The bustle of people, the tables of freshly caught fish and raw meat, rolled cigarettes as thick as your finger, bowls of fat squirming grubs for sale, the smells, the colours and the noise are overwhelming even for the experienced traveller. It has always been one of my favourite locations for a neutering clinic with the surgery tables set above the meat market and an audience of vultures hanging over the eaves. It did not disappoint and I was pleased to see the number of people attending the clinic. This has been a significant change from 2007 when we had to scour the market and collect dogs with nets. It is a testament to the hard work and education that Amazon Cares has carried out in the community over that time.

Luke and the camera crew arrived the next day and now the vultures had company. If the team was overwhelmed by the location and the heat there was now the added pressure of working with a lens trained on you. With beads of sweat dripping off the end of my nose all I could think was “my mother is going to watch this” and women are meant to glow not sweat like a horse in work!

The WVS team headed to Caballo Cocha for an outreach clinic leaving Molly and I with the extreme camera team! The first stop was the Amazon Cares Jungle Shelter where Luke and Molly were able to assess the animals and talk about plans for the continued collaboration with WVS. For me it meant learning how to “STAY OUT OF SHOT” and wondering “what are all those acronyms and TV jargon?”

The next day we were at the Amazon Animal Orphanage, a sanctuary for rescued orphans of the bush meat trade, run by Gudrun – an Austrian expatriate. After a couple of hours Luke had won hearts all round except for “the little bitch” Toni a capuchin monkey who had a reputation for pick pocketing and generally causing mayhem around the centre. Tony had been a pet and her upper canine teeth had been clipped by her previous owner. These were infected and draining sinus tracts ran down her cheeks. Despite her protests Luke was able to anaesthetise her and remove the offending teeth. Gudrun later reported that Toni’s opinion of Luke did not change and to show her gratitude she destroyed all the medication we left for ongoing treatment. Luke also removed a nasty mass from one of the macaws and Gudrun reported that he was flying better since the op and was fortunate to escape an opossum attack later that week. It is always satisfying to learn that our interventions have a positive impact on our patients.

During the excitement of the animal orphanage Marc (the producer) and I had tracked down a dog with nasty mammary tumours. The owner was desperate to relieve her dog’s suffering. Luke and I examined Sabrina the next day and debated the benefits of surgery for this old girl. She was in obvious discomfort due to the tumours which affected both sides of her mammary tissue and were over 15cm in length and 10cm in diameter. We weighed up the anaesthetic risks and the possibility that the tumours had already spread to other organs and given the fact that Sabrina was in good health we decided to go for it. It was a long surgery as the tumours on the right side extended over 30cm and we had to remove the lot. It started to rain in the middle of the operation and the family provided a makeshift tent over Luke and me as we hurried to finish. The surgery went well but it was a difficult procedure in extreme conditions. At home we would have had the benefits of preanaesthetic blood testing, xrays, ultrasound and a sterile theatre but here we had a minimal pharmacy of drugs, a kitchen table in the garden and clinical experience to guide us. I got my second taste of “performing” for the camera and despite some much needed coaching from Luke was still unsure why the cameraman wanted to film me staring at nothing for two minutes earning the unforgettable exclamation regarding my acting ability. The surgery progressed despite the camera crew and I was pleased to learn that the filming does not interfere with the process. I was a little more exasperated to learn that the less important things like walking in and out of a door or getting in and out of a taxi often require multiple shots! Who knew?!?!?!

We left the next day for an outreach clinic downriver. There really is nothing like being on the Amazon. It is a massive motorway, the M1, of the rainforest and instead of lorries, entire trees float past you. The sky is a cathedral like dome of colour extending it appears more than 180 degrees around you and at night the Milkyway is a highway of light above you. If you ignore the insects, the heat and the fact that you bath in filthy river water at the end of everyday it is idyllic! Sabrina unfortunately did not recover well from her operation and we took her with us on the boat for ongoing treatment. Despite our efforts she sadly passed away the next day. The team including cameraman, soundman and producer shared Luke and my disappointment and we buried her on a small hill overlooking the river. A much needed swim in the piranha infested waters of the Amazon washed away some of our cares that evening.

We ran an outreach clinic for the villagers of Yanamono at a library in the Amazon established by an American expatriate - Nancy. We were able to provide some basic treatment for a large number of animals and arrange for ongoing treatment for some of the more chronic cases. Amazon Cares has been coordinating clinics to this part of the forest for a number of years and it was great to see the eagerness with which people sought care for their animals.

The next day we were due to vaccinate a number of buffalo in the area that have been affected by rabies from bats. Nothing could have prepared us for these animals. The buffalo were unhandled and their keepers feared them. After lassoing the animals the fun started as we attempted to get close enough to the raging animals to give the much needed injection. I deferred to Luke’s experience in this area and whilst he tackled buffalo and rolled in the mud I kept my distance preferring to wait until they (Luke and buffalo) were on the ground before assuming my role as vaccinator. Bloody great hero that I am!

I quickly learned one of the less pleasant sides to filming. Continuity! The audience needs to think that everything happens in one day - apparently!!!! So I was forced to wear the same clothes for 4 days. Despite my protestations and whining Marc would not let up and once again images of my mother’s horror haunted me as I put on the same clothes to be filmed repeatedly getting on and off the boat or walking up and down a hill. I am still incredulous regarding the necessity of these shots!

That evening we were lucky to see the elusive pink river dolphins and were graced with the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. It lasted for at least half an hour of ever increasing beauty. As flames of red, amber and pink flicked the night sky and were reflected in the still waters of the Amazon we all enjoyed a much needed and well earned beer (Molly drank her first bottle of beer!)  It had been a hard but worthwhile and rewarding trip. 

The final day of the film crew’s visit was undoubtedly the best. Despite tiredness, illness and tension we visited a rescue centre for endangered manatees. The manatee is an aquatic mammal threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. Daryl Richardson founder of the Dallas World Aquarium has established a rescue centre for these endearing animals. Luke and Daryl discussed the importance of education in protecting these animals and their environment and introduced a new manatee to the established group. They are beautiful, gentle, soft creatures and it was a privilege to be a part of the process of rehabilitating them back to the wild.

The WVS team returned from Caballo Cocha that day after a successful neutering and vaccination clinic and the film crew began their epic 30 hour journey home via Lima and Madrid. Despite my own adventures I had missed the team and it was great to be back to “real” veterinary work in the communities. We spent the remainder of the time running neutering and outreach clinics before the team began to head home. Carolien (vet nurse) and I were pleased to be able to spend a day on Monkey Island (another rescue centre for orphaned primates) making some recommendations for parasite control and we hope to be able to continue assisting them in the future.

Iquitos is how I imagine the Wild West. There are no horses or cowboys but it is extremely remote and full of characters looking for something. For most people who come to Iquitos they are looking for self discovery normally with the help of the hallucinogen ayahuasca. I didn’t need the help of psychogenic substances for my journey of self discovery. Working with an amazing and professional group of people in both the WVS/Amazon Cares Veterinary Team and the film crew reminded me why I spend a great deal of my time doing these trips and how rewarding they are!


November 15, 2009

Princess's Journey to Find a Family

Princess captured the hearts of the Amazon CARES and Vet Ventures Team with her kind look. From the beginning of the year (2009), day and night she remained close by, closely watching us as we worked the Sterilization Campaign for the benefit of the city of Requena. It was she who chose us as her master.

As the days passed, Princess became a member of the Amazon CARES and Vet Ventures Teams, while our deadline to leave Requena grew close. The thought of leaving Princess behind to wander alone and defenseless in the streets tormented us all. She had captured our hearts, so we brought her with us. In Iquitos, healthy and happy, she will have a better chance to have a family.

Princess suffers from epilepsy In dogs, epilepsy is very similar to that in humans, and can be defined as, "an unloading of electrochemistry in the brain, appearing at any time and becoming repetitive with time.”

This means that Princess needs medicines like Fenobarbital and Silimarina for the rest of her life in order to control the seizures. Since receiving these medications, there has been no more convulsions and Princess now waits be adopted.

Amazon CARES has decided to administer these medications to Princess for anyone who adopts her, for as long as is necessary, since these medications are strictly regulated under the Peruvian law.

Here you can see her very healthy and happy with a full coat of shiny hair. She now has her own family! Her collar and lead are donated by the generosity of

We are appreciative of people willing to adopt a special needs pet, which is a very recent trend in Iquitos,

Uploaded by AmazonCARES on 14 Nov 09, 8.49AM CST.

November 14, 2009

Geraldo is adopted quickly.

Geraldo is adopted quickly.
Geraldo is adopted quickly.,
originally uploaded by AmazonCARES.
We all love him so, and he was such a SMART dog. Yet, we must be joyful when a pet finds a family of his own. All adoptees receive a beautiful, high quality collar and lead due to the generosity of

Geraldo is named for Gerald Pool, a supporter and Advisor for Amazon CARES. Thank you Gerald!

November 12, 2009

Vet Report: Highs, Lows & Pink Dolphins

Click here to lend your support to: Fluffy needs medical care. and make a donation at !

Dateline:  October 31, 2009
Author:  Debbie Baird
Locale:  Caballo Cocha, Peru

Today we leave Caballo Cocha after one week.  We pull away from the river bank, fully loaded with the team, the supplies and a dog, Fluffy, who adopted us the minute we arrived.  Fluffy is going to live at the CARES shelter in Cabo Lopez.  Another dog, who clearly decided Fluffy was on to a good thing, watched the boat drift from the shore, deciding whether or not to try to jump in and join us.  He ended up running along the small riverbank as far as he could, watching us go.

We all had quite a traveling experience.  The week saw high highs and low lows.  Caballo Cocha is a great, friendly, social town, where many gather in the town square each evening,  Families set up a table and cook their food while music played.  A brass band even joined in.  It was such a pleasant experience.  At a certain hour, the plaza would empty just as quickly as it had sprung to life!

Every morning at 6 am we were awoken to the dulcit tones of some guy with a loudspeaker,  I'm not sure whether his blurbs were religious or political, but he talked for ages.

We were the only gringo's in town, and as the work was government sponsored, we had many bits of puiblicity, TV and radio interviewers to deal with.  We conducted veterinary clinics at two sites.  The first site was in the science lab of the local school.  Teems of students were herded through by teachers for a ten minute observation amidst the TV cameras!

The second locale was a wood hut with a mud floor and one light bulb and no water except for what we had brought along.  It was far from ideal, but we managed some surgeries and treated many more animals for parasites, fleas, vaccinations, etc.

The children were fascinated with us, and delighted in seeing themselves captured on the screens of our digital cameras.

The only real low was the sickness that plagued most of us.  The heat alone was difficult to contend with, but many also suffered gastrointestinal problems from the food available.  Some of us saw the week out on water and soda biscuits.

Despite these issues, I must end on a positive note.  A lifetime memory for me will be watching the beautiful and rare pink dolphins play in the lagoon as the sun set.  It is a beautiful, magical site that takes place in an idyllic setting.

Photo of Debbie Baird by Carolien Grim

November 9, 2009

10 days, 10 vets: 1300 Animals Attended, 2300 Persons Attended

In July of 2009 Project Coordinator, Bruno Antoine, pulled off the monumental task of getting multiple government agencies to sign a formal agreement between the Provincial City of Mariscal Ramon Castilla and Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety to improve the health of people and their animals, the two being closely related. 

Following more months of discussion, a similar partnership with the City of Bethlehem district was confirmed on October 5, 2009. The objective of these agreements are to resolve in a humanitarian and efficient manner the deplorable living conditions of stray animals and the danger that these animals pose to the human population.  The agreements also provided free treatments and spay/neuter surgery for owned pets.

Amazon CARES, in collaboration with the Worldwide Veterinary Service, obtained the professional services of eight Veterinary volunteers to work alongside the two staff Veterinarians of CARES.  These volunteers arrived from Australia, Italy, Holland and the United Kingdom.  The Brigitte Bardot Foundation of France generously donated funds to pay for all required medicines for the project.   These international contacts helped CARES comply with the agreement to benefit the public and animal health as well as the city's image.

We undertook our campaign in Caballo Cocha from the 23-30 of October.  It is worth noting that the authorities provided all the facilities to the veterinary team (10 doctors and a coordinator), with rapid transport by speedboat, lodging, meals and surgery sites. The population turned out en masse with their pets.  On many days more than 100 people brought animals.  This was an enormous amount of work for the team, especially considering the rustic work conditions and extreme heat.  The Vets reported that they were thrilled to see the enthusiasm of the community.  There is no healthcare provider in Caballo Cocha. 

In total, the following were provided to dogs, cats, birds, monkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs:
156 spay / neuter surgeries
306 consultations
462 de-wormings
156 vaccines against Rabies
376 anti-flea treatments

Additonally CARES conducted educational talks in the schools and provided technical training to agricultural students.  The campaign, "For a Healthy City, Look After Your Pet." extended to CARES' distribution of anti-parasite medicine (Albendazole 400 mg) to more than 2300 people of the Province Mariscal Ramon Castilla, and our donating over 1700 doses to be distributed later by the respective authorities.

Unfortunately, the hardworking veterinary volunteers did not achieve the same success and collaboration in the City of Bethlehem district, despite signing the agreement and multiple contracts regarding the schedule, location, publicity in order for Amazon CARES to develop an initiative to help families and their pets in low income areas. On the planned date, the facilities provided were unsuitable.  The site lacked light, electricity and running water.  Additionally, authorities had not performed their role in publicizing the campaign to the local residents.  The responsible party from the district ignored the situation and simply turned off his cell phone.

Faced with the urgency of the situation, CARES Project Coordinator Bruno Antoint asked his contacts to arrange for a new location and what little publicity could be provided at the last moment.  Thus, the following two days enabled CARES to spay or neuter 38 animals and provide treatments to 23 other animals. 

Good coordination between public and private institutions is beneficial for all.  These events demonstrate that the authorities of Peru are capable of the best and the worst. 

Amazon CARES is struggling to continue in the face of a severe lack of funding.  Despite our appearance on the web, we employ eight Peruvians and all other staffers, including the US based Director, are volunteers.  Please support us today at  Thank you very much.

November 7, 2009

Rest in Peace, Sabrina. We Did Our Best.

Yanamono:  We spent yet another night docked in the sweltering heat and humidity.  Today I have been in the dining area keeping watch over Sabrina.  The Veterinarians do the majority of work as regards Sabrina, who is struggling to recover from her surgery.  She receives frequent shots of antibiotics and pain medicine.  If I´m alone with her I clean up her vomit and diarrea.  She is overheated, like all of us, but the vets have decided not to give her any food or water because her stomach must be raw.  She has been on IV fluids constantly.  All I can do is comfort her and rub cold water on her ears.  We had a small fan on her as well.  I sat in the dining area with Sabrina.  Danilo, the talented chef on the voyage, joined me.  I made a terrible mistake that I will surely regret for the rest of my life.  Having been ill myself, I could not take any more heat, and I left Sabrina with Danilo.  I went to my cabin for 10 minutes to lie down with my own small fan cooling me.  I heard the generator shut off and wondered why, and worried about Sabrina.  The crew did not turn the generator off.  It had run out of fuel and needed to be re-fueled.  I was not smart in assuming Danilo had the time to sit with Sabrina.  Sabrina died alone.  I do not know why Danilo didn´t come get me immediately.  Marc the Producer returned accompanied by the other vets.  She had died during the short time she was alone and the motor turned off. 

She never fully regained consciousness following the dramatic surgery that could have kept her alive.  All the vets agree they would have performed the same surgery on their own pets.  Yet surgery in these conditions is different.  I will always remain with questions, and everybody felt guilty and there was more than enough blame being passed around.  The whole incident begs the eternal question "When do you let a creature die with dignity?  How far should one go to save a life, despite dramatic, high risks?" 

I NEEDED Sabrina to survive.  I NEEDED her to represent the animals that did not survive.  Despite these feelings, I allowed my personal comfort to take over.  I had a fever and was ill and overheated.  But I was in no danger of dying.  I feel deeply that Luke blames me.  Yet all admit that she was dying, and it could not have been prevented.

Any animal lover and pet owner understands my feelings of regret and pain.  And this, despite only knowing Sabrina a few days.  Rest in Peace Sabrina.

November 3, 2009

The One-Eyed Cat!

Note:  I am writing this blog on November 2, 2009, but trying to maintain a chronological order of events.

October 25, Iquitos, Peru by Molly Mednikow

In the previous blog posting I wrote about Sabrina, an emergency patient that prevented the Sky1 Film Crew from departing on our jungle boat by one day.  Sabrina was not the only emergency on the 25th. 

Carolien found a cat in the Port of Bella Vista Nanay, and immediately noticed that one eye was filled with pus.  Upon closer examination, she discovered the cat's eye was missing.  She brought the cat back to the clinic where Luke performed surgery and discovered that the cat was also missing his eye socket and cheekbone.  We do not know what happened, but apparently the cat had suffered a large bite to a large portion of his face. 
On the 25th, the cat had scratched at his own wounds, so Luke had to stitch him up again.  This cat, as yet unnamed (we are seeking a sponsor to name him), has really developed a loving personality in a very short time.  He is doing fine and is very friendly.  It will be difficult to find a home for him, I fear, but we will do our best!