June 26, 2009

Vet Annie Cook's Official Report on Worldwide Veterinary Service Trip

Date of original article: July 17, 2007

Annie Cook MRCVS writes about her experiences on a trip to Amazon Cares

What is a successful business woman with an insect phobia doing in the middle of the Amazon? For Molly Mednikow the Amazon is therapy from a fast paced career and for the street dogs and cats of Iquitos, Peru she is a blessing. Molly first started visiting the Amazon twelve years ago to bring books to underprivileged school children and it was during these early visits that she realised the desperate plight of animals in the region. Her initial venture into animal rescue involved smuggling two dogs into her hotel room, bathing and treating them for fleas and feeding them. She now runs a well established charity with a clinic, jungle shelter for dogs eight employees.

Veterinarians, Annie Cook and Liz Dobson and veterinary nurse Tina Kemp spent three weeks working with Amazon Cares in June 2007. In that time they sterilised 114 animals in Iquitos and surrounding villages, performed a fracture repair and rescued 7 more dogs to the shelter.

Iquitos is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. There are no roads and the only way to reach the city is to fly or take a boat along the Amazon River. The first thing that hits you when you step off the plane in Iquitos is the heat, humidity and the light. The air is heavy with moisture and it's not long before your clothes and belongings feel damp and sticky and everything that stands still too long grows a blue fungus. The heavy noisture in the air plays incredible tricks with the light so you feel encased in a big blue and green bubble. The brilliantly blue sky and the vibrantly green vegetation are not only reflected in the river water but the air seems to reflect these colours as well.

The mesmerising heat and colours might be the first things to seize the senses but as we were thrust into motortaxis (motorbike richshaws) we began to learn the realities of life in the jungle. The heavy rainfall turns the mostly dirt tracks into bog holes making themm impassable which we appreciated as we bumped and weaved to the Amazon Cares jungle shelter at Cabo Lopez. There are insects everywhere craving sweet white flesh and this is particularly so at twillight when any bare flesh is targeted. The jungle is never quiet; there are monkeys, rodents, howling dogs, crowing roosters and music from the night clubs. It was a sleepless first night!

We spent the first 2 days at the jungle facility in Cabo Lopez examining local dogs, spaying and neutering and generally getting used to the facilities and the Amazon Cares team. Esther the head vet is a very good surgeon and we were very impressed with the facilities and organisation. This is thanks to Bethjane, one of those unique veterinary nurses who is very neat and organised and has the ability to to pre-empt your needs. Despite the language barrier we quickly learned the Spanish words for scalpel, swab, drape, gloves and vicryl!

Later in the first week we spent time at Amazon Cares clinic in Pevas, Iquitos. The clinic is as you would expect in the UK with a consulting room, surgery and kennel area for pets. The clinic does not have an anaesthetic machine and so general anaesthesia is performed intravenously. The dogs receive a xylaxine/atropine premedication and are put on intravenous fluids. They are induced with diazepam/ketamine and this is topped up throughout the procedure. There are no laboratory facilities in Iquitos for but the clinic has a microscope and Amazon Cares is very grateful to Worldwide Veterinary Service for their donation of a refractometer this year. Whilst at the clinic Liz assisted Esther with a fracture repair and although the equipment was rudimentary it was a great opportunity for Esther to learn the techniques.

On Saturday we were back at Cabo Lopez where we saw a very sad but interesting case of a 2 month old puppy that had not defacated since he was born. Being sceptical vets we assumed the puppy had defacated without the owners knowledge and suspected the puppy had constipation and "of course he has an anus". Closer inspection revealed that the puppy in fact had atresia ani. The lesson - always listen to the owner!

Most of the second week we spent in Belen markets for a mobile neutering clinc. The markets are crowded and busy and there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things in the stalls. As we drove through the markets we passed vendors for fish, chickens, vegetables but the most eye opening was the reptile and guinea pig meat for sale. A trip to the darker parts of the market found us in the herbal remedy section, we didn't have long to ponder the wares but the snakes heads in jars and jars marked oso (bear)were enough to give us an idea of the type of produce marketed in this part of Belen. We also had the opportunity to watch the boys (Ricardo and Harry) catching dogs in the market. Although there are many dogs in the market a lot of them are owned and the owners are not keen to neuter them and the stray dogs can be very aggressive and difficult to catch. It is not an easy job for Ricardo and Harry in the narrow market pathways to catch these vicious dogs.

During this week we examined all the shelter dogs and house dogs and gave their yearly vaccinations. It was great to see them all and appreciate the difference Molly and Amazon Cares have made for these animals. On Thursday we had a mobile clinic in Bellavista Nanay on the Rio Nanay another tributary of the Amazon. We were in the bottom level of a house near the river. It was very small and dark but we still managed to neuter a number of dogs and cats and had a captive audience of residents the entire day. Annie's surgery table was closest to the window and she was a little shocked when one spectator started taking photos of the dog she was spaying.

On Friday 22nd June we had the opportunity to visit INRENA, a government facility for confiscated wildlife. The facility has previously been described by visiting vets "as a fate worse than death (for wildlife) imprisoned by INRENA". It was wonderful to see the improvements that Miguel (one of the Amazon Cares vets) has made over the past year. Miguel was originally a production animal vet but over the past year he has learnt a great deal about wildlife and is making a huge difference to the facilities at INRENA. We were impressed to see that new larger cages have been built and that all the animals had fresh food and water. We also discussed the plans for rehabilitation of wildlife and hope that Miguel can continue to implement change in this establishment.

On Friday night we had the opportunity to meet other vets in Iquitos and Liz and I gave powerpoint presentations to the veterinary society. Liz spoke about fluid therapy particularly for kidney failure and parvovirus. Kidney failure is a big problem for animals in Iquitos as the bacteria Leptospira is very common. Liz discussed the importance of vaccination for control of this disease. Annie gave a presentation on the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife. Although owning wildlife is illegal many people in Iquitos have wildlife pets and seek veterinary attention. It is a hard balance for the vets to provide good quality care for the animals, continue to make a profit, and work within the law. The veterinary society was very grateful to Amazon Cares for organising the presentation as there is no continuing education programme for vets in Iquitos.

The final week of our trip was spent on a boat journey along the Amazon. The Amazon River is indescribably immense. It is six kilometres wide in places and the depth varies seasonally. We were travelling at the beginning of the drier season (surprising considering how much it had rained) and we were amazed by how high the water mark on the trees was above the current level. The first village we visited was Las Palmeras. The WVS team from last year has also worked in this village and it was great to see some healthy spayed animals wandering through the village. All the surgeries were successful and Molly ran a number of classes on animal welfare for the children in the village.

The next day we worked in Yanamono in an open rondavel with waist high tables. It was one of our first opportunities to do surgery standing up and was a welcome relief for our backs. During one of the surgeries we noticed a swelling on the dog's leg and to our horror further investigation revealed a large fly larva inside the wound. Apparently these are common in this region! We were shocked to learn that there are few stray dogs in th jungle because the puppies are eaten by snakes. A new method of population control!?

The last village we visited was Pucallpa. As we came upstairs to breakfast there was an overwhelming aroma of garlic and we were concerned what might await us at breakfast but we soon realised the smell was coming from Molly who was a few paces away. The insects on the boat were uncontrollable. Despite long trousers, long sleeved shirts, latyers of DEET, citronella and burning mosquito coils we all had numerous bites. Poor Molly was suffering immensely and had refused to come to dinner the night before. In desperation she had bathed herself head to toe in garlic!

Our final day on the boat was a day of rest and tourism. We rose before sunrise to go bird watching and then visited an island for a forest walk. The forest was amazing, strangely quiet and serene, very dark and thick and we got to see poison arrow frogs. On our return to Iquitos later in the afternoon a large group of pink dolphins put on a display playing and catching fish in the turbulent waters between the Amazon River and the Itaya River. It was an excellent finish to a wonderful trip.

The 3 weeks we spent in the Amazon was an incredible and unforgettable experience. We are indebted to Molly, Esther, Miguel, Bethjane, Ricardo, Harry, Wilfredo, Merlene, Vladmir and Danilo for their hospitality and friendship. Esther and Miguel are both exceptional veterinary surgeons and the Amazon Cares staff are hardworking and dedicated. It was a pleasure to work with this exceptional team of people and they have our admiration and continued support.

Thanks to WVS for organising this trip. Please visit their website www.wvs.org.uk for further information regarding their work and member charities. For more information regarding Amazon Cares visit www.amazoncares.org

June 19, 2009

Fairy Tales Do Come True

This is the most pitiful photograph, taken when I first decided to remain in Perú and take care of a collection of animals that needed me, but before I had actually rented space, without really thinking, because I had run out of space to keep my motley crew of dogs!
A typical rescue dog / Un perro típico de rescate Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety didn't come out of any plan for the future. It just happened. If you can get some charity leaders to admit it, they may have similar stories.

I had responsibilities in the US. I owned a business with 16 employees and a lease and retail space and clients and a house.... None of that ever made me happier than sitting in the hot sun, ruining my complexion, while providing love to a dog that had almost walked toward the proverbial light.

Turned out it was easy to rid myself of the worldly things, and that is how Amazon CARES became a reality!

This picture has always disturbed me. It is always in the top of the stats on the Amazon Cares Flickr account. For years I have felt pained when looking into this dogs sad eyes, knowing I did not save her.

But the other day I had a brain spark. I saw another picture and I flashed on this one. She was saved! While I traveled to the US to handle some matters, my employees had saved her. When I returned to our make-shift shelter I met a dog named Fresia.

Only yesterday did I put the names together. I created a collage, and it was only AFTER finishing a "happy ending" style collage that I recalled this picture.

Return to Home Page of Amazon Cares Home Page

June 14, 2009

Will you save Esteban?

This is Esteban, named for repeat donor Stephen Andruszkewicz.

One recent rainy day Esteban took refuge on the premises of the NGO ACEER (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research). Employees of ACEER carried Esteban to the Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety Veterinary Clinic. They worried about the dog, and wanted him to recuperate from his obvious illnesses.

A close analysis of Esteban revealed widespread sarcoptic mange, anemia, parasites, and malnutrition. He suffered from a severe Transmissible Venereal Tumor, which is a highly contagious genital cancer that is more common to sexually active dogs living in neglect. These tumors are very unsightly, and usually contribute to a dog’s abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. Additionally, these tumors are transmissible to humans.

Sarcoptic mange has public health importance because it is transmitted to humans through direct contact with the animal. One should note for most of its life cycle, these mites dig into the skin of their definitive host, such as dog. These mites will also dig into human skin, but only for a short time period on the area ofSpin_0916_May2509.jpg contact with an infected dog. During this time, humans can transmit these parasites to others by direct contact. It is important to emphasize that the mite is a transient ectoparasite and does not choose human skin as a favored living environment.

Esteban requires a specialized treatment for scabies with medicated baths, injections and antibiotics. He needs nutritionally balanced food and supplemental vitamins, immunostimulants, and internal antiparasitic chemotherapy for the tumors that cause him much suffering. Esteban’s venereal tumor is located on his bleeding penis. This unique form of cancer is spread during mating.

The medicine needed to treat Esteban’s illness is expensive and only available through the National Institute of Neoplastic Diseases, located in Lima. Access to this medicine, a chemotherapy drug, is restricted to veterinary use only.

June 5, 2009

Suerte's Rescue and travel adventure!

Kari and Suerte Encounter One Another
Story and Photographs provided by Kari Sorger

Since the age of 17 I have been traveling to a city called Iquitos in Peru to bring medical care to the indigenous people of the Amazon. In the summer of 2007 I returned to the Amazon once again. Before going into the jungle for 2 weeks we usually spend a few days preparing for the trip to Iquitos. As with any day in Iquitos, I see many stray animals on the streets doing what they can to survive. One day while walking back to my hotel, I noticed a dog lying on the sidewalk. I approached the animal, fearing it was dead, and starting talking to him. The dog instantly got up, wagged its tail, and responded to my gentle voice. I noticed this small dog wa s missing most of his hair, had warts covering his body, was severely malnourished, and had a brutal eye and nose infection. Assured he was alive, I proceeded to walk away and he started to follow. It was immediately apparent that I had a new friend.

He followed me for a few blocks and I instantly felt responsible. I went to the grocery store and got him some food, water, and treats and we sat by the waterfront while he enjoyed every bite. I named him "Suerte," which means, "luck" in Spanish. I hung out with him for a few hours and then he went his separate way.

I saw him later that night and he followed me back to my hotel and slept outside waiting for me all night. We were going into the jungle a few days later and I wanted to find a safe place for him while we were gone for a couple weeks. Fortunately, I found an organization called Amazon CARES. They operate a great kennel outside of the city that he was able to stay in. I left some money with Amazon CARES so they could take care of him while I was gone for a few weeks. When we returned I saw Suerte again and left more money. I had to return to Seattle and could not bring him back due to his poor condition. For the next year I would send money to Amazon CARES and would get updates on his progress.

In October 2008 my friend was traveling back to Iquitos. I contacted Amazon CARES and asked about his progress and if he would be able to come back with her at the end of November. The vet in Iquitos, Dr. Esther Peña, arranged everything and was truly amazing. She got the health certificate ready for him, wrote a list of his medications and treatments for the past year and got everything ready by November 17, 2008. My friend was able to bring him back with her, and after a year and 4 months, as well as a 23 hour plane ride back to the U.S., my baby Suerte was finally home.

He has been amazing and I'm so glad he is safe, happy, has a full tummy, toys, and love. I still can't believe that I have him here with me. There was an instant connection with this dog and can't imagine him still in Iquitos fighting for his life every day. Amazon CARES is so wonderful and I'm happy that the suffering is over for one dog in Iquitos. Without their help, support, and love for the ananimals of Iquitos I would have never been able to give Suerte a second chance.


Kari Sorger
Seattle, WA

Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety thanks Kari Sorger and Melonie Rockwell for generously donating money to support Suerte during his treatment, recuperation and maintenance in our no-kill shelter.