November 5, 2010

Life and Hope at Mobile Vet Clinic

Part one in a three part series:  The day starts with a large breakfast provided by the radiant Marlena: eggs, fried potatoes, and lots of fresh fruit, all of which get jostled uncomfortably in the crazy bumpy moto ride to the clinic. At the clinic all is bedlam - rushing about to get all the necessary supplies,

with the usual comedy of errors, loading up the truck to get out the door. By the time we are finally ready to leave, the regional police truck (which transports the larger items, including boxes of supplies, broken down cages and tables) has been waiting
a good 20-30 minutes, with the driver scowling and looking grimly at his watch. However, finally everyone is accounted for and hops in the front seats or the back, holding onto sun hats and tensing their legs to cushion against the bumps of the potholed streets. A 10 minute ride later and we are at the site of the clinic.

At arrival, it is not an inspiring venue for veterinary care. The area is littered with paper and garbage. There are concrete blocks with short fences housing some sick looking grass and
bushes. The bandstand where the surgeries are to be performed is dark and grimy, and spray painted with graffiti. Yet, for the next 5-7 hours, it is here where the veterinarians will bring life and hope to both street dogs and pets owned by the poor denizens of this Iquitos suburb.

We scramble to get everything set up; mostly it is Esther, Harris and Behtjane who seem to know where everything is and are quick to set-up the tables, get the plastic bags

taped to each table for garbage, and designate the areas for examinations and pre-op. Harris and Bruno set up the metal cages - sad, raggedy things that are rickety and cantankerous; we will struggle to get them to open and closed throughout the day. We set up a water jug for hand washing, a large pail below with a 10mm syringe stopper as the plug in the side for a slop bucket.

Everything is in place for this makeshift operating theater - this dirty bandstand, vandalized and dim, with no light, running water or electricity, and hot, blazingly, stupefyingly hot - is now open for business.

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