July 27, 2011

July 26, 2011

In the Jungle with Amazon CARES - Day 1

By Donna French Bodkin

We arrived back at the lodge from our early morning hike and zip line adventure.  It was 8:30 am and our coworkers were waiting for us.  The boat was loaded with all of the equipment that we would need for our first day of work in the jungle.

Our boat loaded and headed to a village for work.
 We arrived at a small village called "El Chino".  We unloaded all of the equipment and the portable cages and carried them to a pavilion in the village.  This was our hospital for the day.  The wonderful news was that we were working under a shade and there were no walls, so we also got an occasional little breeze.  The crew from Peru started setting up and arranging the "hospital"  as we stood there wondering what we should be doing.  We felt pretty useless and we were all wishing that we could communicate more effectively with our spanish speaking coworkers.  Eventually everything was set up and ready to go.

Harri, Betty and Luis start unpacking and setting things up.
School children came to watch us set up.

Kendall watching the hospital being put together.

Quickly, the people started arriving.  Some people were just interested in watching us, but others were bringing their pets with them.  As each pet arrived, we had to get some information from the owners and determine if the pet was having surgery or receiving treatments.  Each pet then received a temporary paper collar.

July 25, 2011

Ziplining Volunteers in the Amazon

By Debbie French Bodkin as originally posted on her blog.

We spent a quiet night at the Tahuayo Jungle Lodge in preparation for our first day of work.  Day 1 started very early, 5:30 am and we were off hiking through the jungle to get to the zipline. 

Yes, it is a work day, but we got up early, so we could play before work.  And, play we did.  After getting on our harnesses, we had the choice of using ascendors to pull ourselves up to the platform or letting the guides pull us up.  Needless to say, I took the easy way up. Which really wasn't that easy for me, as I have a terrible fear of heights.
(That's me taking the easy way up)

July 20, 2011

Southern Dog's Northern Exposure

by Judith Bechtum, DVM

Neyra has exchanged her Amazon Rainforest digs for a rambler in central Minnesota; her life as an 'unadoptable' shelter dog for life on a fifty-acre farm with Gracie (an 85-pound Lab cross), six assorted
house cats, three tough barn cats, three horses, 10 chickens, and John and Judith. Her favorite pastime has gone from hiding in the dirt corner of the shelter to chasing squirrels in the oak woods. Who would have guessed that she really loves burying her nose in the snow sniffing out squirrels and mice, that she could adapt so well to the cold and snow, and that she could become (as someone who knew her in her past life says), "so confident" and lively?

Neyra at Amazon CARES No-Kill Shelter
I met Neyra in October 2010 at the Amazon CARES No-Kill Shelter on the banks of the Itaya, a tributary of the Amazon River that runs past Cabo Lopez in Iquitos, Peru.  It took over a week for Neyra to allow me to approach the corner of the shelter she'd chosen for her refuge.  We had been on a sterilization campaign for Amazon CARES and were very busy in Iquitos that week; the only time I really had for myself was early morning, before Joel and his moto-taxi brigade arrived to carry us to the Amazon CARES clinic and our day's work.  Wandering around the Rio Itaya banks and the shelter grounds, taking photographs and soaking in the Amazon forest, I noticed the small gray brindle dog trying to be invisible in the corner of the building. She wouldn't come when called and with her ears down and her belly to the ground, she wasn't inviting interaction.  Several visits later and some cookies from an Amazon village, Neyra started to come a few feet toward me when coaxed.

As an older (7 or 8 years), reclusive, fear-biting dog, Neyra had little chance of adoption. Amazon CARES had captured her on the street five years earlier, spayed and treated her for parasites and released her back to her neighborhood. Later, they discovered that she seemed to be staying in an area where perhaps her previous owners had lived. So CARES relocated her to the shelter, where she had lived for several years.

I had struggled with the idea of adopting an Amazon dog, but knew we had more than enough pets at home. The logistics were problematic, too, since I had two weeks in Cusco, Peru before I headed home to North America.  But maybe it was fatigue, or wonder at the cornucopia of truly nice dogs in Iquitos, or perhaps  it was the resemblance Neyra had to Alice and Spec, two older female dogs who had come my way over the years in Minnesota...I talked to CARES Director, Molly Mednikow, about adopting Neyra.

If Neyra could talk, is this what she would say?   "I had a wonderful life with my human family in Iquitos; I loved to be scratched, to ride in the moto-taxi and walk on a leash, to have my belly rubbed. Something happened, though, and I lost my family. Then I lived alone, always worrying about my future and always frightened. I didn't trust anyone, and I had no friends until Amazon CARES found me. They were nice to me and fed me and were gentle, but they had many dogs to care for and still I felt alone. One day, the woman from Minnesota talked to me. Soon she gave me treats and coaxed me out of my hiding place. She asked Gustavo if I was tame enough to pick up. Molly was pleased that someone wanted me to be part of their family, and even though I had to fly in an airplane to Atlanta and try to learn to be housetrained and was very stressed and frightened, she put me on another plane to Minnesota.

Neyra and her new friend, Grace
"For the first few days my feet got cold and I shivered. Judith tried to dress me in booties and a coat, but I was very intimidated and wasn't sure I could trust her. Her big dog, Grace, was very welcoming and we played and she taught me to look for squirrels and to run and pounce in the snow. 

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland
Neyra, the Snow Dog
"The house cats frightened me, so I rushed them and growled, but Judith said NO! and I have learned to accept most of them. The horses are big, but not frightening. The chickens are VERY interesting. I am not totally housebroken, but I get treats when I do well and I LIKE treats. Judith and John's friends and niece all think I am cute and allow me time to come to them for scratching. Life is not so bad in the frozen Northland!"

July 11, 2011

Wherever I May Roam....

Thank you to Dr. Jessica Vogelsang of Pawcurious.com for permitting us to reprint her blog from July 8, 2011.   The beautiful photographs are also by Dr. V. 
The fourth of July was lovely. And thank goodness for that, because the fifth was pretty brutal, as it has remained since then. Humid, sticky, 100 degrees plus, the sort of weather that leaves you glued to the couch by your own sweat, unable to get up even if you wanted to, which you don’t. Brody goes outside long enough to jump in the pool, then hightails it back into the house to allow it all to evaporate in a nice sauna-dog-smell combo.
I used to call this “Hawaii hot.” But now, now I call it “Amazon hot.” It’s funny how something like a heat wave can trigger so many memories. If I’m going to be sitting around in this kind of heat, it would be nice to at least be somewhere as awesome and awe-inspiring as the Amazon. I miss it, even though I was only there for half a heartbeat.

I miss the verdant fields populated by lackadaisical bovines:

I miss the timeless feeling of boating up to a village unconcerned with Wifi access, Facebook status updates, and the latest Groupon:

I miss the children who are open and trusting and sweet, with none of the world weary cockiness that surrounds us here:

And I miss the little critters who were hiding at every turn:

Well, most of the critters. I don’t miss the botflies, the stupid chiggers that made me look like I had measles for a good month, or the tarantulas in the shower, but they weren’t nearly bad enough to keep me away. It was worth it.
Travel is such an enriching experience. I really hope I get to participate in a similar project again.