October 20, 2010

Spay/Neuter Clinic in Punchana

Gabriela, Barbara, Lisa, Judith and Catherine
I have been down in Iquitos for four days now. Today was Day 3 of working in the Punchana District where the vets are doing free spays/neuters as well as administering anti-parasite medication. On Monday, I weighed dogs to ensure the correct dosage of the oral anti-parasite medication. The problem is, we don't have a proper scale. However, the vets had rigged up an ingenious "make-do" invention which utilized a small sling and a luggage scale. Getting the dogs into the sling was often challenging; they didn't appreciate being lifted up in the air, and the temperamental scale often made it necessary for us to weigh them more than once. It was hot, sweaty work, bending and stooping and wrestling with the dogs and lifting them up. A large crowd of people gathered to bring their animals and to watch with great interest the goings-0n. After maybe 5 hours of non-stop sweat, and getting peed on and having some brown goo leak from the back end of a matted-fur mutt, I made the unwelcome discovery of just how bad I could smell. I really had no idea.
Yesterday and today I got to play vet tech trainee: the vets showed me how to restrain a dog, raise a vein, do operation prep, open a surgery kit, and clean up an animal afterward. I always fancied myself rather adept at handling dogs, but it is very different when it is not your own animal, and infinitely more difficult when you add frantic, half-wild street dog into the mix. All the volunteers were very patient and kind with my mistakes and questions, and I really enjoyed both the lessons and the work itself.
These women are true workhorses - they labor for 5-6 hours or more with no breaks in the action for anything. Catherine, a Scottish vet volunteer, had her dainty gloved hands buried in various animals for hours at a time, and a couple of times I gave her a cup to sip from as I held it: her grin is so joyful it is blinding, unmarred even by a smudge of blood on the end of her nose. Gabriela, a vet volunteer from Spain, was called upon often to give post-op instructions for owners retrieving their pets, and one is at once struck by her intelligence and great charm - she was an invaluable resource for all us non-Spanish speakers. Watching Gabriela do her sutures was like watching sleight of hand: all speed and precision - with one infintesimal motion, she ties off a stitch so quickly it seems magical. Yesterday Judith worked a great deal in coordinating care; today she did surgeries and seemed happy for the change. "It's the most sane place on earth," she told me with a beatific smile. I could see what she meant - while all around her was noise and chaos, her focus was narrowed to the 2-3" incision in a scruffy dog's abdomen.

Barbara, an ex-pat now living in the UK, also brings serenity to her surgeries. She has a Zen-like calm about her; she looks up rarely, but when she does her fair, flushed face is a portrait of determination and quiet satisfaction of a job done well. Lisa, a Welsh veterinary nurse volunteer, is the glue that holds the whole thing together - it is she who records all the information, figures out dosing, and administers most of the medicines. She also is called upon when problems arise, such as an unruly dog somehow noses open his (locked) cage and goes rushing off, or a biter comes in who needs to be muzzled. She is a consummate professional, but also very cheerful and friendly. Her flaxen cornrows are fascinating to the Peruvians; as she stood and drank one day, one child was brazen enough to flick one of her tiny braids into the air. The surprised expression on her face was pure comic book - it coaxed a laugh out of even the most weary of workers.

They are an inspiring, incredible group of volunteers that CARES is tremendously fortunate to have on board, and it is a true privilege to both see their work and be a small part of it.

1 comment:

  1. If there is a place called Heaven, then this is the way to march in; if there is none then too bad, its His loss. Godspeed!


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