December 1, 2013

A Week Volunteering With Amazon CARES - Part 2/3

For two weeks this past October, Liz volunteered in Peru during one of our volunteer veterinary trips. In this special three part blog series, Liz describes her first week volunteering for Amazon CARES. To learn about upcoming volunteer veterinary trips, visit our website at

The town square in Caballococha.

Caballococha is very pretty.   It is a small town nestled on the bank
of the river.  It actually celebrated its anniversary while we were there.  The town surprised me completely as I was expecting something much more rustic – apparently some places Amazon CARES goes to are more basic, but here we were staying in a lovely little hostel with our own rooms!  We were taken by some of the organizers out to a small village on the outskirts of the town and watched the sunset before meeting the mayor!

The first day of neutering in Caballococha was one of the busiest
days we had.   I was working with the two Peruvian vets, Julio and Yesenia.  My Spanish is shamefully non-existent and whenever they needed something it took hand gesturing and odd words for me to understand – sorry guys!  We were based at a local technical school in the science labs  - which were actually a really useful set-up as there were plenty of places for animals to recover and to tie restraints.

Liz monitoring a patient during surgery.
Coming from a practice in England I am spoilt with adjustable tables, a complete theatre, anaesthetic machines, electronic monitors and surgery lighting.   To start with I did feel somewhat bereft and out of my depth – the protocol is completely different, but after a while I got into a routine with the monitoring, antibiotic, pain relief, and tattooing – although the speed Yesenia spays at I was hard pressed to get things done quickly enough!  Anaesthesia on the needle was something that took me a little longer to gain confidence.

It was interesting seeing the parade of dogs come through.   Some looked remarkably like breeds I am used to at home, and I think all of us were reminded of our own pets by dogs that looked somewhat like them.

Even at night it was ridiculously warm and the activity in the square was fun to watch – a beer was definitely a good way to finish the night.

The next few days at Caballococha also kept us on our feet and provided plenty more street and owned pets to neuter.  It demonstrated the importance of thing like clear tattoos on the animals' ears.  Julio spent a long time trying to find any evidence of a uterus; Harri had to skin scrape the ear to reveal very faint evidence of a tattoo and confirmation the patient had already been spayed – at least with male dogs it is slightly more obvious.  After surgery on Thursday was completed and kits were packed (poor Harri had to put all the kits together with everyone sitting watching him and waiting to pack them up) to autoclave, Hen and I went for a wander round the town and ended up literally walking down a street and into fields.  Given that the first part of the name of the town means horse, we did find the only horse we saw on our trip – painted on a wall...

There was live music playing in the square – gearing up for the weekend celebrations.  That evening Veronica translated some of the Peruvian legends Harri was explaining for me.   I wish I'd written them down at the time as they have all blurred slightly now, but were fascinating.   Being a little pink dolphin obsessed, I do remember the one about the blond man who turns back to a pink dolphin!

Read Part 3 of Liz's experience volunteering with Amazon CARES. Missed Part 1? Read it here!

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