Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
After the animal rights march, Steph, Virginia and I went to meet Courtney and Carter at the shelter to see the progress. The shelter was almost complete - the fencing was complete, gates and all - and the living/sleeping quarters for Jesus were near completion with just a bit more roofing to go! A real success. It was really touching to see how happy Daniel, Berta and Jesus were with the outcome there. Such a difference this will make for the dogs and those working at the shelter with them.
It was also time to say adios to the perros.
A photo here after the last day of work at the Ahren clinic. We took the three dogs that we had picked up that morning home when they were still quite groggy! This is Steph and I holding Cholo and Lito in the back of the truck heading back to Huanchaco.
And this was a few of us at dinner that day at our favorite restaurant - Chill Out - owned and run by a Scot and his Peruvian wife.
On our last day of work, on Saturday, we were told to go to the Mayor's office in the city of Trujillo to be honored for our work. About half of us were able to attend the mini "ceremony" where the Mayor's next official in line and another official of his office presented us with individual certificates for our work with the Perros Project. The City also officially decreed that it was officially recognizing and committed to furthering the work of the Perros Project in Trujillo.
I think this was really quite remarkable and I really felt that it marked one point of success for this project. It is not that we needed mayoral recognition for our work there to be beneficial to the animals, but I think the recognition showed that the Perros Project was not about descending on Huanchaco and Trujillo with the ways of the US to show them how we think a shelter and a veterinarian clinic should run. Rather, the Perros Project had successfully worked with the communities on a project with a common understanding and a team approach. Certainly this relationship building with the community in all of the months leading to the actual project and throughout the project (which can only be attributed to Courtney and Matt) is a cornerstone of the success of the Project. I am grateful to have been a part of this sort of collaboration with these Peruvian cities and citizens.
Rather serendipitous, yes...there was an animal rights march in Trujillo on the that we were leaving for Lima. On Sunday, only Steph, her mother Virginia, Courtney, her brother Carter and I remained in Huanchaco. So, we took advantage of having Sunday without work to attend the March in Trujillo. Fernando, the vet from Ahren, was sort of the leader of this event and he was glad to see Steph, Virginia and I show up. We had also obtained t-shirts with the main March chant on them the day before: "Los Animales Me Importan."
I was amazed by the number of people that came out for this event! We marched for about 2 miles form the city center to Ovalo Papel, where Ahren vet clinic is located. Not only were there many people and dogs on the march, there were some cats, a couple hamsters, a bunny and even a mouse. These people take their "animal welfare for all" seriously!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I forgot to put this post up earlier near the shelter work days. On the second work day, Steph, Dustin and I were tasked with taking the dogs for a walk to the beach while Carter and Virginia cleaned up the shelter grounds. This is an interesting task, and "walking the dogs" is an extreme misnomer - really, they make a serious mad dash out the door of the shelter and run to the beach (which is about a 1/2 mile from the shelter) while the humans try to keep up behind them. What a riot - 40 dogs and the three of us trying to herd them to and fro. It was great really and amazing how they just know what to do - "we all go to the beach and after some play time, we all run back to the shelter!" I thought it would be very difficult getting them back into the shelter after the beach trip because they are always trying to get out! (Top photo shows Daniel keeping them back from the door when someone was trying to enter.) Two dogs at the shelter are even skilled enough to scale and get over a 6-foot brick wall! (This is quite a site.) But, when we started walking back, they again took the lead and rushed back into the shelter door. I suppose they know who is going to feed and take care of them after all.
Daniel, who works at the shelter daily caring for the dogs, has quite an amazing ritual when it comes to feeding. Every day, he builds a fire and cooks rice, vegetables and some sort of meat with water that is brought in (no running water at the shelter) in a large cauldron. The dogs do not bother him while he is cooking - they smell it, but seem to understand that it takes a while to prepare. Only near the end of the process when he is putting the food into different containers for the dogs do they start to surround him. Even at this point though, it is amazing how they wait their turn. The dogs KNOW which order they eat in - it is not all at once! The first couple come forward who know they are first and eat from the dishes, then the next few who know they are next come forward and eat, and so forth. The other dogs simply wait until it is their turn to eat and do not bother those eating before them. Unbelievable - I have never seen anything like it. And, in case you were wondering, yes, all 40-some dogs have names and Daniel knows them all. This is Matt, one of the co-founders of the Perros Project, helping Daniel with the meal.
Day five started out a little rough. Steph and I headed to Ahren clinic with the three dogs in the cab from the last post. The Ahren clinic, unlike the San Theresa clinic is downright dirty and smelly. I feel bad saying this, as the vet who runs the place is great - Fernando. But, it is. I think it is a matter of him not having much control of the women who work there - they do not clean like they are supposed to. This photo of this Doberman Pincher was taken the day before when the dog was recovering from surgery on the only "bed" the clinic has. You can see how unbelievably skinny he is. When Steph walked in the next day, Day five, the dog was dead in this bed. He was in the recovery room and there were feces and urine everywhere from the dogs who had stayed there overnight. Steph told the women to get the dead dog out of there and to get cleaning so we could bring the dogs in from the cab and put them somewhere clean while they waited for surgery. Steph noted that I had the "blog quote of the day" when they started cleaning and I said "I've never wanted to actually smell chemicals more in my entire life" (as this is usually a repugnant smell to me - not this day).
The second picture is of Steph preparing a dog for surgery by shaving the area that will be cut open. By Day five, she and I were assisting almost as full-on vet techs by shaving the dogs, administering sub-cutaneous shots and preparing needles with Ketamine and a host of other meds and applying flea medication. This last photo is of "Mama" who we named this because she was brought in off the street by police officers who found her aborting her pups across the street. So, she was basically unhealthy and her body was forcing her to birth the pups before they were viable. She is resting here in the clinic prior to surgery. Fernando performed this complicated surgery which required removing two more pups and then spaying Mama. She spent the night in the clinic that night and we gave her antibiotics and pain meds before she went back out on the street the next day.
A note on this - putting her back on the street seems cruel and inhumane. But, this is the situation. The clinic has no room for her (in fact we had just made room for another street dog that day who had been hit by a car and needed surgery), and she has no owner. The shelter in Huanchaco is not an option because it is not really a good place for dogs needing to recover with 40 other territorial dogs around. So, giving less than ideal options, the best that could be done was to fix the immediate situation, make sure she would not get pregnant again, give her meds, and send her back out. I've come to think about it in this way - how many US vets take in street dogs with no owners and give them all the care they need without someone to pay the bill? At least Fernando provides this service and Mama will go back to the life that she already knows, but will be healthier.
Day four began with Natalie and I going to pick up two dogs in Huanchaco to take them to Trujillo for neuters. Courtney and Holly had gone out about town the day before doing outreach with Javier (our main contact who works at the municipality and has political pull). They basically talked to folks around town with dogs and offered that the next day we would come and pick up their dogs at their homes, take them for a free neuter or spay, and then return them in the evening. This went over well with some folks, but not surprisingly, some ended up refusing the next day when it actually came time to take their dog in. Perhaps they thought we wouldn't actually show up or perhaps (and fair enough!) it seemed a little odd that a couple of gringos were at their doorstep first thing in the morning asking to take their dogs away for surgery with a promise to return them later (would you let someone take your dog??).
So, Natalie and I got two street dogs who we knew had no official owners and took them in a cab to one clinic and others took dogs to the other clinic. The picture (sorry, can't figure out how to turn the pic around) is of Steph with Chili (we named him) who Natalie and I took into the other clinic - Ahren. Chili ended up throwing up on my fleece during the car ride. :) I washed it at the clinic, let it dry, and then used it as bedding for another dog in post-surgery recovery, who then peed on it. So, I donated my fleece to the clinic. We joked that some dog is going to be walking around Trujillo in a North Face fleece here soon! Ha. (Dogs in Peru often wear fleece sweaters this time of year - heading into their winter and it is about 67 for a high each day and they consider this cold.)
The second photo is actually from Day 5 when we started the day picking up three dogs (Lito, Cholo and Negra) - I am in the taxi cab with the three we are taking to Ahren clinic. Nice taxi drivers to let us take the dogs in their cabs!!
Probably the most difficult thing to witness in the clinic work was the lack of anesthesia for the animals undergoing surgery. Don't get me wrong - they are not awake, but they are not anestheticized like the animals in the US with gas. Instead they are given a large shot of Ketamine, which the US vets dislike to some extent because large doses of it causes seizures. So, in the US, an animal would typically get a small shot of Ketamine, which initally dopes them so that the gas anasthesia can be administered, plus a dose of Valium to prevent seizures, then the gas is administered throughout the surgery to give the animal a long, steady anesthesia until the surgery is over. In Peru, there is no gas or Valium because of the expense, so instead, the animals are just given a large dose of Ketamine.
The problem? They can wake during surgery and feel pain. They can also seize during surgery. Neither of these options is fun to watch. So, throughout surgery, my main job was to watch the animal and listen closely for signs of waking up, and when they did, I would alert the vet and we would administer more Ketamine. If they seized we stopped surgery and propped their mouths open until the termbling stopped. This would often wake them slightly though, so more Ketamine. Amounts of Ketamine are based on an animal's weight, so there is a science to it, but you still never know how an animal will react. It is a balance between giving them enough to stay under through the surgery and not too much to cause them to seize. This was really hard to watch - one dog I helped with wimpered during the surgery four different times, meaning she felt pain four different times, and four times we had to give her more Ketamine. The hardest part is that I really don't know if the Peruvian vets give more Ketamine like we were, or to the extent that we were, to prevent this wimpering during surgery. I honestly can't even think about it - we just have to let this go - it is their way and we can only do the surgeries we did while we were there our way. My guess is that the Peruvian vets were probably a little surprised that we kept giving more Ketamine throughout the surgeries, but I'm not certain.