Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cute dogs

Anyone want to adopt a dog? :)

Jesus and his followers

Our local friend, Jesus, had some fish on this day and the dogs were entranced...

Huanchaco coastline

The beach and boats made of grass reeds which the fishermen still make and use today.

Sunset in Huanchaco here and above.

A walk on the beach

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.

Feeding time at the shelter

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.

Ahren clinic

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.

Days 4 and 5 - clinic and rounding up dogs

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!!

Clinic work - a note on medication

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.

Clinic work - Days 3, 4, 5

Work at the clinics - two separate veterinarian offices in Trujillo - is (obviously) a very different experience than the shelter work. While the shelter working is physically taxing, the clinic work is emotionally taxing. Courtney and Matt set this part of the project up so that we had two US vets (Lisa and Stephanie) at one clinic working with two Peruvian vets (Fernando and Jack) and at the other clinic we had a US vet (Brenda) and a US vet technician (Natalie) working with one Peruvian vet (Ingrid). Each day at the clinic, there were also Perros Project volunteers assisting the vets in many ways and this is what I did for the majority of days 3-5. Courtney and Matt worked diligently with the vets and other locals who work with the municipalities of Trujillo and Huanchaco to advertise that we would be there offering folks free spays and neuters June 21 - 26, so people brought in their dogs and some cats in to the clinics on all of those days. No appointments, so yes, it was chaotic at times.

The first day of clinic work for me was at the San Theresa clinic workinng with Brenda and Natalie. I found that they were doing more spays than neuters because in the Peruvian culture (and still the US culture for some) people are hesitant to take away the "masculinity" of their dogs. Much of the outreach work and education we did focused on explaining the health benefits (less incidence of cancer) of neutering the males and how it also helps their temperment. San Theresa was fairly clean, but small - approximately half the size of the waiting room alone of the vet that I go to here in the states. Because neuter and spay is not prevalent in Trujillo, there is really not a good "recovery area" for the animals post-surgery. We had to make do with laying them on the floor on cardboard and newspaper in a small back room and helpd some of the animals who were cold post-surgery until they woke up. At this clinic I assisted in taking notes of the vitals - gender, species, weight, history if any was known and then notes about the pre and post medications we gave them. Every dog and cat we treated while we were there received post-op antibiotics and pain medications and flea treatment - this is not par for the course for regular spays and neuters is my understanding. Spays and neuters and all of these medications are extremely expensive in Peru - a spay costs about $100 or nearly 300 soles in Peru and that does not include post-op medications. The motivation to spend so much money on what is deemed an unnecessary surgery is just nonexistant. One Day three at San Theresa, we had an influx of cats, so we ended up fixing four dogs and 6 cats that day. Brenda is a very experienced vet who has done similar veterinary volunteer work in other countries including Bolivia and countries in Africa.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shelter work - Days 1 and 2

As you can see, I am not updating this blog daily, so I'll try to label the posts to give you an idea of what I am doing each of the days I are here. The shelter work consists of building fencing in order to separate more aggressive dogs from more subdued dogs as well as to make an area at the entrance for people who come to the shelter to adopt a dog. Adoption is actually a rarity, but our local friend, Ericka, works very hard with the shelter and the veterinary clinics to get dogs adopted out by posting dogs pictures to a website. We hope the fencing will then aid her in getting people to the shelter to meet the dogs. There are about 40-50 dogs at the shelter currently, so it is important that people can get to know and see one dog without all of the others around. The dogs are not vicious by any means - they are just very excitable and, lively we'll say. :) They jump and bark a LOT.
We are also laying brick and adding roofing to an area where eventually another local, Jesus, will stay at the shelter overnight in order to protect it. There are thieves who will come into the shelter and take whatever materials they can. We had to get the ends of our fence posts frayed by a welder before placing them in concrete (the shelter owner demanded this and we agreed because thieves would go to the extreme of pulling the metal posts out of the concrete she said)

Digging into the earth at the shelter is no easy task. We use a "spud bar" which is a heavy metal long stake with a relatively sharp edge at the bottom to break ground and then another person digs the earth and rocks out with their hands. This was truly the best and most efficient method - naturally we Americans tried a shovel and a fence post hole digger, but that did not work. The first day we worked from about 9am to about 6:30pm. After flying overnight, then working at the shelter and taking a couple of windy dusty rides to town to get supplies in the back of the truck, I came back to Huankarute to take what was likely the most deserving shower of my life.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Shelter

After a bit of coffee and bread and jam on Tuesday, June 22, our day of arrival, we changed clothes and headed straight to the shelter. Seven of us went to the shelter (riding in the back of a pickup truck) while about seven others went to the veterinary clinics for the spay/neuter clinic part of The Perros Project (two main projects going on here in Huanchaco and Trujillo - construction of the animal shelter and spaying and neutering of dogs). Let me just say, this dog shelter redefines anything I ever thought of as an animal "shelter" before. There are about 40 dogs there, all in one main area except for those who are a little vicious - they are in the "pens" - there is no roof and no floor and brick walls that are only about 6 feet high. I'll let the pictures speak more for me at this point and I'll write more about our work there in the next post.

The trip

I'll make this short as no one really wants to hear much about a person's travel trials and tribulations. :) We left Portland, Oregon at about noon on Monday, June 21st, flew through Dallas, Texas, through Miami, Florida, and then on to Lima, Peru, which was the overnight flight from approximately 11pm to 4:30am. We (myself, my friend Stephanie, and her mother, Virginia) all managed to sleep for a few hours. We had some trouble in Lima as they told us that they had overbooked the flight to Trujillo and one of the three of us was going to have to wait until the next flight at 3:30pm. This was not working for us at 5:30am when we needed to be on a 6:20 flight to get to Trujillo to get to Huanchaco (pronounced "Juan chako") to work!! In short, we ran with a female employee of the airport to the gate, bypassing lines and hopping security lines with a mere flash of our passports in order to get to the gate to be the first on the standby list. Note, had we done this in the US, we would have been detained by security immediately and would NOT have gotten on any flight that day. We got there and they told us - "just get on the plane and take any seat you can find." So, we did. We arrived in Trujillo at 7:30am and a gentleman from the hotel took us to "Huankarute" (pronounced "Juan karootA") where we joined the other 15 volunteers of the Perros Project for breakfast! Next, we were met by the hotel bird, a parrot named Chilli! (in picture to left)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Leaving for Peru in 24 hours!

We are just about set to go! I hope to update this as much as possible, but will definitely have this put together by the time I return for your viewing!