IFAW Canada: Northern Dogs - Back on the Trail with June Clinic Work - PT II
The following report is coming from Jan Hannah, Project Manager of
the International Fund for Animal
Northern Dogs Project, which centers its work on dogs living in remote
communities of northern Canada.
What a drive yesterday. It’s about 7 hours from door to door but as we traveled south, you could see huge billowing clouds of smoke up ahead. Even though you could see them, it was difficult to judge if what looked to be a massive forest fire was close to the road or not. As we got closer, you could smell it as well as see it. Sure enough, when we finally reached the fire, it was at the road and the road was smoke covered for about a kilometer. We drove through (with permission!) and the second van stopped in the smoke… they said you could feel the heat of the fire on their legs inside the van! The flames were licking up the trees at the side of the road. Wowza. Not many people get to see the mite of a full on forest fire, let alone drive through one! We turned off the paved highway and headed the two hours down the dirt road to our second community. So today, we are open for business. I’ve never seen so many dogs roaming in this community but as per usual, they all seem like nice dogs. We bumped into two sisters from a litter that we spayed last year when they were just puppies and they look really good. They have grown into beautiful, even tempered dogs. Bruno was in with some porcupine quills. We neutered him last year and he doesn’t seem to like the clinic any better the second time around! The young owner we met on the playground last night brought in her very young pup. The puppy was skinny and when she arrived, she started having seizures. She was wobbly and lethargic. She stayed in the back with the vets all day so they could keep an eye on her. She was owned by another child before the current one and she may have suffered head trauma. At the end of the day, she went home with strict instructions for care. I have my fingers crossed. Puppies are fragile, especially when taken from their mothers at such a young age. End of day count… 21 surgeries, 31 vaccinations (most of whom had already been spayed or neutered already).
First thing this morning I went out to find the dog I had been emailed about prior to heading north. I was told the dog was old and had a hard mass on his belly, most likely a tumour. I took the van expecting to bring the dog back to the clinic for MJ or Martine to look at. I didn’t find him at the address I was given but I did see an older dog across the street with a white muzzle and assumed it was him. Just as I reached him, his owner came out. It turns out ‘he’ is a ‘she’ and she obviously has a mammary tumour. She is 13 years old -- which is a miracle in itself – and has already had one tumour from the same area removed. We struggled to get her loaded into the van and I took her to see MJ. MJ palpated the mass and said that it goes all the way up her belly so removing it would be a huge surgery – especially for such an old dog -- with no guarantee of results and most likely lots of blood and lots of healing. She said that as long as the dog is eating and is happy, she’s happy. I delivered her back to her house where she can live out her time on her own turf, comfortable and content. Back at the clinic, Laura was wrestling with another shihtzu shave (with help from both Ann and Val) and Martine had another old dog on the surgery table, removing a sizeable growth from her side. With the clinic running smoothly as usual, I went to find the owners of two huskies that were young girls but no longer wanted. I found the house and two year old black and buff littermates ran up to greet me, both friendly and with tails wagging. Sure enough, these are the two who are proving to be difficult and are no longer wanted. Because we have another community to host a clinic in, I decided that we would come back at the end when the team flew out and pick up the dogs then. But that wasn’t all. The owner said that one of the dogs (I named her Husky Mama and her sister Hyena Mama) had one puppy who was living under the shed in the back. She went into the house, brought out a carton of milk and headed back to entice the pup out from under the shed. Sometimes you just don’t expect what you get and this wee thing was not like her mother or aunt at all! Could we also take the pup to be rehomed? I think so!
The clinic started off with a bang this morning. There were people lined up for vaccinations and surgery before we had even set up. This is our last community and a local group has formed to change the way dogs are managed. Because of the ongoing work of the group, I expect that we will have more surgeries than in the past. Beauty, Marley, Tiny, Blackie, Molly, Buddy, Patch, Lucky, another two Buddys, Spencer, and about 15 more came in for vaccinations only. Crazy, Hunter, Doris, Blackie, Smartie, Miss Jones, Lady, Polar Bear were brought in for surgery along with a whole bunch more! Ann and Val were busy recovering dogs over there by the fire gear and Hanna, Laura and myself were busy on intake doing our IFAW paperwork but also doing registration for the dogs. I figure this is very important because if the dogs are picked up, they are supposed to be identified by their registration tag and their owners called for pick up. If the paperwork is part of helping dogs stay alive and get home, I’m all for it. Buddy, a young black and tan puppy came in for surgery along with a chocolate lab pup. He was skinny and seemed lethargic. Just before surgery, he vomited and when Laura tested him for Parvo, he was positive. She put him in the back in a crate hooked up to IV fluids and we crossed our fingers for his recovery. Not long after, Chester, a year old black long haired male, was brought in by his owner who said he had been hit by a car. When he arrived, Martine couldn’t tell if his front leg was dislocated or fractured. The owner signed the dog over to IFAW for further care if need be with the objective of providing follow up down south and rehoming him. When he was on the table, MJ showed me the extent of his injuries. His front leg was badly broken and would most likely need to be amputated. His teeth had been sheered off at the gum line at some point in the past and must have been incredibly painful. The area under his tongue wasn’t normal and had lots of green, infected tissue. MJ went over his injuries but only when she advised me of all the work and recovery he would need did we make the decision to euthanize him. A sad, happy and busy day, we were late at the clinic recovering dogs, and had to pop back in near 10 pm to check on Buddy and continue with his meds before dropping into bed.
Now this is something I have never seen before. A very large great dane came into the clinic today for a neuter. I thought that I should make myself scarce when it came time to lift him onto the surgery table. The next thing I know, MJ is pulling the air mattress off the table and putting it on the floor and the big dog is being lowered onto it by the rest of the team. Roles of paper towel were positioned to keep him on his back and MJ did the surgery while on her knees on the floor by the door! I didn’t see who the lucky ones were who got to carry him out to recovery or out to the car when it was time to go home. Next was a black lab who had been picked up off the street by an elder. The daughter told me that her father had bad luck with dogs and that this latest one had recently been hit by a car and his tail broken. This meant that his tail hung down and he kept pooping on it. Martine came out and spoke with the owner and said that she would amputate the tail… I called this the rock star surgery. We went in to watch as she worked what looks like magic to those of us who are not vets. All this time I was aware that Laura and I had to go back and check on Angel, an older spay from the day before who had had a blood vessel bleed. We had visited her the night before after the owner called and wrapped her around her middle. When we returned in the morning to unwind her bandages, she wouldn’t let us near her. She was guarding her property and her belly and we weren’t getting anywhere near her. We hopped into the van and when we did manage to check back on her, the kids told us that their mother had unwrapped her and she was doing just fine. Back at the clinic, Buddy, the Parvo puppy, is doing really well and we’ve called his owner to come pick him up. Fingers crossed that he keeps recovering. Still up for surgery, Chiquita, Austin. Layla, Rosie, Lucky, Bear, Chubby, Coco...
The final day often feels long and hurried because it includes another take down and final inventory. But the objective is to see as many animals as possible because the nearest vet is far away. Our vet team left the fire hall at 7 pm to try and get some food while the rest of us stayed to recover dogs and take down. I’m talking to Kate on the phone about a possible dog transport from the community and the next thing I know, the vet team is back (with food), hoisting animals into the vans and rubbing the remaining dogs to wake them up. Luckily the weather is still warm and sunny so even if the dogs do not get to go inside (many are not used to it), they won’t have to suffer any rain. And then everything was quiet, an unusual sound for the fire hall that we got used to over the past two days. You always want to make a big enough difference… in the long term, that is. You made a difference now and to those animals you helped or stopped from having puppies. And of course, helped those puppies too who would have been born and had puppies themselves by the time we returned… that is a lot of puppies! But at some point, people have to learn that if they want to stop the cycle of too many unwanted animals, they have to keep theirs. Commit for life. Spay or neuter for behaviour, health and population control reasons and keep the dog or cat. Enough said… we still have one or two more dogs to see tomorrow.
Up, breakfast and a quick drive to drop the vet team at the airport. They will be home in about two and a half hours and we will most likely not have even left the community yet! Beaver, one of the priest’s dogs who we neutered last year, and one of his ‘wives’ has had a run in with a porcupine. We set out to his house and thankfully, he’s home so he can help. The dogs that he takes care of are most comfortable with him, except for Beaver who is somewhat easy to catch… IF you get him on the first try! We used a loop to catch him and then sedated him. As you can see in the photo, there is just enough sedation to keep him quiet but we didn’t want to knock him out so it does actually take two or three people to hold a dog down to pull out quills. Imagine what it’s like when you have no sedation… impossible. Hanna, who has good dog handling skills, wandered quietly over to the female and quietly slipped the noose over her head. When Beaver was done, we were able to give her a jab as well. She didn’t have as many quills as Beaver did but infection can still occur and these two dogs have lived long and healthy lives and can continue to do so. The priest was very thankful and I am always happy to help his dogs as they are starting to show their age… and Beaver is actually the father of one of my dogs who I brought south two years ago. Family bonds run deep, including dog family! So our intention was to head back north where one van would head to pick up Scruffy, a four year old we had spayed at a previous clinic, while the other went back to Nemaska to pick up the two husky crosses and pup. Believe it or not, the same fire we had passed through on our way south had closed the road and after months of planning for the Scruffy pick up, I feared her new owner wouldn’t get to see her still! All this way to be stopped by a fire. Bingo, the road was open and we sailed through, able to look out over the smoking, burnt landscape. It’s hard to imagine the good that fire does but we all know it regenerates the forest so you just have to look out and know that in two years, it will be green again. We made it to the Scruffy pick up point and man handled Scruffy safely in the van. The wind has kicked up the fire and we are held up along the highway heading back south and to our hotel. With no cell phone coverage, there is no way to let the other van know we are going to be late and to check in on their passengers. An hour and a half later we are on the move again. No van at the meeting spot, a few calls from the roadside emergency phone to confirm they are alive and at the hotel, and we are headed four hours to our beds. Must get home and begin the planning for the dog transport that will help a community change the way they are dealing with excess dogs. Good for them!
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