Canadian Clinic Journal: In Cat Lake, Chipmunk Supervises

A dog has his vital signs taken prior to surgery in Cat Lake, Canada.

Today the vets expect to do about 11 surgeries including some cats or kittens.  The set up in the school classroom is definitely not like it is in a sterile clinic setting but it seems that both Dr Emma and Dr Rob are happy with how things are organized and how the surgeries are progressing.

In the field, the conditions may be different but the medicine still needs to be the same – good solid practice.  If something goes wrong after a vet team visits a community, it can be blamed on the procedures even though there is no correlation.

If you’ve come in and vaccinated animals and then an outbreak of Parvo hits and some dogs die, the community may blame it on the vet clinic.  If a child gets a rash in the same classroom where surgeries were performed 3 months earlier, it can be blamed on the vet clinic.  So it’s imperative to explain what we are doing and be very clear about what can and cannot be expected to happen when we leave.  Even still, perception is reality and sometimes it’s ongoing education and even a bit of damage control can be necessary.

This is the vets first time in a remote Ontario community although I know they both worked in New Orleans following Katrina and I expect there have been one or two other experiences as well.

Sam, one of the vet techs, works with Emma at her clinic down south and Sandy, the other vet tech, accompanied the Cat Lake team last year so is familiar with the conditions and the community.

For productive flow, the vet team figures out a way to meet all their clinic needs including who is going to premed the animals, who is going to work with whom, who will monitor the animals during surgery, who will watch the animals after surgery and so on.

In the evening, the vet team then heads out to vaccinate dogs by going door to door, letting people know that it’s an annual shot.

While the vet team is busy, Ann, Katie and I are rounding up the kids for the real life hands on job of building a dog “house”.  One of the community members who know lots about traditional, live-off-the-land stuff has agreed to involve everyone in making a spruce shelter like the one his mother used to make for their dogs.

Putting up the aspen back bone of the dog shelter.

The shelter is awesome and it doesn’t need any materials that have to be bought or brought into the community.  Jerry tells us that you just need some aspen, some spruce and some cedar, all of which are readily available everywhere you look.   Of course Chipmunk was there to supervise, just another job for the top dog.

We cut young aspen trees to make the backbone of the shelter which Jerry tied together with rope at the top.  Then he had us collect the ends of spruce branches which he showed us how to layer on the outside to provide the weather proofing.  Then we collected some cedar for the inside floor to make it comfortable and clean, and voila, dog shelter!

Quick and easy, perfect for dogs or even for the kids if they ever found themselves in the bush and in need of some protection.  On the way back, Jerry pointed out the different plants that his mother and grandmother would make tea or medicine from.  A fantastic bit of hands on learning and a great idea on the part of Friends of Animush.


For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit

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