Ten years in, another day down, some real progress for Canadian Northern Dogs

Catharine preps one of the uber dogs for surgery (this one couldn't be lifted onto the table).The vet component is the highest profile part of the Northern Dogs Project. 

Over the ten years that we have been working in the communities, I’ve seen a real shift in guardian behaviour. 

First off, people trust us and they know we will come back. 

Second, they call me throughout the year if their dog is sick or hurt, if they need to rehome him/her and to ask when we are coming back with the spring clinic. 

And three, they are waiting for us, bringing their dogs in early, staying as their dogs have surgery and helping to recover them.  They come in with their dogs and their stories. 

And we get to hear all of them and offer some advice or share a laugh. 

The first day of clinics was no different. 

It ran really well which is no surprise with the Northern Dogs vet team.  MJ and Martine are back as the best vets in the world, and Val and Catherine are once again their strong, hard working sidekicks. 

If you have not seen a high functioning vet team, it’s a thing of beauty. 

Martine neuters one of the 30 animals brought in for sterilization.The vet techs come out of the surgery room in the back to find the dog that wears the number they have on the intake sheets that have made their way from us in the front, to them in the surgery. 

At intake, we need to focus when we see them come out because we know the animals by their names more so than their numbers.  But to the techs, it’s the number on the upper right hand corner of the surgery form they are focusing on. 

After Val or Catherine have located the appropriate dog, they walk them back to the surgery room (unless s/he is too sedated in which case they carry them) and place them on the surgery table – unless they are too big in which case their surgery is done on the floor! 

The dogs are then fully sedated, shaved, intubated and hooked up to the anesthetic machine. This allows the vets to concentrate on their surgeries. 

By the end of the first day, the vets had concentrated on 30 spays and neuters. 

That broke down into 20 neuters and 10 spays.  All of those dogs were vaccinated and the young ones were sent home with dewormer.  Out front, another 44 dogs came through the clinic for annual vaccines only and dewormer if needed.  These animals had either been sterilized at a previous International Fund for Animal Welfare clinic (15 had been spayed & 20 had already been neutered) or their guardians declined the surgery. 

When all was said and done 65 of the 74 animals that we saw had been sterilized or were sterilized during the day. 

That’s a big step towards creating a stable dog population where fewer pups are born, disease is controlled in individual dogs and the environment through vaccination, and nuisance sex-driven behaviours are reduced. 

A good, Northern Dogs day!


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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters