A huge, huge thank you to IFAW for giving us a generous grant to save earthquake victims! And it could not have come at a better time. A huge follow up earthquake shook up Pedernales, and destroyed the already ravaged town. Our vet Cris’ temporary clinic was destroyed in the quake, with most of her medicines rendered useless by the destruction.
However, the work doesn’t end just because we get inconvenienced. Patients continue to flood in, and the funds we get from generous donors like you and IFAW have been funding new emergency supplies to tend to the new patients. Patients like this little kitten that was found abandoned in this purse, the owner likely having been separated during the aftershock:
Patients like this poor puppy that we managed to diagnose with distemper:
And, of course, a box full of puppies:
The patients keep coming in, but thankfully, we can keep treating everyone. At least for now!
As well as working with the dogs and animals in town, one important mission of the Travelling Animal Doctors (Darwin Animal Doctors) team did was to go out to small, isolated and inaccessible towns to make contact with the people and animals for the first time since the earthquake. The team were brought in by military trucks as they were the only vehicles believed to be able to pass the roads and reach the towns to bring supplies.
Unfortunately this was not quite the case, with the trucks reaching a standstill point where they could not pass the roads each time. Unwavered, the team continued on foot alongside other volunteers to bring news to the town that a supply truck of human and animal supplies was near and to bring the veterinary aid to them. In one town, the team found a poor undernourished dog that had seemingly been attacked, most likely by another dog. After coaxing the dog out from his hiding place, our vet Jochem was able to treat the wound on the dogs face.
It seemed he arrived just in time as there were the first few maggots already living in the wound. The poor pup understood quickly what was going on and cooperated perfectly with the team as Jochem cleaned and treated the wound.
As the few members of the town looked on and witnessed love and care for animals demonstrated by Jochem’s treatment of the dog, it was hard not to feel that they were impacted somewhat too.
The care of MiRey was taken on by a young American girl when she discovered that he was not being properly cared for by his previous owners. During the earthquake, the girl fled to the highlands and was uncontactable for many days. Her family back in the US desperately tried to get word from her and were very worried for her safety. Once found safe, the girl decided to return home to be with her family who needed to see her in person. She left MiRey in the care of a young surfer boy until she could return. The boy was trying his best to look after the dog but with little experience was unsure of what to do and noticed that MiRey was not really eating, had red, irritated eyes and generally seemed down.
On hearing that our vet Jochem had returned to town, the girl quickly contacted the team and asked that the town’s trusted visiting vet go and see the dog, as she was worried for his health and did not know what to do from far away in the USA. Jochem met with the young surfer boy and gave MiRey a general check up. As had happened to many dogs, MiRey was suffering from basically a sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, dealing with the fear of the earthquake as well as the plethora of changes that had occurred since, including his owner no longer being around. Jochem was able to talk to the young boy about MiRey’s need for extra love and attention and play to help him move past his stress from the earthquake. He also treated his eyes which were red and irritated from all constant dust cloud in town evident since the rubble had fallen.
Jochem showed the young boy how to put the cream in MiRey’s eyes, explained the importance of love and play, and treated other small wounds that the dog had. The boy was extremely grateful for the help and advice to know how to best care for the dog, and the girl in the US was relieved to hear that her dog was safe and sound until she could return for him. Later the following day, the team saw MiRey playing happily on the beach, evidently improving already.
Bigua and his owner are other long term friends of the Travelling Animal Doctors (Darwin Animal Doctors), having supported the team in the previous campaign in Canoa. On arrival, the team went to the house/hostel of the owner to check up on her, her daughter and their two dogs and three cats. The team found that the family had fled to safety and the hostel grounds were being used for a volunteer organisation base. Meals were being prepared and volunteers came in to see where they could best go out and aid the community. Part of the work organised out of here was to set up feeding stations for the displaced animals of Canoa. Travelling Animal Doctors offered up a large amount of dog food in order to support the feeding stations and did a general check up to the now five dogs and three cats that were being homed in the volunteer centre. All the dogs were doing pretty well, minus Bigua.
Bigua had apparently been attacked by another dog at some time around the earthquake. His right ear was badly wounded and, as it had been left untreated for some time, had developed into a ‘cauliflower ear’ and was becoming infected. As a particularly special dog to Jochem, he also quickly noticed that Bigua was not only injured physically, but was definitely acting very differently. Normally a playful, bold dog, Bigua was quiet, reserved and almost timid. Jochem realised that Bigua was, in fact, suffering psychologically from the earthquake as well, something that can often be quite overlooked in animals. Bigua experienced the same fear that people did during the quake, but without the explanation of what was going on. Moreover, Bigua’s owner fled after the earthquake in order to get her young daughter to safety, leaving the dog in a changed environment without his usual support. After cleaning and treating Bigua’s physical condition, he explained to the volunteers at the camp that Bigua would need extra love and attention to be able to overcome his stress and return the happy, bold dog that he is.
The volunteers were ready to help, but Bigua had a different agenda. With a strong connection to Jochem, Bigua would not leave his side and followed Jochem back to his camp. Jochem spend the next two weeks treating Bigua’s physical wounds, and going above and beyond, spending any chance he got playing with the dog and showing him that extra love and attention. Bigua slowly returned to his more upbeat and bold self, and by the time his owner returned, Bigua was a happy, healthy pup again (which put a giant smile of the face of his owner).
One of the first animals visited by the team was Cachiva, a particularly special dog to the Travelling Animal Doctors (Darwin Animal Doctors) team. Cachiva had a tough start to her life living on the streets of Canoa, until she was found by one of the members of the team in September 2015, during our high volume campaign in that Ecuadorian coastal city, before the earthquake.
When first found in September, she was near death, with little to no hair, covered in mange and open wounds, badly malnourished and hardly able to breathe due to a piece of wire wrapped around her neck. Taking pity on the poor pup, a team member took her in and began her treatment and recuperation. Cachiva made a strong recovery and became an icon to the town, a symbol of how love and proper care can completely change the life of a dog. Cachiva was the first dog spayed by the Travelling Animal Doctors team in their October campaign and after a speedy recovery from the surgery, gave confidence to many other community members to bring their dogs forward to be sterilized as well. Cachiva was later adopted by a lovely couple and remained a living icon in the beachside town.
Hence, upon arrival, the team heard quickly news of the pup, that she had been found after fleeing from the earthquake and was more or less well, apart from a growing lump on her back, right above her right hind leg. The team quickly sought out Cachiva and her family in their temporary housing setup. With no vet care in Canoa and very few options in the surrounding areas, Cachiva’s owners had been trying to save the money to get Cachiva to a vet to have a look at the tumour. They had finally been able to do so and had booked an appointment with a vet in a town nearby, when the earthquake struck, destroying their house, and everything in it.
In hearing this story, our vet Jochem instantly offered up his services, conducting a full check up of the dog and then working all morning to set up an emergency surgery room and prepare Cachiva (and her owners) for the surgery. In an abandoned school classroom, under zip-tied flashlights, Jochem spent almost two hours carefully removing the tumour. Once satisfied with his work, Jochem took extra care using special methods to carefully close the wound, due to the excess dust and bacteria in the area after the disaster. The operation was a success. The happy little pup was returned to her owners who were relieved to see her looking so well, and grateful to receive good news in such a tough time. Cachiva, being right back to her bright spirited self, can now continue her duty of cheering up and giving hope to the people of Canoa.
Update from board vet Jo on the ground in Ecuador, tonight:
“This is a dog we found during a recon mission to one of the villages here in the Manabi area. They had not received any help yet, so we went in with two hummers full of supplies: food, water, construction materials, dog food, etc. The dogs looked skinny, so the people were very happy with receiving our dog food. We checked the dogs, and found this one, which had a large wound on his head. We soaked it and cleaned it properly. There were already some first stage maggots in there that I had to take out. The dog just sat there and let us help him, very patient and sweet. He did not show any signs of aggression. Michelle and I were very happy with the end result.”