Darwin Animal Doctors


Archive: Oct 2016

  1. The Story of Stinky

    The Darwin Animal Doctors clinic has a secret team member who, so far, has not been introduced. And we think it’s about time that she got her time to shine. In January of this year, when Carmen first began as the new Darwin Animal Doctor at the Galapagos clinic, she met a strange and darling street cat that soon become more than just a patient…

    On a usual, busy clinic day, a local resident entered the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic with a small, black street cat in hand. The kind man had noticed that the poor street cat had massive abdominal wounds, and so decided to bring her into the clinic. The cat was in a terrible way; she was incredibly skinny, missing patches of hair, with severely ulcerated skin on her abdomen and mammary glands (which created quite a horrible aroma…).

    The little cat was very young, only about three months, but had already clearly had a tough time living out on the streets. Being in such a state, the team expected her to be scared, shy, or even aggressive. However, the little black cat was not so at all. From the first moment in the clinic, she was loudly meowing and purring, strutting around as if she owned the place. She pined for affection, rubbing her infected, smelly self up against all the clinic volunteers. But everyone loved the cat’s somewhat inflated sense of self, and she quickly won the affectionate name “Stinky”

    stinky 3           stinky

    Despite her apparent disregard for her ever present health issues, the ulcerated skin on Stinky’s abdomen would have to be removed. Due to the excessive amount of damage, the process would need to be done in two separate surgeries. In the first surgery, Carmen had to remove the mammary glands with the worst of the ulcerated skin, and then wait for the skin to heal and grow. The rest of the ulcerated skin was then removed in the second surgery, stretching the healed skin to cover wounds from the second operation. The surgeries were a great success, and the poor homeless cat was kept in the clinic to monitor her recovery. But as Stinky began to heal, the quirky and strange cat became more and more peculiar…

    She quickly became the entertainment of the clinic and love of many, with her love for cucumber (then tomato, then potatoes), her continual desire for attention (even in the middle of the night), and her strange love-hate relationship with the neighbour cat. But to the veterinarian who had cared for her for endless hours from day one, she was particularly special. Carmen and Stinky would often be found lying on the couch or floor together, cuddling and playing, discussing the events of the day. Carmen had searched out the best cat toys, tried every cat food in the town to find Stinky’s favourite, and needless-to-say spent hours treating the cat to bring her back to perfect health. Carmen had even taught her how to fetch and so she would be regularly be found chasing a fuzzy rat toy down the clinic stairs.

    stinky 4        stinky 6

    Unfortunately, the team could no longer deny the unhappy truth; due to a variety of constraints, there are to be no animals kept in the clinic. But the beloved cat had no owner (the man who brought her in had five non cat loving dogs and so could not keep her) and nowhere to go. And the “hard and tough” veterinarians had fallen so in love with her that they were not about to let her go. Especially Carmen. So they veterinarians “released” Stinky; they opened the clinic door and asked Stinky if she wanted to leave. Stinky peered outside (as Carmen held her breath) and then quickly turned around and strutted back inside the clinic. Apparently, she did not want to leave. So, over the months to come, the team channeled their teenage deviancy and stuck together against the rules in order to keep Stinky. She was hidden when necessary, rule-makers were readily misinformed that she was no longer in the clinic when they inquired, and if discovered and put up for adoption, she would be quickly removed from the list by a fast-acting volunteer. Every new volunteer instantly fell in love the quirky Stinky cat, and were soon recruited to join the “Save Stinky” plight.

    Now, after 10 months, Stinky’s place in the clinic is clear, and she is here to stay. She is constantly an entertaining presence, putting a smile on everyone’s face, no matter how long and tiring the day was.

    stinky 5                 stinky 2

  2. Commitment to the Cause

    Recently, we posted a story about how education has started to completely change the outlook of the next generation in the Galapagos Islands on animal welfare issues. We, at Darwin Animal Doctors, are moved, as we see examples of this change take place within the community. One of these examples particularly amazed our veterinarians, and so we decided to share it with you.

    On a calmer Tuesday afternoon in the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic, the waiting area was suddenly swamped by 12 school children. When the veterinarians enquired as to what the issue was, the school kids presented the vets with a very unhealthy looking cat. They had found the cat on school grounds, unable to walk and looking very unwell. The children got together and made a big decision – one that previously would not have been the response of locals just a few years ago; they decided that they couldn’t let this poor animal suffer and instead, collected up the cat and brought it in to the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic. The poor cat was suffering, presenting with terrible muscle atrophy, responded painfully to being touched and was unable to walk. On further examination, the veterinarians discovered that the cat had chronic hip and pelvic damage. Unfortunately, the poor cat was suffering too badly, and despite the best efforts of the veterinarians, he had to be euthanised the next day. If it wasn’t for these kids, however, the poor cat would have lay there suffering for an unknown amount of time.

    09_27_School kids with streetcat (3)

    What impressed the vets the most, was that despite this not-so-encouraging ending, these same kids have continued their commitment in their community to animal welfare. They catch street cats to be brought in for sterilization, sick animals for treatment and convince other local owners to sterilize their animals.

    This just another example of the change in outlook of the community after the education programs implemented by the Darwin Animal Doctors. As the next generation starts to change their values and see the world a little differently, the future starts to change with them.

    09_27_School kids with streetcat (1)

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  3. Luna, the cat that was not such a regular cat…

    Life in a veterinary clinic is always interesting, with different cases coming across your surgery table every day. Some stories, however, are just that bit more interesting than the rest. This is one of those such stories.

    On one Thursday morning in the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic on the Galapagos Islands, Luna, a male cat was brought in for a routine sterilization surgery. The usual process was followed; the cat was put in a holding box, the owners signed a consent form for the surgery and the cat was brought in to wait his turn. During the pre-sedation examination, the vets discovered that the male cat did not have testicles. Some cats in the Galapagos (and other locations) are neutered without tattooing or  documentation so it was possible that Luna may already have been sterilized. It was, however, also possible that Luna was a cryptorchid. (Cryptorchidism refers to the failure of one or both testicles to descend into the scrotum.) So, the question became; was Luna a cryptorchid or just previously neutered? As Luna had started to become quite aggressive, the vets developed a plan; to have Luna return to be examined under sedation to determine if he was a cryptorchid or neutered.


    So, on Monday morning, Luna returned for the investigation… But the results were stranger than the vets had thought… Upon sedation, it was discovered that Luna not only lacked testicles, but also did not have male genitalia. Luna was also not a female. S/he had a deformed type of genitalia and was likely a form of hermaphrodite; i.e. s/he was neither male nor female. Even stranger, Luna had very masculine features; a big head, long feet, and was quite a large cat! Unfortunately, without ultrasound, the only way to examine Luna further would be through surgery. As Luna was not threat to carry or father kittens, the vets decided to spare Luna the surgery. Thankfully, Luna’s mother thought it quite hilarious that her macho cat was a little more interesting than expected…


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  4. A Fire in Bridleshire Farms

    Here at Darwin Animal Doctors, we have many stories which champion the amazing work done by our veterinarians every day, on our variety of projects. Today, we have a story of a different hero; one of the many members of the Darwin Animal Doctors team, working behind the scenes to keep everyone out there doing what they are doing.

    Hannah is a veterinary assistant who works from Delaware to support the Darwin Animal Doctors, as well as volunteering on many of the varying campaigns run by the organization. As it happens, Hannah first got involved with Darwin Animal Doctors as she had heard about their work through dog sitting for one of the board members. Hannah still dog sits for Terry and Alice, looking after their six dogs. As Terry and Alice are currently away, Hannah found herself, once again, with eight extra dogs to take care of (Terry’s six, and two others regularly looked after by Terry). Little did Hannah know, this dog sitting experience was not going to be like any other.

    On the evening of the 12 of October, Hannah was heading to Terry’s house to feed and care for the eight dogs. As Hannah neared the street where Terry lived, she was horrified by what she saw. The beautiful 1742 converted barn house on the property next to Terry’s (and between Hannah and the dogs) was ablaze. The fire was of epic proportions; Six separate fire houses were initially called to fight the fire, with flames estimated to extend 75 feet into the air. With the fire as wild as it was, so close to Terry’s house, Hannah knew the helpless dogs might soon be in a lot of trouble. In a split second, she made a heroic and selfless decision. Hannah parked at the end of the street and ran towards Terry’s house, right past the blazing fire. She quickly collected all eight, terrified dogs and loaded them into Alice’s car, driving them to her house – to safety.

    BarnAblaze-Hannah 101216       BarnAblaze-Witham 101216

    Later, Hannah found out that the fire had required twelve fire houses 90 minutes to control the blaze. The house was completely destroyed, and while, thankfully, the human members of the family living there survived, their family dog did not.

    BarnSmoldering 101316                 BarnSmoldering 101516 (2)

    Despite the devastating circumstances, the Bridleshire community came together after the event, in appreciation for the twelve firehouses who worked so tirelessly to contain the wild blaze. In a wonderful gesture of gratitude, the community baked dozens and dozens of cookies, delivering them to each individual fire house involved. The Darwin Animal Doctors team, and especially Terry and Alice, would also like to thank Hannah for demonstrating such selflessness, and for going above and beyond to protect their eight beloved dogs that night.

    FD_Cookies-Hawley 101516 (2)

    Our thoughts go out to all involved in the event, and especially to the family who lost their home and their dog. May you all recover peacefully from this incident.

  5. Education really works!

    Education has always been one of the most important aspects of Darwin Animal Doctors’ approach to improving animal welfare in the Galapagos Islands. Until recently, many residents in the Galapagos did not understand the need for the control of introduced species and were unaware of the humane method of control, namely sterilization. When the Darwin Animal Doctors started the conversation about the need for veterinary care for animals, including the need for sterilization, there were many myths and a lot of resistance surrounding the issue. It seemed it would be a hard road ahead for the team to change these local perceptions.

    Now, let’s fast forward to 2016. After six years of education, spreading awareness and providing free veterinary care to the towns of Galapagos Islands, it is incredible to see the difference that those years of education have made. From a resistant society to the concept of animal care and sterilization, the clinic now flourishes with people coming in looking for treatment for their pets, and requesting the surgery. But the biggest difference, and the most exciting is that seen in the next generation.

    Recently, the Tomas de Berlanga School in Santa Cruz ran a type of treasure hunt where the children handed out a pamphlet with information on sterilization, including its importance and debunking common myths. The pamphlet also contained the Darwin Animal Doctors poster, with information on when and where to access the free service. Sounds good right? Well, it gets better; the kids not only handed out the pamphlets (making sure not to overlap with other children who had come through earlier), but had a conversation with each person that they gave the pamphlets too, making sure they understood the information and its importance.

    09_23_Tomas de Berlanga School Run (12)                           09_23_Tomas de Berlanga School Run (10)

    The Darwin Animal Doctors were flowing with pride watching local kids spread the education that they, themselves have started within the Galapagos towns. Of course, that pride and excitement was taken to the next level when the Darwin Animal Doctors were greeted by each of these kids, who came into the clinic to tell all the vets; “We love Darwin Animal Doctors!”

    Education is where we make a real difference, changing the outlook and understanding of future generations. This is just one example to show that education really works; Empowering the people to empower themselves.

    Keep it up Darwin Animal Doctors!

    09_23_Tomas de Berlanga School Run (18)

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  6. Rodriguito, the lovable cat…

    As is now not such uncommon practice in the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic, two young girls walked in, one as young as three, cat in hand, asking to see a vet. As the girls presented the cat to the veterinarians, it was clear that he was in a bad state. Little Rodriguito had suffered a dog bite to the face, resulting in extensive damage to the eye. Still covered in dried blood, the attack was clearly not fresh.

    Rodriguito Before    Rodriguito before

    Rodriguito was quickly put under anesthesia, for further examination. The right eye was badly damaged; punctured, swollen and infected, but the veterinarians wanted to give Rodriguito every chance possible to save his eye. The issue, however, was that the treatment to potentially save the eye was rigorous, and would involve consistent, around the clock attention. Considering the age of the two young girls who brought Rodriguito in, the team knew that it was virtually impossible to ask them to adhere to such a schedule. Due to little space and resources, normally animals can also not be kept in the clinic. The team were faced with a dilemma.

    Then, like a child begging to get a cat for Christmas, one of the volunteers piped up “Please, please, can’t we just keep him here? I promise I will take care of him! You won’t even know he is here!”And like the not-so-reluctant parents, the rest of the team agreed.

    And so it began. For 10 days, the team dedicated around the clock attention to little Rodriguito. This included 24 hour intravenous medication, and a demanding schedule of eye drops, followed by an eye lubricant every four hours. The volunteers’ hard work was repayed with nothing but the sweet appreciation of a cat who was otherwise helpless. But for them, this was enough. Over the days, Rodriguito’s affectionate personality grew on the team, and the veterinarians showed the lucky cat every bit of love and attention that he could possibly take in.

    Rodriguito the loved cat!    Becoming friends with the clinic cat    Rodriguito

    Despite showing signs of improvement along the way, unfortunately, after 11 more days, now a total of 21 days of working around the clock, the eye had not shown sufficient improvement to validate not removing it. The owner was consulted and the surgery was set for the next day. The next morning, the team set to and conducted what is called an “enucleation” surgery, or a surgery to remove the eyeball. The surgery was a great success, and Rodriguito made a rapid recovery.

    Although the team had grown so fond of Rodriguito and had shown him such continuing commitment and care, the day then came for him to go home. The veterinarians handed the happy, healthy now one-eyed cat back to the arms of the little girl who was so very delighted to have him back.

    A bitter-sweet day for the team, one of the volunteers expressed it perfectly; “This is what being a veterinarian is all about; though our time with our patients may be short, we can do such good!” Thank you to the team of volunteers at the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic who consistently demonstrate true compassion and dedication, no matter how much is asked of them.


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