This month, both our Educational Coordinator, Michelle Green, and our head veterinarian, Dr Jochem Lastdrager, attended the APHE Conference in Seattle. The conference was an amazing opportunity to see the work of various Humane Educators from around the country, and meet some of the most dedicated workers in the Humane Education world.
With multiple lectures per day, our team we able to gain new ideas, learn from some interesting insights and hear about the difficulties facing Humane Educators in the US. As an organisation who puts education at our forefront, it was great to also be able to present our own work, including our full year curriculum and our Piggy Tales Graphic novel, at our presenter table.
An incredibly well run and educational event, the APHE conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with a large number of Humane Educators. Thank you to all of those who made this event possible, who shared their knowledge and who made this week fun!
Dr Carmen was studying in the clinic one Saturday afternoon when a family holding their dog appeared in front of the gate. Vaca had given birth to two puppies around midnight the night before, and had continued to cry out as if she was trying to give birth, but had no more contractions. Concerned for the new mum, the family brought Vaca to the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic.
Dr Carmen gave Vaca an injection of oxytocin to see if it would be possible for her to give birth herself – but it was no enough. Dr Carmen realized that Vaca needed a C-Section to safely birth the last of the pups. A difficult surgery, all hands were needed, and so all the Doctors were called in from their places of rest and relaxation across the island.
The team arrived very quickly, and Dr Carmen informed each of them of the plan, and their individual roles. Dr Carmen and Jessica would perform the surgery, removing the uterus from the struggling Vaca and hand it over to Dr Daphne and Alisha, who would then remove the pups. Dr Daphne would check the pups and then hand them across to Elena, Jennifer and Sacha who would team up to care for the little new borns. The plan was set and the surgery room prepared.
As Dr Carmen began the surgery, she quickly realized that this surgery was going to be even more complicated than expected. The uterus was huge, clearly containing far more puppies than expected. Dr Carmen had to make some quick decisions and change the plan. She and Jessica quickly removed the pups from the uterus and handed them over to the rest of the team to check on and take care of each pup. Dr Daphne and the team were handed pup by pup to care for until they had twelve little new borns in front of them. Miraculously, the team were able to save nine of the beautiful pups.
An incredible surgery, the team had spent all day in the clinic by the time it was completed. Vaca was tired, but healthy and would soon return home with her clan of little pups.
DAD: Dr. Carmen, please tell us about your exciting, new adventure. Where are you headed next?
Dr. Carmen: I will be traveling to Koh Tao, Thailand to work with NoiStar Animal Foundation to help run their animal clinic.
DAD: What is the overall focus of the upcoming campaign in Thailand?
Dr. Carmen: In addition to treating animals at the clinic, Darwin Animal Doctors will set up a high-volume TNR (trap-spay-release) program in order to humanely control the overpopulation of feral and free-roaming dogs and cats on the island. As more people populate the island, the population of feral dogs and cats continues to grow out of control. Feral animals impact the local wildlife as they disrupt the breeding grounds for birds and endangered sea turtles. Furthermore, we aim to create awareness about basic animal welfare and care, spread compassion for animals, and build recognition for humane animal control programs in Koh Tao.
DAD: How long will you be in Koh Tao?
Dr. Carmen: Darwin Animal Doctors will be on the island from May to July of 2017.
DAD: Dr. Daphne, first let me start by saying “Welcome to the team”! Please tell the readers a little about your background. What inspired you to join Darwin Animal Doctors?
Dr. Daphne: I graduated veterinary school in the Netherlands in 2013 and worked in different clinics all over the country. Last year, I helped Darwin Animal Doctors with a spay and neuter campaign in Cañoa, Ecuador. There I learned about the impact stray dogs and cats have on the local wildlife and on the community. I was impressed by the Doctors’ work and was enthusiastic about helping out in more campaigns in the future. I was not very happy with my current job in the Netherlands, so when I heard Carmen was planning to leave Galapagos and head to Thailand, I quickly applied for the job!
DAD: What has been your experience in the Galapagos so far?
Dr. Daphne: I have worked in the clinic for three weeks now. Every day is different. We can have two life threatening emergencies at the same time, or we can have mornings when boxes of healthy puppies come in for a de-parasite treatment. I am happy to see that a lot of the clients really love their animals and are very concerned about their well-being. But on the same hand, some of people here are not aware of how to properly take care of their animals. Sometimes they wash their animals with chemicals or feed them food that is not healthy for a dog or a cat. This is not because they want to intentionally harm the animal, rather they do not know that is it wrong. Educating the local community about how to take care of their animals has been a giant task for us.
DAD: What do you look forward to the most over the next six months?
Dr. Daphne: I really enjoy working with the volunteers. I can learn something from every single volunteer that comes in the clinic. I hope that I can teach them something, too. I am also looking forward to seeing more of the amazing flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands!
DAD: Dr. Carmen, after a year in the Galapagos, you have seen and done a lot for animals. We thank you so much! What are your top three favorite memories or moments at the Galapagos clinic?
Dr. Carmen: It is hard to pick my three favorite memories or moments! We have treated so many patients here and you really build a personal bond with each of them. One I will never forget was Ralph, the pitbull with a mysterious disease. We were able to save his life and now, he is a happy, healthy puppy. I spent many hours cuddling him, trying to get him to eat something and just trying to cheer him up. I am so happy he survived. Furthermore, it is the people of the Galapagos and the volunteers that make this a very special place to work.
DAD: What in the Galapagos will you miss most?
Dr. Carmen: I will miss being so connected to nature. There is no other place in the world like Galapagos, where you are surrounded by animals that are not afraid of you. You sit next to a sea lion on a bench waiting for a boat ride. You swim next to marine iguanas and with sea turtles below you. The birds come up to investigate you. You can snorkel with penguins and chill with giant tortoises. It’s like living in a zoo, but better because all the animals are free and live in harmony together. For an animal lover like me, this was like living the dream!
DAD: How can our readers continue to support the clinic?
Dr. Carmen: You continue to support us by spreading the word about what Darwin Animal Doctors does in the Galapagos and around the world. The more people who are aware of us and what we stand for, the more support we will receive. You can also donate one-time or become a monthly member of Darwin Animal Doctors so we can continue to carry out our life-saving work at the clinic in Galapagos and any of the upcoming projects we have internationally, such as our work at the animal clinic in Thailand.
Your monthly contributions allow Darwin Animal Doctors to provide free veterinary care around the world and educate future generations in local schools about animal welfare. Your generous support contributes to a kinder, more compassionate Earth for animals. Click here to become a monthly supporter.
It brings a tear to the eyes of many to realise that yesterday was Dr Carmen’s last day in the Galapagos clinic.
After one year of incredible dedication, hard work, late nights, life saving surgeries, volunteer training, ingenious treatments, emergency call outs, wildlife care and surgeries, sterilization campaigns, community education and more than we could ever fit into one post… this hilarious, fun-loving and truly caring Doctor is going to say goodbye to her post in Galapagos and take a month off before heading to Thailand to commit three more months to the Darwin Animal Doctors cause.
Dr Carmen is not only an incredible surgeon, an amazing doctor and a brilliant teacher, but is an inspiration to all animal lovers and carers out there. Dr Carmen will not only put the endless hours of medical care into any patient that may be in need, but she will always take it a step futher by showing her patients the extra love, care and attention that they deserve. It is not uncommon to enter the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic to see Dr Carmen lying on the floor cuddling with a sick dog to give him the extra dose of TLC needed to get better, or to find her on a Saturday evening in the clinic, checking a cat’s wounds as she sits with him, willing him to get better.
And she does it all with a big smile and a laugh that fills the room.
From all that have had the incredible opportunity to work alongside you, from those who have been inspired by your love and care, and from all those who you have helped and saved; Thank you. For everything you have done for the animals of the Galapagos Islands, and for all the volunteers under your care; Thank you!
Have an amazing holiday Dr Carmen, and we will see you in Thailand!
One Sunday afternoon, our Galapagos chief surgeon, Dr. Carmen, received news of a little female puppy roaming the streets of Bellavista – a town located in the highlands of Santa Cruz. The images attached to the message showed that this puppy had a very bad eye. Dr. Carmen knew that the eye would have to be removed as soon as possible. So, she sent a message back, asking for people to catch the puppy and bring her into the clinic with haste.
The next day, a woman arrived at the clinic with this same little puppy in her arms. The woman had taken pity on the young dog and decided to take her in, as she was in need of serious veterinary attention. The Doctors inspected her eye and discovered not only was the eye infected, but she was completely blind in that one eye. Unfortunately, her eye could not be removed immediately, as the Doctors hoped, since the young pup had developed severe respiratory problems. She sniffled constantly and had a lot of trouble breathing. The puppy could not undergo surgery with this condition, so the Doctors placed her on antibiotics and painkillers until she was well enough to come back for the procedure in three days’ time.
Before leaving the clinic, the new owner of the puppy expressed that she had not thought of name for the little pup yet and asked the team to help her come up with something creative.
Dr. Carmen absolutely loved the opportunity to name this sweet but feisty little girl.
“I thought, who has one eye?” Dr. Carmen recalled, “Pirates! So I had the honor to call her Pirata.”
Three days later, Pirata came back to the clinic for her scheduled surgery. Her respiratory symptoms were gone and Dr. Babette was able to perform the procedure. Everything ran smoothly and Pirata woke up feeling great! It was evident she was happy to be rid of her painful eye. As her excitement rose, the team placed an e-collar on Pirata to ensure the wound was protected from impulsive paws. However, Pirata was perplexed as to why she had a great big plastic cone around her neck!
“For hours, Pirata thought she was only able to walk backwards, making everybody laugh in the clinic!” Dr. Carmen exclaimed.
By the time Pirata left to go home, she had worked out how to walk forwards in her temporary accessory. The team was ecstatic to see the sweet little pup find a new, loving family. Pirata is now one less dog living on the streets.