Last week, our team in Thailand spent the week in a resort; not for relaxation, but to help out a small community of dogs.
Some distance outside of the town of Koh Tao, there is a resort where approximately 12 dogs roam freely. The compassionate owner has been feeding and looking after the dogs however he could. Since finding out that the team have been in Thailand, the kind owner wanted to do the best possible for all the dogs and contacted Jae, the local veterinarian. He told Jae that as he lived far from the city, and the dogs he cared for where stray, it would not be possible to bring all the dogs into the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic to be sterilized. So the team packed some bags, jumped in a car sent by the resort, and travelled on over.
Once arrived, the team set up in the resort’s covered car parking area. Some of the dogs were used to the resort workers and were easily approachable. Others were more afraid and so Nai (the team’s local champion dog catcher and all-around support) would have to find and catch the dogs with a blow dart. The team were brought a number of dogs; among them, a little of younger puppies – 5 in total. After two days, the team had caught and sterilized 13 dogs from the resort.
That evening, the team packed up and were back to the town to continue their work in the field clinic.
Thank you to the Thailand team, and our amazing Thai counterparts, for the ingenuity and hard work to ensure that every animal on the island can have access to veterinary care.
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Bonny was brought into the Galapagos clinic by a young, high-school aged girl one evening, just as the clinic had finished closing up. Bonny had been acting normally all day, but over the last hour, the little pup’s condition declined rapidly. As Bonny got increasingly worse, the concerned girl decided to rush the pup to the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic.
The Doctors could see straight away that Bonny’s condition was critical. The little pup would not move at all. Her extremities were all cold, her internal temperature low, she had lock jaw and was hypersalivating. On top of all of this, the little pup would occasionally let out a heart-breaking squeal.
The Doctors believed that Bonny most likely had ingested some type of poison, or had incurred a spinal injury. The Doctors questioned the young girl to determine what could have happened to Bonny, but the girl believed that there was nothing in the house or in the patio area where Bonny had been that could have been a toxin, nor had she fallen or been injured. (She later found a bag of garbage in the area which could have contained something poisonous that Bonny could have eaten).
With no information to go on, and Bonny in a critical state, the Doctors began to try everything they could to save her life. They tried every usual medication to save Bonny, but nothing seemed to have any effect. As the team became increasingly concerned, they were left with one last possible option – a small amount of a certain medication, that in the correct exact dose, can be used as an effective contra-poison. The team had to be very precise with the dosages as too little would have no effect, and too much would effectively euthanize the little pup. The Doctors would administer the medication in very small doses over a few sessions.
Bonny was given the first dose the morning after she was brought in, and another that afternoon. The concerned Doctors closely monitored Bonny’s condition throughout the day and gave her a final dosage of the medication that evening. While Bonny’s screaming had stopped, the Doctors could not tell if her condition would improve. As the somber team went to bed that evening, they hoped the medication would have its desired effect overnight.
The next morning, as the team arrived early to check on Bonny, they were met with a miracle. Bonny was up and walking around the clinic, and even wanted to eat. Her condition had improved immensely – she seemed an entirely different dog to the previous days. The only reminder of her near-death experience was that Bonny now seemed to have somewhat reduced vision, bumping into a few things in the clinic every so often.
The team called the young girl to let her know the news. The Doctors, the young girl, and Bonny were all ecstatic about her miraculous recover. The lucky pup had escaped near death, thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of the Darwin Animal Doctors team.
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Oreo was brought into the Galapagos clinic one Monday morning while the team already had three sterilization surgeries lined up, with three new volunteers having just arrived. Thankfully, two volunteers, Alex and Natalia, who had just finished their last day in the clinic the week before were just heading out, and decided to jump in and lend a hand one last time.
Oreo had been brought in by a middle age couple as he had apparently been bitten by another dog that morning. Oreo had bite marks on his neck and front leg, congruent with the story, but also had a fractured hind leg which had no bite marks, blood or wounds of any kind.
An odd situation, the team brought the dog in to be treated. He had never been to the clinic, and had not yet been castrated. As Dr. Daphne checked the dog over, the team talked with the owners about the importance of sterilizing their dog. Mayra, a long-time trusted face of the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic, discussed with the couple that it is standard for the Doctors to sterilize a dog or cat that goes under anesthesia, and explained the reasons why. The couple understood, and agreed to have Oreo castrated while he was anaesthetized for treatment.
Dr. Daphne and the team worked away on Oreo while he was anaesthetized; his wounds were cleaned, he was castrated and his leg was cast. Lena monitored Oreo and his anesthetics throughout the surgery, and Sacha assisted in stabilizing the leg to be cast.
Oreo woke up from the surgery well, although he still has some healing to do with his broken leg. His family will need to take great care of him as Oreo will need to return to the clinic twice a week to be checked and rebandaged. The Doctors will continue to monitor and treat Oreo as he goes through his road to recovery.
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One Saturday morning, a mother and her son brought their beloved dog, Rex, to the clinic. Two volunteers, Alex and Natalia, were the only ones in the house as, being a weekend, the rest of the team were out. The two volunteers called Dr. Daphne right away to let her know that there was a dog who needed attention.
Dr. Daphne quickly returned to the clinic to see Rex. The poor pup had been reportedly losing weight all week, but had become acutely lethargic that morning, making the family too concerned to wait for the clinic to reopen on Monday. Dr. Daphne took Rex in to get him on fluids and some medication. By that afternoon, Rex was already doing better, but was still not good enough to go home. Strangely, Rex had developed a new symptom; he had begun acting as if he were slightly blind.
Rex remained with the clinic team for a few more days. He continued to improve, but was still displaying some symptoms of having unclear vision.
When Rex’s family came to visit, the clinic team saw a wonderful sight; “When the owner came, [Rex] was so happy to see them that he almost got stuck in the gate because he was trying to climb through. The boy started playing with him. [Rex] was indeed still a bit wobbly but really wanted to play.”
After some discussion with the family, it seemed that the most likely cause was that Rex had eaten something poisonous. The family knew of a tree nearby the house which is poisonous for dogs and can apparently cause temporary blindness – a possible cause. With the most dangerous time passed, Dr. Daphne and the team decided that it would be best for Rex to be able to finish his recovery with his loving family; where he felt the most safe and in a place most familiar. The family were asked to return with Rex for a check-up in a few days, and to return immediately if he seemed to get any worse.
When Rex returned for his check-up, he was doing wonderfully. His sight was back to normal, and he had returned to the happy and healthy dog that he had always been.
Darwin Animal Doctors face many cases such as Rex. Become a monthly donor or make a one-time donation by clicking the donate button and help us continue to treat sick and injured animals around the world!
Dr. Carmen arrived on site in Koh Tao, Thailand a week prior to the first set of volunteers who would join the program. During this first week, Dr. Carmen was setting up the temporary clinic, meeting with local partners and ensuring that everything was in place and ready to go; from trap cages to surgery tables.
“We would set up in a property of ‘Save Koh Tao’; across the street from the clinic. It is an open area with a rooftop, lights and fans. I had to buy some containers to store our spay kits, make an anaesthesia protocol for the volunteers, and set up everything to be ready for Monday.” reported Dr. Carmen. So much preparation had gone on behind the scenes over the past months to be ready for the team to begin, but there is always more work to be done in a field clinic!
Dr. Carmen was especially interested and excited to meet our local partners, to ensure that we would be able to work in a manner that would be most supportive and beneficial for the community. Our local veterinary partner, Jae, introduced Dr. Carmen to her clinic assistant, Nai who would be helping the team around the clinic and with trapping, including prepping the animals for surgery. Dr. Carmen was also introduced to Nit Noi who would help with cleaning and preparation of the materials needed for surgeries.
As the volunteers began to arrive, the campaign hit its official start date and the team set to work. “The first week was busy with an average of eight animals a day and a lot of female spays”, reported Dr. Carmen. As a teaching facility, Dr. Carmen and Dr. Mila, another experienced vet on the team, were taking much care and attention to guide students and newer vets through surgeries; from preparation to after care. The students were all improving throughout the first weeks, each getting more experience and confidence in themselves from the support of Dr.s Carmen and Mila.
Local partners worked hard alongside the Darwin Animal Doctors’ team, and added a bright spark to each and every day with their positive attitudes and willingness to help.
“Nit Noi is the cleaning lady, she doesn’t speak Thai or English as she is Burmese. She sings the whole day, cleans and loves the animals… Nai is an all-round assistant, preparing the animals for surgery, giving anaesthesia etc. Nai goes around town with a blowpipe to sedate aggressive dogs and brings them to me for surgery. He also brings nice dogs, which were easier to catch for him, and brings them back again at the end of the day to where they came from.”
As the Darwin Animal Doctors and Koh Tao residents worked together, the first weeks were shaping up to be a great success. During the second week, the number of animals being brought into the clinic slowed which meant that Nai became even busier catching animals around town. Other local community members, Nicky and Heidi, stepped in to help and begun setting traps. They reached out to the community to monitor the traps to let the Darwin Animal Doctors team know when an animal had been caught, and to help set more traps to catch strays.
The team will continue working together with the community for the next two months, aiming to significantly reduce the stray cat and dog populations on the island. In amongst all their hard work, the team also manage to have a good time and experience the Thai culture; “For lunch we don’t have a set time, we go when we are finished with surgeries for that moment and we go and find some restaurant to have a quick lunch. In the afternoon, we sometimes relax at the beach and at night we enjoy a Thai curry.”