A day in the life, if there were such a thing

Originally I thought it would be a great idea to write about “a typical day at the KAT center,” but very quickly I realized there is no such thing. Never, has one day at the center been repeated the next – – and I am very thankful for that. That being said, our days do all the start the same. We open the gate to the familiar sight (and smell) of our twenty-two house dogs greeting us with lolling tongues, wagging tails and muddy paws. Often, we then walk the dogs first thing. From then on, however, the day is “a box of chocolates”. Usually, myself and other “technical volunteers” perform the daily, morning treatment off all the dogs which require such. These consist of anything from IV fluids to medications to bandage changes. Everyday though, different animals arrive in desperate need of care. Today, for example, I arrived at the clinic to find a puppy no more than a month or two old who had fleas and demodex so bad it had scratched its head to the bone, and was covered in open, festering sores. The puppy however was just happy to be held by a human and gratefully received treatment. We cleaned the wounds, applied anti parasitic, topical treatment and administered both local and subcutaneous antibiotics. As well, the puppy received an e-collar (those giant plastic cones around the neck that threaten the animal of drowning if he looks up during a rain storm – you know the ones) to prevent further scratching. It really does amaze me how easily these street dogs, dogs which in most cases are lucky to receive garbage food from humans let alone contact, are willing to accept our treatment. It is extremely rare for any of the animals that come in to so much as growl at a human when really, they have every right to do so. At home, I don’t think I ever worked a day at a clinic where a few “Cujo’s” didn’t walk through the door each day, eye up my jugular and try and may mince meat out of me. Here, however, these dogs are so starved for attention they’ll let you poke and prod them, jab them with needles, apply ointments and all the works, so long as they get a pat on the head at the end of it. It kind of reminds me of the children here whose faces light up when you so much as give them a balloon. Both animals and people here have so little and are so grateful for even the smallest amount of compassion it makes you realize how spoiled we really are in Canada. Anyways, I digress. Learning and performing veterinary medicine here I would kind of equate to moving to a small town in Spain to learn Spanish. I am completely immersed in it, far out of my comfort zone and have no choice but to try my best, ask as many questions as people will answer and learn from my mistakes. We lack essentially all diagnostic equipment– we cannot analyze blood, take radiographs or look at ultrasounds. Essentially, we take our most educated guess and treat accordingly. It isn’t perfect, we know that, I know that. But at the end of the day our best guess is a hell of a lot better than the dogs’ other option – – nothing. At the KAT center I feel as though I have played the role of bother teacher and student.  I’ve learned to place catheters, perform intramuscular injections, perform blood transfusions and place casts. At home, we spend so much time reading text books and watching the vets perform that we forget, or don’t get the chance, to really do things for ourselves.  However, we bring a knowledge of first world medicine and bio security that goes a long way here. As well, my recent course in veterinary neuroscience has proved more useful than I ever expected as day after day dogs come in with different neurological issues and we have to try and determine the issue at hand. Sometimes, however, even localizing the lesion doesn’t change the poor animal’s outcome. Other times we see miraculous recoveries.   
     Yesterday, we arrived at work to find a two day old kitten someone had found and brought in. The kitten has not left the arms of a fellow volunteer since and has accompanied us to dinner and spent the night with her, being fed formula every two hours. So far, the kitten seems to be doing fantastic and we all look forward to “Everest” opening his eyes. 
  Anyways, that is just a little bit of the type of work we are doing. Some days we arrive to hear devastating news of dogs succumbing to injuries or disease overnight, while other days we arrive to see a sick puppy or kitten we treated the day before up and about, ready to take on the word as though it had never been sick. That’s the way it is. That’s medicine . But I have to say, if two days were ever the same this may not be the gig for me. But they never are, and so I believe I am on the career path to the best job in the world.

  Cheers for now,
 Colin