Ciao, Chile!

It has been a while since my last blog posting and so much has happened since.

At the beginning of July, the weather in Patagonia was harsher than it had ever been. The icy wind made it hard for us to be outside for long periods of time, but the sun was always shining. The video equipment was often uncooperative with the freezing temperatures and bright sun and we had to repeat a lot of our films.  What was surprising was that the dogs did not seem mind the weather at all! When all I wanted to do was stay inside and curl up by a fire, the dogs were playing in the snow, or following children with sleds. It made filming a pleasure, and I developed a lot of respect for the dogs’ tolerance to the weather conditions.

Between filming, we often found refuge from the wind in the homes of generous families, where we were fed pastries and drank coffee. Without the hospitality of the people in the community, I don’t know if we would have been able to accomplish as much as we had.  I couldn’t say thank you enough.

Even with all the struggles with our equipment, our team was still able to finish recording all of the dogs in our study a week earlier than we anticipated, which gave us a bit of time to go on a vacation in Argentina. When we returned from our trip, refreshed and ready to endure the cold a bit longer, we started collecting our last set of blood samples.  It felt like a trip down memory lane. I was able to say goodbye to the dogs I had followed around for many hours, and to the owners that were so helpful all the way through.  During filming, we had to be silent and could not disturb the dog’s behaviors, so it was awesome to finally interact with the dogs whose personalities we got to know so well.

During our walks through the communities to collect blood, we came across many people who were more aware of the work we were doing with the dogs than the beginning of the project.  People were inquisitive as to why we had been running around after dogs over the past three months, and were more receptive to our efforts to help control the dog population than they had been previously.  It was rewarding to see that our time spent in Patagonia was well perceived by the community.

At the end of our trip, everyone who had participated in the project was recognized for their efforts by the municipality of Puerto Natales. Veterinary students from across Chile that gave their time to help sterilize, vaccinate, and microchip the dogs were also there.  This was the first time we were able to meet them, and it was great to see everyone that made this project possible.

Along with the many thanks from the city and dog owners, the municipality organized a tour for us of the local national park, Torres del Paine.  Pilar, who works in ecotourism for the city, spent the entire day showing us the best the park had to offer, which included bright blue icebergs and world renowned mountain ranges.  We hiked for a few hours and had a great picnic.  The weather was great and seeing the beautiful landscape was a perfect end to our trip in Patagonia.

After many days of traveling, I am back in Canada. I didn’t know three months could go by so fast. Although it is great to see friends and family again, it is difficult to say goodbye to the people and places that have made Patagonia feel like home.  I am so honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer with Veterinarians Without Borders.  This organization has devoted so much time and energy to us as students and to our placements throughout the world. I am inspired by the dedication of everyone working at VWB, and I believe my summer with VWB has solidified my goals in pursuing a career in public health.  As my future as a veterinarian unfolds, I am excited to work with organizations like VWB again, where I can be part of a team to help develop sustainable solutions to global health problems.

 

Until next time,

Andi