Dr Jack volunteers to help free-roaming dogs in Chile.

Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

It was somewhat disorienting arriving in Puerto Natales, Chile after travelling for two days on three buses and two airplanes from my sunny winter home in Mexico.  Of course it was summer here but it took quite a bit of acclimating, several hot showers and hugging the gas heaters to get comfortable.  The landscape was like a strange mixture of BC rugged, quaint Maritime fishing village, and Scottish Highland sheep scrub, but what was most striking were the dogs. They were everywhere!  In all shapes and sizes, on the streets, in the yards, on the rooftops, fences and pick-up trucks.  In packs, with people or alone, they sported dreadlocks, bite wounds, injuries, hit-by-car lameness, venereal tumours, and mange. Dogs were eating garbage, fighting, defecating and procreating in the broad daylight, which seemed to go on forever.  This was the farthest south I’d ever been on the planet and it was weird adjusting to these extra-long days, a huge harvest moon in February, and glaciers surrounded by herds of wild camelids and mini-ostriches.  Also the ozone depletion over this part of the globe could cause severe and rapid sunburn as evidenced by the white cats dodging the dogs, their ears consumed by solar dermatitis or carcinomas.
The Latin American team was fantastic!  I had already met our dynamic project leader, Dr. Elena Garde at our Vets without Borders’ Board of Directors retreat on Galiano Island in November when I volunteered for this interesting and important project.

 

Dr. Jack & Guillermo, Puerto Natales, Chile. Feb, 2012

Now I was introduced to her partner in work, life and crime – plying me with “pisco sours”, Guillermo Perez, a Chilean-Canadian biologist and dog catcher extraordinaire!  There was also the lovely and capable Dr. Angelica Romero, who was nicknamed “Flaca” because she was thin, but for good reason – she worked long days pounding the pavement, recruiting dogs door-to-door for the project, and as our media and PR spokesperson, taking client education to a new level.  Also on the team were Karla, another Chilean vet, who charmingly procured whatever we needed from bricks to suture material, and Connie, a final-year student who will surely become the canine neuter champion of Chile after this experience.  Dr. Susan Kutz, a parasitologist from Calgary who currently heads up our Nunavut dog project was there to lend a helping hand and a contagious smile.  We were joined by two American volunteers, Karen Green, Senior Director of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs, from Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Mary Ann Hollick, a veterinarian from Alaska, both of whom had experience with Esterisol, the chemical manufactured by Ark Sciences that we were using for sterilization, and loads of enthusiasm and excitement for our project.

 

Dr. Jack & Dr. Elena, Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

The study involved about 150 free-roaming dogs divided into three groups:  the conventional surgical neuter group, the chemical sterilization group, and the controls. We were interested  in determining the most effective population and disease control techniques for free-roaming dogs throughout Latin America.  The data accumulated was extensive, with questionnaires to be completed by the dog-“owners”,  videotaping the behaviour of the dogs at different times of day, and extensive follow-ups.  Dogs were blood-tested for testosterone levels before and after sterilization, fecal samples were analyzed for hydatid disease and thorough physical examinations, vaccinations, de-worming and microchipping were performed.  The “Esterisol Dogs” were also ear tattooed to facilitate identification, since they still had their testicles, something that appeared to have cultural desirability.  The Municipality was very helpful and cooperative with this important study, making available two community centers, manpower, supplies and media coverage to encourage families to participate.  They also treated us to a couple of memorable excursions on our days off to see the Prehistoric Milodon Cave and Torres del Paine National Park with its breathtaking mountains, glaciers and wildlife. This project is a model for community involvement with animal health issues where wildlife, domestic animal and human interfaces are of critical importance for the study of zoonotic diseases and the concept of  “One Health” throughout Latin America and the rest of the world.

Dr. Angelica at work in the community of Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

In two short weeks we spent many long days in the clinics, doing surgery and injecting dogs, with limited resources, developing some very creative anesthetic and surgical protocols based on what we didn’t have.  It always seemed to flow miraculously well, thanks to the camaraderie of our professional team, the kindness of the people of Puerto Natales, and the delicious seafood, great Chilean wines and of course, the pisco sours!

Local children watching us work, Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

The smiles of the children helped too, their faces pressed against the windows, watching us do surgery, or munching on our shared snacks.  The greatest reward  was to witness their authentic love for the animals.  For this wonderful experience I give thanks to all, including the beautiful creatures I met in Patagonia such as the condor, rheas, guanacos, owls, peregrine falcons, caracaras, horse, cattle, sheep and most of all, the dogs.  Gracias a la vida!

 

– Dr. Jack Gewarter, Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic, Toronto.

Soledad Matías finds a balance between work and passion in Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada (version in English and Spanish)

 

photo taken by Keila Obando

Spanish version:

Soy amante de los animales desde mi infancia, mis padres me transmitieron ese amor. Y desde muy temprano también he sido confrontada a la miseria animal por vivir en un país donde no se toma en cuenta el problema de la sobrepoblación de los perros y gatos por falta de educación y de implicación del estado en este problema. Cada día sin siquiera buscarlo me encuentro con animales en sufrimiento, según mi disponibilidad respondo a esos gritos de auxilio que no puedo dejar de escuchar, pero es muy difícil cuando ya no puedo responder por falta de espacio en mi casa, por falta de recursos para llevarlos al veterinario o para comprarles alimento. Y ese es un sufrimiento de cada día con el cual tengo que vivir. Por eso anhelo hacer parte de un organismo que por fin sea responsable, busque e investigue y responda al verdadero problema de la sobre población canina que hay en este país, para que a largo plazo no se vean mas estas imagines de sufrimiento en la calle. Para mi es una gran motivación el poder trabajar con Veterinarios sin Fronteras, porque me dan esperanza de poder encontrar una solución a este gran problema y a la vez ver disminuir y luego desaparecer ese sufrimiento animal por causa de la negligencia humana y de la poca importancia que se le da. Nosotros somos responsables del animal, cual sea en este mundo. Los gatos y los perros son dependientes de nosotros porque no se pueden alimentar por si mismo. El gato tiene mas suerte de sobre vivir cazando, pero también es dependiente de nosotros como el perro que no puede alimentarse sin la ayuda del ser humano. También somos responsables de la fauna silvestre, porque ellos dependen de una cadena alimenticia que el hombre ya ha quebrado en gran parte del planeta y que esta terminando de quebrar en los lugares más salvajes, quemando bosques y extinguiendo especies, tomando en cuenta su único bien estar propio. Quiero trabajar y luchar para hacer tomar consciencia a los que todavía no saben que el respeto hacia los animales hace parte de nuestra sobre vivencia como el respeto a nuestro medio ambiente. Somos parte de un todo y el hombre no podrá continuar ignorando los otros seres vivos del planeta.

English version:

I have been an animal lover since my childhood, which I inherited from my parents. And from a very young age I have been confronted with the misery of animals due to living in a country where people do not consider the overpopulation of dogs and cats to be a problem due to their lack of education and the absence of involvement of the government in the problem. Every day without even looking for them, I come across suffering animals. I help them if I can. I respond to their cries for help that I can’t stop hearing. However, it is very difficult when I cannot help them all due to the lack of space in my house, the lack of resources to take them to a veterinarian or to buy them food. And this is the kind of suffering I must live with every day. That is why I would like to be a part of an organization that finally is responsible, that looks for, investigates and responds to the real problem of the canine overpopulation that exists in this country, so that in the long term we will not see these images of suffering in the streets anymore. This motivates me to work with Veterinarians Without Borders (Veterinarios sin Fronteras), because it gives me the hope to be able to find a solution to this problem and at the same time see animal suffering, that is due to human neglect and the little importance it is given, decrease and then disappear. We are responsible for all animals, regardless of species, in this world. Cats and dogs are dependent on us because they cannot feed themselves. Cats may have better luck surviving by hunting, but they also depend on us like dogs do, that cannot eat without the help of humans. We are now also responsible for wildlife because they depend on a food chain that man has broken in many parts of the world and is disrupting it in the wildest of places, burning forests and extinguishing species, only taking into account man’s well being. I want to work and fight to establish consciousness in those who still do not realize that respecting animals is part of our survival as respect for our environment. We are part of a whole and humans cannot continue to ignore other living beings on the planet.

Video on Vets without Borders Chile Program

Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières´ mission is to work together with less privileged communities towards improving their livelihood and well-being, using sustainable and ecohealth approaches. In Latin America, our goal is to build capacity amongst local people by giving them the tools they require to understand the importance of interactions between themselves and their animals, with a particular emphasis on domestic dogs. This is not an easy task, because it encompasses a host of complex and interwoven socio-cultural issues ranging from how people perceive dogs and other animals, to issues of serious diseases transmitted to people, fatal attacks on children, predation of endangered wildlife and livestock, and the animal welfare issues experienced by the dogs themselves. By investigating these topics and by showing people the links between their own lifestyles, economic well-being and family health and that of their animals and environments; we hope to empower men, women and children through knowledge and participation to build healthier and more sustainable communities.
This promotional video directed and produced by Carlos Johnson, will give you a small taste of the cultural and social conditions affecting the issue, what we do, and how much more we still need to do.
Please help us help others.
Enjoy!

UPDATE ON PUERTO NATALES, CHILE:STUDYING BEHAVIOUR RESPONSE OF FREE-ROAMING MALE DOGS TO STERILIZATION

BACKGROUND:   Sterilization is one of the most commonly used and effective strategies for the control of dog populations world-wide. In developed countries this has been very successful: responsible dog ownership is taken seriously, and seeing a dog in the street with no owner is a rare and alarming occurrence. In developing countries however, the uncontrollable population growth of free-roaming dogs, and all its direct and indirect effects, is a serious and overwhelming problem that is growing in magnitude, and rapidly becoming a major platform issue in many governments and world-wide non-governmental organizations. Yet it is incredible that there is no concrete information about how successful sterilization campaigns are in controlling the growth rate of free-roaming dog populations, because in-situ scientific studies on humane control of free-roaming dogs have NEVER BEEN DONE! How is it possible therefore, to design programs with sensible objectives?

In Latin America, the sterilization of male dogs is often not accepted culturally, therefore male dogs are rarely neutered, and there are many misconceptions about sterilization of males. In a “machismo” culture, even women regard the removal of dogs’ testicles as offensive. To tackle the issue, we need more tools that are acceptable in a variety of cultures, thus the growing interest in chemical neutering1 which also results in permanent sterilization; the procedure is very rapid, economical, and the testicles are not removed.  

Although safety data for some of these chemical products are abundant, there is no information regarding the possible changes in reproductive, aggressive and roaming behaviours in free-roaming dogs following sterilization. In Latin America, male dogs fulfil important roles in the community, some of which include the protection of people and property in areas where crime is rampant. The fears expressed by owners that sterilized males will no longer perform their duties are a major reason for declining to sterilize dogs.

____________________________________________________________________________________

1 Esterilsol™ is one chemical sterilant that has recently been approved bv the United States’ Food and Drug Administration.

 

OUR PROJECT:   For this reason, Veterinarians Without Borders – Canada, together with international collaborators, have decided that understanding the behavioural changes that may or may not be seen in male FREE-ROAMING DOGS following surgical and chemical sterilization is prerequisite information needed in the quest to identify global solutions to this problem.

Group of international and local collaborators visiting the site of Puerto Natales, Chile.

 

With the international collaboration of the Chilean Agriculture Agency (SAG), the Chilean Ministry of Health, the Istituto G´Caporale from Italy, and the University of Pennsylvania: Animal Welfare Department from United States, our study is comparing male dog behaviours before and after they are chemically and surgically sterilized, as well as obtaining information of overall acceptance and understanding towards male dog sterilization.

VWB/VSF veterinarians spend time with children teaching them about responsible dog ownership and community health.

This project commenced in May 2011, and to date we have 157 owned, free-roaming dogs enrolled in the study. Dogs are divided into three groups (control, surgical, and chemical sterilization groups). Every dog has been physically examined by a licensed VWB/VSF veterinarian, and treated for ecto- and endo-parasites. We also surveyed owners to find out about their dog’s behaviour. Additionally, owners and their children attended education seminars on the benefits and techniques of sterilization in male dogs.

On October1st 2011, the first phase of pre-sterilization data collection commences. Each dog will be fitted with GPS data logger collars to

monitor their daily movements, and video-monitored for a total of 3 days. This will be followed by sterilizations, then repeat data collection of all dogs with methods identical to the pre-sterilization phase.

The reality for dogs and people here in Puerto Natales is unlike the reality that many of us are used to in North America and Europe. Here, and in many developing countries of the world, owned dogs are left to forage for their own food. Many resort to hunting as a means of supplementing their diets. They are often in very poor condition, with multiple health concerns such as distemper and parasitic skin infections. These large populations of roaming dogs living in marginal conditions have profound effects on people’s health and livelihoods. Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada together with other partners and funders are committed to finding long term solutions to this global problem.

Many dogs resort to hunting wildlife to feed themselves.

Meg Lunney arrives in Chile safely. She will be working in Chile for 7 months

Estoy aqui!!

Only 48 hours into Chile, I already feel at home and have been exposed to so much culture! After two days of traveling, I finally made it to Valdivia, a small city of 130,000 people located about 900 km south of Santiago. Elena and Guillermo welcomed me at the airport and my introduction to Chile began.

We drove through the regions of Valdivia and the combination of construction, from the obviously needed widening of the road, and the rain made for one huge mess. Not even twenty minutes from the airport, I already could see dogs freely roaming the streets. Scavenging through the mud and garbage in search of food. The streets were flooding from the rain and over-packed buses plowed through the puddles.

We dropped by the VWB/VSF office – a 3 room apartment style building with a surgical supplies room, kitchen and office with two large desks and windows against the northern wall, overlooking the street.

Elena, Guillermo and I walked to a local restaurant, Agridulce, for some typical Chilean food. A roaring fire welcomed us as we walked through the doors and the smell of pastry filled the room. We ordered Empanadas with carne and queso (meat and cheese), which were similar to samosas – but less spice and a softer pastry. A perfect end to my exhausting journey, and a wonderful introduction to Chile!

The next day, Elena and Guillermo gave me a tour of Valdivia. A river flows through the city and sea lions crawl right up onto the dock at the wharf. As we stood at the edge of the walkway watching the large animals sunbathe and waddle back and forth, I couldn’t help but notice the dogs wandering around throughout the community. A man walked down the stairs through the square, carrying bags of groceries and was followed by at least five dogs – begging for food.   

We continued on to a community centre, where a national dance competition was being held. Cueca is a typical dance in Chile and I watched pairs of kids and adults flutter around the floor with huge smiles and a romantic flare to their step. I even ran into a girl I had met on a previous flight – who happily agreed to have her picture taken with me and her dance partner!

Saturday night, the three of us ventured into the city square to see a live Cueca band which was another great way to be exposed to Chilean culture! We danced the night away and I was so warmly welcomed into their group of friends. As the night turned into morning we enjoyed Piscos typical Latin American drink and danced to the Cueca band followed by Cumbia.

I’ve only been here for just over 48 hours and I’ve already had tasty Chilean food, danced to Cumbia, watched sea lions relax in the harbour and have witnessed some beautiful South American rain storms – as it is currently winter here.

Tomorrow, I am heading to the office to meet with the other veterinarians I will be working with who are from Chile. Having already directly seen the issue with free-roaming dogs here, I’m very motivated to begin implementing the next phase of our project in Puerto Natales, and will provide ongoing updates! Until then, hasta luego!!

Chilean national news to the world…

http://archive.dailypicture.net/students_in_chile_protest_against_poor_quality_education.htm

 

http://www.urbanchristiannews.com/ucn/2011/08/in-chile-some-students-protest-while-others-pray.html

 

This is an excerpt sent by the Canadian Embassy in Chile warning travellers….

“Since June, there have been mass demonstrations in Santiago and regional capitals. While the majority of these protests have been peaceful, in some cases masked protesters have destroyed property and clashed with authorities. Several demonstrations have drawn over 100,000 supporters. To date, protests have had minimal impact on travel and business. The protests have been well publicized and announced several days in advance. The Unitary Central for Workers (CUT) has called a national strike for Aug. 24 and 25, and a number of other unions, including those representing public sector employees, have announced that they will join the strike. Some unions are stating that this will be the biggest national strike in decades, and others are threatening to block roads to the airport. While previous strikes in Santiago have been concentrated in the downtown area, the strikes on Aug. 24th are being designed to avoid the downtown and spread out throughout the city. On Aug. 25th, protestors are supposed to march towards the downtown area from various points throughout the city. Canadian citizens are urged to exercise caution, follow local media and avoid demonstrations.”

Dog Jog-a-thon Fundraises for Vets without Borders in Chile

Guillermo and I were very pleased to receive the following email from Kaytie:

“On September 12, 2010 K9 Awareness held a Dog Jog-a-thon to raise funds for Vets Without Borders Chilean project. Our goal was to have at least one K9 treadmill running for 12 hours by dog owners purchasing a ticket to run their dog for 30 minutes each. We started at 8 a.m. and finished at 8 p.m. with a total of 42 dogs participating. Along with money raised from the sale of the tickets we had a wonderful silent auction with a great selection of donated items to bid on. A friend and business associate, Charmaine Hammond combined celebrating the birthday of her star dog “Toby” who is featured in her new book “On Toby’s Terms” with our event. Charmaine had the book on sale and donated $7.00 per sale to the fundraiser as well.  Between the Jog-a-thon ticket sales, book  sales and the Silent Auction, less the expenses of running the event, we raised $1,800!”
Have a look at come of the great photos:
Thank you so much for supporting Veterinarians without Borders Chile project. We really appreciate it.

 

Finding the Fifth Leg on a Cat

People often ask us whether we think that mandatory dog registration would be one of the solutions to free-roaming dogs in Chile.  Our answer has always been “yes”, but it now comes with a big BUT. Let me explain! Take the Chilean driving regulations as an example. I recently began to study the transit and driving laws to renew my Chilean driving license. The laws are all explained one-by-one in a 50 page manual, and I noticed that they are very similar to the ones we have in Canada (i.e., drive on the right side of the road and never under the influence), except for a few things like “seat belts are only mandatory for people sitting in the front seat”. That gives new meaning to the phrase “shot gun”! Anyways, what is really interesting, and often frustrating, about laws and regulations in a developing country like Chile, is that we find that here “rules are really made to be broken” and nobody seems to really care that they are there in the first place. Here are a few pictures to illustrate what I am referring to:

Like in Canada, in Chile, it is against the law to park in front of a fire hydrant, but do people respect it? Can you imagine doing this in Canada?

Also, in Chile one is ONLY allowed to park pointing in one direction,but, what does the evidence show?

Additionally, according to the law one cannot park within 10 meters of a corner, but I guess one can argue which corner?

Like these, there are many more examples.  J-walking is an art! You have the “diagonal”, and the “I dare you to drive me over” crossing, just to name a couple.
BUT the biggest question of them all is; wouldn´t people get into trouble and be afraid that their vehicles would be towed away? To top it all, here is a picture of a street with a NO PARKING sign right next to a local police station (green sign in the background that says “recinto de carabineros”).
To make a long story short, Chileans are known for what they call “finding the fifth leg on a cat” (looking for ways to bend the rules). I think that in today´s society, it is often not a matter of bending the rules anymore, but instead avoiding them all together.
So getting back to implementing dog registration bylaws; even though registration is one of the most widely agreed upon solutions to battling irresponsible ownership and free-roaming dogs, understanding the perceptions of the people towards the issue will continue to be one of our number one goals.

Angelica Finds Vets without Borders Voluntary Work Gratifying.

Dr. Angelica Romero is a new veterinary graduate from the university here in Valdivia, and has been volunteering with us for almost 6 months now. She has helped us with all kinds of projects, research, and general day to day stuff, and is a huge asset to our group. We asked her to make a few comments about her work, and this is her report below, first in her own words in Spanish, followed by the translation into English.

Mi nombre es Angélica Romero soy medica veterinaria, hace unos meses atrás tuve la ocurrencia de venir a hasta la oficina de Veterinarios Sin Fronteras en Valdivia, como parte de la búsqueda de mi perfil profesional, y también asumiendo mi oportunidad para experimentar nuevos conocimientos después de haber obtenido mi título profesional. Mi experiencia como voluntaria ha sido satisfactoria, ya que siento que comparto varios intereses en común con Elena y Guillermo, desde dar solución a los problemas derivados de la tenencia irresponsable de mascotas en Valdivia, hasta el respeto y valoración hacia las diferentes especies de fauna. Me siento muy cómoda después de integrarme a este equipo, como a su vez muy agradecida del intercambio de experiencias, puesto que he podido presenciar una forma de trabajo diferente, más ordenada, lógica y humana, algo que los chilenos generalmente evadimos para tomar el camino más rápido al abordar un problema.
Bueno además de participar en el quehacer de VSF-Valdivia,  llevo un par de años trabajando con una especie endémica con problemas de conservación el “Pudú” (Pudu puda). Este ciervo habita los bosques templados de Chile y Argentina, su estado de conservación es vulnerable de acuerdo a la lista roja de la UICN. Las principales amenazas que enfrenta esta especie son: la fragmentación del bosque nativo, la caza ilegal, los atropellos, la introducción de especies domésticas, y dentro de éstas la más importante es el perro!!
Mi trabajo con esta especie es a través de un criadero privado donde mantienen alrededor de 25 animales, me encargo de velar por su bienestar y brindarles atención clínica periódica. Acá les dejo una fotos de esta especie, un adulto y un cervatillo, cuando son pequeños tienen manchas blancas en su pelaje, alrededor de los 3 meses estas manchas desaparecen por completo. A mí me causa mucha empatía este ciervo, ¿y a ustedes? espero que lleguemos a compartir este sentimiento…

My name is Angelica Romero and I am a Chilean veterinarian. A few months ago I had the idea to come to Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada (VWB) office in Valdivia, to look for ways to obtain new professional experiences and use the ones I obtained during my degree. My volunteer experience with VWB has been gratifying, as I feel that I share many common interests with Elena and Guillermo; from providing solutions to problems of irresponsible pet ownership in Valdivia, to ideas on how to teach respect and appreciation towards wildlife. I feel very comfortable after joining this team, and at the same time very grateful for the exchange of experiences, since I have witnessed a different form of work ethic, more orderly, logical and humane, different from the Chilean way which usually takes the fastest path to get the job done.
Well in addition to participating in the work of VWB here in Valdivia, I´ve been working on conservation issues of an endemic wildlife species, the “Pudu (Pudu puda), for a couple of years. This deer inhabits the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina and its conservation status is vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List. The main threats facing this species are fragmentation of the native forests, poaching, vehicle traffic, introduction of domestic species; and among these, the most important is dogs!
My work with this species is through a private captive farm where they have about 25 animals. I work to ensure their welfare and provide regular medical care. Here I´ll leave you with a couple of photos of this species, one adult and one fawn. When they are young they have white spots on their coat. At about 3 months, these spots disappear completely. This deer makes me feel empathy. How about you? I hope we share this feeling …

 

Comments from our volunteer, Erik

Hey, I’m Erik, a volunteer that accompanied the team from VWB/VSF to Dichato to control an outbreak of distemper in this earthquake and tsunami struck town.I’m a Chilean/American/Canadian that’s lived in Chile almost my whole life. I’m a biology student at the Universidad Austral de Chile here in Valdivia and met Guillermo and Elena last year and have kept in contact since then.

They invited me to participate in the trip to Dichato and I didn’t hesitate at the chance to go help in this disaster stuck area.Dichato used to have a population of around six thousand people and after the earthquake and tsunami struck the town it lost approximately 60% of its buildings. Now all the people that didn’t leave the town after their houses were destroyed or washed away by the sea, live in the tents on the hill on higher ground.Most people have dogs. And living in tents, it’s hard to keep your dogs leashed up. So the streets are plagued with dozens of dogs on each corner, most of them with an owner, but loose on the streets. It’s a perfect opportunity for viruses such as Canine Distemper Virus or Canine Parvovirus to get around.
So when VWB/VSF heard of a supposed distemper outbreak they jumped at the opportunity of helping to control it. On Thursday the 22nd of April, we were on our way north on a 6 hour trip to get to Concepcion where we enjoyed some seismic movements during the night and moved on the next day to get set up in Dichato for the weekend. The team at this moment was comprised of Elena, Guillermo, Paty, Daniela, and me.
Entering Dichato we were welcomed be the devastating scenario of entire street blocks that used to line the sea front stripped to only a couple hollow cement structures and whole house uprooted from their bases and left 2 blocks away by the sea. We later moved up to the hills and to the camps to assess the canine situation. Extremely small sites holding up to 120 tents with tiny pathways in-between them is what we saw. Plus dozens of dogs tromping around loose.
So as soon as we got there a few people came up to ask what we were there for and before long we had people showing up with their dogs on makeshift leashes. Now it was time to take blood, do physicals, vaccinate, and extract as much information about the dog from the owner as possible. We did this to all dogs that were applicable for said things. So to do so we split into two teams. First team was Elena, our vet, Guillermo, our handler, and me, the bookie. The second team was Paty, the vet, and her assistant Daniela.
After the word spread around the neighborhood that we were vaccinating dogs against distemper for free, a small crowd started to form. Late in the afternoon another member of our team shows up from Santiago. It’s Carlos, our professional photographer friend. So by the end of the day we had vaccinated around 40 dogs in our first afternoon. And our second vet Paty and her assistant Daniela have to leave.
Now it was time to go find a place to crash. Thanks to our contact in Dichato, who is from an animal welfare group in a nearby town, we were set up in some rooms in the backyard of a very nice lady’s house, in the low part of Dichato. 

Next day we have another member arrive. It’s Javier, our second vet all the way from Valdivia. So now I’ll be working with him and helping with holding veins and getting all the info from the owners. We start working mid morning and wait till the town starts to wake up. We set up in the plaza just outside the camp we were working at yesterday. Once it’s close to noon the people are answering their doors and soon they appear with their dogs to the plaza where we set up. By this time another vet and more volunteers from Concepcion show up to help, and vet from the near town of Tomé.
So know we have 4 teams working with a constant lineup of dogs. We have plenty of work to do and work well into the afternoon before it seems like we have pretty much covered all the dogs in this small area (over 120 dogs vaccinated). Now its time to move down to what’s left of downtown and see if we can find a few dogs around there to vaccinate. We are lucky to be there just as a traditional folklore event is finishing and there is a bunch of people walking around. So soon the people that lived close by hurried up to get their dogs and bring them over for their vaccines.
The day is over and we feel like our team of 5 (Elena, Guillermo, Javier, Carlos, and me) deserve a prize for our effort. And to our good fortune there is a small barbecue in the backyard where we are staying. Living in Chile- it would be a sin to not make good use of a grill. So like good Chileans we enjoy the last hours of the day with a nice barbecue.
Next morning it’s time to find the last location where we will work before we have to be on our way back to Valdivia again. Our reinforcements from Concepcion are back, so we have a good 4 teams working this morning. We work hard until we have to leave and come to a grand total for the 3 days of 200 vaccinated dogs aprox. and 100 blood samples.
This was a tremendously successful trip and personally an amazing experience.
We all got along incredibly well and worked hard for long hours without complaints. I want to thank Elena and Guillermo from VWB/VSF for this awesome opportunity and the great work atmosphere.

We are all planning to go back to Dichato on the 21st of May to do a check up on the dogs we vaccinated and take blood from and vaccine more dogs if it is possible.
So stayed tuned to read about the next adventures of the VWB TEAM!