Melissa from Allandale Veterinary Hospital tells her experience about Guatemala

Day 5… a blog from Melissa
Landing in Guatemala City airport was what I expected. Small customs area and 2
old X-ray machines for your luggage. Customs was good,  they only opened one tote
(out of six) and did not have any problems with what we were bringing into their country.
So that was the start of our journey. We needed to head to Todos Santos, as this is the town where we would be working. We squished 8 people ( 9 if you count our driver),a huge wooden box, ( carrying the autoclave) our 7 totes and all of our hiking bags and off we went. Now Todos Santos is not far in Kilometers, however it is a 8 hour trip, as all the roads are winding and very steep. The Guatemalan’s are very aggressive drivers, there were a few times that I thought we may go over the mountain’s edge! We arrived at night and was met by veterinarian (who is a part of Vets Without Borders) and she showed us to our hotel. The conditions are poor, our hotel is more like a hostel. There were 3 double beds, with futon mattress on plywood and one old wickety desk, covered with cement walls. Very little bugs here, and have not seen any bed bugs, so it could be worse. Our shower is electric, and does not get warm, let alone hot, so we are definitely getting cold showers. We get up each morning at 6:30 am and head to a house where these ladies feed us breakfast. They also bring lunch to us and we return back to their house for dinner. The food has been pretty delicious, chicken, beef and banana pancakes, mmmm. We head over to the auditorium for a start to the day.
After a cold night, we waited patiently for good Guatemalan coffe before saying our first words


People walk for miles to get their pets vaccinated, or spayed and neutered. For the most part these owners love their pets, and the pets love their owners. Their conditions are poor, under-weight, infested in fleas and filthy. Vaccines go on all day and we do surgeries in the morning so they are awake to go home at 5 when we close the doors till the next day. We definitely have language barrier as they speak two languages, Spanish and MAM. . The surgeries are tricky as there is only limited drugs for anesthetic and no oxygen, but everything has been going well. I am excited to say we have spayed and neutered 52 dogs at this point and vaccinated 273 dogs and cats. We do have one more day of vaccines and surgeries tomorrow, but then ending Saturday with inventory for Vets Without Borders trip in 2014. The trip has been a amazing experience so far.
Kids love their pets

Second instalment from Allandale Animal Hospital describing their work in Todos Santos, Guatemala.


Day 4 in Guatemala- an update from Natalie

People start to line up in front of the “The Salon” at about 8 am. I’ve been told
they walk from as far as 3 hours away to have their pets vaccinated and spayed
or neutered. They meet with one of the local women who helps them fill out the
form for our records and many sign with just a thumbprint. Then they have
a seat and wait for their turn, I’m sure some of them are just happy to be out
of the hot sun and they don’t mind the wait. The dogs can be quite aggressive
here so we place a slip lead over their head and ask the owner to place a
muzzle on their pet. It’s for our safety as well as it helps to keep the dog calm.

We have stations set up for vaccines or surgery so we then bring owner and
pet to the appropriate station for the veterinarian to examine and vaccinate.
We have a translator to help us determine if there are any problems. The Dr.
does a thorough exam and we vaccinate for rabies. If they were scheduled
for surgery they go back to the front area to wait for a technician to come and
sedate them for surgery. Once the dog is sedated we wait for the drugs to take
effect. As theywait, the technician is getting the drugs and surgery table ready.
The technician then brings the dog to the table and anesthetize him or her.
The surgery is performed under very primitive circumstances and when finished
the dog is placed in recovery. All the while this is going on the owner are
watching and waiting. The owners sit in recovery with their pet for a couple
more hours. Until their pet is able to get up and walk out of “The Salon”.

Allandale Veterinary Hospital – travel from Ontario Canada to Todos Santos Guatemala to work with VWB-Canada

Feb 9th, 2013- Day One – an update from Melissa


On Feb 8, 2013 we started our journey to Guatemala. Our original flight was Feb 7th,

but our flight had been cancelled due to mechanical problems. So our ten day trip has

now become an eight day adventure. Now you would think that getting there would be

the easier part of this trip, however it has already been a challenge. We arrived at

Pearson Airport (Toronto), and all five of us have huge hiking packs with our personal

belongings, carry-ons, 6 large green totes full all the medical supplies, and

an autoclave. The airport was very busy as a lot of flights were cancelled, due to the

snow storm. We headed to check-in, we loaded all our packs on,

all the totes, but when it came to the autoclave they were not going to let us take it.

This was not good, an autoclave is a machine that sterilizes surgical instruments, this

unit had been donated from another vet hospital. We had a local company build a

box for us with wheels as the unit itself weighs 75lbs, and now we find out that it weighs

155lbs in the crate! Air Canada will only accept items under 70 lbs. It is very

important that we take this, as there is not even one at the human hospital to use. We

try to find a screwdriver to open the crate, we probably spent a good 45mins looking,

but no luck. Finally Janine, our baggage lady came up to us, she checked with the head of

the airlines and found they would allow us take it. We were thrilled- we made our flight

with minutes to spare. We had a lay over in Houston Texas at 12:30 am.

We hustled to our hotel, hit the pillow at 1 am. By 6:30am (after a short nap),

we headed back to the airport in Houston to catch our flight to Guatemala. So

once again we lug our hiking packs, 6 totes, carry-ons and the autoclave to check in.

It was the same problem all over again. Now United Airlines would not accept

the autoclave! We could not believe we had made it this far and we were going to have

to leave it. Once again we needed a screwdriver, as the airline said they may let us

take it out of the wooden crate as it would weigh less. All of us went hunting, from

maintenance men, to police women, to running back to the hotel- we needed a

Robertson screwdriver, and there was none to be found! Finally they called the baggage

handler and he said he would take it, he probably could not say no to grown women crying.

So off we went, got breakfast and boarded our plane. What a great guy! So I am going to

sign off now as we head for a 3 hour flight to Guatemala. Stay tuned for our next update…


Veterinarian from Guatemala tells her experience of working with VWB-Canada in Guatemala

En Español abajo.

My experience With Veterinarians Without Borders Canada:
I had a great opportunity to spend time and work together with Veterinarians without Borders-Canada in Todos Santos, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. As a Guatemalan veterinarian, I never imagined that those 5 days could become such an unforgettable experience. I learned a lot personally and professionally. I was able to see the poor living conditions of many people in the country and, despite their economic situation, they showed a lot of concern, interest and a great love for their pets. Many of the pet owners had to walk for several hours with their pets to get to the municipal gymnasium, so a veterinarian could treat their animals. They waited for as long as it took to get the assistance they needed, and never once complained. Everyone waited patiently and showed tremendous gratitude towards the veterinarian doctors and assistants. It was a great professional opportunity, every day learning new skills, such as anesthesia protocols, surgical techniques, pre and post-surgery proceedings, etc. It was truly an exchange of knowledge and experience between the Canadian and Guatemalan doctors. The contribution of the local personnel of Todos Santos made it possible to be a success. I am very grateful that VWB-Canada to let me collaborate with them, and I hope to be able to collaborate with them in the future.

Mi experiencia con Veterinarios Sin Fronteras Canadá
Tuve la gran oportunidad de poder compartir y colaborar con Veterinarios Sin Fronteras Canadá, en Todos Santos, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Nunca imaginé que esos 5 días pudieran llegar a ser una experiencia tan inolvidable. Aprendí muchísimo, tanto personal como profesionalmente. Pude ver la triste realidad de como vive mucha gente en el país y cómo, a pesar de ser personas de escasos recursos, tienen preocupación, interés y sobre todo un gran amor por sus mascotas. Muchas de las personas caminaron por varias horas para poder llevar a sus mascotas al salón municipal para ser atendidas por un veterinario, esperaron largas horas su turno sin reclamar, con mucha paciencia y sobre todo con un profundo agradecimiento hacia las doctoras y asistentes veterinarios, que estábamos atendiéndoles. Fue una excelente oportunidad profesional, todos los días aprendiendo conocimientos nuevos, protocolos de anestesia, técnicas quirúrgicas, procedimientos pre y postquirúrgicos, etc. Hubo un gran intercambiando de conocimientos y experiencias entre las profesionales Canadienses y las Guatemaltecas. La colaboración del personal local de Todos Santos fue de mucha ayuda, sin esta, no se hubiera logrado tener el éxito que se logró. Estoy muy agradecida con VSF-Canadá por haberme permitido colaborar con ellos y espero poder volver a colaborarles en próximas oportunidades.

VWB/VSF goes back to Todos Santos, Guatemala


Photo credit: Tracy Cornish

In March 2012, VWB/VSF re-visited the town of Todos Santos en Guatemala to continue with our ongoing veterinary and public health outreach program.Guatemala is an interesting place, because, even today, it is a cultural blend arising from the Mayan and Spanish influence.

Photo credit: Elena Garde

More recently, Guatemala went through a 36-year civil war (1960-1996) and Todos Santos, like many other Mayan communities was caught in the middle of it. Fortunately, nowadays, even though there is still a high crime rate in some parts of the country, Guatemala has re-established its democracy.

Today after all their hardships, Todos Santos is once again a flourishing busy town where both men and women still dress in their traditional clothing.

Photo credit: Guillermo Pérez
Photo credit: Guillermo Pérez

The objectives of this year´s VWB/VSF visit were three fold: 1) provide sterilization and rabies vaccination services to dogs and teach dog owners the importance of basic health care such as deworming and vaccination of their dogs on a regular basis, 2) establish a working relationship with the new members of the municipal council and mayor, 3) work together and share knowledge with members of the only veterinary school in Guatemala (Universidad de San Carlos) and a local veterinarian from Huehuetenango, the closest town to Todos Santos.

Photo credit: Guillermo Pérez

1)      In a few days, we sterilized 9 male and 20 female dogs and vaccinated close to 200 dogs. For us, there were a number of things that reinforce that the work that VWB/VSF has been doing is having an impact. For example, some dog owners walked 4 hours in one direction to bring their dogs, some brought their new puppies for us to give them physical exams and numerous owners brought their vaccine booklet (that VWB/VSF gave them years ago) for us to update. This year for the first time, as part of the responsible ownership message we are providing, dog owners were charged 25 Quetzales for females and 10 for males (the equivalent of 3 and 1 Canadian dollar, respectively). They all paid except for one family that we felt awkward charging after seeing the conditions they live in – one room, adobe walls, dirt floor, all belongings in that single room. We just couldn´t bring ourselves to ask them for money.

Photo credit: Elena Garde

2)      As the new municipal employees had just recently taken up their new positions, we were lucky enough to attend their first municipal meeting which was open to the public. At the meeting, we were allowed 5 minutes to present, in front of everyone, what we were there to do. Following, community members were asked to bring forward their needs and concerns so that a priority list could be created on the spot. To our surprise, overpopulation of street dogs and lack of responsible ownership was one of the top issues of the meeting. To show his support, the mayor allocated 3,000 Quetzales (almost $ 400.00 CAD) to help with the costs of the campaign.

Photo credit: Guillermo Pérez

3)      The sharing of knowledge with local veterinarians and veterinarian students was fantastic. It was an incredible experience, where we all worked extremely well as a team and made the time and environment to share all kinds of veterinary and program development, as well as personal experiences.

Photo credit: Van driver


En marzo de 2012, VWB / VSF volvió a visitar el pueblo de Todos Santos en Guatemala para continuar con nuestro programa permanente de difusión de medicina veterinaria y salud pública.

Photo credit: Tracy Cornish

Guatemala es un lugar interesante, ya que, incluso hoy en día, es una mezcla cultural resultante de la influencia Maya y Española. Más recientemente, Guatemala sufrió una guerra civil de 36 años (1960-1996) y Todos Santos, al igual que muchas otras comunidades Mayas fue capturado en el centro de la misma. Afortunadamente, hoy en día, a pesar de que todavía hay un alto índice de criminalidad en algunas partes del país, Guatemala ha vuelto a establecer su democracia.

Hoy, después de todas sus dificultades, Todos Santos es una vez más, una floreciente ciudad, donde los hombres y las mujeres todavía visten sus ropas tradicionales.

Photo credit: Elena Garde

Los objetivos de la visita de VWB / VSF a Todos Santos este año fueron tres: 1) proporcionar servicios de esterilización y vacunación antirrábica para perros y enseñar a los dueños de perros de la importancia de la atención sanitaria básica, como la desparasitación y vacunación de sus perros en una forma regular, 2) establecer una relación de trabajo con los nuevos miembros del consejo municipal y el alcalde, 3) trabajar juntos y compartir conocimientos con los miembros de la única escuela de veterinaria en Guatemala (Universidad de San Carlos) y un veterinario local de Huehuetenango, el pueblo más cercano a Todos Santos .

Los resultados fueron tremendos.

Photo credit: Tracy Cornish

1)      En pocos días, esterilizamos 9 machos y 20 hembras y vacunamos cerca  de 200 perros. Para nosotros, hubo una serie de cosas que refuerzan que el trabajo que VWB / VSF ha estado haciendo está teniendo un impacto. Por ejemplo, algunos dueños de perros caminaron 4 horas en una sola dirección para traer a sus perros a nuestra campaña. Otros dueños trajeron a sus nuevos cachorros para que les demos los exámenes físicos, y numerosos propietarios trajeron su carnet de la vacuna que VWB / VSF les había otorgado años atrás, para que todo esté al día. Este año, por primera vez, como parte del mensaje de tenencia responsable que estamos ofreciendo, se cobró 25 quetzales por esterilizar hembras y 10 por esterilizar machos, el equivalente de 3 y 1 dólar canadiense, respectivamente. Todos ellos pagaron con excepción de una familia, porque nos sentimos incómodos de cobrarles después de ver las condiciones en que viven – una habitación, paredes de adobe, piso de tierra, todas sus pertenencias en una sola habitación. No pudimos resignarnos a pedirles dinero.

Photo credit: Tracy Cornish

2)       Debido a que los nuevos empleados municipales acababan de tomar posesión de sus nuevos cargos, tuvimos la gran suerte de asistir a su primera reunión municipal que fue abierto al público. En la reunión, se nos permitió 5 minutos para exponer la misión de VWB/VSF en Todos Santos. A continuación, a todos los miembros de la comunidad se les pidió que presenten sus necesidades e inquietudes para que se creara una lista de prioridades en el acto. Para nuestra sorpresa, la sobrepoblación de perros callejeros y la falta de tenencia responsable de mascotas fue una de las prioridades principales que se presentó. Para mostrar su apoyo, el alcalde asignó $ 3.000 quetzales (casi $ 400.00 USD) para ayudar con los gastos de nuestra campaña.

3)      El intercambio de conocimientos con los veterinarios locales y estudiantes de veterinaria fue fantástico. Fue una experiencia increíble, donde todos trabajamos muy bien en equipo, y nos dimos el tiempo para compartir y crear un ambiente donde pudimos conversar y compartir experiencia del ámbito veterinario y personal.

Photo credit: Tracy Cornish


Our work in Todos Santos, Guatemala

Guatemala is a very low-income country, where the primary struggles are poverty, neonatal mortality, malnutrition in children, and human cases of canine rabies.To assist with this last point, VWB/VSF became involved in 2008 with the small town of Todos Santos in the north western highlands. Canine rabies is highly prevalent in Guatemala, where national resources to combat the widespread effects of this fatal disease are few. In Todos Santos, community members reported fear of walking the streets because of the large number of FRDs and the high frequency of attacks on people, some resulting in human rabies cases. There are no veterinary services available in the town, and the closest service 3-4 hours away. As an emergency measure to mitigate the pressing local public health issue, VWB/VSF has been sending Canadian veterinarians to sterilize dogs. While on these visits, the team conducts a series of surveys to gain baseline information on community beliefs, attitudes and behaviours toward dogs, as well as demographic information on the dogs themselves, including multiple dog counts. The objective of the most recent visit to Todos Santos, in November 2011, was to evaluate the current situation with respect to FRD status in the town, cases of rabies in dogs and humans, and to obtain community recommendations for next steps. Feedback obtained by the community was very positive and suggested that inhabitants were less fearful of the FRDs. Data from the municipality showed that there had been no cases of rabies in the previous two years. However, in the outlying agricultural area in which 23,000 people reside, cases continue. Following a meeting with the leaders from these areas, we were informed that although rabies is indeed an issue, and three people had died from canine rabies a few months earlier, the most pressing concern is to put food on the table. Five children had died the previous winter from starvation.

Quelques semaines a Todos Santos!

**Desolee pour les accents, je nai pas encore trouvé de clavier qui me permettait d’écrire en francais**

Oups! Déjà plus d’un mois a Todos Santos et nous n’avons pas encore donne de nouvelles. Alors voila, il est bien temps de se reprendre! Pour notre défense nous avons bien utilisé notre temps, l’étude prévue initialement fut terminée en un temps record… deux semaines et demi! Le plus ardu fut de trouver et de contacter les leaders des différentes communautés. Les leaders sont essentiellement des hommes élus annuellement pour défendre les intérêts de leur communauté au niveau de la municipalité, et faciliter la communication. Il a fallu faire un peu de porte a porte car la liste de la municipalité est rarement mise a jour… Mais une fois dénichés, les leaders sont enthousiasmés par Vétérinaires Sans Frontières et appuient sans hésitation le déroulement de l’étude. Par contre, la plupart ne nous ont pas accompagnés. Il aurait été peut-être un peu plus facile de délimiter les communautés sils avaient été des nôtres, mais les interviews se sont bien déroulées quoi qu’il en soit. Benita notre traductrice Mam-espagnol fut dune aide précieuse. Elle est très appréciée par les habitants de Todos Santos et bien connue au sein de la population féminine puisqu’elle prend part à plusieurs projets dans la région. Il aurait été vraiment impossible de réaliser les interviews en espagnol. La majorité des enfants comprennent et parlent l’espagnol mais au moins la moitie des adultes ne comprennent que les rudiments et encore,… C’est plutôt triste puisque le Mam est un dialecte maya peu commun, il est parle presque strictement dans cette région. Voyager, migrer, échanger dans leur propre pays est un défi. Ce qui est loin d’être triste par contre, c’est le respect des traditions, l’amour de la culture et la fierté d’appartenir a une nation. Cela ce traduit dans chacun des portraits de la ville. Les vêtements, les animaux libres marchant dans la rue, les sourires, les bonjours, tout nous rappelle qu’ici les gens, les animaux sont tous étroitement lies. Et on n’est pas mises de cotes, ne vous inquiétez pas! Les todosanteriens paraissent peut-être un peu méfiants au départ mais une fois introduit par quelqu’un qu’ils connaissent, vous êtes plus que le bienvenu à poser des questions et a apprendre. Beaucoup dhistoires de violence et de corruption circulent sur la région. Certaines ont peut-etre un peu de vrai, mais jamais on pourrait deviner. Je nai jamais vu de personne voler les petits kiosques abandonnes par les proprietaires a lheure du repas; si tu oublies quelques choses sur le comptoir, on court jusque dans la rue pour te le remettre. Vraiment rien ne laisse croire que les gens manquent de quoi que ce soit. Cela est malheureusement tres faux, la pauvrete est omnipresente ici. Le salaire moyen dun homme est de 50Q par jour (ce qui équivaut a environ 6-7$ canadiens) et la femme, si elle na pas la chance davoir une formation scolaire specifique ne peut compter que sur la vente de tissages et daliments. La contraception mal utilisee et la violence conjugale assujettissent plusieurs femmes a la pauvrete ou a la soumission. Cependant, il faut mentionne que lon est jamais laisse completement a nous-meme a Todos Santos, la famille est toujours proche. Sans compter le vent de solidarite qui souffle au sein de la population feminine. Nous avons rencontre hier une jeune femme de 25ans, Marcela et sa petite fille Melissa qui vient tout juste davoir un an. Elles habitent avec grand-maman et arriere-grand-maman et vivent toutes les 4 de tous ce quelles peuvent trouver depuis que le père de Marcela est decede. Elle ma confectionne un « guapil » (chandail en tissage qui fait parti de lhabillement traditionnel), cela represente environ 3 semaines de travail. Bref, les familles se serrent les coudes et quand la famille ne peut pas aider, les voisins sen mêlent. Kelly, une de nos amies de Peace Corp vit depuis deux ans maintenant avec deux des plus puissantes femmes de Todos Santos. Cest une des seules maisons qui a un divan. Régulièrement des femmes viennent y passer la nuit pour s’épargner les coups d’un conjoint mecontent. Lalcool naide pas les familles todosanteriennes bien entendu. Il y a 2 mois, la consommation de produits alcoolises est redevenue legale a Todos Santos. Des hommes daffaires ont reussis a outreppasser les reglements et la loi est tombee peu apres. Les todosanteriens supportent plutôt mal lacool mais la situation ne semble pas etre desastreuse pour le moment.

Pour ce qui est de leducation, tout nous laisse paraitre quelle est de plus en plus valorisee. Les enfants debutent lecole a lage de 4 ans, ils apprennent lespagnol et les rudiments de langlais. Lorsquon le leur demande plusieurs enfants veulent devenir professeurs (ce qui implique de continuer a etudier).

Voila mon petit protrait de Todos Santos! Comme vous voyez cest different de ce que lon peut rencontrer au Canada… La realisation de notre projet fut plus compliquee que prevue jais bien limpression. Celui-ci consistait principalement a obtenir un portrait global de la sante animal dans une dizaine de communautes a Todos Santos afin de permettre aux decidants du projet de Veterinaires sans frontieres devaluer les resultats des actions entreprises. Arrive a Antigua, Kelleigh, Roberto (le veterinaire canadien qui nous a accompagne pour la premiere semaine) et moi-meme avions quelques craintes quand a la reponse de la population a un questionnaire de 8 pages. Heureusement, la population a été dune grande patience, la majorite a tente de repondre aux questions le mieux possible, allant chercher les documents pouvant completer les informations… Mais javoue que meme aujourdhui, jeprouve quelques craintes par rapport a la precision des resultats observes. Bien sur, Kelleigh et moi avons rediger un document a lintention de la personne qui a cree le questionnaire et qui interpretera les resultats afin quelle prenne garde aux nuances qui ont été particulierement difficiles a expliquer, meme a notre traductrice (une femme eduquee et lettree). On se rend vite compte que lecole et notre vie de tous les jours nous a preparer a repondre a des questions. Ce nest pas le cas avec les adultes dici qui ne savent pas lire. De plus avouer que leur chien nest pas toujours sur leur propriete, quil est possible que leur chien se nourrisse dans la rue… cest difficile. Mais bon, les questionnaires ont été remplis avec rigueur et enthousiasme. On a vraiment formee une bonne equipe. Comme je lai dit plus tot, nous avons reussi a rencontrer toutes les familles en deux semaines et demi. Et puis nous avons debute lentree des donnees des que nous avons recu le document excel pour le faire, soit vers la mi-juin. Cette etape a demande quand meme pas mal de discipline! lol Nous avons emportee chacun une pile de questionnaires que nous avons emportes avec nous au Lac. Eh oui! Nous avons pris 3 jours de vacances pour visiter la region de Atitlan accompagnees de notre ami Jordan (un americain engage comme coordonateur de lecole hispano-maya pour les prochains mois). Cetait vraiment merveilleux! Lentree de donnees est beaucoup plus agreable autour dun lac apres une baignade!

Une fois cette premiere entree faite, nous avons fait une seconde verification pour verifier quaucun renseignements ne manquait. Nous avons ensuite assemble les quelques 30 questionnaires qui meritaient des precisions afin de retourner dans les foyers. Shawn (andres, un eternel allie de veterinaires sans frontiere) nous a bien aide a obtenir linformation manquante.

La semaine de notre retour de vacance fut en fait principalement dediee au decompte des chiens errants. En effet, nous avons passe une anonce a la radio afin que les gens nous contactent sils ne possedaient pas de collier pour leur chien puisque nous allions marquer a la peinture rouge les chiens qui nen portaient pas. Plusieurs familles nous ont contactees mais, soit ils faisaient partis de dautres communautes, soit ils desiraient sinscrire pour la future clinique de Veterinaires sans frontiere. On a donc pris le lundi pour marcher dans toutes les communautes et sassurer que tous les chiens sans colliers seraient identifies par un materiel (on a acheter du fil dun super beau magenta!). Les quatre matins suivant, nous avons cherche les chiens errants dans toutes les rues des 11 communautes visees par le projet. Nous aurions tellement aime avoir un podometre! Ce fut vraiment une belle semaine. La temperature était agreable, lactivite était plutôt amusante bien que repetitive. Le jeudi, nous avons pu assiste a notre seconde soiree dansante a Todos Santos. Nous avons donc pratiqué nos pas de maramba. Cest drole de voir tous les hommes appuyer sur les murs a regarder les danseurs. Il y a des choses qui ne changent pas!

Et puis cette meme semaine, on nous a propose dapprocher de nouvelles communautes pour voir si elles seraient interessee a recevoir des services de sterilisation et de vaccination. Ce qui nous a permis daccelerer le processus est la decouverte des rencontres hebdomadaires des leaders des communautes. Ils se rencontrent presque chaque semaine a la municipalite dans le local voisin a celui de notre amie Kelly. Nous avons donc pu nous presenter et parler de Veterinaires Sans Frontieres au groupe de leaders. Deux autres communautes nous ont approchees dans lespoir dobtenir de laide. Nous avons pris leurs renseignements bien que les communautes soient situees a plusieurs heures dautobus du centre de la ville.

Mardi nous avons termine linterrogation des nouvelles communautes. Nous sommes maintenant a  Xela, ou nous allons travailler dans une clinique veterinaire a partir de lundi.

Avant de quitter nous nous sommes assurees de discuter avec les promoteurs de sante (des personnes qui ont lequivalent dune technique en pharmacie) et des sages-femmes. Ces deux groupes de personnes sont bien connus et apprecies. Ils sont souvent appeles a donner des conseils lorsque les animaux sont malades et ont déjà developpe une certaine dexterite avec le materiel de soin. Nous croyons quils pourraient donc nous aider a faire du projet de Todos Santos quelques choses plus permanent, viable et autosuffisant. Déjà 3 personnes, 1 infirmier, 1 sage-femme et 1 promorteure de sante ont demontre un interet marque et nous ont donne leur coordonnes sans hesiter. Nous prendrons le reste des noms des interesses lorsque nous retourneront a Todos Santos dans 2 semaines pour aller chercher les boites de questionnaires.

J’espère que vous avez retenu de mon petit roman toute la fascination et le plaisir des dernières semaines. Il m’est toutefois impossible d’omettre les difficultés rencontrees puisqu’elles fondent les plus importants apprentissages. Kelleigh et moi avons normalement toutes les deux de la facilite a travailler en equipe. Nous savions que communiquer a distance est parfois difficile. Nous avons tout de même été surprises de combien cela peut l’être. Obtenir réponse a nos questions lorsque nous en avons besoin, s’assurer de notre bonne interprétation des attentes de nos coordonatrices et comprendre les raisons qui justifient ces attentes, maintenir le lien de confiance qui nous lient aux autres membres du projet, transmettre nos opinions de la façon la plus juste et sentir quelles sont ensuite écoutées, puis enfin toujours garder en tête que chacun fait sont possible. Voila ce qui a été le réel défi de cette aventure jusque la, la communication. On verra pour la suite!


Ready, Set..Almost Go

Well, the adventure is about to begin.  Having just finished my final exams this past Friday, the weekend was a blur of celebration and moving.  Now I made it back home to Fredericton and have less than two days to go before boarding the plane to Guatemala.  I’m heading out two weeks before my project begins to backpack in Honduras and Nicaragua.  Besides the open water dive course I registered for (about an hour ago) in Honduras, I don’t have anything else set in stone.  My lack of schedule and stress seems to be the major contributing factor to my parents’ excessive stress level.  For fear of the bazzillion questions that my mom will hit me with if I surface, I have confined myself to the safety of my room, where I am “packing”. 

After being stuck in a lecture theatre for most of the year, I can’t wait to start my work in Todos Santos.  Im sure the experience will far exceed my expectations!  Well, for now I should probably get back to I mean packing…hopefully I get a chance to write between now and when the project starts on the 19th!


Pila, Pila, Pila!!!

So Kate and I were enjoying a cup of chocolata on Sunday morning, when we heard some ear piercing cries of a dog coming from the building across the street. They stopped, we looked at each other, and the wheels were turning in our heads of whether to investigate. Then the cries continued, so we went into the building until the cries guided us to a pila on the second floor. A pila is a large 3-compartment sink used in homes and businesses. In front of the pila were two Todos Santeros men with a broomstick trying to push out a small puppy from behind the pila. The water was running and the puppy was soaked, shivering, and clearly in shock. As we approached the men quickly left and I wedged my way in behind the pila while Kate tried to find a rope to use as a leash. I suspected the puppy would want to try and bite me if I reached out to her, but she was so petrified she was frozen still. So after a few minutes of petting I was able to scruff her and pull her out. Then the question was “what do we do with her?” We decided to dry her off and perhaps set her free in a more amiable location. But when we got her back to the hotel, I put her on the ground to dry her off and she immediately took off. So it was Kate´s turn to pull her out of the neighbours yard. We had a clinic in Angles that day so we brought her with us to hang out for the day. Since “dogs in a bag” are a routine occurence here, Tracy and Kate created a puppy hammock in a corner of the clinic room by hanging a VWB tote bag from the ceiling where the puppy slept most of the day. Over the course of the day, Tracy was suspiciously spending a lot of time with the puppy, and sure enough there was the rumour of finding out the procedure for bringing her home to Victoria.

With careful consideration, the puppy has been called “Pila”. And it´s been incredible how quickly Pila and Tracy have bonded. However, with what Pila´s been through there is still an urge on her part to flee through open doors. So on Tuesday, in stealth-like fashion, she managed to run out the door while we were doing the spay clinic in Los Pablos. Tracy, Kate and I looked up and down the hill, throughout the building, along the main street, calling “Pila, Pila, Pila!”, all to no avail. It occured to Kate that as we were looking for her the local people must have thought we were crazy yelling “sink, sink, sink!”. She was small and easily camouflaged. I will admit, I was very pessimistic about seeing her again. A little girl said she saw her running up the hill and down the mountain side. So Tracy followed a pathway, calling for Pila, and sure enough the little stinker came out from a bush and up to Tracy. As I saw Tracy come down the hill with Pila, a bumper sticker about animal adoption came to mind “who rescued who”, since clearly it´s destined these two are meant to be together.
And so Pila has a plane ticket to Victoria….(Pila = 2 , Brush with death = 0…Pila + Tracy = home run….)

See you soon,


New kid on the…mountain!

Hello everyone. My name is Joye and I´m a technican from Nova Scotia taking part in this amazing experience in Guatemala. You may have read the blog entry about my clinic, Truro Veterinary Hospital, and their huge contribution enabling me to be here. If so, you know that I only had 1 week to prepare for this trip. We are now a week and a half into things and I think I´ve finally figured out what I´m doing here! 🙂

So many things are different here from the dogs we see back home, of course. The average body condition score is 2 out of 5 rather than 4 and the dogs are all infested with fleas and intestinal parasites. Of course, the clients speak mostly Spanish or Mam (a traditional language), so I have a hard time communicating most of the time. That being said..the “appointments” are similar to those at home in many ways. We discuss diet and parasite control and vaccination and the importance of spaying and neutering, in much the same way we would in Canada. As at home, some people are very receptive to our comments, and some are not. I guess some things are the same all over the world.

Last week we visited the community of San Martin and stayed with families there. The family I stayed with was so helpful and pleasant to be with, even if I´m pretty sure we had to walk to Mexico to get to their house! The people in San Martin, and their dogs, were very different from those we´ve seen in the central portion of Todos Santos. The dogs were thinner and in many cases more fearful or hostile to us during exams. The community seems much less traditional and more Westernized, with more Mexican influence. It´s only an hour by bus away, so the differences were very remarkable.

This week is spay week and so far it´s progressing very well. It´s sooo cold here in the mornings, however, so we are often off to a slow start. I spend much of the early morning shivering and huddled by our meager heater, and I developed a cold on Monday that has been hanging with me throughout the week. Today some members of the team presented a show and activity for the children here on dog safety which was very entertaining and well received. Roberto as Scooby Doo was a huge hit! 🙂

Well, that´s all my news for now. One more day of spays left and then some catching up and hard to believe it´s almost over already. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this experience so amazing for me!!