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.

Angelica’s visit to Toronto, and the clinic of Dr. Gewarter

Version in English below the Spanish one.


Jack Gewarter, más que un médico veterinario…


A las 3 de la tarde comienza el turno de Jack Gewarter en su clínica “Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic” ubicada en Toronto. La jornada incluye atención de pacientes y tratamientos.

Antes de recibir un paciente Jack revisa minuciosamente el historial clínico de cada paciente que tiene cita, procurando retener cualquier información que sea relevante para la consulta. Recibe a sus clientes con naturalidad, con una cierta familiaridad hacia los animales, es que mantiene una relación de años con muchas de las mascotas que llegan hasta su acogedora clínica, y en muchos casos producto de los tratamientos, mes a mes llegan los mismos pacientes a refugiarse en sus habilidades clínicas.

Sin duda mi presencia allí era un anhelo que mantuve por meses, específicamente desde la colaboración voluntaria que Jack entregó en febrero a nuestro proyecto en Puerto Natales (Chile), en calidad de cirujano. Desde entonces valoré su experiencia, profesionalismo, sencillez y buen humor. A consecuencia de mi viaje programado a Canadá, tuve la oportunidad de conocer Toronto, y alojarme en casa de Jack, donde recibí muy buenas instrucciones de él y de su hija Jane para desenvolverme en la ciudad. Por supuesto el poder visitar su clínica, y conocer parte de su equipo de trabajo, fue una gran motivación para aprender de su experiencia y hacerme una idea del nivel de calidad que existe en las clínicas de animales menores en Canadá.

Para mi fortuna Jack es un innovador, puesto que tiene una vasta experiencia en tratamientos de acupuntura en perros, siendo el primer veterinario en Toronto en aplicar esta terapia, y con muy buenos resultados, como pude apreciar en la satisfacción de sus clientes. Esto es una de las cosas que más me llamó la atención, ya que no lo había visto antes…. Por supuesto otra cosa que me impresionó fue la ausencia de bozales para atender a los pacientes que llegaron ese día, y me explicaba que observando la conducta de sus pacientes podía predecir si necesitaría usar un bozal. Algo imposible de concebir en Chile, donde cada perro es una caja de sorpresas!!

Más allá de mi experiencia en términos profesionales, quisiera destacar que conocer a Jack en su casa y junto a su familia, me significó apreciar más a fondo su simpleza y consecuencia en su forma de vivir, así como también valorar su entrega y entusiasmo para trabajar por la salud y el bienestar de las personas y los animales. Por supuesto que me dejó una gran lección este encuentro, y puedo decir que recordando nuestras reflexivas conversaciones en torno a la valoración de la naturaleza, y el avasallador desarrollo que como especie humana hemos liderado, inevitablemente estamos conduciendo nuestra profesión a un enfoque más holístico, y a un estilo de vida más sustentable, responsable y respetuoso con nuestro planeta.


Muchas gracias Jack por tu apoyo y a la compañía de Jane y al team de Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic.




Angelica’s visit to Toronto, and the clinic of Dr. Gewarter
At 3 in the afternoon, the late shift begins for Dr. Jack Gewarter at his clinic “Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic” located in Toronto. The day includes patient care and treatment.
Before receiving a patient Jack thoroughly reviews the medical history of each patient who has an appointment, trying to get any information that is relevant to the case. Dr. Jack welcomes guests with ease, with a certain familiarity to animals. He has a long relationship with many of the owners and pets that come to his cozy clinic.
No doubt my presence there was a longing I had had for many months, specifically because of the voluntary collaboration that Jack gave to our VWB project in February in Puerto Natales (Chile), acting as surgeon. Since then, I valued his experience, professionalism, simplicity and good humor. As a result of my scheduled trip to Canada, I had the opportunity to go to Toronto, where I stayed at Jack’s house. He , and his daughter Jane helped me find my way around the city.
Of course the visit to his clinic, and meet some of his team was a highlight, and I learned so much from their experience, and saw ​​the level of quality that exists in small animal clinics in Canada. For many people reading this blog, this may be normal…but for some of us…who are not regulated by a national standard, it is more difficult to offer this standard of care because we are generally restricted by lack of proper resources. I will tell you more about this in my next blog…..

To my fortune Jack is innovative, and has a vast experience in acupuncture treatments in dogs. This is one of the things that struck me, as I had not seen before. Of course the other thing that struck me was the absence of muzzles to treat patients who arrived that day, and he explained that observing their behavior could predict whether patients would need to use a muzzle. Something inconceivable in Chile where each dog is full of surprises!

Beyond my experience in professional terms, I would stress that meeting Jack at home and with his family, I further appreciated the simplicity and consistency in the way they live, as well as saw their commitment and enthusiasm to work for the health and welfare of people and animals. Of course I learned a great lesson from this meeting, and I can say that remembering our reflective conversations about the appreciation of nature, and the overwhelming human development as a species we are inevitably driving our profession toward a more holistic approach, and a lifestyle more sustainable, responsible and respectful of our planet.


Thank you very much Jack and Jane and company team of Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic for supporting me on my trip to Toronto!


The first time out of my country by Dr. Angélica Romero

(Versión en Español abajo)

The first time out of my country…

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to travel from Valdivia, Chile to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The reason for my trip was to analyze plasma testosterone levels between samples obtained in the VWB/VSF project called “Behavioural assessment of male dogs before and after chemical and surgical sterilization in Puerto Natales, Chile” where I have worked for over a year. I spent two weeks in Charlottetown, guided by the researcher Dr. Raphaёl Vanderstichel from the Atlantic Veterinary College.

My trip turned into an unforgettable experience, where I experience an appreciation of a different lifestyle; a full Canadian culture in general. In the Atlantic College Veterinary, I met a group of very professional people, with a clear purpose for their work and studies. In this environment, I lived moments of sharing the fruit of labour in a healthy manner, where they communicated ideas, anecdotes, and the friendship and laughter flowed in a well consolidated group of people.

Thanks to María Forzan and Raphaёl Vanderstichel I was able to expand my horizons to the outskirts of Charlottetown, and kindly took me kayaking around the Island to visit its endless coastline (a really beautiful place!). Honestly, I am very grateful with the opportunity I had to learn about another country, and especially because this being my first time outside of Chile I found remarkable people who influenced how to project my love for my profession and the bonds of friendship at work. I would like to pay special tribute to the warmth reception of all Islanders, to all who tried really hard to understand my Spanglish, and those who attended the presentation I gave and expressed an interest in the project we are developing in Puerto Natales. I would also like to include a salute to the Spanish-speaking community that sometimes eased my efforts to express myself, especially to Dr. Alfonso Lopez for his human qualities and his remarkable talent as an orator.


Very happy and moved, Angélica.


La primera vez fuera de mi país


Hace ya un mes atrás tuve la oportunidad de viajar desde Valdivia (Chile), hasta Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island). La razón de mi viaje fue analizar los niveles de testosterona plasmática de unas muestras obtenidas en el proyecto de VWB/VSF-Canada llamado “Behavioural assessment of male dogs before and after chemical and surgical sterilization in Puerto Natales, Chile“ donde he trabajado hace más de un año. Permanecí dos semanas en Charlottetown, guiada por Raphaёl Vanderstichel, investigador del Atlantic Veterinary College.

Mi viaje se convirtió en una experiencia inolvidable, donde vivencié diferentes apreciaciones del estilo de vida y de la cultura canadiense en general. En el Atlantic Veterinay College pude conocer un grupo de gente muy profesional, con una evidente vocación por su trabajo y estudios. En este entorno compartí momentos de sana convivencia laboral, donde se comunicaban ideas, anécdotas, fluía la amistad y las risotadas en un grupo de gente muy consolidada.

Gracias a Raphaёl Vanderstichel y María Forzan tuve la oportunidad de expandirme fuera de los límites de Charlottetown, ya que amablemente me llevaron a conocer la isla entre paseos en kayak y visitas a su interminable costa (un lugar realmente hermoso!). Sinceramente estoy muy gratificada con esta oportunidad que tuve para conocer otro país, y sobretodo porque en mi primera vez fuera de Chile encontré gente admirable que marcó mi forma de proyectar el amor por mi profesión y los lazos de amistad en el trabajo. Quisiera hacer una mención especial a la calidez que tuvo mi recepción en la isla, a todos quienes se esforzaron por entender mi Spainglish, y a los que asistieron a la presentación que ofrecí y comunicaron su interés por el proyecto que estamos desarrollando en Puerto Natales. También quisiera incluir en mi retribución a la comunidad hispano-hablante que a ratos alivió mis esfuerzos por expresarme, especialmente un cordial saludo al doctor Alfonso López por su calidad humana y su notable talento como orador.


Muy feliz y conmovida, Angélica.



Hablar el idioma local


Hablar el idioma local, es enfrentarse de vez en cuando con fuertes puntos de vista en contra de nuestro trabajo para controlar la población canina. A veces, sería más fácil fingir que no hablo español, en vez de mantener conversaciones que no servirán para nada, obviamente. En efecto, ¿qué le puedo contestar a mi interlocutor si está convencido de que la esterilización es un crimen contra las criaturas de Dios? Aún si uso todo el tacto del mundo para explicarle que hay límites a los recursos que la ciudad puede ofrecer a los perros callejeros, todo será rechazado de plano. Incluso cuando se trata de evitar la miseria y el sufrimiento a las futuras generaciones de perros, la esterilización se debe evitar en la opinión de estas personas. “La enfermedad es parte del círculo de la vida y debemos aceptarlo. Y los seres humanos no deben decidir de la vida o de la muerte. Por cada perro que esterilizan, ustedes matan a cientos de otros.” Es difícil aceptar esa forma de hablar. En estos momentos, me muero de ganas de seguir discutiendo, pero no es ni el lugar ni la hora.

Además, hablar el idioma local, es tener que encontrar las palabras adecuadas cuando alguién me pide consejos veterinarios o me pregunta que examine a sus tres gatos y dos perros o que esterilize a su perrita que ya tuvo tres camadas. Hay que aprender a decir no, incluso después de haber escuchado a estas personas contar sus historias y explicar que no pueden pagar los servicios de un veterinario.

Afortunadamente, hablar el idioma local, también es tener acceso a un montón de cosas maravillosas : entender lo que está escrito en el afiche que veo cada día ; reírme de una broma en la radio con las personas sentadas en el mismo colectivo que yo ; dar las gracias a mis anfitriones después de haber sido invitada a tomar un cafecito ; explicar a los niños en el patio de una escuela que el perro está grabado para un estudio, no porque es la estrella de una nueva película ; preguntar a unos transeúntes asombrados si han visto a un gran perro café que lleva un collar de color rosa con una antena …

Pero hablar el idioma local, es sobretodo tener el privilegio de escuchar las confidencias de todos aquellos amantes de los animales con los cuales me encuentro cada día. Todas estas personas que, directa o indirectamente, tienen perros en su vida y mantienen relaciones muy especiales con ellos.

Esta semana, por ejemplo, mientras seguía a uno de mis perros en el centro, me encontré con una señora que recorría las calles cada mañana religiosamente con grandes bolsas llenas de sobras que distribuía a los perros del barrio. “Es mi manera de ayudar”, me explicó. Luego, una vez completado su tarea, se iba por donde había venido.

Además, no puedo dejar de pensar en este conductor de colectivo hablándome con nostalgía de sus dos perros que amaba profundamente : “Yo les daba de comer, dormían en mi casa, sólo salían para hacer sus necesidades. Un día me robaron el más jóven. Era un perro hermoso. Y luego, mi otro perro fue atropellado por un coche. Eran mis compañeros y ahora estoy solo. Pero no quiero más animales, duele demasiado cuando los perdemos.”

Hoy por la mañana, me encontré con una anciana muy interesante. Me aprendió que el perrito que yo estaba grabando la esperaba pacientemente a las 6:30 cada mañana al lado de su stand, sus ojos brillando con la esperanza de ser recompensado con unos bocados de pan. “Me acompaña a todas partes, incluso a veces en casa”, me dijo mientras tomábamos café en su cocina, el perrito acostado sobre sus pies. Por supuesto, lo que no sabe, es que este perrito ya tiene dueño. De hecho, este pequeño astuto parece perfectamente consciente de su cabeza angelical y usa sus ojos de cachorro para derretir el corazón de los transeúntes ; ya domina el arte de ganarse caricias, sobras de comida y huesos frescos de la carnicería de la esquina …

De este modo, algunos perros tuvieron la oportunidad de encontrarse durante su vida con buenos samaritanos que recompensan su fidelidad y compañía con un poco de comida y aún a veces con una colchoneta para dormir en el porche de su casa. Desgraciadamente, no todos los perros pueden decir lo mismo. Muchos duermen acurrucados entre las cuatro paredes de metal frío que les sirven de caseta, esperando que sus propietarios se acuerden de ellos y les lleven los restos de la comida : pan, cáscaras de papa, huesos… unos alimentos que les predispondrán a sufrir un desequilibrio calcio-fósforo y problemas de crecimiento. A veces, si son demasiado débiles para defender su comida, es el perro del vecino que se la lleva. Pero los dueños no vieron nada y es con la pancita vacía que su perro se vuelve a dormir.

En pocas palabras, hablar el idioma local, es darse cuenta que todavía queda mucho trabajo de educación y concienciación que llevar a cabo aquí. Las necesidades de los perros relativas a la vivienda, la nutrición, el comportamiento, la salud y el afecto son por desgracia muy poco conocidas. Más que nunca, Rebecca y yo sentimos la importancia de crear talleres educativos en las escuelas … ¡Estén pendientes!



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


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.

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.

VSF-Latin America presented “developing an isotopic foundation to track the movements of birds in South America” at the Neotropical Ornithological Congress held in Cuzco, Peru.

Gaining an understanding of the different ecological areas migratory birds use throughout their annual cycle is of great conservation importance; especially, when trying to understand the role that migratory birds play in the spread of diseases. Unfortunately, there is a tremendous lack of information on seasonal movements of Austral migratory birds and their role in the ecosystem. Around the world, marking (i.e., bands) and recapturing birds has been the most common method used to connect breeding, wintering and stopover sites; but for small passerines, the banding effort over many years has not provided much data. Since 1997 however, measuring stable hydrogen isotope ratios in bird feathers has provided a fast, efficient and relatively cheap way for tracking migratory movements of birds over long-distances in North America, yet the isotope feather template for South America has not yet been developed. In this presentation we described the current development of an isotope feather map and its practical application in South America. The availability of this proposed map will be a foundation to study and better understand migratory movements and hence conservation issues of Austral migrants. Furthermore the applications of this isotopic basemap will have tremendous scientific and technological implications for disciplines such as archaeology (i.e., ancient movements), forensics (i.e., illegal movement of wildlife and drugs) and epidemiology (i.e., spread of diseases), among others.