But this is no vacation! The day usually begins at 7 a.m. with animal owners already waiting in line at the make shift clinic. It’s a stream of dogs and cats coming in on leashes of string, twine, wire, or whatever is handy. They are sometimes brought in the basket of a bicycle by children who can barely reach the pedals.
“We admit as many as we think we can handle, and there is never a clinic where we don’t have to turn away some animals for lack of time,” Knapp reports. “We do our best to help everyone, but often the numbers are more than we can handle. We run the clinic as efficiently as we can. Just because these pets are covered in parasites and live on the streets doesn’t mean they aren’t loved and we take that seriously” she adds. The teams are made up of veterinarians, technicians, and veterinary students from the United States. There are also Mexican veterinarians that come in to learn from the U.S. veterinarians.
Every pet receives a catheter and intubation, and is given anesthetic. They also receive IV fluids. Nearly all the animals seen have heartworm and/or other parasitic diseases, so placing them under anesthesia is a serious matter. A dedicated, experienced staff is essential to a successful clinic where 100 to 300 surgeries are performed during a five-day period.
Knapp relates one of her most rewarding experiences while volunteering. “A Mayan family brought in a whole litter of puppies and wanted the female mother spayed. A wonderful veterinarian did the surgery and was really intrigued by the family. The family was very poor and had next to nothing, but they were really concerned about their dog named Scooby. We delivered the spayed female and pups back to them with some leashes, collars and pet food.”
“Because Mayan is so different from Spanish, we couldn’t speak to each other, but we used hand gestures back and forth and smiled. The family lived in a one room dirt floored palapa with a small fire burning on the floor just under their hammocks. The smiles made it clear the family was grateful and the kids were relieved to have their puppies back. They even had an old mattress in the room exclusively for the mother and pups.”
“It was touching that they loved their pets so much and were so grateful for the help we gave them. On our next trip back to the area, we went to check on them and in place of their palapa stood a brand new house. The family was gone, victims of the progress that marches on in the Mayan Riviera. But, I will never forget their need and their gratitude!”
For more information on VIDAS, visit www.vidas.org.