Today was the last official day of the Perros Project, with many of the volunteers leaving tonight or early tomorrow morning. I'm staying on here through tomorrow night and hope to visit the shelter one final time to see the progress they made while I was at the clinic these past 3 days. I've heard amazing things were accomplished and can't wait to see.
I started off this morning at 8 am by rounding up more dogs to spay / neuter from Huanchaco. Today we went to one women who had 6 dogs in need of the surgery. She works for the municipality and takes in street dogs and cares for them. She had at least 10 dogs hanging around when we picked up the 6 this morning, and she cares deeply for them all.
We loaded them into 2 separate taxis and each cab went to one clinic. I realize, again, that these dogs have spent their whole lives avoiding cars because getting near a car means getting hit and hurt. So the idea of us asking them to hop into a car like dogs in the US do is rather absurd! We had to pick them up and put them in the car; then most of them got a little sick and all of them took a few minutes to get used to the balance issues that go along with riding in a car! They were all champions, though, and many of them just wanted to be touched and pet while in the car.
Here is a photo of the 3 that came to my clinic. The blonde dog on the far left with his head looking out the window is Chollo, which I've been told means Gangster in Spanish. He was such a love and rather young. The black & white dog is Negra, but I called her Mama all day and that became the name I knew her by. She bonded very hard with me and I was the only one able to hold and carry her. The look in her eyes at me was love and respect and I felt so honored that she trusted me. The dog on the right, looking at the camera, is Lito. He was stoic and brave and took a little longer to warm up to me, but did after we got to the vet and we were buddies the rest of the day.
Getting them into the vet was quite an ordeal. They had obviously never had a positive walk on a leash, and perhaps had never had anything tight around their necks. Lito and Chollo reacted violently towards the leash, biting it where it was right next to their head and thrashing around scared, trying to get away. They never associated me with the leash and never got violent with me. It was, nonetheless, very sad and emotional for me to have to drag them in their state inside. I had to have it tight and drag them because if they got off the leash, they would have run loose in a busy area of the city, far away from their home. Very scary. Mama did not get violent towards the leash, but instead just would not move. I had to drag her and she threw up from the leash being so tight around her neck. It was horrible and I told her "lo siento" so many times and gave her so many kisses. Once they were inside the vet and in the large, outdoors holding area together, they were back to being loving and sweet. They did not hold any of it against me, and for that I was grateful.
After I got them into their pen, I went to the recovery room to check on yesterday's dogs. I was disgusted with what I found and it was definitely one of the most emotional parts of the trip. The dogs in the small recovery room were all lying in their own shit and urine. They had obviously not been tended to in a very long time. And, to make matters worse, ta Doberman who had come in a few days earlier for emergency surgery at the vet (not related to the Perros Project) was dead in his pen. He'd obviously been dead a very long time and nobody had done anything or even checked on him. The women who work at the vet were there already, but had not even thought to check on the dogs. They were sweeping and chatting. I asked, then asked again, then ordered them to clean up in there. It was terrible and I was there with only one other PP volunteer. Cleanliness and observation standards are obviously very different here than they are at vet clinics I'm used to in the US.
Our vet, Lisa, who is leaving tonight so she had to pack up, arrived around 10:30 and we got started on spaying Mama. I was in charge of prepping her for surgery, which meant giving her injections of sedative and pain meds (which I had to draw up), taking her vital signs, and shaving her abdomen. I realized, when working on this dog I had bonded with, that I had learned a lot the first 2 days at the clinic. I felt very comfortable doing these tasks.
It was a complicated surgery and Lisa asked for assistance - I got to put on sterile gloves and assist! My job was to help with the suture string so it didn't get tangled. I was very excited and took my job seriously.
We spayed Mama and Cholo & Lito got neutered. We waited as long as we could at the vet for them to wake up, but eventually we could wait no longer. So, we carried the three of them out to the truck that was waiting for us. Three of us cradled the dogs, with Lisa having to put my jacket over Mama because she was shivering. We rode in the back of the truck, back to the hostel. We had to take the dogs to the hostel because we realized, while still at the vet, that we did not have an address to take them back to and we couldn’t reach the volunteers at the other clinic. They knew where to go. So we took them back to the hostel and laid them in some grass. They were all still so groggy and barely awake, and they were all shivering – so I went upstairs to my room and got as many of my clothes as possible to put over them. Then a group of us sat with them, stroking them and making sure they stayed warm. Finally, the other volunteers returned and we learned the dogs’ address. Another volunteer tried to pick Mama up and she screamed out, so I was summoned to carry her. She let me pick her up without any complaint. We hopped in a taxi (Mama and Lito still being cradled) and took them home. Their human was waiting for them and we gently laid them down to the other 3 dogs from the other clinic. I was rather emotional when I said good bye to them, especially to Mama. She and I went through a lot that day and I could tell she really trusted me. These dogs have it good compared to most of the dogs we spayed / neutered. They were safe while recovering and had someone who truly cared about their well-being and understood what they need in life. I will miss Mama.
When we got back to the hostel, a few of us went out for a late dinner. It was a nice way to relax and talk about the week with some of the remaining few volunteers still in Huanchaco.