The Holbox Tarpon Club and Mr. “Sandflea”
Casa Las Tortugas
We have another fantastic group of State-side volunteers heading to Isla Holbox this year and we know that we will be joined by an equally terrific group of volunteer vets, techs and helpers from Mexico. I’m not sure just how many of us there will be but I know that there are new names on the email threads and many/most? of the previous years’ names are there, too.
On Sunday, those of us in Seattle will get together to reconnect and also to distribute the supplies that need to be brought down. We always leave supplies behind on Holbox but this year a lot was lost due to mold – the island had a REALLY wet winter. So, we have much more than usual to pack and haul.
Isla Holbox Spay Neuter Project was given a $5,000 grant opportunity if it could raise a matching amount. And it did! We did! Thank you to everyone who contributed to help us meet the goal and also to everyone who made the “ask” to friends and family.
The pueblo of San Angel is marked by a rusted and dented sign that proclaims the population to be 850. The sign was there when I first came in 2008; the population is probably less now. It is an agricultural community and though the children are taught Spanish, the majority of the residents speak Maya. It is a community that has very little financially and here, more than the other towns we visit, we see the impact of limited food on the dogs. There is no difficulty counting every rib-bone on these animals.
Our clinic building is provided to us by the local ejido and its proximity to the school means that we are visited by children all day. They cluster in the doorway and climb up to the window ledges in order to see what is occurring inside. We limit the children inside to those that that have a dog or cat recovering from surgery but as the day goes by the limited floor space inside becomes filled, as the children find their way into the building despite repeated attempts to move them “afuera.”
The children’s interest is an important part of the necessary change in thinking of companion animal welfare. Our volunteers explain, throughout the day, what we are doing and why, and encourage the children and adults to be an active part of the recovery process. Actually, our recovery process relies on the participation of the owners to encourage awakening from anesthesia through rubbing and stroking and talking to their animal.
In each town we hold a clinic we are provided a light breakfast, usually fruit, and a lunch. Mostly the food is delivered to us and we eat as we can. Occasionally, the meal is served elsewhere and it is necessary for us to leave if we want to eat. This can be frustrating since our work isn’t conducive to dining schedules and so people go in shifts. This was the case in San Angel.
But what we experienced at lunch made any frustration evaporate. This small community came together and each household contributed a dish or a fresh made juice. The food was laid out as an abundant buffet and several of the local women were at hand to explain the dishes and serve us. Most of dishes were Mayan which means that many of the flavors, and some of the ingredients, are unfamiliar to all of us from the States. Chaya figured prominently so it must be the season for this spinach-like jungle green. It is all delicious and we revel in the variety of juices – limeades, pozole with coconut, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya – after all, even Mexican coca cola can’t keep up with the hydration needs.
Every clinic has one or two dogs and/or people who stand out. Today’s was a boy about 10 years old who captured many of our hearts with his dedication to the recovery of a dog that wasn’t even his! This pup was extremely thin and exhibited some mild neurological symptoms and had really BIG ears (a sure attention getter, especially for me). The dog came in at a time when in-take had slowed down and I scooped the big-eared, scared dog into my arms and sat with him a bit. Later, surgery went well, but recovery took a bit longer than we prefer, though not dangerously so. The recovery team began commenting on the boy’s dedication after he had spent about an hour rubbing, talking, and encouraging the big-eared pup to wake up. I joined recovery team at the end of the day and observed him patiently dripping water into the dog’s mouth, keeping it and the tongue hydrated. He and I sat together for another hour or so, both encouraging ‘our’ pup to wake up. We invited the boy to join us at any future clinic and his mother seemed supportive of the idea. Perhaps we have encouraged a future doctor or vet…..
I just received notice from Kim that we have actually exceeded the $2,000 needed for us to receive the generous match from an anonymous donor. This is incredible news and confirms that what we do for the animals is appreciated.
THANK YOU ALL for helping us achieve this goal.
And don’t let this success keep you from telling other people about us, so that they can donate!
Kantunilkin a success!Posted on May 10, 2013We arrived to our first day/first location to find 36 dogs, cats and people awaiting our services? That was about 8:30 a.m. The last surgery was completed about 6:15 p.m. That surgery was number 82. A full, successful, rewarding day. Even a local policeman brought his dog in for a spay and other police delivered a young female from off the street and promised to care for her.
Of course, there were heart aches: while the dogs of Kantunilkin are generally better fed than others in the area, we did see a number of dogs that survive on one tortilla (corn) each day, and most suffer from the ubiquitous fleas and worms.
But there was also a heart break; a story that is not limited to Mexico, certainly, and ultimately, the resulting emotions are certainly experienced everywhere in the world.
In midafternoon, two young children brought their dog to the clinic for a doctor to see. She had been hit by a car the day before and could not walk. We learn, too, that the dog had aborted puppies shortly after being struck. Dr. Tony, from Planned Pethood Merida, examines her and determines that her back is broken and she has no sensation in her back legs; the kindest thing we can do is euthanize her.
This is NOT a lightly made decision. None of us are in the business of taking a life and the death of an animal brought to one of our clinics has potential repercussions if the communities conclude that their pet will die if they are brought in. So there must be thoughtful communication with the family and we must receive consent before taking action.
I carry the little dog to the back of the building and place her on a surgical table. She is panting, aware of her surroundings, but unable to move. I talk to her and stroke her head while Kim administers the drug that will end this dog’s ordeal. Shortly after the heart has stopped, Morelia appears at my side with a woman who is the dog’s adult owner. Her face, at first, is passive but when I ask if she’d like to say goodbye her eyes well with tears and she gently rubs the dog’s head and speaks softly to her. She tells me that a neighbor has deliberately hit the dog with his car. “He is a man with no heart” she says.
For me, for Kim, for all of us who volunteer with IHSNP, the step of euthanasia is sad, (we hate it) but what hits us hard is the suffering that inevitably came beforehand. Thus, while I am writing this 2 days later, I am again teary over the experience, for the dog, for the children, for the parent, for me.
February 5, 2013: Kim reports that we have an anonymous donor who will match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $2,000!!!! Please help us say “thank you” to this generous supporter by raising our own $2,000.
It is always a wonderful thing to know – especially when the Seattle skies are overcast and it is cold – that we will once again be returning to Isla Holbox in May.
Please join us for our 6th annual trip! Clinic days are May 8, 9, 11 & 12. We’ll have a day of recovery on the 10th as usual. Morelia is arranging for us to be in Kantunilkin and San Angel, for sure, as well as the island. Not sure where the 4th clinic will be. Stay tuned!
Sunday we drove to KM 80 which is a small village on the road to Cancun. This town had some very sick dogs and was in desperate need of help. We usually try not to go this far from Holbox but I understand why Morelia wanted us to visit KM 80. We were able to help 51 animals. The local official that organized our building and lunch honored us with a delicious Mayan specialty-a chicken soup that had a wonderful flavor. We were also visited by this beautiful blue butterfly.
We learned the first year that everyone benefits from a day off after two intense days in the heat. Monday was our day off and everyone relaxed in their own way.
San Angel is a small community located between Solferino and Kantunilkin. The sign says 850 inhabitants. I had thought we might have 40 or 50 dogs come to the clinic. Unexpectedly on Monday half of our veterinarians decided to leave for Merida which left us with four very dedicated and busy surgeons. We had over 100 animals come to the clinic for surgery. We decided to concentrate on adult females and made arrangements for the other puppies to be altered next week by Dr. Laura Bevilacqua from Holbox. We were able to help 69 animals in San Angel. With the prospect of many more being helped in the near future. We were very thankful for a secure building as the heavens opened and it poured rain most of the day. Tropical rains are a wee bit different then our Seattle rains!
We always like to hold the last day of clinics on Holbox at the Refugio. Morelia’s Refugio is a wonderful spot with animals of all types being rehabilitated. Those that can be returned to the wild are and those that can’t be released are cared for or sent to other sanctuaries. There are pelicans, raccoons, coati mundi, various birds, dogs, cats, rabbits and any other creature in need of care. The house and grounds are kept clean and smell of disinfectant (very unusual in this area!). Morelia is an amazing woman that organizes the clinics for us and cares for all animals. We are so lucky to have her help.
Esther always serves us fresh limeade, various juices and a great lunch. The rains came during lunch!
We altered 48 animals on Holbox.
It is time to start thinking about 2011 clinics. Our clinics for 2011 will be held May 8, 9, 11, & 12. We hope to purchase another 30 spay packs, another autoclave and new clippers this year. Please consider a tax deductable donation to Isla Holbox Spay Neuter Project.
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