Having finally tied up all the loose ends of our trip this summer, we wanted to take a few minutes and share with you our adventure.
As some of you may remember, this year The Perros Project partnered with the Remote Area Medical (RAM) organization. We had a much smaller team this time around as we were focused almost exclusively on veterinary services. This year's team consisted of Dr. Brenda Kennedy, Dr. Virginia Kiefer, Cinnamin Piggott, Kim Upham, Matt Molchan, Carin Busch, and Matt Webber. It is amazing how complete strangers can come together and so quickly form a productive and positive team focused on doing their best for the animals.
While we were preparing for the trip here in the US by assembling needed drugs and medical equipment, our wonderful partners on the ground secured excellent locations for the clinic, promoted it in their community, and signed up people interested in having their dog (and a couple of cats) spayed or neutered. We couldn’t have done it without all of the effort put in by Amigo Fiel (especially Bertha Quezada) and Javier Rosales. Their dedication is truly inspiring.
The entire group, both Americans and Peruvians, spent five days working to improve conditions for dogs in the Huanchaco/Trujillo area. While we had originally planned to focus our attention almost exclusively on spaying and neutering, conditions on the ground led us to divide our time between doing sterilizations and working on other health issues like parasite control and treatment of ill and injured animals. The surgical team, made up of the Americans and two Peruvian veterinarians was able to complete 37 dog spays, 10 dog neuters, 4 feline spays and 2 feline neuters.
In addition to the surgeries, the team formed a mobile unit (literally door-to-door) and examined a total of 27 canine patients and 14 feline patients treating them as best as we could. The most common and obvious problems encountered during the home visits was parasitic disease (both ectoparasites such as ticks and fleas, and likely endoparasites as well). According to Dr. Kennedy, “Two of these dogs were the worse cases of tick infestation I have ever seen - must have been more than 300 on each of them”.
Other patients treated included a dog with an infected non-union fracture, a cat that was missing it's distal limb that had a mild infection of the stump, a puppy that had been vomiting for several days, and a cat with a bad upper respiratory infection who was dehydrated. In the end, every animal received flea and tick treatment, and the team left all that they had with Javier to continue to medicate monthly.
As Brenda told us: “Everyone was very gracious with welcoming us into their homes and we all left these days feeling dusty and tired, but with a good sense of accomplishment that we had been able to have a presence in the community”.
There were two major lessons that we learned from this trip and which we will use to improve our trips in the future. First, it is important to remember that the animals we are seeing in Peru have much greater health concerns than those in the United States. Many of the dogs that were seen for sterilization were really not in the ideal health conditions for the surgery. In fact, two of the animals that were operated on passed away following the surgery which was very difficult for the team and others involved. In the future we intend to do additional preparation for the animals that we will operate on by starting the pre-surgical care and health maintenance for the patient ahead of time. Basic parasite treatments will greatly improve the dogs health, chances of a successful surgery, and also their general daily life. (Note to reader: Anyone have a contact at Frontline?).
The second lesson is that we need to have more security around any drugs and equipment that we are sending to Peru via the airlines or otherwise. Almost all of the major pharmaceuticals and key pieces of equipment for the clinic were in a bag that was ultimately lost by United Airlines. We followed all the proper protocol but it still got lost. Trying to conduct the clinic without these key elements required a lot of resourcefulness on the part of the team but also created a lot of stress. In the end, the lost bag was part of what led to the decision to do the clinic for three days instead of five, shifting attention to other health issues and making home visits.
In closing, it was an amazing experience that allowed us to make some great advances while also teaching us a lot of valuable lessons. Even with the difficulties that we faced the relationships we now have with our friends in Peru are stronger than they were last year and will only grow stronger in time allowing us an even better partnership and even more rewarding work ahead.
It still amazes us that this all began a few shorts summers ago with one dog and the two of us asking the question “What would it take?". Which brings us to the biggest 'thank you' of all - the one to all of you who have supported the work of this project. Thank you so much for your financial support this past year. All of this hard work would not be possible without your help.
The Perros Project
Matt & Courtney
PS - We did take some time out of our focus on veterinary care to check-in on the work we completed last summer at the shelter. The fences, the gates, the doors, the windows, the roofs, the locks, and the brickwork we helped make happen last year is all still standing! Walking into the Huanchaquito shelter in 2011 was quite a different experience than that of years past. Daniel and the staff are still there and still putting in the hard work each day. It made us so happy to see that our efforts had not only withstood the test of some time (and many paws) but that it also lead to more adoptions and made the day to day work at the shelter easier.