My name is Nicola and this year was my first time on the Todos Santos campaign in Guatemala volunteering as a veterinary technician. I had the privilege to work with many amazing doctors, technicians and owners through Veterinarians International. My most memorable experience while on the campaign was five hours into a surgery with one of my doctors from the United States. I went to find our next dog in line for a spay, and when I took the dog from her owner, her entire family followed me to the surgery table, where they proceeded to watch me put an IV catheter in their pet, administer IV anesthesia and monitor her breathing and heart rate while anesthetized. Every time I looked over while monitoring my patient, I looked into the bright smiles of her two human brothers and sister, as they sung her name to me: “Chiquita, Chiquita.” Those two children watched all thirty minutes of their dog getting spayed and not one time did they cry, scream or complain while we performed the surgery. When we were done, I brought Chiquita over to our recovery area where she would be woken up from anesthesia by my fellow doctors, technicians and volunteers. Nevertheless, Chiquita’s family was right behind me and all gave me warm smiles as we departed our
ways. I could tell by their happiness that this simple procedure was making their lives a little bit easier in the mountainous town of Todos Santos. As I proceeded with my next patient I occasionally looked over and saw Chiquita’s human brothers calling her name and waking her up from the cloudy haze of her anesthesia. Chiquita had come into our clinic with a chain tied around her neck as a leash, but thanks to the many kind and generous donations we received, we were able to send her home with a new leash and collar. These collars help identify these dogs as owned when they are roaming the streets and allow us to recognize dogs from years past who we have spayed or neutered (along with the tattoo they receive on their ear).
When I first arrived in Todos Santos, I was greeted by a sweet, smiley yellow shepherd-lab mix, who I later learned was named Shakira. Shakira was an owned dog who had been spayed one year before I made my way to Guatemala and was loved by everyone on the campaign. She would greet us every day by walking us to breakfast, lunch and dinner and even laying in the gymnasium where we proceeded to do surgery from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon. Shakira is a great example of the work and difference Veterinarians International and the GAAP is making in Guatemala. According to volunteers who have been on previous trips to Todos Santos, Shakira used to be emaciated and scared. She is now happy and certainly well-fed!
On my last day of doing surgery I has extremely tired and sore, but I carried on and after we had packed up all of our equipment I took a shower and started smiling because of the week that I had just gone through; even though it was extremely stressful, tiring and emotional, I had done it and had helped so many dogs, cats and their owners, and that realization has left a big fat smile on my face every time I think of my secret mountain town in Guatemala. I am so excited to return for many more years to come!