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Sosua, Dominican Republic
GeoVeterinary International completed another successful clinic in Sosua, Dominican Republic with Save Our Scruff (SOS) of Toronto, Judy Liggio of the Asociacion de Amigos por los Animales de Sosua (AAAS), and Dr. Giselle Santos of Hacienda Urbana Veterinaria. We had 5 surgery tables going for 3 days! Again, it was not about numbers but the quality of surgery and trying our best to make sure everyone goes home happy and healthy. A total of 143 surgeries were performed, including one amputation, with 25 dogs rescued and getting forever homes in Canada! This year we had quite the team - 18 from the US representing GeoVets (including 2nd year University of Glasgow veterinary students Colleen Zulty, Alle Dann, Molly Kulbaski, & Cecilia Krogegaard-Sanchez), 14 from Toronto representing SOS, ex-patriots from AAAS, and of course Dr. Giselle.
After the busy 3 days of the clinic, a few of us went home, some went to Cabarete to sun and kite board, and the rest of us drove to the mountains of Jarabacoa. The camaraderie and the benevolence of everyone involved was exceptional, as usual! What another fantastic trip to DR! (A very special thanks to photographer Megan Ewing of ME Creative at www.mecreative.ca)
(On a sad note, I would like to include here a heart-felt tribute to Ruby and a little girl named Priscilla who loved her so much. Ruby was one of the regular dogs who resided on the grounds of Hotel Tropix where most of us stay when in the Dominican Republic. Ruby was always there to enjoy someone’s company, endear herself to you for leftovers or a gentle petting, all the while living a great life as a very loved pet.
Ruby had on ongoing problem with straining to urinate. After several days of constant squatting, much discomfort, and bloody urine, GeoVets carried her to the clinic for surgical exploration in hopes of a fix. Instead we found a non-resectable cancerous mass obstructing the flow of urine from her bladder. While still under anesthesia, with the consent of her owners, the tough decision was made.
At that quiet moment, I suspect that we are were reflecting on the fragility of life, expressing our grief, but feeling gratefully connected to the wondrous bond we share with our pets. Personally, I beat myself up with the thought of little Priscilla tearing up when Ruby left the driveway that morning and then us not being able to return later with her companion. I hope one day she understands.)
One nonprofit gives to another, the side story of our trip.
During the GeoVets trip to Cambodia our group of 9 individuals spent the day with Paren, a full time teacher at the Bridge of Life School in the floating village of Kompong Khleang. On this day he was our guide and connection to the Khmer way of life. By day’s end, we were amazed, educated, and certainly humbled.
Prior to our arrival at river’s edge stops were made on the roadside to eat delicious sticky rice, savor a fresh sugar cane drink, and bravely sample some cultural food items in the market. Within an hour’s drive our taste of Khmer culture continued as we entered the quiet meandering muddy waters of the floating village. Divided into 2 long slender wood boots, powered by diesel outboard motors, the GeoVets team weaved through villages of stilted homes rising from the water’s edge from where people raise families and fish the river beneath. Incredible to think how your home has no land below, and the only means of getting anywhere is by a small boat!
One such dwelling was the family home of Paren that had been converted in a school, the Bridge of Life School. An open room with no desks, only a chalkboard and long knee high level benches, is where Paren gathers over 60 local children to teach them mathematics, the English language, and important life skills. We were impressed by such a task, his dedication to his community, the degree of unselfishness, and how lucky we have been in our own lives.
To make a long story short, later in the week, following the 3 day GeoVets teaching clinic, nine bottles of injectable anesthesia, each costing GeoVets $70, remained unused. Because the anesthetic is a scheduled drug, and therefore not permitted to be transported home to the U.S., GeoVets decided to discount each down to $30 to sell to our Khmer colleagues (course participants). In this way they would be able to use it in their own clinics, providing a more safe and pain-free experience for their own surgery patients. In addition what better to do with the money than return it to the Cambodian community! GeoVets donated it to the Bridge of Life School as a kind gesture to a population in need. (Please read the letter of gratitude from Edward Roohan, the founder of the nonprofit Bridge of Life School.)
GeoVets first clinic, a success! Cambodia Nov. 2016
The seed has been planted! GeoVeterinary International, Inc. represented by nine individuals (4 doctors, 1 technician, & 4 assistants) conducted their very first official volunteer campaign, occurring in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a river city of almost 250,000 very near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Wat. The focus, unlike the high volume spay/neuter clinics Dr. Zulty has been involved in the past, was not about the number of animals to be sterilized but the hands-on real life training of local veterinary doctors and veterinary students – an impact considered further reaching and more lasting in a place underserved by quality veterinary care.
The campaign was a result of a year-long effort planned by Dr. Joe Zulty with Martin de Porres and Brett Elsley of Cambodia Pet Network, Dr. Siraya Chunekamrai of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, and Drs. Nop RInda and Meas Sothy of the Cambodia Veterinary Medical Association. A total 19 doctors and 10 veterinary students were trained over 3 days by the GeoVets team on how to perform medical exams, place intravenous catheters, intubate airways, perform anesthesia, and do spay/neuter surgical procedures on dogs and cats. Photos only show you so much! The doctors and students were like sponges, eager to learn and improve their clinical and surgical skills and become more confident, translating to better care of animals in their home communities.
In addition to the teaching clinic, the GeoVets team spent a day at local pagodas in Siem Reap to vaccinate over 150 dogs and cats for rabies! All were dewormed and treated for fleas and ticks. Another 50 dogs and cats were vaccinated for rabies during our 10 day stay. Rabies is a major problem in Cambodia. Many people die as a result of a bite from a rabid dog. Massive education efforts and countrywide rabies vaccine clinics for dogs are needed for a healthier, safer, and more dog friendly country. GeoVets hopes to contribute again!
This incredible 1st clinic by GeoVets was a success indeed in the eyes of our team, in the minds of the participants, and in the hearts of the community. There was a true sense of pride and job well done shared between the GeoVets team and our Khmer colleagues. Much praise goes to Martin and Brett for initially paving the way, for Dr. Siraya for her collaboration with me in setting up the clinic, and Dr. Rinda who served as my right hand from the introductory minutes on day 1 to the end when each course participant was handed a certificate of completion. I also need to mention and graciously thank the following individuals:
Nicole Kramer– expat from Tasmania; who was the unsung heroine having been our devoted hostess who helped with anything, took us on a cool bike adventure, and became our good friend through sincerity and great conversation.
Jorge Rodriquez – expat from Puerto Rico, the photographer of insects, a true artist and scientist with a good soul.
Josette Vanneur – expat from Belgium, founder of Siem Reap Pagoda Cats; a woman of such elegance and passion for the innocent animals in need of good place to sleep at night.
Jessica Leigh – expat from Australia, a veterinary technician who runs the Siem Reap Mobile Pet Care; who provided much needed technical help during the clinics, and who has very good skills along with an ambition to raise the level of veterinary care in Cambodia.
Dr. Trish Johansen – expat from New Zealand, owner of Siem Reap Veterinary Care; who provided good advice to GeoVets in the preparation and conduction of the clinic.
Mr. Sary Pann - founder of The Happy Horse Ranch Farm; who graciously provided his site for GeoVets 1st day of the teaching clinic, a jovial man who made us feel comfortable and very welcome.
Dr. Chamnan of Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society, who assisted with translation and teaching, who took time from her busy practice in Phnom Penh, and with whom GeoVets is so appreciative.
Jen Cartmill - a volunteer with Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary; who spent a scorching hot day with us on the grounds of a special place set aside for rescued elephants, small primates, and ridgeback dogs.
Tommy Bekaert and the staff at Rambutan Hotel/Resort in Siem Reap; right in town, clean, comfortable, relaxing, great pool, great free breakfasts and foot massages!
Sokna -our tuk tuk driver; who my son Zak and I became good friends with last year, who this year provided us with free transportation, and again imparted in us what is important in life: family, friends, kindness.
GeoVets team members:
Dr. Glenn Yovino and wife Bethany; Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital, South Thomaston, Maine
Dr. Ann Bittaker and husband Joe; Douglas Blvd. Veterinary Clinic, Roseville, California
Dr. Elianne Amstalden and husband Tommy; Belvedere Veterinary Center, Baltimore, Maryland
Technician Lauren Scott; Parkville Animal Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
Dr. Joe Zulty and son Zak; Essex Middle River Veterinary Center, Baltimore, Maryland
Teach them how to fish…. Thanks to the GeoVets team along with our 3 veterinary partners Drs. Carmen, Luisa and Mauge in Cusco, 20 course participants were exposed to 3 full days of training on how to perform a safe spay or neuter surgery. The importance of physical exam, anesthetic methods, sterile technique, proper intubation, IV catheter placement, and post-op care were all part of the program to enhance the skills and surgical comfort level of senior veterinary students and local veterinarians.
In the process over 70 animals, mostly client owned but some street dogs, were successfully sterilized at the BunnyVet veterinary clinic, owned and operated by Dr. Carmen. Under the roof of her newly renovated garage, on 5 well-lighted surgical tables, GeoVeterinary International and our partners from Peru carried out a well-coordinated effort to empower local doctors to become even better, in turn improving the care for animals in communities elsewhere in the world.
Dr. Carmen Janell Caceres Cabezas (and your family for providing your home and your clinic as the perfect setting for the clinic), Dr. LuisaPuchuri Corilla, and Dr. Maria (Mauge) Eugenia Caceres Pena……. for helping Dr. Joe Zulty with the original concept of the clinic, the months of preparation, the delicious lunches, the 3 days of running the event, and most of all introducing us to many rising veterinary stars in Peru, inclusive of Frecia, Fabiola and Pablo!!!
GeoVets members, thank you….
Dr. Glenn Yovino, Dr. Elianne Amstalden, and Dr. Vanessa Lanzetti for teaching and sharing your valuable experiences and knowledge.
Technicians Marcus Stader, Miranda Worthington, and Julie Diaz, Dr. Mary Zulty (human medical resident) for vigilance of anesthetized patients and demonstrating your fine skills.
Bethany Yovino for tirelessly managing postop recovery.
Hannah Yovino, Jorge Mesa Mora, Dr. Jim Zulty (PhD pharmacist), Zak Zulty for filling in wherever and without complaint.
Tommy Amstalden for also filling in wherever, and for staying up until midnight (with Jorge) the night before the clinic to outfit 5 surgical tables with the best illumination ever.
I clearly remember a little boy walking hand in hand with his dad and his German shepard mix down the narrow road along the lake towards the clinic.It was day 2 of a volunteer mission in Panajachel, Guatemala. We were just getting underway for another long day of spay and neuter surgeries. The hope in that little boy’s eyes, that finally someone from a far away part of the world had come to save the day, to cure his beloved pet of his problem, gave me a sense of real worth and the real reason why I traveled to this small town on the edge of Lago Atitlan.
But never did I feel so helpless and discouraged when all he wanted was for me to make it possible for his dog to see again. That look of hope quickly turned to despair as his head dropped and tears appeared. The best I could do was to tell his dad that although the dog was blind, he was healthy, well loved, and that his son was lucky to have such a dog. That moment in time broke my heart and it will stick with me forever. For me it exemplified both the futility and the ineptness of life but the importance of why a nonprofit organization such as GeoVeterinary International is founded.
Throughout the world, particularly in underserved areas, there are many animals suffering preventable illnesses and living only short lives. Each effort to educate, to reduce roaming populations, and to vaccinate against disease such as rabies is important to the welfare of both pets and humans. Each campaign or clinic in a community filled with animals in need does make a difference.
I could not cure a little boy’s dog of blindness, but the presence of me along with a group of caring volunteers from a distant place gave a small town hope and inspiration that they can be part of improving the level of veterinary care for their pets, diminishing the numbers in the streets, and continuing the effort. GeoVeterinary International has created an opportunity for you to contribute, to help better a life, to touch a heart, and in the end to be a small part in this incredible effort!
GeoVets trip to Sosua, Dominican Republic - 200 surgeries, happy faces, and a fantastic new connection!
Just a month ago, GeoVeterinary International met in Sosua to once again (last year was an unofficial first clinic – also a success!) team up with Judy Liggio of AAAS , her hard-working team of ex-patriots, and Dr. Giselle Santos of Hacienda Urbana Veterinaria, likely the best veterinarian on the island. This spay/neuter clinic was again not about quantity but quality. Utmost to us was that every animal undergoes a safe clean procedure and recovers without complications. Numbers are good, but 100% happy faces and good local relationships are more important.
At this year’s clinic we had the pleasure to work alongside Save Our Scruff, a volunteer group out of Toronto, Canada. Their mission is to rescue dogs in need and to place them in forever homes. To date, they have successfully transported over 600 dogs from overseas locations! SOS fulfilled yet another role, merging with us for 3 days to handle incoming patients and taking care of recovery. Tirelessly they worked alongside those on the surgical side to make the event a great success. Indeed it became a seamless and synergistic relationship, one that both GeoVets and SOS plan to build on in the future. Already there is collaboration for a spay/neuter clinic to Costa Rica.
Of note, Save Our Scruff team leader Cynthia Vuchev stated that the Sosua spay/neuter clinic of 200 surgeries equates to a reduction of 13,154,488 unwanted births in 6 years time! Certainly a dent in pet overpopulation!
With much overdue praise and thanks for true volunteerism, I need to mention the individuals, all ex-patriots residing in Sosua, who give their time and talents to not only support, but make this clinic happen! I call them Judy’s team, many of whom I have had the pleasure of working alongside in spay/neuter clinics, sponsored by World Vets and now GeoVets, as well as in several half-day operatives in Judy’s clinic over the years.
Jim & Carol – Thank you Jim for your electrician capabilities, the rewiring of the clinic site. Thank you Carol for your sweetness filling in the gaps.
Carl Chaffee – Thank you for your tremendous organizational help and your calming effect.
Stephanie, Marnie, Louise, & Carl Hackman – Thank you for tending to the anesthetized patients, the surgeons, and making sure each and every surgery was a success.
Sandy Wilkins –Thank you for traveling all the way from Michigan to visit Judy, and providing your technical expertise in the feline surgical area.
Francine, Marina, & Dieter- Thank you for preparing the pre-op injections, as always paying meticulous attention to detail and correct dosing.
Carolyn & Barbara – Thank you for assisting in the recovery area, proving lots of TLC and dry warm blankets.
Janet and daughter– Thank you for laboring continuously to make sure every surgical instrument was cleaned, sterilized, and quickly back in the hands of the surgeons.
Barbi – Thank you for the incredible food station providing a nonstop supply of goodies, coffee, cold drinks, and lunches.
Cindy – Thank you for cooking all the delicious food for the food station; your lunches were the best!
SOS team members:
Laura B. (founder of SOS), Jenna B., Paulina, Taylor, Eri, Jenna W., Lisa, Allan, Laura H. & Cynthia – all young, ambitious, really nice, and incredibly resourceful; Thank you for smoothly running admissions and thank you for your caring vigilance in recovery. Toronto can be proud!
GeoVets team members:
Dr. Glenn Yovino and wife Bethany, of Maine
Dr. Ann Bittaker, husband Joe and son Tyler, of California
Dr. David Kovalik and wife Barb, of Virginia
Dr. Cecie Couture, of Massachusetts
Dr. Kathy Reilly, of New Hampshire - Thank you for joining GeoVets for the 1st time; welcome indeed!
Dr. Susanne Vogler, of Germany
Dr. Jim Zulty (PhD) and daughter Dr. Mary Zulty (DO), of Maryland
Dr. Joe Zulty and wife Kathy, of Maryland
Veterinary technicians Denise Meredith & Liz Edwards, of Virginia – Thank you for participating in your first volunteer mission overseas. Please do it again! The burden of a clinic’s success is always on the shoulders of technicians prepping each dog with an IV catheter and endotracheal tube with efficiency and promptness. You both did very well! You even took the time to teach my wife Kathy how to place IV catheters. It was a special moment for me to see her doing so. Your efforts made me proud of the clinic and a proud husband!
As founder of GeoVeterinary International, Inc. , I am pleased with our first year of operation, from the teaching clinic in Cambodia and now a quality spay/neuter clinic in Sosua. With each event we grow and make valuable connections, yet there is so much more to do. The dogs and cats of the world await our help.