Pooches in Paradise

March 31st, 2015 by capeway

DSC07328                                  As a veterinarian schooled and practicing in North America, I never dreamed I would (or could!) operate on animals in an abandoned amusement park with limited equipment and medicine, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing last week when a chance search of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website led me to an island in the West Indies called Nevis.

I was fortunate enough to join a wonderful organization called World Vets. World Vets is a non profit group that provides surgical and medical treatment to animals in developing nations across the globe, as part of a preventative program or for disaster relief. Volunteers range from veterinarians, to vet techs, to pre-vet students, to people who just have a love of animals and a desire to help. At any given time, a number of projects are underway, with the goal that improving the health and welfare of animals improves the health and welfare of the people who live with them.


My team in Nevis, the sister island to St. Kitts, consisted of 5 vets, 3 techs, 2 pre-vet students and a former Animal Control Officer. In any country World Vets goes to, they must coordinate with a local animal welfare group; our group was C.A.R.E Nevis Animal Society.  C.A.R.E is a powerful little force with a most impressive roster of local volunteers who didn’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get dirty, taking care of the animals before and after surgery, taking care of us before and after surgery!

I was told that our prime objective would be to spay and neuter stray and owned pets, with the occasional medical consult and non routine procedure. I was told the volume would be high. I was told the days would be long. I was told the conditions would not be “ideal”. What I was not told was how much fun I would have.

People either tied their dogs to the fence surrounding the amusement park with  notes, or checked in at the former ticket counter. We also had drivers roaming around the island picking up strays!

Once we got rolling, I didn’t move much from my surgical table. The 5 of us vets had tables set up in the open air cafeteria. The amazingly efficient technicians would induce anesthesia, prep the patients and bring them to our tables. When 1 surgery finished, there was a quick table sterilization, glove and instrument change, and the next patient was brought over. Post op patents were taken to recovery, make- shift pallets under the former beer garden tent!

I know it sounds like hard work but here’s the great part. Maybe because there was no paycheck associated with the work, maybe because we didn’t have the pressures of day to day clinic life, or maybe because everyone was working towards a common goal, I had a blast. Though we were constantly on the move, we had the tunes going and the jokes flowing. Volunteers generously brought us lunch and refreshments daily. Everyone pitched in to help everyone else. At the end of each day, we were exhausted but satisfied.

I feel so fortunate to have met everyone on my team, really laid back but hardworking people. And I can’t say enough positive about CARE and their volunteers. What I did in 1 week, they do on a day to day basis and my hat goes off to them and their tireless efforts. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stars of the show, the island dogs! I have never met such well mannered, intelligent, docile sweeties. I already have future adoption plans in mind!

What started out as a 2015 bucket list objective for me will hopefully become an annual event. Though the point was to benefit the animals, I feel like I benefited the most.