Here we go again!: 22 July 2009
These trips are coming thick and fast – can’t believe I am off again. The big case I am leaving behind on this trip is Lily. She’s a beautiful collie who was unfortunately run over by a tractor last week. Her pelvis was shattered and I’ve done my best to repair what I could the x-rays in the pictures show what was done – unfortunately I couldn’t save her hip bone, it was impossible to fix all the fragments so I had to cut off the top of her femur. I am hoping with all my heart she is walking on my return.
Leaving has been a wrench because five weeks at home has been bliss. Noah is now fluent in about a hundred words and is endless fun, I really felt it when leaving this morning; but the show must go on and I have a really exciting trip ahead of me – I’m off to Mexico!â€¨ The travel is probably the worst bit. The guys at work have ribbed me about jet setting around the world but the flights are epic. I’m not flying in luxury but live in hope. I’m writing this on a packed plane and have about minus three inches of leg room and if it wasn’t an aisle seat I would be weeping at this point. I had just sat down when the man next to me leant over and apologised in advance because he has a bladder problem and has to get up and urinate every five seconds and just after take off the seat in front of me shot back to full recline. Loving the celebrity.
Great to see Bruce and Marc at the airport again, really nice to be with the same team but sadly no Adam. He’s been called off this series to film for a programme with the Environmental Investigation Trade which sounds exciting, so Scot is apparently joining us on this trip and will be meeting us over there. He is currently on his way from New Zealand and I guess it will be a good experience to work with a different cameraman.
Arrived!: 23 July 2009
What a journey. We spent about 2 hours clearing customs and then a three and a bit hour car journey to base. The biggest news though is that Agatha, Alberto, Pablo and Daniela are about the nicest family you could hope to meet and they have bent over backwards to make sure everything has gone smoothly on our first day. Alberto (the father) and Daniela (daughter) met us at the airport and kindly ferried us to the hotel. The hotel is 7km from the shelter and is lovely. Agatha (founder of the charity and Mother of the family) sorted it all out and after a few hours sleep we met her and Pablo (son) who took us to their home. The home is magical -it has a wonderful warm feeling and the animals seem so happy – they must realise how lucky they are to be living there.â€¨
â€¨â€¨We spent the first couple of hours getting our bearings as they live on a farm, and introduced ourselves to the rescued ostriches, donkeys, horses, dogs, cat, rabbits, turtles etc to name but a few of the animals they have resident there. The rest of the day was filled up with an operation on a poor cat that had an aggressively growing tumour on its back, meeting Raul (a crazy Indiana Jones type character who rescues the more exotic species of animals that are about in the area) and examining some injured birds of prey that Raul is rehabilitating.
Scott is a great guy as well. I was quite worried when Adam said he couldn’t make this shoot because I know and trust him but although it felt that we were missing a core member of the team on the flight out, Adam had assured me Scott was in the zone and he definitely is. I have a feeling it is going to be a brilliant trip.
Flying High: 24 July 2009
The big question today was how on earth can a vet on a charity mission end up flying with the Mexican National Acrobatic Paragliding Champion? What an incredible day. Nerve wracking doesn’t quite cover it and after the fourth flight I was throwing up everywhere which I am certain the guys will never let me forget, but the adrenaline rush was amazing. Fabul was the name of the pilot I was flying tandem with, and he took great pleasure in swirling me around thousands of feet above the mountain so I could experience proper ’G-force’ – but the point of the trip was to show me the red kites in their natural habitat and to try to ‘fly like a bird’. It was amazing – albeit a bit nauseating on the spins. Definitely makes rollercoasters seem like kindergarten rides.â€¨
â€¨â€¨Late afternoon we headed back to the sanctuary so I could catch up on some ops. I took seven teeth out of a small terrier from which I also removed a small mammary tumour under inject able, it went really well considering the little dog was nine years old with a raging heart murmur. There was also a beautiful Labrador cross that had been dumped at the shelter with seven puppies and Agatha was so upset. It was really sad because she is a beautiful sweet natured dog and was simply dropped off at the shelter without us even knowing her name. When I examined her because she wasn’t eating, she had a bit of a temperature and a touch of metritis so I got some meds into her and I am certain with the amazing compassion and care available at the shelter, she will pull through. The puppies are about six weeks old and thankfully are relatively fit and healthy despite being riddled with fleas.
Carlo and the swamp: 25 July 2009
Epic . What a start to the day – an emergency call to rescue a donkey that was stuck up to its neck in a swamp. The call came from a young man called Carlo who is only fifteen but is a complete force and champion for animal welfare. He heads up a rescue charity of local youngsters which saves animals. I was absolutely amazed when I arrived. Carlo was submerged in the swamp with he donkey, his 12 year old brother was behind the wheel of a large digger and a friend of his was on the bank assisting as required. The defeated park ranger who had called them for help was a mere onlooker having failed to save the donkey. My assistance was simply to lend some muscle in getting it out, all the good work had already been done by Carlo whose quick thinking in keeping the donkeys head out of the water and mud, saved its life.
Once we had taken the donkey to a shelter and made sure it was okay, we headed off to a community clinic in the mountains. It was a fantastic afternoon with a few challenging cases; a collapsed calf which need a drip, a horse with a lacerated knee which I stitched and a few other bits and bobs. Agatha and her family were once again amazing because behind the scenes and unbeknownst to me and the team, she rescued two puppies which were found in a sack and also an injured bird. None of the those cases will make the programme because we didn’t know it was going on but it goes to show what tireless, caring people they are and how focused they are on helping animals. Agatha took the puppies back to her already full shelter where hopefully they will be adopted in the not too distant future.
What a great day. Exactly what it’s all about.
Mexican cowboy: 26 July 2009
Scott, Marc and Bruce had their work cut out today. They had to walk up a mountain to film me examining some cattle that roam the plateau. I had it easy because I rode up with the Mexican cowboys. Lupe was the leader and he is very much the real deal. They gave me a steady horse and aside from bouncing around a fair bit as the guys demonstrated how to weald a lasso, I absolutely loved the ride. The scenery was breathtaking and we treated a couple of cows that had a couple of problems. To be honest, the cows were generally in great condition and I guess only the fittest survive. The cowboys tend to be utterly self sufficient – they cut their own stallions for example (without anything other than a knife) – so I think the meds I gave were a rarity. I don’t think this is because they want to cause the horses pain, more because they have no choice and no drugs.â€¨
â€¨After the work, we built a fire, had some tacos and a good chat. Long journey but fascinating to go with the cowboys and live the experience. I am sure this will be a highlight of the trip. Can’t believe how much effort and work Agatha and Alberto have gone to organise all these community days and activities – they do so much in the community and know so many people it is amazing.â€¨
Cow dilemma: 27 July 2009
Early start and off to the shelter. Treated a few sheep with nasty nasal discharge, one of which also had horrible scabs all over it’s nose, ears and mouth.. I think it may have a concurrent auto-immune disorder as well as the generalised pneumonia that is amongst the flock, but I treated them all as best I could before heading down to an emergency call that came in. A local farmer who is impoverished and has just had major heart surgery had a herd of cows of which a couple were collapsed and dying. On arrival, the farmer was almost in tears when telling me about the state of his cows (totally about 12 in all) and was worried they had been poisoned. The big cow I first examined had been collapsed for two days in the heat of the Mexican sun and was very much in deaths door. I did my best to drip it, get some drugs into it and get it up, but I couldn’t get it on it’s feet and I suspect its chances of making through the night are slim. I gave it lots of pain killer to ease it’s suffering and the plan is to head back first thing tomorrow morning and see how it is. I also treated another collapsed cow but had a lot more success in getting it up and about. My gut feeling is that rather than poison, these cows are simply starving and the farmer is simply destitute with nowhere to go. I‘m going to help him as much as I can and the grand plan is to take him some food tomorrow morning for his animals. I can’t put my finger on any sort of poison or infectious cause but will have to have a review of things shortly.
The final stretch of the day was to treat a few other cases at the shelter that needed a hand. They went fine and then it was time for a fantastic family meal with Agatha, Alberto, Pablo and Daniela – really nice to eat out in their garden and has definitely re-energised me ready for tomorrow!
Digger of power: 28 July 2009
Fantastic day – got to drive a digger. Noah is going to be proud of his Dad. Massive yellow one as well. The circumstances of this adventure were not quite so fantastic though – in fact they were desperately sad. The farmer’s cow died overnight leaving the farmer in tears. Really choked me to see him so upset – a tough Mexican farmer brought to tears by the helplessness and plight of his situation. The other cow from yesterday was on its feet and looks much brighter, although other animals in the pen still look weak and on the edge.
I post-mortemed the cow – she was completely anaemic throughout all her internal organs and her rumen was full of the worthless short chop straw that the farmer feeds them. He has nothing else and cant afford any better quality feed. The best bit about doing the post mortem was that it helped confirmed the theory that the problem these cows are facing is basically starvation and inadequate nutrition.
The way forward from this was to deliver him lots of food – in fact we ordered far more than will appear on the programme and we didn’t scrimp on it. All of us were choked with emotion for this poor man and his animals are desperate need of help. I jabbed them all with vitamins to perk them up, a couple got some hardcore steroid to help things along and then we embarked on the plan to feed them well.â€¨
Back at the sanctuary – couple of cases before driving back to the community that we visited three days ago. The horse leg is looking great which is a big relief.
Feasts: 30 July 2009
There was a big cause for celebration today as it was the first day of the trip that we managed to get lunch. It was delicious and we had a nice meal with Agatha and her family at the shelter – a chance to sample a tasty Mexican chocolate sauce which I know would have been a big hit back home if I had managed to sneak it into my suitcase. I had a great day because I had a bit of time to crack on with a few of the pets at the shelter that needed some help. Marc got stuck in with me and I also caught Scot on a mission to put some blue spray on a wound he spotted. This vet stuff must be infectious!â€¨
â€¨â€¨Couple of ops, a sad put to sleep on a little dog with a crushed pelvis, a sick puppy that needed a drip and a few other bits and bobs. Had a lot of fun jumping in the well at the shelter (part of a family tradition!) – very cold and I managed to get a leach on me in no time at all, but fantastic nevertheless.
We had a nice meal to say thank you in the evening and sampled some of Mexico’s finest Tequila courtesy of the manager of the El Diezmo Hotel which was an experience to say the least. It basically strips away the lining of your oesophagus on the way down. Almost there with the trip – will be sad to say goodbye to the family and the animals but can’t wait to get back home and see Cords and Noah. The crew are holding up but it’s been a big trip to say the least!
Ride in the Pontiac: 31 July 2009
Things took a turn for the surreal today as another cameraman and Jules (Executive Producer) flew out with a helicopter to do aerial shots. It was excellent driving along being buzzed from above. Very James Bond – except for the shorts, physique, fact I’m a vet and I was limited to going to 50km an hour in a not too special drak green hire truck. I did get a quick five minute ride in the helicopter with Lupe which was great fun and very nice of Jules and Marc to sortas we were incredibly tight on time; but I have to say the highlight of the day was a ride in Pablo’s Pontiac! What a great car! It’s definitely been a trip of new experiences this one!
Big news of note was that we recovered Scot’s bag from the mountains that we left behind (huge relief as it contained all his personal gear). I did a few more driving shots, couple of treatments at the shelter and at the end of the day there was a big formal dinner which Marc and me went to. Scot and Nathan headed back to base to compile a list of last minute shots we needed on our last day and get all the tapes sorted out.
The formal dinner was hilarious – there was some sort of misunderstanding that meant everyone thought we would be filming so a string of traditional craftsmen and women lined up to be interviewed by us! I then had to give a speech about our trip to approx 50 or so governors and officials which turned into a bit of a joke for everyone listening because although Alberto did a magnificent job in translating my ramblings 99% of the time correctly, he confused the word tourist with terrorist which got a bit of a reaction from the local tourist board when I informed them to prepare for the forthcoming influx of terrorists to the area.
There was some great traditional dancing and as normal our Mexican hosts were generous and polite so although a bit of a stretch at the end of an epic day, it was a great last full day to a brilliant trip.
Another wrap!: 01 August 2009
Last day and home!! Nailed 2 frantic hours taking general shots of me padding about the town, completed a few last minute interviews and then the epic 22 hour journey home!
It has been a really enjoyable trip and aside from the shelter being a truly worthy cause to support, I’ve found Agatha and her family simply incredible, warm and kind people to work with.
I think all of us will always remember this trip with immense fondness and I genuinely hope one day I get to go back there and visit them.â€¨