Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wellness Clinic on the Blood Reserve, Southern Alberta

For one weekend, the community centre in Moses Lake was turned into a makeshift animal hospital for a clinic run by the Alberta Spay & Neuter Task Force. The clinic provides free spays & neuters, vaccinations, and when available, pet food.

Thunder, half coyote, 8 years, and mom to 3 surviving pups

Thunder is apparently part coyote and loved by her family, but they couldn't take care of her three surviving pups from her latest litter. She's 8 years old and her teeth are in bad shape - but I just love her - she was one of my buddies this weekend and I'm happy to report she's been fixed and vaccinated, so the neighbour's dog (whom we couldn't catch) won't get her knocked up again.

She's an old gal so it took her longer to recover. We warmed her up with blankets and a heating pad, and kept her tongue and gums moistened with water.

Surrendered kittens, two weeks old

Two week old kitten (approx.) wasn't drinking from the mother cat and was really cold. A resident of the Blood Reserve and I each took turns warming the two little grey kittens up and feeding them formula from a syringe until we got them to nurse from mama cat (herself not much more than a kitten). This guy is so small he's like a mouse.

I wanted to bring home this litter and the mom to foster, but they might need round the clock care for a little longer - so they went with Pound Rescue and I brought home a litter of weaned kittens instead that will be available through ARF when they are old enough to be fixed.

There's more to animal rescue groups than just adoptions

This was my second clinic with the Alberta Spay & Neuter Task Force. I volunteered with them in September 2009 for one day, and had also signed up for the June 2010 clinic but it was cancelled due to flooding. My participation was motivated by two things: first, as a volunteer with ARF I wanted to develop a better understanding of where most of our rescued animals come from. Secondly, our first ARF dog, Beadie, came from the Blood Reserve Wellness Clinic in June 2009.

I volunteered at both clinics with a mother and daughter who adopted our third foster dog, Kima. We didn’t know each other before, but since they adopted Kima we’ve become friends. They’ve met a number of our foster puppies and have taken care of our zoo while we’ve gone on vacation.

The Blood Reserve Wellness Clinic is held twice annually and provides free spay and neuter surgeries, free vaccinations and limited amounts of pet food. The operation requires a massive amount of volunteers, many of whom are highly skilled (vets and vet techs). The others typically come from various Calgary-based rescue groups. The September 2010 clinic had volunteers from the ABSNTF, AARCS, Pound Rescue, the Humane Society and ARF (possibly from other groups!). The three day clinic is paid for through donations and grant funding (I believe!). Volunteers make the three hour drive south and typically stay overnight in Cardston at their expense – but it’s more than worth every penny.

This year’s clinic was held in a community centre – basically a big gymnasium that housed an area for crates in line for vet checks, an area for sedated dogs in crates, a big area for surgeries, an area for animals recovering after surgery, an area for animals to be picked up, an area for sterilizing equipment, laundry and for paperwork. Vets and vet techs do surgery beneath the basketball nets under the newly purchased trouble-lights.

Volunteers, myself included, wash crates, walk dogs, nurse kittens, tend to dogs as they recover and wake up etc. Some run into town to do laundry at the Laundromat because the clinic uses so many old towels, sheets and blankets. Others transport young puppies to another facility to reduce their chances of illness.

The first day of the clinic is the most interesting. Teams of volunteers go door to door in the various communities explaining the clinic – the concept is familiar and well received. Community members give permission to have their animal fixed. They can also surrender animals, and permission must be granted to remove an animal from any home. Some dogs have never been in a crate or on a leash, so getting them rounded up is interesting. From here, they go back to the clinic facility with their paperwork and are eventually see by a team of vets and vet techs, and the correct dosage for the anaesthetic is calculated based on the animal’s weight. The first day starts at 10am (after a drive from Calgary) and ends around 10pm. On the second day, volunteers arrive to walk the dogs after a night in the crate, clean crates and get ready for the surgeries. Vets arrive and the process begins. Animals fixed during the morning surgeries can pick up their animals in the afternoon (or have them dropped off). Families are given instructions on how to care for the animal following surgery. They also receive food, typically donated by manufacturers or individuals in Calgary.

More and more people respond that their pets are already fixed when volunteers go door to door. Progress is being made. But there is no shortage of heartbreaking stories. I transported a 4-5 month old puppy for AARCS; the pup had had a collar tied tightly around his neck – so bad it had left an open wound. A 12 year old dog came in with a fractured foot (old injury, healed) and quills to the same leg. He was too old for his surgery, but had the quills removed.

Volunteers from Pound Rescue and AARCS spent much of Saturday rounding up more animals and sorting out where the many surrendered dogs and cats could go. At least three vehicles of volunteers returned to Calgary full of crates destined for AARCS, Pound Rescue, Pawsitive Match, Misty Creek and ARF. I don’t think they will find homes for all the kittens so we took in one litter for ARF. Adult dogs are also hard to place but as of yesterday, I think a foster home had been found for all, or most of the adult surrendered dogs.

Our day started at 7:30. I left Cardston around 6:30pm and drove to Calgary for a series of drop offs. I think I went to bed around 1am – with one puppy in the dog room (went to the vet Sunday morning) and the litter of five kittens getting cozy in the second bedroom.

The work of the Alberta Spay & Neuter Task Force wouldn’t be possible without donations, sponsorship, grant funding, and the contributions of various rescue organizations, including the Calgary Humane Society and ARF. The ABSNTF will hold another clinic for Siksika Nation over the first weekend in October. The next clinic for the Blood Reserve will be held in June.