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My Travel to the Dominican Republic

(March 31st – April 14th 2016)


1. Tourism and Animal welfare in Punta Cana

2. Meeting with Peace Corps

3. Spay and neuter operative in Samaná (part 1)

4. Spay and neuter operative in Samaná (part 2)

5. Spay and neuter operative in Samaná (part 3)

6. The Caribbean dream…


3. Spay and neuter operative in Samaná (part 1)
with Dr. Monika Eickhoff, Dr. Julia Neumann and Dr. Anna Bremus April 5th – 9th 2016

In the afternoon on April 3rd I arrived on the Malecón of Santa Barbara di Samaná,
this busy Avenida directly at the Bay of Samaná…

…where Kim takes care of approximately 30 stray dogs.

Here is the office of Whale Samaná…

…and Kims condominium in this building with view over the bay where many boats anchor.

Also Kim‘s boat lies here, it is the furthest one to the right.

There are always about a dozen dogs living In Kim’s apartment, many of them handicapped. Another 40 live on her farm together with 30 horses and many other animals.

The steps that lead from the Malecón to Kim’s condo are guarded by Alfi. He shares the roofed entrance to Kim’s apartment where her truck stands with some colleagues and follows Kim and her truck wherever she goes. He is a street dog, says Kim. Alfi knows better…

2012 when I was here for the first time Kim and I made plans for our future cooperation and I left Samaná with a wish list. Kim‘s first wish to train Dr. Francisco to become an accomplished surgeon we could fulfill in 2013 and 2014 with the help of Dr. Tarek El Kashef but it should take 4 years to fulfill also Kim’s second wish for a Humane Education school program in Spanish to teach children the love for animals. In the beginning of 2016 I finally got hold of such a program used by ANPA in Costa Rica and sent it as email shortly before I left Germany. Now I want to talk with her about putting it into practice. This is the beginning of our efforts to integrate the local people into active animal welfare work. If we don’t succeed in this we won’t get satisfactory results in animal welfare regardless how much we spay and neuter…

Three dead tired vets arrived in the middle of the night, Julia Neumann, Monika Eickhoff and Anna Bremus who had landed in Santo Domingo. They are staying in an apartment on the first floor.

The next morning we went to the clinic that Kim has set up for Dr. Francisco. All the equipment for the operative is stored here.

Dr. Francisco Lopez Rodriguez is doing very well. He works for the agricultural department as vet for farm animals, has now own clients at his practice for small animals, spays 2 bitches every week for Kim and helps with the upkeep of the clinic.

Raya and Pedro live here at the moment.

Raya was found mangy and emaciated on the Malecón and was supposed to go back there after being spayed but she refused. Now this beautiful girl is being fostered by Aid and Support of the Creole dogs and awaits adoption…

Pedro was hit by a car. In the beginning the wound healed well but then the owner brought him back. Pedro had hurt himself again. Now articular fluid is leaking from the joint and an amputation is the only option left.

Cindy and Abel are already waiting at the clinic. Abel was a student of veterinary medicine before he had a motorcycle accident and had to drop out of university. Now he is happy to participate in the operative.

Kim‘s truck fills up quickly…

The tables go on last.

Then we head off to Las Pascualas where the Samaná Dogs banner has already been hung up.

Only once an operative has taken place here before several years ago.

These buildings were formerly used by the German organization for development aid GEZ for an agricultural project that unfortunately disintegrated when the management changed.

The large covered meeting area is a perfect place for the surgeries.

In the afternoon the vets have recovered from their journey and sort the material needed for the next day.

Their first patient awaits them in the evening at Kim’s. Macho is the unlikely name of this little dog that isn’t a macho at all…He suffers from epilepsy and was severely bitten when he had a seizure in Kim’s absence by Pirata, the bitch whose eye Dr. Kashef removed in 2013. Macho has a big wound at the neck but the real problem are the many small wounds closed already on the surface with a lot of fluid underneath. The whole area is swollen causing Macho a lot of pain. This needs draining. Kim is afraid to anaesthetize Macho but the vets reassure her that Propofol is an anaesthesia tolerated well by epileptics. Macho will be treated tomorrow in Las Pascualas. Kim had found him and another already dead dog in a plastic bag on the Malecón one day, his legs tied together with wire. We’ll never know if the owners wanted to get rid of him because of his epilepsy or if this trauma was the cause of his seizures.

Small Mia, always craving attention…

…has of course to join the examination.

Departure on the next morning…

Kim stops at the office of Whale Samaná to get ice for the cooler. Up to here Alfi and his friend Jerry can follow the truck. Then they have to return to Kim’s house.

Arrival in Las Pascualas. Kim carries Macho. This is a very emotional moment for me. 30 times during the past 8 years I have sent vets across the Atlantic, followed the operatives from Germany and reported about them. Now I’m taking part in one myself for the first time!

Cindy at the reception. Here all the data of the patients are written down and stuck into blue cups.

Every dog that is brought to be spayed or neutered receives a collar as a gift. Blue buttons with the patient’s number are being attached to the collars.

The cups with the info about the animals go to the prep station…

…where Anna Bremus works.

Over a year ago she had applied, the first young vet who was willing to come as assistant not wanting to practice surgery. But she could do so much more than only prepare animals for surgery. She neutered most of the males and was always there when Julia or Monika needed a helping hand. She was an invaluable member of the team and what’s best – she wants to come again!

Notes and calculator – important pieces of the equipment at the prep station…

…to measure out medication.

Kim‘s helper Kilvio cleans the instruments.

The day begins very sad. A man brings his dog that has been hit by a guagua.
The spine is broken.

The dog shows no reaction during the examination. Euthanasia is the only solution.

The crying man says Good bye to his dog which he loves very much.

I cry with him – and think: To get a wheel cart for a paralyzed dog is not so difficult but there are already maggots around the dog’s anus and from its general condition one must conclude that the owner would be overtaxed with the care for a handicapped dog. Also cherished dogs don’t live inside the house here in general, even when they are sick or injured and leaving a helpless animal lying in its feces has nothing to do with animal welfare. Euthanasia is all that’s left…

Just as in Germany cars are the killer No 1 for outdoor cats, in the Caribbean traffic accidents are the main reason for deadly injuries and handicaps of dogs with the one difference that, whereas people here don’t have the money to fence in their yards, fences adequate for cats are not beyond reach in Germany.

3 cats are scheduled for today. Anna is shaving the first one…

There she is, ready for the surgeon…

And Dr. Julia does the first cut of the operative!

The next one is Fulano, a red tom cat. He belongs to Peace Corps volunteer Matt.

Fulano was very indignant because he had to spend quite some time in his bag being transported but the surgery is quickly done and soon he will have forgotten all about it.

The third cat has the unlikely name Microwave…

…and is pregnant.

Her litter will not suffer death from starvation, parasites or fatal infections only a few weeks after birth as is the terrible fate of so many other kittens even if they get adopted because the pharma industry is still denying animal welfare groups the so desperately needed donations of de-wormers or vaccines.

The three cats in the recovery…

Here comes Petunia, the first bitch of the day..

The next station after the reception is the scale. First the person and the animal are weighed together, then the person alone. The difference shown is the weight of the animal which determines the exact dosage of the anaesthesia.

Petunia undergoing surgery. Anna listens to the heart beat – everything OK!

Little Maya belongs to the same lady as Petunia…

…and gets spayed by Monika .

Petunia recovering on the lap of her owner.

Meanwhile the waiting area in the shade of a big tree is filling up.

Carolina has been very busy. She brought the 2 queens and 4 bitches, Sarah, her sister Carmina, the little Lily and a Boca Negra as brown dogs with black noses are called here.

I’ve been picked by the vets to hold the dogs during prep.
Apparently I have a soothing influence…

All dogs get intubated. That turns out to be very wise…Neither dogs with owners nor strays can be expected to appear here with a completely empty stomach to be anaesthetized.

Sarah and Carmina, No 3 and 4, have an odyssey behind them…

Tourists befriended them during their vacation.

They were afraid the dogs might get poisoned when they left and paid a Dominican to take them to a different beach and feed them. There they were even more endangered.

Luckily they were taken back.

Now Kim had asked to bring the beautiful young bitches to Las Pascualas to be spayed…

…and vaccinated against rabies.

Dear animal lovers,

before you go to the Caribbean visit our site Animal welfare addresses in the Caribbean! There you find animal welfare groups on each island and if you cover the cost for the fostering of the animal you want to help there is a good chance that it might survive.

Little Lily has veins that are very hard to find, as a lot of the chihuhuas and chi mongrels during this operative.

The catheter wouldn’t go into either one of the front paws; it had to be put into a hind leg. And of course Lily needs an infusion!

Lily in the recovery, looking a bit exhausted but all went well.

Joey, the dog of Cindy (the second) who helps in the recovery, is a very special personality.

He manages his life very well with 2 handicaps. He lost his right front leg and the left hind leg is paralyzed.

Despite that he gets everywhere, even steps are no obstacle to him.

Cindy talks with Julia about a therapy to strengthen Joey’s hind leg.

Already in Santa Maria I’d heard about Peace Corps volunteers in Samaná. Now I learn that they have always supported Kim.

„PC“ Dan helps in recovery just as Theresa.

Especially helpful is their knowledge of Spanish when the treatment or medication of animals have to be explained to the owners.

As Peace Corps volunteers they work in developing local business. Dan tries to develop an enterprise that offers tourists canoe trips to the national park Los Haitises on the other side of the Samaná Bay and Theresa works with Dominican women producing coconut oil.

On this beach Theresa finds the strays she brings to get spayed.

Today she brings two. The small, still very young black and white bitch is so anemic due to ehrlichiosis that she can’t be spayed right away. She gets antibiotics and stays in a box until tomorrow.

Chava, the second, has had a litter about 2 month ago.

She is already in an early stage of pregnancy again.

Also she has ehrlichiosis which makes the surgery a pretty bloody affair.

But she recovers well. Since she has no home she stays also overnight in a box.

The brown bitch Leica lives just across the road.

Watching her getting spayed I think of my questionnaire for inexperienced young vets who apply to participate in a spay and neuter campaign and realize how right I am:

“Can you operate a pregnant bitch that is a bleeder because of ehrlichiosis and that might have another surgical issue without having to give too much additional anaesthesia, with the simplest means and without a lot of technical equipment?”

Leica wasn’t going to be the only one…Underprivileged dogs are not suitable for practicing. They need the best surgeon there is lacking mostly all post-operative care.

Leica is pregnant with 10 ! puppies.

Apart from that she has obviously ehrlichiosis.
She is the bleeder of the day and the stitches don‘t hold.

Now things have to go fast! Leica’s intestines have to be taken out to find, clamp and sew up the bleeding vessels. Suddenly she starts to vomit, bones of all things…
Thank God for the tube!

Before the intestines are put back into Leica’s belly they are sterilized with Ringer’s solution.

The needle and suture already in her hand, Julia throws a look at the infusion. It’s dripping steadily and reassuringly. Leica can get stitched up. Also she stayed overnight in a box.

Chiquita , little No 13, is next…

After being shaved Abel will disinfect her belly. She gets eye drops so that her eyes won’t dry out under anaesthesia where most animals have their eyes open but can’t blink.

Adhesive glue and plastic wrap have proven to be a perfect replacement of the drapes used in earlier operatives that were expensive and, if made from cloth, added quite a bit to the limited weight of the vets’ luggage.

A chi for Julia to relax after Leica…

But suddenly this littles lady stops breathing. Eyes closed Anna listens for the heart beat: Yes, there it is again!

Chiquita wakes up. All is well again!

Cucha is the next in line and even though her owner looks quite scared…

…Cucha has no problems at all.

A very worried boy brings his sick chihuahua that doesn’t eat.

Anna injects antibiotics. If it doesn’t get better he will have to come back.

These boys wait already since the early morning. It is obvious that their dogs won’t get operated today anymore. Apart from that, they are males…

But aren’t we just particularly concerned to educate children? Will they come back tomorrow or stay away because they are disappointed? And aren’t we again and again trying to convince men also to get their males neutered? Kim is a great pedagogue. She tells the boys: „If you come back tomorrow you get 10 pesos. If you don’t you have to pay me 10 pesos.“ The boys are thrilled – and the first to be there the next morning!

Princessa, No 16, is tied for surgery by Abel and Julia.

She is the last chihuahua of the day…

Monika spays Susi, No 19, the last big bitch for today.

An emergency had been brought in the afternoon.

This little male with an enormously swollen face; no wonder he won‘t eat anymore…Whatever the cause, the teeth aren’t responsible.

A tiny cut and it flows…

The little guy is put under Propofol for a short while to drain the abscess. A second cut is made underneath the ear and a gauze bandage is pulled through to keep the drainage open.

Then he gets a bandage and is put in a box for the night

In the meantime there were some phone calls from Karen, owner of the hostels La Hacienda in Las Galleras. Karen is an ardent cat lover and her hostel is on Animal-friendly hotels in the Caribbean.

Her tom cat can’t urinate and has most likely bladder stones. Karen has to get a bladder catheter, then she will come. Late in the afternoon she arrives. The catheters are useless for cats but her tom cat has great luck! During the drive the stone passed and he can pee again which he demonstrated right away in the car…

Macho is the last patient of the day. 2 cuts aren’t enough for his drainage…

At numerous places incisions have to be made that are kept open with gauze bandage. He tolerates the anaesthesia with Propofol well.

The drains were rinsed repeatedly during the following days and Macho recovered well.

Time to go home after this eventful day. 4 dogs stay behind. Tomorrow A.A.A.S. boss Judy comes from Sosúa whom I haven’t seen in 4 years…

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