DAY EIGHT 06/18:
Today we held the free community spay/neuter clinic in San Antonio. I was very excited to partake in this event because it really makes a difference in a community that is heavily overpopulated with stray dogs, many which are malnourished, sick, and left to struggle in the streets. In an attempt to alleviate the problem to the best of our abilities, we held the clinic to prevent dogs from continuing to breed at such an uncontrolled rate and to reduce spread of disease. I was also particularly excited to put my suturing skills to the test. As the morning went on, unfortunately, it became apparent that we would not be receiving many clients that day. It such a shame that that’s the case because it is free of cost and could have such a positive effect on the welfare of local animals. Some of the people that did bring their dogs only were interested in a standard check-up, and when asked if they would like to spay/neuter their animal, they refused as if it was the worst idea in the world. There are so many dogs as it is that I couldn’t wrap my head around why people would want to continue adding to the issue by breeding their pets instead of giving those that are on the streets a proper home. I wished so desperately that I could change their mind but I did not want to be pushy either. Regardless of this frustration, I enjoyed my time at the clinic, because due to the animals we did alter, a difference was made.
DAY NINE 06/19:
I LOVE IGUANAS. I had so much fun visiting the Green Iguana Conservation Project today. I’ve never had the opportunity to literally just hang out with a bunch of iguanas, feed them, and put them all over my body. They are so cute, I couldn’t even contain myself. Left the sanctuary with some claw marks, but that’s okay. It was well worth it.
DAY TEN 06/20:
Today we vaccinated some lovely sheep. I personally love sheep because I took a class on handling them and found them to be very full of personality. The sheep on this farm were no exception: they were very vocal and funny to watch, and I’m glad I could help in vaccinating them against worms and black leg so they don’t get sick. The people that owned the farm were also very kind and even let us swim in their beautiful triangular pool. One could never complain about a nice midday swim.
We also went to another farm after to castrate a horse. It was my turn to do it today, and I was surprisingly not nervous. I had seen the other girls do it already so I carried my steps out with purpose. I was shocked at how unaffected I was by all the blood and removal of testicles. After the castration was complete, I started thinking to myself how I was capable of partaking in surgery, regardless of how gory it can get. The past couple years I’ve told myself that I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor, but I think I’ve been ruining the idea of pursuing the career in my head all along. I have some thinking to do for sure.
(photo credits: Alicen Gorecki)
DAY ELEVEN 06/21:
The day started off bright and early at 5:30 AM so that we could milk cows at the dairy farm. I expected to be milking cows the old fashioned way; using your hands and filling a bucket up. But in fact, the farm utilizes a machine that sounds very much like a vacuum to latch on to each teat and suck the milk out. I was not even aware this was a thing, but it makes sense considering that it’s quicker and requires less manual labor. Fortunately we did get to hand milk the cows for a little later on, which means I can cross that off my bucket list now.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to palpate cows to see if they were pregnant or not. I find it interesting that we are able to access the cervix through the rectum. The cow anatomy’s makes it easy, as well as cheap, for farmers and vets to decide if the heifer is open(not pregnant) or pregnant. Personally, I found this technique to be a lot harder and messier than I had expected. I’ve never had to deal with so much poop in my life nor have I ever imagined I’d be shoving my whole arm into an animal’s rectum. While I don’t exactly prefer to be pooped on, it was still pretty cool to get the opportunity to learn first-hand what the reproductive anatomy feels like and what to look for in order to classify a cow pregnant. I was highly confused on what I was supposed to be looking for when I first had my hand in there, but with the guidance of the farmers, I began to understand. Regardless, mastering the technique takes experience. Being a vet is definitely no glamorous job, but the gain of knowledge more than makes up for the mess.
DAY TWELVE 06/22:
We spent the morning vaccinating, castrating, and taking blood samples from pigs. Prior to getting to the farm, I imagined just a typical day like all the other farm visits, but this experience really stood out to me. Dealing with pigs in particular is no easy feat. It is noisy, gruesome, and dirty. I felt a bit overwhelmed at some points, particularly during the castrations and the blood samples. The piglets do not receive any type of sedative during their castrations, and I felt pain for them as they squealed and their mothers demonstrated concern and fear for their babies. There’s a clear display of emotion in these animal’s eyes that hurts my heart, but this is simply a part of the animal industry that must be accepted. Moreover, taking blood samples from their eyes was very difficult for me because they sounded and looked like they were in so much pain that I felt uneasy when I was assisting in the procedure. My hands trembled as I attempted to locate the needle in the proper spot. I could not handle it on my own at all. Today really made me come to the conclusion that I would not be capable of being involved in the livestock/production industry. Regardless of the fact that the veterinarian’s job is to improve the health of the farm animals, in this case, I do not believe I can live up to such responsibilities. To be quite honest, I don’t have the stomach for it. I’m far too emotional to stab an animal in its eye as it screams in excruciating pain. I don’t think I will be capable of eating pig after seeing what I saw today. The pigs are covered in filth, terrified of humans, and some appear to be quite depressed in their pens. It does not seem right to me yet I have been a consumer contributing to the demand of pork for most of my life. One does not reconsider such things until you visually experience it yourself. This day was definitely important for me.
DAY THIRTEEN 06/23:
Today was special because we visited a Mennonite community to vaccinate their cattle and horses with rabies vaccines. Most people never get such an opportunity to see this land, because this community prefers to remain very isolated to preserve their conservative traditions and customs. The farms were absolutely beautiful and visibly well taken care of. They had awesome carriages and an abundance of livestock with some cows being the biggest I have seen thus far in this country. Prior to meeting them, I assumed the women would not speak to us, but they were actually very sweet and conversational. I’m glad I had this experience, because I had no previous knowledge on this group and wondered how exactly it was they lived. This is what coming to Belize is all about: learning about technical veterinary skills while also becoming educated on cultures we’ve never been exposed to. It is always key to remain open-minded and respectable in such situations, especially when one can benefit greatly from disposing of previous prejudices after experiencing the truth first-hand.
I can’t believe our last day of field experience was today! I’m going to miss it so much when I go back home. I’ve never embarked on such an incredible adventure before. I already know I’m going to make a future visit back to Belize.