My last course about wildlife conservation was very interesting and important to me. All my life I had wanted to work with conservation and exotic animals, so taking this course and working at the Belize zoo was a dream come true. The class, however, was not as hands on as I had expected and wanted. After hearing from other girls about this large animal veterinarian course and how hands on it was, I am extremely excited to get started. I have always watched television shows about large animal vets, and worked with dairy heifer cows at my school, but have never done hands on work with these animals or with cats and dogs. I am excited to get into it and see how the field of a large animal vet really is from a first-hand experience, as well as further experience the different culture here in Belize in a larger more populated city and seeing actual farms/businesses.
Day 1: 6/11 – First day at Midas
After an hour drive south of TEC we had arrived in San Ignacio. Seeing civilization in this small city was breath of fresh air after being secluded for two weeks off of the Western highway. Our first day here was spent by the pool, which was exhilarating and relieving after being deprived of swimming for two weeks in the dry season. Midas resort is very charming, with cute cabanas in the back of the hotel connected by paths. The cabanas are where we stay, while I believe there are also rooms inside the main building. After we spent the day relaxing we met with our program director, Cynthia, at dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. At this welcoming dinner we also met our professor, Dr. T, and his brother, Ruben, who both run Paws veterinary clinic in San Ignacio. These two work at the veterinary clinic for companion animals, as well as travel to farms around Belize for consultation and to house calls for people’s farm animals.
Day 2: 6/12 – Xunantunich
Today we started off with a tour of San Ignacio by our program director Cynthia. The city here is very interesting and charming. Luckily most places in the city are in walk-able distances from our hotel so that we don’t need to use taxis and can walk around town for lunch and dinner. After the tour we spent the rest of the day exploring the Mayan city of Xunantunich. After crossing a hand-crank ferry across a river, we met with out two tour guides and started the tour off with climbing an exhausting hill to the ruins. The temples were breathtaking, and the largest Mayan structures that I have ever seen in person. The largest building was called El Castillo and we were able to climb all the way to the top of it. The Mayan stairs are very tall, as they were built to be only for the deserving to climb. The buildings were also made for the Gods, and not necessarily for the people.
Day 3: 6/13 – Suture Practice
Our first day of class started off with lectures to introduce us to the two week long course. We went over breeds of cattle, sheep, horses, and then diseases that are typically found with these animals and within farms around Belize. The diseases included vesicular stomatitis, black leg, bovine spongiform, rabies, avian influenza, Newcastle disease, and screw worm. These diseases are very important for us to learn about to get an idea of the issues that arise with farm animals in this country and so we have background information in case we deal first hand with any animals with these diseases during our farm trips. We were also lectured on the Bovine Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) that is located in Belize.
After lunch, we met Dr. T at his veterinary clinic to practice suturing. The group split up into two, where one half worked with Dr. T on a live dog getting spayed, and the other worked with store-bought chicken breasts and legs. I was nervous to work on the dog right away, so I stayed with the dead chickens. We practiced both outside and inside knots on the chicken skin, but sutures re usually inside knots. After the groups switched, we watched Dr. T perform a spay on a dog and I helped him suture the cut up afterwards. It was awesome to witness and made me really excited for the rest of the course. Usually, in the U.S., people don’t get that kind of hands on experience without being in vet school for two years, so this course is going to be a great opportunity. And now I can properly stitch a cut up in case any emergency occurs in the future!
Day 4: 6/14 – Whistling Ducks Farm
Today was our first day going to a farm, which was exciting! After having lecture that morning, we were all really looking forward to getting out in the field and getting our hands dirty. Our goal today was to learn how to physicals on horses and how to take information from clients on their animals.
The women had a handful of horses, and two included horses that she took in for a guy while we went away. Sadly we was killed while away, and she still takes care of these horses like her own. I made me happy how sweet she was and how much she loved her horses. There was a beautiful pinto horse with her matching foal that was too cute to handle. We filled out the clinical sheets in regards to some black spots/bites on the mother and the foal, then we split up into groups of two where we examined other horses. The horse I examined had a growth on the back of its hind hoof, so Dr. T gave the horse ketamine in order to cut it off and cauterize the cut. This was my first time seeing something like this done on a horse, and it is amazing to see how powerful they are and how much they fight the drugs, causing them to burn it off quickly and the doctors to have to work carefully and quickly.