Things had been a little more quiet at work for a few weeks. I was not complaining about ending my time at Saga Humane Society on a less hectic note. However, now that the final days were winding down, it was like they could smell that I was leaving. Everyone was in a panic to see the vet before she left the island for good.
CAUTION, SOME MILDLY GRAPHIC PHOTOS
On Thursday we lined up a nice final snip day. Thursday is when we did the majority of our free spays and neuters. Secretly, this was one of my favorite days. Not because it was all surgery, but because it was mostly human-free. Merari in reception knows that unless your dog has a leg hanging off or an eye falling out, Thursday is not for appointments. I could have a break from the regular stress most vets face in dealing with a variety of clients, questions, and personalities. On this Thursday one of the staff went out into the community to do some errands and to look for any additional animals that might need spay/neuter. She returned with an owned dog that was already neutered, but clearly was having trouble walking. I took a look and thought, “What in the H#@*!??” This dog had a tumor that I had never seen the likes of before.
I wasn’t really in the market for new challenges, but as a solo vet you don’t always get to pick and choose. I decided to try using the cautery machine (one of the items purchased for Saga with my fundraiser before I moved to Belize) to help me to remove it, then suture it closed.
Mass Removed from Paw
What a relief for this dog!
We also had a fun goodbye lunch that day at one of the beach resorts. Sitting out looking over the ocean with the whole staff and a few friends. We never usually had the opportunity for time like this and I cherished it.
Friday was my last full day at Saga. Twenty animals would be looking for medical care (not a record by any means but enough to keep us on our toes). Eight of these needed an exam with deworming and vaccination, simple enough. One was an anal gland abscess, yes, this is as horrifyingly gross as it sounds, thank you vet gods for deeming this necessary on my second to last day. We rechecked a recent adoption with a little hair loss and a lot of itch, performing a skin scrape to identify demodex mange and get him on the road to better health. One dog was losing weight with a good appetite and we sent off some blood work to Belize City on the airplane. We tested another with one of our quick snap tests to diagnose him with both heartworm and ehrlichia (tick fever) and start some treatment. I diagnosed one dog with neck pain and sent home medications and strict instructions, while another complained of bloody diarrhea with muscle wasting. I rechecked a healing leg wound (doing great) and a broken toenail (needed heavy sedation for full removal and cleaning). The staff brought in an underweight dog that members of the public had been complaining about due to it’s thin appearance. A very large dog that was rescued from our sister island of Caye Caulker a month prior came in for a recheck. Although it was amazing that she had gained significant weight, I also noted that her mammary glands looked huge. We had no way of knowing previously if she was spayed and really she was not an ideal candidate for surgery at the time. Now it was obvious that she would need surgery the next morning before I left. As it turned out, which I suspected when I felt her belly, she was in fact NOT pregnant. She was having pseudopregnancy (where a dog’s body thinks they’re pregnant and makes milk), so once spayed she went on to do well. We also picked up a really cute friendly tomcat with a swollen leg. We got him neutered and on medications so that eventually he could go back to ruling his neighborhood (without making more kittens!).
So, that leaves just one more case. A dog who had been in a fight with another dog in it’s home a few days earlier. The owner thought it was more fresh, but after shaving down the neck I would have had to disagree. The dog had a thick coat and so a wound could easily go unnoticed for awhile. I suspect the odor eventually gave it away. Under sedation we shaved some of her face and most of her neck. There were some old tooth puncture wounds and just a lot of skin infection, like a big bad hot spot. She went home looking like a mess but I knew that in a few days it would be a lot better.
Friday night I went home. It was bittersweet knowing that Saturday morning would be my last regular trip to Saga for work, by lunch I would be done. I put on my pyjamas, got myself a treat, and sat down on the couch. Then the phone rang. Sigh. It was of course Ingrid, it was an emergency. She told me hesitantly that it was the same dog, bitten again. The same dog I just fixed up that same day. I put on a scrub top and biked back to work alone. There she was, an even bigger mess than before. The owners looking embarrassed and exasperated. Although they had gone home and separated them, the other dog had grabbed her through the small slats in the fence. I let them know how much I didn’t appreciate fixing up the same dog twice in the same day, but they already knew that there would need to be a change at home. I took the dog and sent them away for the night. The wound was in the same area and even though there was a lot of blood, it looked small. A tear on the back of her neck.
Dog Bite Wound Surrounded by Skin Infection
It would have been easier with help, but I didn’t really want any. I just wanted to do it alone. Once she was under anesthesia it was strangely peaceful. Just me and the dog. I needed to shave a little more fur, and not having any sharp clipper available left I tried to channel my inner Ingrid and get it done with a straight blade. I flushed and explored the wound and found it to be huge under the skin compared to the small tooth hole visible from the outside. I carefully opened up the whole thing. Even some of the neck muscles were torn apart. After flushing and flushing and flushing to clean it, I finally put it all back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Placing dozens and dozens of sutures in multiple layers, finally getting to the skin. Trying to learn from the results of previous cases, I also immediately placed a drain, hoping that all of the tissues would survive and that no abscess would form. I gave her pain meds and antibiotics and carried her to a cage to tuck her in so I could go home. I was tired out when I got back on my bike and pedalled home.
Neck Wound Sutured with Drain
The next morning would be my last. I would stay on call for multiple days of emergency but I would not go through my regular work routine again. I came to Saga and spayed the Great Dane with the milk in her mammary glands from the previous day. The surgery on this giant breed dog went off without a hitch. My neck wound dog looked great and was up and about. I tended to a few appointments and that was it. At noon I said goodbye, I hugged the staff that had made all this possible, I tried to hold back the tears, and I rode away. I knew how thankful I was to have had this year in Belize. How almost no one in my profession would ever get to experience the type of year I just had as a real part of the community of San Pedro.
So many people have thanked me so many times, but it is I who was the lucky one.