Welcome!

February 12th, 2013

Dr. Michael P. McTigue, Dr. Brian C. Hurley and the rest of the Gardner Animal Care Center team are pleased to welcome you to their hospital blog. This fun and fact-filled blog is updated regularly and includes up-to-date information about your pet’s health care. Also included in the blog are fun, pet-related news stories that we want to share with you and photos and information about our hospital and staff members.

We invite you to check our blog often.

Thank you for visiting.

- The veterinary team at Gardner Animal Care Center

Why Are Veterinarians Fascinated with Pets’ Feces?

October 2nd, 2013

Dogs playingWhether your veterinarian calls it a “fecal sample” or “stool specimen”, pet owners often wonder why their animal doctors have such a fascination with something that should be left in the backyard or litter box.  As it turns out, checking your pets’ feces just might keep the people in your family from getting seriously sick!

It might be the look on the person’s face or maybe the way they are carrying the bag, but team members at a veterinary office can always tell when their clients arrive with a stool sample for testing.  Dozens of specimens arrive each day, some in Ziploc baggies, others triple wrapped in aluminum foil and some are tucked neatly in plastic containers.  The clients may not realize it, but that smelly sample brought in for testing may help prevent an illness in their pet…or in them!

Why does your veterinarian have such an interest in your pet’s stool?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that 3,000 to 4,000 human serum samples are sent to their labs every year with a presumptive diagnosis of toxocariasis, or, infection with roundworms or hookworms. The illnesses caused by these parasites are not reportable in the United States, so true numbers of human cases are not known.  What is known is that 36% of dogs across the country and 52% in the southeastern states carry these zoonotic worms.  Many pet owners are unaware that their furry family members are capable of harboring these parasites.

Some clients don’t believe that their pet could have worms.  But, pets can come into contact with these parasites in the yard, in potting soil, at the dog park or even on our hands or feet after we come inside from working in the garden or after taking a walk.  The larva and eggs of these parasites are simply abundant in many places.

In fact, a single female worm can shed more than 100,000 eggs per day and most puppies and kittens are infected with more than just one worm!   That’s millions of eggs spreading through areas where dogs and cats go to defecate.   Pets infected with a protozoan parasite, like coccidia or giardia, can shed over a billion cysts each and every day!

So, what does your veterinarian do with the sample you brought Most people understand that veterinarians are checking fecals as a means to find intestinal parasites, more commonly known as “worms”.  What is less well known is that the veterinarian is not looking for whole adult parasites.  They are looking for microscopic eggs and protozoans that may inhabit your pet.

Veterinarians may send the sample to an outside laboratory for analysis or may choose to preform the analysis in house.

First, the feces are mixed with a sugar or salt solution, a liquid that is slightly denser than regular tap water.  Breaking up the stool allows any infective eggs to enter the solution.  Next, the mixture is carefully poured into conical tubes that are placed in a centrifuge.   The spinning action helps separate the organic debris of the feces from the parasites and the parasite eggs.

After about 10 minutes, the suspension is then allowed to sit with a microscope coverslip placed on top.  The eggs and most parasites will float to the top and adhere to the coverslip.   A veterinary technician or assistant can then take this sample and review it under a microscope.  Any positive specimens are discussed with the veterinarian and an appropriate deworming medication can be prescribed.

This process may not sound appetizing to most readers, but these tests are an important part of a veterinarian’s dedication to your pets, but also to public health as a whole.  The CDC, the Companion Animal Parasite Council and the American Animal Hospital Association all recommend regular fecal testing for all pets.  This means you can expect to package up a stool sample once or twice each year per pet.  If your pets aren’t on monthly heartworm prevention, your veterinarian may ask for a sample every 1-2 months!

What’s Wrong With My Cat’s Mouth?

September 18th, 2013

Feline premolars 2 resorbtion 352 264Today, I visited my dentist for my six- month check up and cleaning.  It got me thinking about our pets and cats inparticular.  Many cat owners look at the grace, athleticism and beauty of their pets and think that they have the “perfect” animal.  Unfortunately, many of these same cats will have a very “imperfect” mouth, due to a serious and very painful condition that causes teeth to resorb, dissolve and even break!   Here’s what we know about Tooth Resorption in cats.

Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or, more commonly “I really don’t clean her teeth”.  While most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth.  These exams help find preventable problems and even some very concerning issues.  One of those concerns we are seeing more frequently is called Feline Tooth Resorption.

Tooth Resorption, or “TR” as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of six years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.

In the past, this disease has been called “neck lesions”, “cervical line lesions” and even the cumbersome “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)”.  Whatever the name, we know that this condition is seen in cats who often appear normal.  The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal.  This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.

Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet.  Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes.  According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing.  Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!

Clinically, most cats will appear normal, but observant owners may note that their cat prefers to chew food on just one side or that the cat stops grooming.  They may “toss” dry food into the back of their mouth.   As TR progresses, some pets will even develop sullen or aggressive attitudes, as if they are mad at the world!

Eventually, your veterinarian may point out how some of your cat’s cheek teeth are showing lines of inflamed, fleshy material right near the base of the tooth.  At this point, the erosion has exposed the tooth to the bacteria of the mouth and this is when affected cats become extremely painful.  Even under a general anesthetic, a slight touch of these teeth will cause a cat to “chatter” their jaw, indicating very serious pain!

Dental x-rays are the only way to diagnose TR.  When the radiographs are taken, if TR is present, your veterinarian can see changes in the density of the roots and crowns of the teeth.  All teeth can be affected, but the major “signal” tooth is the first one in the lower jaw.  Some teeth can be partially affected, while others may have completely dissolved away leaving a “ghost image”.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment that can save the pet’s teeth.  A normal cleaning and polishing will not work!  Veterinary dentists have even tried root canal therapies (endodonics), but they fail, as this resorption occurs on a microsopic basis.  A tooth that is showing any signs of resorption needs to be extracted.  Some cats will need full mouth extractions.  All cats with a known history of TR should be x-rayed every six months to a year. It is likely other teeth are affected and they must be monitored.

The good news in all of this is that once your veterinarian knows about the disease, several things can be done to keep your cat comfortable.  Experience has shown that cats who were once not eating well or even aggressive will often have a positive behavior change in just a matter of weeks.  It is surprising how the removal of these painful teeth can often bring back your affectionate feline friend.

Owners are often unaware that their pets are experiencing such discomfort.  But, regular visits to your veterinarian can help identify the issue and start work that will make your cat feel better.  Contact your veterinarian to have a comprehensive oral examination for your pet, including dental x-rays and regular dental cleanings.

The GACC Addresses the Recent Parvovirus Outbreak

June 19th, 2013

Recently there has been a reported and confirmed outbreak of parvovirus in the Fitchburg area.  The announcement indicates the outbreak is affecting northern Berkshire and Worcester County.  The MVMA (Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association) confirmed this outbreak and indicated their findings and recommendations in the following press release issued June 18, 2013 at 2:09 p.m. to all Massachusetts veterinarians.

PLEASE DO NOT PANIC.  As the release below indicates, if your dog is up-to-date on his/her parvovirus vaccination, there is need for awareness but no need for panic. If your dog has been vaccinated for distemper at GACC, our “distemper” vaccine includes immunization against parvovirus.  Most veterinarians vaccinate with a vaccine containing immunization against parvovirus, but please contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.  While no vaccine is guaranteed 100% effective, keeping your pet currently vaccinated and choosing the proper places to socialize or frequent with your pet greatly lowers your pet’s risk of contracting the virus.

We urge all puppy owners whose puppies have not yet completed their distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, and leptospirosis vaccination series, do not visit areas that potential unvaccinated dogs may frequent until the puppy has received his/her full recommended amount of boosters in the series.

If your pet has been vaccinated for distemper at the GACC, and you are unsure of your pet’s vaccine history, please call us and we will be happy to update you on your pet(s) vaccine status.  If you have further questions about parvovirus after reading this blog or following the links provided, please do not hesitate to call our office or contact Dr. Brian Hurley directly at drbhurley@me.com.

Our distemper vaccination is produced by Merck and provides 5 components of protection:  Canine Distemper, (Adenovirus Type 2) Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and we include Leptospirosis for the 5 way protection.  For more information about Merck’s Parvovirus vaccinate:  http://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/products/nobivac-canine-1-dappv/overview.aspx

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(Copied and Pasted Directly from the MVMA Press Release Dated 6/18/13)

For immediate release

BOSTON – Friday, June 14, 2013 – Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Division of Animal Health would like to alert dog owners of two significant Canine Parvovirus outbreaks affecting northern Berkshire County and Worcester County. Dozens of dogs have been affected in these two areas, and several have died or had to be euthanized due to severe illness caused by the virus. There are effective vaccines available. Puppies generally require a series of vaccinations while adult dogs may need a yearly booster. All of the dogs that have been infected during these outbreaks had either never been vaccinated, or had only received one vaccine. Animal Health Officials are urging dog owners to check with their veterinarian to confirm that their pets are protected.


Parvovirus primarily infects puppies, but any unvaccinated dog remains susceptible. Dogs usually exhibit symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, including vomiting and diarrhea. Although dogs can recover from the disease if it is detected early and treated aggressively, it can be fatal. The virus is typically spread directly from dog to dog, but it can persist in the environment for several months. Dogs that have been infected and recover can remain infectious for several months. Canine Parvovirus does not affect humans and other domestic animals.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr , and/or follow us at www.twitter.com/MDARCommish and www.twitter.com/MassGrown

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For Further Information Please Visit:

https://www.facebook.com/gardneranimalcarecenter

http://gardneranimalcarecenter.com/pet_health_library.php (type “parvovirus” into the search box and click search)

http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=Parvovirus

http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=Parvovirus_Kills_Is_Your_Dog_Protected

Day 11 Nicaraguan Veterinary Mission

May 29th, 2013

I am on a plane at 33,000 ft somewhere over the east coast, but it is dark so I cannot even guess where. You get such a different perspective up here, even big things look small, like mountains that look flat, and cities that look like villages, and rivers that look like ribbons, it looks different, but it is the same. Sort of like going to another country, where you see new things and notice that some things are different, and some are the same. Like people; they speak a different language and have different color skin and eat different food, but they still have the same heart and soul, still want the best for their family, the joy of simple things. When you take away the stuff that distracts us, the technology that gives us so much information and entertainment but at the cost of building relationships, of true communication, the art of talking and caring and being human, we are better for it. We all desire the same things, but are derailed by the bombardment of information. At 33,000 ft, it looks clearer, simpler, purer. So we spend 11 days in a new culture, and we see people through a different lens, we help in a different way, not to receive but to share. We teach, and we are taught, we help, and we are helped, we love and we are loved. It is the way God planned it. And it makes us more fully alive, more fully human. It has been a great trip, part of our lifelong mission, to love God and serve Him thru loving and serving others. It is win – win, as it is said that we are the people of the incredibly happy ending. We are not sure when, we are just sure that in the end if we have faith in Him who gives life and in His son who died to save us, we will have that happy ending with Him forever. And there will be many others that we don’t know yet, people from other places and different cultures and we will be together, and there will not be this separation of culture and language and distance. That will be something to behold.

When you look back at a trip there are many things you remember, some good, some not so good, and here are a few of them.

I like the shorter trip to Nicaragua compared to Mongolia; anytime the shortcut takes you over the North Pole, the trip is just too long.

I like the Nicaraguan people, I did not like not understanding their language.

I like the culture, very strong in family and in relationships, and although the people do not have a lot of material possessions, they are not poor. In many ways, they are richer than us.

I like the warmth, but I do not like the hot; 90 is ok, but 95 or hotter no no.

I like the countryside and all the volcanoes and lagoons and green trees, I do not like all the skinny animals fighting to survive.

I like fresh fruit juice and banana smoothies, I do not like instant coffee and lukewarm water.

I like sleeping under the stars, I did not like all the noise.

I like parades and fireworks, I do not like them at 4am.

I like chicken, I do not like roosters.

I like Nicaraguan dogs by day, I do not like them at night.

I like all our hardworking vet students, I do not like working in the dirt and wet.

I like rice and beans, I do not like rice and beans 3 times a day for 11 days.

I like riding in the back of a pickup on smooth roads; Rebecca, Kate, and Patty did not like riding in the back on rough rutted country roads for hours, but they never complained. They make them tough in Texas and Oklahoma, I like that.

I like our hosts Oscar and Tamy, there is nothing I did not like about them.

I like our CVM veterinary team, everyone worked hard and played hard, and I would love to work with them again.

I liked being with Caitlin and Emily, I did not like not being with Nancy, Jaime or Meggie.

I like going on mission trips and meeting new people and learning new things and using what God gives you to help people you don’t know. I am looking forward to serving again next year. And if I go, I may just write about it again, because deep down, I like writing these little blogs, and deep down, somewhere, you must like reading them too, because no one forced you to. So until the next time,

Many blessings
Dr Mike

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Day 10 Nicaraguan Veterinary Mission

May 28th, 2013

Some days start noisy, today started with a little knock on the door from Emily that I needed to come and look at something. She was pretty calm, considering it was a 4 inch spider stalking their bed. I caught it in a cup to show Oscar and Tamy but they were not impressed, they grow them big down here. I thought it was one of the babies from that big spider on Lord of the Rings, but it was quietly dispatched by Oscar without any Hollywood effects.

One more day, one more opportunity to help the doggies, kitties, piggies, horsies, and bunnies in Catarina. We helped a lot. We did 15 surgeries including a broken hip ostectomy that Mark did. It also had a broken knee, but it was a young pup that was hit by car, so it may heal well and at least it has a chance. We probably dewormed, deflead, and checked over 150 other pets, all who came to Oscar and Tamy’s house for the free clinic. It was a good last day. Afterward we went to the store, went swimming, and had a little going away/ birthday party with pizza (from Papa Johns which was the only chain restaurant we saw in our stay in Nicaragua) and cake. It was gooood. We also got a pinyotta, (at least that is the phonetic spelling) and it was fun to whack away blindfolded at it. Emily landed the final blow, and the poor thing blew its cookies, I mean candy, all over the place. Then cards and fun stuff like that to finish the day.

All in all, it has been a great mission in Nicaragua. Tomorrow morning we head back home via Miami. It will be good to see Nancy again, as we all miss her. And I am glad to see the weather report, as it looks like some of this 90 degree weather is headed north, and none of that snow is coming this way. They have never had snow down here, and it doesn’t even get into the 40′s, so if they ever come up north I will have to take them skiing, on the bunny hill of course, unless I want to get them back for all that noise stuff they pull down here, and then I will take them on the black diamond trail, but I will surprise them like a 4am parade haha and lets see if they think it is so funny. But I am feeling a little better now that I have gotten some sleep, thank you, as you can tell by the cheerful tone of my blog. You know another thing, the drinking water is always warm. It starts out at about 75 degrees, but then warms up to about 85, and there is no ice, so lukewarm water it is, and you have to drink a lot of it to stay hydrated. I am looking forward to fresh hot coffee and ice cold water, yes sir.

Well, time to pack. I will write one more blog, in case you were hoping I would finish early and quit while I was behind and make this the final one. But no one is forcing you to read these silly things, so as I said before, don’t blame me.

Until tomorrow, blessings from Catarina
Dr Mike

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Day 9 Nicaraguan Veterinary Mission

May 27th, 2013

Today, being Sunday was a day of rest, theoretically. We started off by going to a lagoon, which is a circular deep lake formed when a volcanoes erupts and spews lava, then collapses on itself and eventually fills with water. The day was warm and sunny, the water was warm, the sunscreen was liberally applied, and I still burned, or as I prefer to call it, an Irish tan. But it was worth it. We swam around like wounded fish, played some baseball with a noodle for a bat, which made it kind of difficult to hit because it is so limp, but we had fun anyway. We rode in the back of the pickup again and felt happier than a bird dog on scent, as they say in the south, I think. Then some lunch and some more shopping, but I stayed back because my gastrointestinal system was in an inflamed state. I feel better now, but there are conditions down here that are probably still unnamed but very real nonetheless, and they leave you feeling, well inflamed, which is sort of like the Smithers when they lose a game, but they get over it pretty quick also.

We went to church at 6:00 pm, and Oscar led us in a hymn where we alternated between English and Spanish, which was nice. May 30 is Mother’s Day which is a big deal down here, it is actually a national holiday and they close most things, so they invited all the mothers to come up and then their kids came up and put their arms around them while they sang and prayed; family is very important down here which is refreshing to see. Then we came back and ate, I only had bread and cheese, but then they bought out the ice cream, cookies and cream, and who can resist that even if you are arguing with your stomach, so I just told my stomach what was coming down, and everything was fine. Sometimes you just have to get a little firm with your innards and let them know who is boss and hope you don’t toss the cookies and cream, and it works out fine. But you have to be careful and not push that game too much, but tonight I won and it was good. After playing another game of peanut butter, where we tried to steel the sign of the Smithers, which was some kind of smirk/smile, we lost, and they won, which was probably good cause there was no fight afterward.

Well tomorrow is our last workday, and it should be busy, so off to sleep, hopefully, and then some more fun.

Until then, blessings from Catarina
Dr Mike

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Day 8 Nicaraguan Veterinary Mission

May 26th, 2013

I wake up at the same time as at home, at 5:30 am, even though we are 2 hours later here. I don’t try to, but that’s what I’m stuck with. I wish the roosters were that consistent. Lots of things grow very well here like fruits and vegetables and bugs. And coffee beans. They have lots of coffee bean trees. So how come the only coffee they have here is instant coffee?? No fresh coffee in a tropical climate. Ketamine yes, coffee no. I understand it in Mongolia where the only thing they grow is snow, but here, it does not make sense. As soon as we pull into Miami, I’m gonna have a big one, even if its at McDonald’s.

We went to a different village today, and it started slow, and our only entertainment was a cute little 4 year old girl who would just laugh and smile at everything and had us all playing with her, but then after an hour or so they started coming in bunches with the dogs and pigs. After about 5 hours we finished and headed back home a little early, ate lunch, and then played pool volleyball until we all pruned up. It started sunny and hot, then some clouds, then some rain, then it poured, then the mist and the wind picked up a little bit, but we still kept playing, not because we are tough, and not because we are stupid, but because even though the temp dropped 10 degrees it was still about 80. When we heard there was a chance of snow in the higher elevations back home, I have to admit I was glad to be here today, except we could not watch the bruins win. After dinner, and the food here has been good and plenty, we played cards for awhile. We played a game called peanut butter, which is basically a group of card grabbing signal steeling false pretending poker like card game from the south, where they are naturally more sneaky so they have an advantage. But actually the best people at it aren’t specifically from the south. They are specifically the women. You can read into that what you want, but I think there is some kind of genetic thing going on, and I am not going to say anything else because I married one, have 4 of them as kids, and work with a whole bunch of them. But I’m just saying, it does seem kind a peculiar how good they are at it without even trying.

Well it is time to go to bed, but I have to leave the light on for about 10 minutes at first because they have this bug that is like a cross between an ant and a small hornet and they dive bomb from the ceiling when you first get in the room, but they don’t sting, they just crawl around your legs which makes it difficult to sleep, not that we need more problems in that department. But they don’t have black flies or Yankee fans here, so that is a good thing.

Until tomorrow, blessings from Catarina
Dr Mike

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Day 7 Nicaraguan Veterinary Mission

May 25th, 2013

The people here love to celebrate and have festivals with lots of color and music and fireworks and drums and noise. Last night they had a good one that marched right outside outside our cabins. They especially love fireworks, but only the loud boom kind, I have not seen any of the color burst kind. And drums, they like those too. And last night was no exception. Except it wasn’t last night, it was this morning. And not like early morning ,12:20am or something normal like that. But like stupid rooster who doesnt know how to tell time and just wants to wake people up kind of morning. The kind where you are woken from a sound sleep by bombs and yelling and drums and you are not sure what’s going on because no one starts a noisy parade at this time of morning. It was 4:00 am, on the dot, like it was planned by those roosters. But now we know the truth. It was the people who train their animals by example and then the animals think it is alright to make a lot of noise anytime, but especially when gringos are near. I mean who starts a festival with fireworks and a parade at 4 am? Maybe they don’t have clocks, or maybe they think that it is east coast time which is 2 hours earlier and they get confused, or maybe they just like to bother us because it is fun. But I don’t like this fun. I think sleep is fun. I wake up happy and not sleepy and grumpy. Maybe tonight we should all get up and bang pots and pans and hoot and holler like its a college football day at Oklahoma or something noisy like that, but at 3 am and see how they like it. But we would all sleep thru it because we are too tired. I know that does not sound Christian, but I am just expressing my inner feelings, because they certainly do anytime of the day or night.

Well we put it all behind us, and went to our destination today, which was a small town about an hour and 20 minutes away, but it took a little longer because of our smoking brakes, but we figured that out pretty quick (you can’t drive with the emergency brake slightly on) and got there ok. Today was mostly dogs, with some pigs, rabbits, and cats sprinkled in. We spayed 12 dogs, 3 cats, and dewormed and applied topical flea and tick medicine to about 100 animals, and treated a bunch of sick dogs. The students do most of the work, with Mark and Adelaide and I bossing, I mean guiding, them around. They are learning very quickly and can now do a spay that would have taken them 8 hours with a 3 ft incision, in 45 minutes with a 3 inch incision. Most of the treatments are quick and quiet, except for the pigs, who must have been taught by the roosters, how to make noise. Because they are LOUD, like lawn mower loud, like you are torturing them with knives loud, and even if you just touch them they Squeal like a pig, which should not be surprising, except for the volume, which is well, loud. While we are working on the animals, Caitlin, Emily, and Alex, minister and play with the children, coloring, playing games, and handing out candy. Everyone likes them. And Oscar and Tamy will talk with the adults and help them and encourage them, and they come back every week and have a bible study with them. And these clinics help them reach out to new people and give them a chance to talk with them and invite them to church or to a bible study. So they can build their relationships with the people. That is the best part, and they are making a difference, as they see changed lives.

Our day started out nice and calm and dry, but just like a faucet the rainy season started again, and we got nice and wet. But, not being one to complain, we pressed on and got everything done. It was a good productive day. We stopped at the roadside stand to buy more ketamine, but it is still hard to understand how you can have a shortage of running water, electricity, and good clocks, but you can buy a controlled anesthetic like ketamine at a stand without a license. Go figure.

Well tomorrow, which is Saturday here, we will do another clinic somewhere. And I will put on my happy face, which is the one that is not sleepy, and go to work. And maybe I will learn some new surgical techniques, like vocal cordectomies on birds and pigs, and practice. Or maybe we will just have pork and chicken for lunch. I would like that too.

Until tomorrow, blessings from Catarina
Dr Mike

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Day 6 Nicaragua Veterinary Mission

May 24th, 2013

There are many things to worry about back in the states, like hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes. But here there is another natural disaster waiting to happen…volcanoes. They call this the land of lakes (not the butter kind) and volcanoes. We went to see one today. When we got there they said it was closed because of the fires and was too dangerous, because it sometimes hurls small rocks (sort of like hurling cookies, but real far). Turns out the fires were from some careless people who started the fires from smoking. They need to have smokey the bear come down here and give some talks, if he speaks Spanish; I am really surprised they could teach that bear how to speak English anyway, so he must be really smart. But we did get to drive up to the crater and look down, but it was real smokey and stinky, so we could not see all the way down. They call it “la boca inferno” which means the mouth of hell, but even though we are Christian, we thought it would be ok to go anyway. It was interesting. There were some ladies selling fruits and things, so we got fresh coconuts, and they whacked off the tops with a machete, and put a straw in it and we drank fresh coconut milk. It looks really good in those Hawaiian commercials with a garland around your neck and girls dancing around, but in truth I did not like it very much. I guess my Irish genes don’t have many taste buds for some of this tropical stuff, like coconut milk, hot weather, and mouthy roosters. But I still like it here.

We then went shopping at the bazaar, or market, in Masaya. We got some good things for the family back home, but I can’t tell you what because it is a surprise. However, I learned my lesson after my experience in Mongolia last year, and I did not buy anything tricky, which is anything for a girl that has a size. No, no, no, just don’t do it. Get jewelry, cute pictures drawn on leather, trinkets, boston bruins stuff, or anything neutral like that. Nancy will like what I got her, and if she doesn’t, she is always gracious enough to pretend like she does. She is a good wife and mother, and Cait and Em and I really miss her. Hope you are feeling better honey.

After that we did something really really fun, we went zip lining. Through the forests of Nicaragua at like 100 mph, well that’s what it felt like anyway. We all went and zipped and spun and went upside down and pretended to be superman and Spider-Man and cool things like that. It was great. After that we went to an outdoor park in the city and sat in these really tall chairs and drank fruit juice smoothies, and then we went out to eat at an authentic Nicaraguan restaurant (as opposed to a fake one) and stuffed ourselves on beef and chicken and plantains and cheese and rice and beans, and after that we came back and played volleyball in the pool, but we almost had to call the game because the Smithers boys from Texas were getting a little rowdy, but the Oklahoma girls were able to calm them down a little and we finished the game without any major fights, although they were doing some wrestling after the game because they all could not win. Now in case you had not figured it out, today was an off day, but tomorrow we will be back to work, so don’t think we are slacking. We are just recharging, like our cordless surgery clippers, so we will be sharp and focused tomorrow.

The other thing I like here is the driving. When you see things like red lights and double lines and stop signs, they are “suggestions”, which of course means you can act like a Massachusettes driver and ignore them. And you can ride in the back of a pickup like a hunting dog. It feels like the Wild West. I have not learned much Spanish, but I can now say hello, shut up, and good bye.

Adios amigos from Catarina
Dr Miguel

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Day 5 Nicaraguan Veterinary Mission

May 23rd, 2013

So you are back, wondering with just a touch of sarcastic humor if we actually slept last night. Well I am glad to report that the animals in Quebrada Onda were much more educated and civilized than in El Naranjo. The dogs did not bark unless asked, and the roosters could tell time and would start their cock a doodle doo at the acceptable time of 20 min before daybreak. They need to start a little grade school for those uneducated critters in the other town, but I am feeling a little better now that I have had some sleep, but I would still eat one if I had the chance – not the dogs though, that would not be right. When I got up this morning and came back from a walk, a bull, with large horns, decided he liked my cot, and claimed it as his own. I evaluated my options and decided he could have it, but I was hoping he would not try to use it, which he didn’t, and he finally walked off after he left me a large present, which I graciously accepted as I did not want to make him mad at me too.

I took a little walk in the morning to see some of the countryside. The land has a lot of mid sized mountains and is very rocky. It is the dry season, so there is no green on the ground, unless it has big thorns to protect it. The animals are all very skinny, almost emaciated by our standards. They are in survival mode until the rainy season, when the grass and food starts growing and they can fatten up. They forage on any small thing they can eat. All the creeks are completely dry, except for the small river we swam in. The rainy season normally starts the beginning of May, but it is late this year, and they need it to start soon. Well, they no longer need to wait, because it started today, 11:30 am to be exact, as we were doing our small animal surgeries. Outdoors. On us. It made for interesting surgeries, but a little extra water in the incision should not hurt anything, we hope. We had to move the surgery table inside, but it was very hot, muggy, and dark, so we would move it outside when it cleared up, only to have it sneak up and rain again, almost like it was planned by those sneaky roosters or something. The large animal team had the right idea, as they were doing their spays outside and they just stayed outdoors and smiled thru the wet and rain, which really must have bugged those roosters. We spayed 10 or 11 dogs and castrated a pig or 2, and dewormed a bunch more, then had lunch and packed up and came back to Catarina for a wonderful swim and meal. The students are all great, they all have a very good attitude, get along great, work hard, play hard, and are a real pleasure to be with. Caitlin and Emily are helping out and drawing up all the dewormers and vaccines, and even giving the injections, and helping with the spays. As we get into the towns later this week there will be more kids, and then they will be busy with them.

We are all really enjoying this mission, getting the chance to live in small villages with no electricity or running water or reality tv shows, and we get the chance to see how rich the people really are. Rich in relationships, in culture, and in spirit. We learn more from them than they do from us. This is a good mission. I am glad we came. Once I reach out and touch a few more of those roosters, I will feel more complete. Until then,

Blessings from Catarina
Dr Mike

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