Hello from the Queen of the Hills. It’s been another super interesting and exciting three months and only another nine more to go before my internship ends. At this time of the year, Ooty has the most pleasant weather one could wish for. Not too hot, not too cold and just when you thought you were getting used to it, an unexpected shower from the heavens. The perfect weather to work and an amazing team to get you through it all.
My newest, thrilling and challenging task during this rotation has been my two weeks spent at IPAN (India Project for Animals and Nature) where we had two participants from Finland and a volunteer vet also from Finland, for a two-week training course. I’ve always had the luxury of having at least one, if not two or more vet assistants and animal handlers. However, this time around we had to do it all. From sedating the animals and prepping them for surgery, to teaching, monitoring the recovery of the dog, post-op rounds and autoclaving sets for the next day. This was an eye-opener on how much work goes on behind the scenes and made me more grateful for the amazing work our assistants do.
Every day was a different experience, from horse riding early in the morning to vaccinating dogs late into the night. Apart from the regular spay and neuter surgeries in dogs and cats, we got to castrate 10 rams, perform a rumenotomy in a heifer that had eaten a lot of plastic and a hind limb amputation in a street dog who was a victim of a car accident due to the increased traffic in the area for the local temple festival. We also had a wild pony with a fractured limb that was rescued from the streets of Ooty and sent to IPAN for necessary care and treatment.
Furthermore, we had a lot of special guests during our stay at the “birds nest” (aptly named as we were woken up by the twitter and chirping of our fellow “roof mates” every morning). A huge python decided to drop by at the nearest village which had to be rescued and let back into the wild, before the locals stoned it to death. I was honestly a bit rattled by the thought of riding along with a six-foot python in the backseat of the car. However, Mr. Nigel Otter and Mr. Bomman were able to perform this task so effortlessly and efficiently that we were left awestruck. Another guest (a wild elephant who was very hungry) decided to sneak into the stables at night, destroy the roof and eat a lot of oats and hay. Luckily, the horses were wise enough to move into the paddock and stay out of harm’s way.
This was a truly wild experience, one that I would never have had the fortune of experiencing anywhere else. Surrounded by beautiful hills, vast open lands, horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, goats and elephants, it was nature at its best. Dr. Ilona really gave me an experience of a lifetime by putting me at the IPAN clinic and shelter for those two weeks.
Back at the WVS ITC in Ooty, I was part of the team that conducted the ABC training course and ran the clinic. During my stay there, we had Dr. Shahar from Israel visit us and give us a lecture on the basics of ultrasound and a demonstration on how to perform a basic ultrasound examination in a dog. This really got my interest and is something that I would like to work towards developing my skills in for the future. Also, thanks to the new ultrasound machine at the WVS ITC in Ooty and Dr. Shahar’s training, we were able to diagnose a cystolith in a 5kg male pug and remove it successfully by surgery.
A few other interesting cases were a goat that came in at midnight with an injury from a buffalo horn that resulted in herniation of the intestines and mesentry from the abdominal wall. The intestines and mesentry were cleaned, the contents replaced and a herniorrhaphy performed. The goat recovered really well after the surgery. Another case was a digit amputation in a 70kg South African Boerboel. I have never before seen such a massive dog. The most challenging part of this surgery was sedating and anaesthetising the dog rather than the actual digit amputation to clear the long standing nail infection in two of his hind limb digits. That was one huge task but well worth it, especially when the dog was able to walk with much more ease and less pain.
The closest dog to my heart however would be the story of Aira (Sanskrit name that means air). One evening the ITC catching team brought in a dog that had a rope cutting through her neck and a bad smelling wound. Little did we know what was awaiting us. The rope was probably tied onto Aira’s neck when she was a small puppy (to be used as a leash maybe), however, this was not taken off and as she grew the rope cut into her skin all around her neck giving her a giant and nasty infected wound. After sedation, the entire area was shaved and cleaned and the rope removed which led to another startling find. The rope had cut through so deep that her trachea (windpipe) was split into two and she was breathing from that opening in her neck rather than through her nostrils.
The wound was cleaned well and Aira was started on antibiotics to clear off the infection in the wound. During her entire stay with us she transformed from a scared girl to a naughty little bundle of energy. However, what impressed us most was the fact that she was still alive in spite of her horrible wound and her fighting spirit kept her, and us, going. Despite having a hole in her neck, she was doing everything a normal dog does without obvious discomfort.
Dr. Hari decided to perform a tracheal reconstruction to close the wound, however, before the wound was clean and healthy enough for surgery he had to leave for his next rotation to the Hicks ITC. I was lucky enough to replace him on this surgery and with the help of Dr. Aswin, Dr. Gavin and our amazing team of assistants, we successfully reconstructed the trachea. Through all this we had our fingers crossed and hoped she would make it through the recovery period and re-learn how to breathe through her nostrils. Luckily, Aira fought through it all and recovered amazingly well in a couple of weeks and was released back to the area she was from.Ooty would not be as much fun as it was without constant licks of love and some whining from Gabbar, Jasmine, Sticker, Dabra and Lucy and a surprise birthday party for me (from our amazing participants) at the end of the course dinner party. It’s going to be a long time before I’m back in this beautiful green haven amongst the tea plantations (next stop Goa and then Thailand).
Until then I’m going to enjoy being back at home and working with the WVS Hicks ITC in Goa and I am already super excited for my second trip to Thailand this August.