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Vet Nurse Joins Tanzania Spay and neuter clinic Courtesy of Centaur Sponsorship

Wed 28th Feb 2018

Paige Ratcliffe, a vet nurse from Vets4Pets Trafford Park in Manchester recently embarked on a journey to Arusha, Tanzania to assist with the WVS clinic and local organisation Mbwa Wa Africa. Thanks to our friends at Centaur Services, a bursary programme enabled Paige to volunteer with us and make a real difference to these animals. This is her story.

I fell in love with Tanzania on the first day. The locals are so friendly and the sun is always shining! In January, the weather was around 30 degrees Celsius every day. I loved sitting outside during dinner and enjoying the sun (much better than rainy Manchester weather)! Arusha town centre is like a different world, so busy and so many people. Definitely a different experience but one to remember.

At the weekend we would be on a ‘static point’ which would be based at a Primary School teamed up with the Mission Rabies team. The days were very busy but so much fun at the same time. The dogs would be brought in by the owners, mainly by the children, and they would wait in line, sometimes waiting all day, until their dog had been neutered. They would wait until their dog had recovered then walk them home a few hours later. It was so lovely to get to meet all the locals and see how much they adored their dogs.

The weekdays would be spent at the clinic near the Mbwa Wa Africa dog shelter. Dogs would stay here overnight and be operated on the next day. Sometimes it would feel like the line was never ending because we would be nearly finished and then the ‘Dala Dala’ bus would turn up with another 12 dogs. I enjoyed working in the clinic because it was easier to be set up and have all the equipment there but I preferred the static points because I loved working outside and meeting the locals.

Our record was 30 dogs in one day, which we were very proud of! It took a lot of hard work and preparation but it felt so good when we hit 30.

We took part in the daily spay and neuter surgeries, but during my two weeks in Africa we also saw pyometras, pregnancies, a leg amputation, multiple dog attack wounds, petechia clotting disorders, collapsed puppies, a ruptured splenic tumour and lots of TVT cases!

Seeing all these different cases was obviously hard and we often didn’t have the correct equipment to deal with them, but we did our best and I think we did amazingly under the circumstances. Dealing with these cases here made me feel a lot more comfortable about dealing with them at home because I realised if we can work under those conditions, we are definitely able to cope at home.

The highlight for me has to be meeting all the amazing people that I had the privilege of getting to know. From the moment I got off the plane I knew I had made friends for life. I met people that I would never have got a chance to meet if it wasn’t for this trip. My roommate Kristen (who turned out to be the American version of me) kept me up crying with laughter each night. My workmate Ben was amazing; we are totally opposite people but clicked straight away and the laughs that we had whilst operating will never be forgotten.

I loved listening to everyone’s stories and the important thing was everyone had one thing in common… their love of animals so of course we always had something to talk about! I will never forget the people I met on this trip.

The animal that really stood out has got to be a dog that got admitted after being hit by a car, two months ago! The dog has been walking with a badly injured fore limb this whole time. When he got admitted, he was obviously scared and nervous so we couldn’t really get near him. Susan and Ben decided to amputate his leg. The operation took around two hours which we started at 7pm, so by 9pm when we finished treating the dog, we were all very tired. Once the dog was awake we let him recover in the clinic overnight. The next morning, we were all so excited (and a little nervous) to see how he was. As we walked into the clinic, the dog was bouncing around, barking and jumping up. Such an amazing transformation! A few days later the dog went home. Watching his recovery was so rewarding and I got very emotional when we watched him go home. It’s upsetting to think what would have happened if we weren’t here to help this poor dog, so if this isn’t a good enough reason to help with these types of clinics, then I don’t know what is!

I was surprised by how well looked after the animals were. Yes, they were full of fleas and ticks but the dogs weren’t bothered by this at all. They had healthy coats, amazing teeth and a constant wagging tail.

I surprised myself at how well I coped on the trip because it was emotionally and physically draining, especially living off a small amount of food compared to what I normally eat at home, which is a lot!! But seeing the happy locals and working with such an amazing team got me through the tiring days of working 12 hours.

It sounds cliché but this trip taught me not to take life for granted. I am so lucky to live the life that I do and after seeing how happy the people of Tanzania are when they have so little was just amazing for me. I also learnt that even in Africa, dogs are a man’s best friend! Seeing the bond that people have with their dogs was wonderful. The dogs worshipped their owners. The little girls would walk the streets and the dogs would be right by their side and that was amazing to see.

I am already planning my next trip to Tanzania!! I loved everything about this trip. The culture, the people and, of course, the animals.

I would definitely recommend this trip to any vet/nurse who is thinking about doing something like this. I wish I could have stayed for a further two weeks. I would have loved to extend my trip and if I didn’t have my own dogs to go home to, I think I would have done.