Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Amazon jungle dogs get help from North Idaho

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Source: Coeur d'Alene Press

COEUR d'ALENE - There was no electricity and no running water, but that didn't stop a team of Kootenai County veterinary care specialists from helping dozens of dogs and cats living on the streets in the cities and villages of the Peruvian Amazon.

During the last two weeks of June, Dr. Kendall Bodkin and his wife, Donna, owners of Hayden Pet Medical Center, led a team of five volunteers on an animal welfare mission deep into the Peruvian jungle. "Imagine this. We would be sitting on a dock on the Amazon River scrubbing instruments and washing bloody surgical drapes, while parrots and macaws and toucans were overhead, and there was a sloth in the tree across the river," Donna said.

For 10 days, the Bodkins, with their son, Justin, a veterinary assistant, one of their employees and an employee of River City Animal Hospital in Post Falls, volunteered their time and services to Amazon CARES (Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety). Since 2004, the nonprofit, based in Tennessee, with a clinic and shelter in Iquitos, Peru, has been waging an animal welfare campaign in the Amazon.

While in Peru, the Bodkins journeyed by boat out to the jungle villages to offer free spaying and neutering, anti-parasite and minor wound treatment to pets whose owners brought them out to be seen.

"Mange is just rampant there," Donna said.

The team also worked on street dogs and cats that were captured and brought in to be spayed and neutered before being released.

During a two-week period, the team performed 142 surgeries, and provided other basic care to another 480 animals.

A large part of the trip was educational, Donna said, about pet care and the benefits of spaying and neutering.

"A lot of the people there are very resistant. They don't believe it's the right or correct thing to do," Donna said.

There was one village where they had a tough time convincing anyone to take advantage of their offer to perform the surgery. But in another village, people waited for six hours for a chance for their pets to go under the knife.

"They were lined up out the door and down the river," Donna said.

While the team worked in the hot, humid climate, they did it for hours each day without electricity and no running water, all under the watchful eyes of most of the village residents.

"The whole village comes in to watch. They don't have T.V. and they don't have radio," she said.

When the animal care providers were done, they would load the dirty instruments and surgical drapes back into their boat for the trip back to the city.

That's when they had to scrub and wash everything in the river.

"It was a lot of work, but I think if you ask anyone who was there, they would do it again," Donna said.

The Bodkins' volunteer trip was not their first to Iquitos. They had first traveled there for a jungle vacation in 2005.

"We were quite enchanted by the place and the people," Donna said.

She said her family spent time exploring the area's primitive beauty and getting to know the culture.

They returned for another vacation in 2007, and this time, they spent more time in the city. Many of the homes consist of just thatched roofs and floors. There are no walls. The Bodkins walked through the open air markets where chicken and other foods are offered from tables.

"We saw some serious concerns for the dogs in the streets there," she said.

They witnessed large numbers of stray animals on nearly every street, and learned that the dogs live off the trash.

When they returned home to North Idaho, Donna said they followed the news in Iquitos and learned about Amazon CARES.

"I can't say enough about this organization," she said.

The volunteers paid their own way for a chance to donate their time and energy to the people and pets of the Amazon Rainforest.

The Bodkins brought with them on the trip about $1,000 worth of medication and supplies donated by many of the vendors they deal with. They also had several hundred dollars donated by their clients.

Hayden Medical Pet Center doesn't publicize its local volunteer efforts on behalf of animals, Donna said, but they do perform such work.

They went to Peru because they love the people and the region, and because animal welfare is more of a crisis for the citizens and the animals there than it is in the states, she said.

In the Peruvian jungle, the only help comes from Amazon CARES.

"Here we have humane societies and organizations that do this," Donna said. "Sometimes, it just has to be that it's not about you."

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