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dog day

There are a lot of dogs in Santa Catalina.

Rowdy canine congregations hang about on the beach digging up crabs, playing, fighting and, very often, breeding. Even the dogs with owners are an independent lot that spend a much of their time doing their own thing. Most people don’t feed their dogs anything other than table scraps and dogs who feel their rations are too meagre will take up with someone more likely to throw them the odd tasty morsel, although once meal time is over they might still decide to head on ‘home’.

It goes without saying that most dogs in Santa Catalina are not spayed or neutered so they are a ever accumulating population despite their often short and sometimes extremely miserable lives. Most families in Santa Catalina nominally ‘own’ a small pack of dogs – two, three, four, five. Six. Seven, even. And then there are plenty that don’t seem to belong to anybody at all.

Other people – foreigners, mostly – fulminate about the situation muttering about lack of care but, frankly, taking a dog to a ‘pet’ vet in Santiago is not an easy undertaking even for those rare locals in the village with access to a car. And buying dog food requires a trip to Sona which entails bus fares of almost $10, a day’s wage to the average local, before even thinking of the cost of the food itself, so it’s not that surprising that the majority of Santa Catalina’s canine population is not enjoying an ideally balanced diet for doggies.

My friend, Rose, decided, instead of continuing to complain about dog chaos on the beach — I think the tipping point might have been one evening when we were at the tide line collecting clams surrounded by a gang of dogs fornicating in the sunset glow — to take action. She contacted an organisation called Spay Panama, set a date for them to visit Santa Catalina, and then went about collecting money to cover the costs of their services.

When the day arrived it didn't take long to prove that given the opportunity just about everybody took their dogs for treatment with every indication of real concern and care. The cost of treatment for each dog was $20 and the donations Rose collected covered the treatment of dogs whose owners couldn't afford to pay it - which was just about everybody.

The five vets and two assistants set up clinic in the upper cantina* - a location where a bit of education in human birth control probably wouldn't go astray in the course of its normal business. The vets provided vaccinations to the dogs but only treated those dogs whose owners were willing to have them neutered.

Bambi (formally known as Gitano), is a young male dog who was abandoned in Santa Catalina to whatever his fate might hold for him by his previous owner, a girl from the US who lived here for six months. Bambi is clearly a close relative of Paco, 'my' dog who, sadly, remains at the hostel, which is in other hands now. Poor Paco was castrated by the 'horse guy' with a machete, without an aneaesthetic, under the care of his former US owner. Maybe it is with Paco's unfortunate experience in mind, I take Bambi, who now sometimes resides with a family in a dirt floor hut a little way down the path from me, to be castrated in a more humane fashion. I didn't consult with his current household because he doesn't spend very much time there.

The first step in the process was to weight each dog. This dog was so agitated that she had to be sedated for even that minor procedure.

The amount of anaesthetic administered is based on each dog's weight.

The littlest patients were a couple of six week old puppies. Elsewhere these pups might still be with their mother at this age but life moves fast here.

The deed is done.


The recovery area was a sheet of linoleum rolled out on the floor.

Owners patiently wait for their dogs to regain conciousness...

...before taking them home.

Altogether around sixty dogs and one cat were treated. And that’s got to make a difference to the rate of growth in Santa Catalina’s canine crowd.

Well done, Rose!

{ 5 } Comments

  1. marie | July 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    this is great. good for them!!!

  2. Rascha | July 28, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Knap gedaan, Rosine!
    Ik ben trots op je! (Maar dat wist je al wel)

    X mam

  3. Sarah | July 29, 2012 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Well done, Rose, indeed! That’s amazing!

  4. JAVIER GODAR | September 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Still following you with amazement. Maybe we meet soon somewhere in South America? I will be around there in some months.

    Still waiting for making the leap to another continent? I think that is great.


  5. noel | September 26, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Great to see the story still unfolding Anna.

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