The mission of “Dogs of Otavalo” is to improve the lives of the people and pets in the Otavalo, Ecuador area by providing quality veterinary care, training and education. Over the years, The Dogs of Otavalo team has helped over 1000 dogs and cats.
It takes a certain type of person to travel abroad to help others. Identifying those that are interested in this type of work and can also thrive in a less-than-ideal environment practicing the best medicine possible is a serious challenge. To many, it sounds like an amazing vacation, but in reality, it is extremely hard work that starts the second you become part of a team.
No one sets out to practice medicine that is outside of their comfort zone, but many veterinary professionals find themselves doing just that. When initially developing a team to head to Ecuador back in April 2017 to spay/neuter/vaccinate/deworm street dogs, the choice was made to create a plan that stood out from the rest. A plan that would make people proud to be involved and comfortable with the quality of care we were able to provide. We were determined to blaze a trail of quality care in situations with limited means.
We vowed to vaccinate and deworm and to treat what ailments we could. We were committed to providing the highest quality anesthesia and analgesia possible. We created protocols that rivaled top-notch practices stateside. We created them, and we made them happen. Of course, it took months of planning, fundraising, and networking, but we made our goal, our dream, a reality. We could not have done it without the help and support of our industry partners and donors. For them, we are grateful.
International projects require people ‘on the ground’ or in the country where the project is to take place. Permits are a necessity to bring drugs and supplies from the US, so any drugs (controlled or otherwise) that can be obtained in that country should be. Nearly every piece of gauze, every IV catheter, every needle, and every pair of gloves are brought from the US. Supplies are obtained through purchase or in-kind donation, packed in second-hand suitcases and doled out to volunteers to ‘mule’ down with them.
We chose high-quality products that would best suit our needs. We also secured donations of Nocita and have been able to bring a Companion Laser and portable ultrasound. When people find out what we are doing, they want to help!
A typical patient would be presented to our team after being brought in from the streets. Animals are nervous and often in poor body condition with unknown physiological challenges. We strive to treat each patient with patience and respect. They are thoroughly examined by a veterinarian, and that information is given to an individual trained in anesthesia and comfortable with all the drugs available. They create an anesthetic plan for that animal based on temperament and physical exam findings with a specific protocol in mind but also with the freedom to tailor things to meet the exact needs of the patient. When the surgery is complete, the animals are brought into recovery where they are monitored by trained veterinary professionals, kept warm, vaccinated, and given topical flea/tick medication. If available, each patient’s incision is treated with a low-level laser to decrease inflammation and promote healing.
All of this is important because once these animals are fully recovered, they are brought right back to the streets and neighborhoods from which they came. There is very little chance for follow up care.
The volunteer veterinary team is asked to work long days in a new environment with people that they just met. There is no room for anyone’s ego, we are all equal, and in this together. The team is asked to respect each other and the culture, to conduct ourselves in a professional manner in and out of the clinic. The goal of the team coordinators is to make sure that everyone has what they need, that they can rest when necessary and eat when needed. Team members will be policed to make sure everyone is drinking enough water and not over-working or over-heating. We are a team, and even though we have a ton of work to complete, we are understanding and supportive of the potential issues surrounding international travel.
Uniting Veterinary Communities | Our team is made up of a collection of veterinary professionals from all across the United States. Every volunteer brings with them a unique set of skills that fill a specific niche within the team. Hailing from Wisconsin, Michigan, San Francisco, Maryland or Virginia, our relationships are built upon professionalism and a shared passion for helping others. Many volunteers will meet for the first time on site and need to find a way to work effectively together. Thankfully, there is no hierarchy and there are no egos. There is only mutual respect for each unique set of experiences and training that every person brings, a difference to be made and a plan to make it happen.
Quality Medicine and Treatment | Sterilization campaigns do not need to compromise quality of care even in the field. We are blazing a trail by providing the type of care seen in some of the best practices stateside. We aren’t compromising quality for quantity yet we are making an impact. We are providing top-notch analgesia and implementing low-stress handing techniques because that is what we do. Our goal is to treat what is treatable, manage surgical pain and prevent infection so that our patients don’t just survive the procedure, but that they are able to thrive after it.
Worldwide Cultural Acceptance | Cultural sensitivity is the knowledge, awareness and acceptance of other cultures. It allows individuals to successfully navigate a culture different from their own and helps to gain a new perspective on the world; this goes a long way towards reducing barriers. It is not realistic to enter a country, set up a veterinary clinic and think that indigenous peoples will be open to having you there. It takes a lot of legwork, planning and colleagues in the project country to help make things happen. We need to understand the needs of the community, we need to be invited to help and we need to be sensitive and understanding to our differences. Only then can we come together and make a difference.
Our Team | We are Veterinary Professionals traveling Internationally to work towards ending the needless suffering that dog and cat overpopulation causes. We are Veterinarians, LVTs, Vet Assistants, and Veterinary service providers.
Since 2017, our passion has taken us to the Andes Mountains of Ecuador to spay, neuter and care for dogs and cats, and now to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We have helped over 1000 dogs and 350 cats so far during our international missions.