Sachigo Lake, Gull Bay - Mar 2017
In early October, a group of Allandale staff travelled north to work with Northern Spay and Neuter to provide veterinary care to pets on two Reservations. Funding was provided by Dog Trust Worldwide, the Global Alliance for Animals and People, Allandale Veterinary Hospital, and Northern Spay and Neuter. Vaccines were donated by Merial. Drs. Hauer, Poon, and Lechten, along with Natalie, Melissa, and Sarah travelled to Toronto Pearson along with 8 bins of supplies. In Toronto we met up with another Sarah who worked to provide photos, videos, and interviews to document our trip.
We flew to Thunder Bay and the following day prepared to head further North, to Sachigo Lake. Sachigo Lake is only reached by plane or winter roads. Sachigo Lake is about a 1 1/2-hour flight from Thunder Bay. However, we had so many supplies that we had to send some by cargo, change planes, and ultimately land at two other airports on our way to Sachigo Lake; turning out flight into a six hour ordeal. This just emphasizes the difficulties of providing care to these remote, northern communities. Most of the pets in Sachigo Lake had never seen a veterinarian before. Many of the people have never travelled outside the community due to the difficulty and expense, so they definitely have never been able to provide veterinary care for their pets. Since we arrived late, there were already people anxiously waiting for our services. However, since our supplies arrived even later, we weren’t able to start working until the following day. The next morning, we quickly set up our make-shift hospital and got to work. We provided exams, deworming, vaccines, and spay/neutering for three full days. Our longest day lasted over 13 hours. We saw kittens, puppies, dogs, cats, and one pet chicken. Community members were anxious to get their pets vaccinated and to prevent further litters of puppies and kittens. Ultimately, we provided 115 vaccines and did 110 surgeries. The dogs and cats were very friendly and easy to work with. A few were thin, but most were well cared for. The biggest problem was the endless numbers of puppies and kittens being produced. Virginia ran errands for us, Julie helped us clean the hall in preparation for starting work, Angelique provided us a place to stay, and Stan and his wife helped deliver us back to the airport at the end of our stay. Glen helped to organize things and made sure that a small group of older school children had the opportunity to come watch surgery and ask questions. Everyone seemed happy to have us there. Sachigo Lake was quite pretty with the fall colours. However, living there is definitely not easy. The roads were nothing but mud. The community is very remote, and jobs are limited. Groceries were incredibly expensive! Imagine almost $10 for a package of hot dogs and $9.50 for two green peppers! At the end of our third day we packed up. The next day we flew back to Thunder Bay, then drove to Gull Bay which is two hours North of Thunder Bay. We visited Gull Bay last year, so there were fewer surgeries and vaccines to be done. We still managed to do 14 surgeries and 31 vaccines as well as providing some desperately needed dental care to a couple of dogs. We also shaved a dog that was so matted he couldn’t see! We felt that we accomplished a lot in one week. It is extremely expensive to provide care to these remote locations, so we are thankful we were able to do our part. We look forward to going North again next year.