by Melissa Payne
We started our travels to Gull Bay, First Nation Ontario on September 19th. We drove one hour to Pearson International in Toronto to fly to Thunder Bay. For us to drive to Thunder Bay it would have taken 14 hours heading straight north. With such little time, we chose to fly. We made it into Thunder Bay at around 11pm and were greeted by Nikki from The Northern Spay and Neuter Program. This was the other non-profit organization we were going to be working with for the next week. We collected our belongings and went to get a good night sleep as we were leaving to Gull Bay, FN Ontario in the morning, a 2.5 hour drive from Thunder Bay.
September 20th 8am. We were greeted by the rest of the people that we would be working with from The Northern Spay and Neuter Program and quickly got on the road. We had a long day ahead of us as Dr Lechten, Dr Poon, Dr Hauer and myself were going to the local Elementary School to do a presentation for the children and the rest of the group was going to set up the temporary hospital in the hall. Once we reached Gull Bay, FN we quickly went to where we were staying for the next 2 days. It was the nursing residence which was a 3 bedroom apartment. It was beautiful and it was right on the lake. The sunrise on the lake was breathtaking. We quickly got organized and my group headed to the school while the other group went to the hall and set up our hospital where we would be working for the following 2 days.
The school was a 45 min drive to a little community called Armstrong. The presentation went well. Dr Lechten spoke to the grade 7-8’s and Dr Hauer and Poon visited with the children from kindergarten to grade 6. They all seemed very interested and were eagerly answering questions. I really feel like they enjoyed the presentation and I am sure they do not get a lot of speakers out their way.
We returned to Gull Bay and went right to the hall. The other group was pretty much finishing setting up our temporary hospital. We joined in and were finished rather early. Word did not take long to travel that we were there and an aboriginal woman named Koko wanted to prepare a native American feast for us. She brought us Moose stew, Pickerel cheeks, and bannock. It was delicious. We got to bed early as we knew we had a long day ahead of us starting at 8am.
The next two days were great. We saw 34 dogs and cats to exam, vaccinate and to spay or neuter. We also did some major grooming as well; there were 2 dogs that were severely matted.
The community members seemed happy to have us look at their pets and baked us pies and fried us some of the best pickerel we had ever had! We packed up the hospital after we saw all the pets on September 22, then went to sleep and woke early to head 45 minutes north to Whitesands, FN to spend the next 2 days helping that reserve with their un-neutered population.
On September 23-24th we were in Whitesands, FN which is an hour north of Gull Bay. There, we examined, vaccinated and spayed or neutered 46 dogs and cats. We transformed the community hall into a hospital in 2 hrs and started seeing patients that same morning. We were lucky to have the privilege of resting our tired selves every night in a beautiful cabin on the lake.
There is a high population of dogs on these reserves. For example, one home had 13 dogs, and one of the females was pregnant and ready to whelp (have puppies) any day. We were able to help the family by getting the pregnant dog into a foster home where she promptly had 10 puppies the next day. Had we not found this temporary home, the original owners would have had 23 dogs!! We are happy to say that mom was soon to be spayed after which she would return to her original owners while the puppies are going up for adoption.
No Vet Care
Most of the dogs in this community have never seen a vet since veterinary services are just too costly for most of the aboriginal people. The majority of the dogs we saw had parasites, fleas, mites and other medical problems. The dogs are mostly kept off leash and a lot of them are car chasers. One dog that was very friendly, “Koba”, had numerous fractures from being hit by cars. These fractures were never repaired; instead they were left to repair on their own. He was one of the dogs we neutered on our first day there, but the day after we left he was hit by a car again and fractured a vertebra in his spine. At this time he is on a lot of medication and cage rest to see if he can heal from it. But I’m sad to say if he is able to walk again, I’m betting he’ll be out chasing cars again as soon as he can.