Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Daily Drivel

Uuuurrrrgggg, drat alarm clock wakes me at 4 am. It's dark out, cold, and way too early to be wanting to get out of bed. The cats don't budge. The old Border Collie never heard the alarm and still lies snoring by my side of the bed, right where I have to step out. Crusty walks over to the bed and looks at me rather quizzical as I slip on some clothes and force myself to leave the comfortable room. Why the early torture? Today is the spay/neuter clinic over in Keaau. I somehow got roped into "volunteering" for it, just because I'm not good at saying "no".

By flashlight, I care for the sheep, horse, goat, hens. Feed the pond fish. Feed the cats. Feed the dogs. Check all the fences and gates. I get the bare minimum daily chores done. Back in the house I put on the coffee and cut up some fruits and nuts for be eaten on the road. Next, load what I need into the car. Now wake up hubby. Once he's staggered out into the livingroom, prop a mug of coffee into his hand and steer him into the direction of the car. 
We're on the road by 5:30. The sun hasn't popped up above the horizon yet, but the dawn sky is still pretty. There are some lovey scenes on the way to Keaau. For a short way the road hugs the coast with a stunning coastal view. 

By 7 we pull into the parking lot, I unload my stuff, and hubby heads on to spend the day in Hilo. Veterinary stuff is not his "thing". He'd rather go shopping, which is actually way down on his list of desirable activities! But I head inside, greet today's crew, recognizing many familiar faces. But since there are plenty of new volunteers, the "boss" hands out name tags for everyone to wear. I can smell a pot of coffee....oh wonderful coffee! Once I'm labelled with my own identification, I'm right at the coffee urn. While the coffee smells pretty good (perhaps because I've gotten up at a god-awful hour), it isn't  long before I discover that my nose is failing me today. The coffee is pretty bad, but what the heck. It's caffeine, so I add extra milk and proceed to drink it. By lunch I've downed 4 mugfuls. Not too shabby considering it's pretty bad coffee. 
By the time I set up my station, the building is quickly filling up with cages of dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages. Quite the motley crew. Most are fairly calm, but there's a few that bark, getting all the others on edge. Volunteers keep everything in order and watch the dogs. 
One by one the dogs are brought to the anesthesia table where one of the veterinarians administers the initial "knockout" drugs. Once "down", the surgical site is shaved, scrubbed, and disinfected. While one victim is prepped for surgery, another is already on the table getting ready to be spayed by another vet. 
My task in all this? I'm the anesthetist. It's my job the "gas 'em down" and maintain a safe plane of anesthesia during the surgery, then bring them back up in time to shift them off the table. I'm often working with two patients at once, so I need to stay focused on my task. No time to idly gaze around to see what others are doing. 
I'm normally too busy watching my patients to see what's going on behind me. But I'm fully aware that 
once the surgery is complete, our little patients head to recovery. This is where lots of volunteers help out. Every dog is watched. Many get held until awake. Thin dogs, like the one below, get special attention, thick blankets, medical fluids, oral glucose, and added warmth if needed to help in recovery. 
Once awake, the dogs go back into their cages until their owners arrive to take them home. 
If you've noticed, these events use a LOT of towels and blankets. Cases and cases of clean towels arrive in the morning. Just about every one of them has been used by day's end. How'd ja like to be the one who has the wash all those towels? 

Not everything goes smoothly at these clinics. After all, we're working with dogs that don't know us. WE are the enemy, not a friend. Most are suspicious of us. Some are fearful. A few plan on attacking! One of the volunteers today takes home evidence of how some dogs manage to score points against us via a well aimed bite. But in the end we are the winner. The dog gets anesthetized and neutered! 
 I've been volunteering with this group for a while now, so we work well together. The day ends between 5-6 pm. 50-55 dogs get neutered at each clinic, and although I'm not sure of today's count, I think we did 52. Usually no one gets hurt. Usually no dogs die. Oh, we've lost a few over the years, but almost all were no surprise. Sometimes we get dogs in questionable condition where the decision to take the risk has been made. Most of the time the high risk works out fine. Every once in a while it doesn't. 

Hubby arrives around 5 pm, hoping that we'll be done early. But today had three extra dogs tacked on at the end, so we're not done till 6. I'm still hyped at 6, running on adrenaline and caffeine. But on the long ride home (1 1/2 hours), I find myself nodding off from time to time. It's been a long day, full of activity and stress. Yes, giving anesthesia and not killing one's patient takes its toll. Try doing it 52 times in a row! Once I unwind, I'm exhausted. 

I suppose it's obvious to hubby that I enjoy volunteering for these spay/neuter clinics. Veterinary medicine is in my blood, so to say. I've been involved since I was 15 years old and would have started earlier if it hadn't been for those pesky child labor laws. And while I no longer work veterinary medicine full time, I do indeed like visiting the action every once in a while. 


  1. Mahalo Nui Loa for your vital assistance at the Spay & Neuter Clinic! I am certain you directly prevent so much waste and suffering of unwanted litters of pets. The pets that return to their masters are bound to lead a better life, avoiding te stress of unwanted pregnancies, and the unneeded aggression of the male dogs responding to hormones they don't require. No endangered species here!
    I have a suggestion to help with the towel-washing (and maybe a source for used or slightly damaged towels: Perhaps one or more of the hotels, which have commercial-sized laundry facilities, would be willing to donate use of their facilities on an occasional basis, as a community service. They would be akamai to offer such help, and other businesses would join in with donations of laundry soap or disinfectants, da kine. Local broadcasters love to give public service announcements for such worthy causes as well. I am so impressed that you are making such a personal donation of your exceptional talents and such a huge donation of your time! And by extension, I wish to thank all those good people that help to make the clinic possible. Oh! Don't forget to ask the coffee growers and roasters for their assistance with providing that wonder-fuel, COFFEE!

  2. Thanks for the suggestions. They're great ideas! I'll be sure to pass them along to the KARES group.