Friday, December 2, 2016

Dispatches From Havana Mini-Campaña

Dispatches from Havana –
(On-the-spot news from Susana Hurlich, the Spanky Project’s coordinator in Cuba)

On Monday, November 14, 2016 we held what is our third – for this year - mini-sterilization campaign at Quinta de los Molinos. Starting last year, we have been organizing these campaigns in close collaboration with Quinta de los Molinos, an eco-educational and urban park centre coming under the Historian’s Office of the City of Havana and one of our important counterparts for our work in the Cuban capital. Our hope is to eventually hold such campaigns on a monthly basis. They are small campaigns – no more than fifteen cats and dogs each time – but they provide yet another contribution to humane population control of both mascots and street animals in between our twice-yearly mass sterilization campaigns.

This time we sterilized twelve animals including eight cats and four dogs. Of the cats, one was male and seven were female of whom three were pregnant. All four dogs were females of whom one was pregnant.

The “waiting room” at Quinta de los Molinos.
Our team was once again excellent and is, in fact, one of several permanent teams of Cuban veterinary professionals who regularly collaborate with the Spanky Project and with whom we have been working to help upgrade some of their skills (pain management and control, combination anesthetics, etc.). Here they are:

  • Dr. Leyssan Cepero Fiallo, chief veterinarian at Quinta de los Molinos who also works closely with the Historian’s Office in Habana Vieja. He was in charge of surgery.
  • Dr. Yanaisy (“Nana”) Pino, who was in charge of the initial clinical assessment of the animals, anesthetic and post-operative care.
  • Yoel Machado, the veterinary technician at Quinta de los Molinos who was in charge of preparation.
  • Ernesto Sanchez, a fifth-year veterinary student who, for the past two years, has been doing his practicum at Quinta de los Molinos. Ernesto assisted with surgical support.

We also had several additional people working with us:

  • Dr. Zeynep Guleryuzlu, a visiting veterinarian from Turkey who is interested to support our work and who will, in the near future, become one of our international collaborating veterinarians.
  • Dr. Susana Alfonso Domingo, a fourth-year medical student (for people) whose two cats were sterilized in our previous campaigns and who wants to help our campaigns. She assisted in both preparation and post-operative care.
  • Claudia Mena, a new Spanky Project collaborator, who will be responsible for one of our “community dogs and cats” micro-projects in Habana Vieja.
 From left to right: Leyssan, Nana, Ernesto, Susana (Spanky Project) and Zeynep. Note Zeynep’s wonderful “veterinarian cat cap” which everyone commented on, even the owners. (Some of the team members had unfortunately left before we took the group shot!)

Our team arrived at Quinta at 8am, with a plan to begin operating at 9am. All the animals had appointments, divided into three groups of five between 9-10am, 10-11am and 11am to noon. These appointments are made – by phone during the previous two weeks - with people hearing about the upcoming campaign by word of mouth, or people who have participated in earlier campaigns who still have animals they’d like to neuter. At the time of the phone call, we provide a little orientation about how to prepare the animals for surgery (fasting, drinking little water, anti-parasitics where possible, etc.)

However, we weren’t able to begin operating until almost 10:30am as there was a problem with water supply this morning into this part of the city. Water didn’t begin to enter the area until about 10am, and then we had to wait another half hour for it to be pumped up to the tank on top of the building so that the operating clinic-cum-laboratory could begin the surgeries.

In the meantime, all animals were registered, as shown below. In addition to contact information for the owner or protector, we get basic information about the animal: age, previous health problems, allergies, whether the animal lives outside or inside, etc. All this information is helpful to know when the clinical examination takes place.
Claudia registering Chulito, our only male cat during this campaign, brought in by Amelia, a ceramist from Habana Vieja who cares for a colony of some 25 cats.

Among both cats and dogs, we had several who had been rescued from the street. Chulito, a one-year-old male cat, was abandoned in a garbage bin as a newborn, and in the process apparently suffered a head injury that caused spasms. Now his spasms are under control with the daily administration of phenobarbital and he has a loving home with Ileana, a friend of Amelia’s who wasn’t able to come to the campaign due to illness. Thanks to Amelia’s assistance, little Chulito is now neutered.

Sisi, a rescue dog who has been in the care of the custodians of the parking lot of the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) – located two blocks from my home – was pregnant, in her first trimester, with a baker’s dozen of puppies (actually, eleven rather than thirteen). Today she’s recuperating from her surgery in the home of a neighbor who has talked with the custodians about finding a permanent “forever home” for her. No one knows her age, but she’s a very gentle and noble being. She came to our campaign with four-month-old Gisela, a black puppy who was rescued from the street just a month ago.
 Sisi (standing with her back to us) and Gisela (black puppy).

These are only two stories of the many stories we have of the animals who pass through our campaigns. Every story is different, but the common thread running through them is that whether owner or protector, these are animals who are loved, who have been saved from terrible fates on the street and who are now no longer in danger of either bringing into the world yet more unwanted and/or abandoned animals, nor of being vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.
 Dr. Leyssan in the surgical ward.

All animals who go through our neutering campaigns receive either a tattoo on their earlobe and/or on their abdomen (mascots) or, in the case of colony cats, the tip of one of their ears is docked – all under anesthetic, of course. This helps to identify that they’ve been neutered.

People who brought animals to this campaign came from the five municipalities of Habana Vieja, Centro, Plaza, Playa and Marianao.

Our thanks go not only to our wonderful collaborating Cuban veterinarians, veterinary technicians and others, but also to the owners and protectors who care enough about their animal friends to participate in our campaigns.
 Adian and his four-legged friend Albina waiting their turn.

If you’d like to help our work…

…although the entry of medications into Cuba - such as anesthetics - is tightly controlled, there are a number of disposable supplies that are extremely useful for sterilization campaigns for cats and dogs. Here’s a little list of things that are in short supply here and that can be brought into the country by visitors without the need for customs authorization:
  • Syringes, 1 mL (1 cc), sizes 27G x ½”, 25G x 5/8” and especially 23G or 22G x ½”
  • Absorbable sutures, sizes 2.0 and 3.0, preferably monofilament
  • Surgical gloves, size 6.5, 7 and 7.5 (& some 8) (Note: surgical, not examination)
  • Gauze (preferably sterile), size 7.5cm x 7.5cm (more or less)
  • Ink for tattoos (Ketchum Animal Tattoo Ink)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WSD 2016 The Clinic Days

Our World Spay Day 2016 Week Campaña in Havana wrapped up Friday February 26. 
In five days we sterilizations 248 dogs and cats.
On Saturday our mass deparasitization event treated 348. 
Rabies vaccine was administered to all that needed the shot.
 Each of our campañas opens with introductions and orientations.
 Clinic protocols are also outlined.
 Casa Calderone's amphitheatre was the ideal location for our morning meetings.
Veterinary Students are the future for Cuba's animals. 
It is an honour for us to be a small part of crafting that future.
 Dr.Raymond Donavan, from Trinidad & Tobago, spends some time greeting at registration.

Dr.(Russo)Viacheslav Eduardovich Zenkov and Spanky Project's Director of Veterinary Medicine Dr.Michael Belovich guide students through the "sedation and induction" department.
It is always great to have these exchanges of mutual support
Dr.Russo and his team do great work in the province of Matanzas.
We always welcome them to our campañas in Havana.
Our surgical suite had four tables.

For the most part a Cuban Vet and one of our International Team 
members would work together.
Here Dr.Ramond shares some of his "fancy knots" with Dra.Rocio.
Humane traps ready to be deployed.

 Since 2006 the Spanky Project has worked under the umbrella of the Consejo Cientifico Veterinario de Cuba (CCVC). The veterinary council is a Cuban NGO created in 1908.  President of the CCVC, Dra.Beatriz Amaro came by for a visit.

Dra.Nana (in blue) is the Queen of Recovery.
The students love this stop on their rotation.
Despite several efforts to channel her to another department she refuses to leave her "realm".

Dr.Fernado takes some time out to administer some holistic therapy Dra.Nora.

Nora is the Institute of Veterinary Medicine's Director for the City of Havana.
We are grateful to the IMV for the trust they place in us and the support they give us in our work.

In addition to the sterilizations we do hold consultations
 on any concerns caregivers have with their pets
As we begin the day with a group meeting so do we end the day.
The head of each department gives a summary of their day.
The good ... the bad ... the ugly.
We want to hear it all and improve day by day. 

Dr.Leyssan and, final year Veterinary Student , Ernesto 
bottle feed some kittens at the end of the day.

All the hard work all the time and all the expense that goes into making these campañas a reality has a big payoff for me in the simplest of ways.

One day I was out of the clinic for a couple of hour to attend a meeting.
Upon my return I was to that two ladies wanted to meet me.
Their pets had been released earlier from surgery but they stuck around because the wanted to meet "el Jefe" (the boss).
Through a translator they expressed their gratitude and thanks for 
the opportunity and great work are doing.

I also had a gentleman that came up to me with a gift.

He thanked me and gave me a package of cigarettes.

"Gracias señor but I do not smoke"

He paused and said, "take them.... maybe you will start again".

We had a good laugh!!!!

The final event of our officlal program was a mass deparasitization and rabies clinic.
This was held in the streets of Habana Vieja.
Thank you to the Cuban structure known as Zoonosis. 
They provided the rabies vaccine for the whole week.

The last order of business for WSD 2016 Week was the wrap party.
We gathered at the Hotel Conde de Villanueva in the heart of Habana Vieja.

 Looking down on our group I was very moved.
Moved by, how out of the love for a little dog the dream of  project has become a reality.
Thankful for those that have joined us on our path.
The Spanky Project has come a long way since it's beginnings in 2003.

Gracias a todos!

I will leave you with these few minutes from our WSD2016 wrap party.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Twas the night before ....

... the opening day of our campaña.
Our World Spay Day 2016 campaña was very much a community effort.
That is, in addition eleven official Cuban structures collaborated with us.

We even had a meeting, in the street, with the local CDR.
(Committees for the Defense of the Revolution)
Locals like Willito and Alejandro (green) were always on hand to help us out.

As the sun sets and the moon rises ... Habana Vieja quiets down.
The day tripping visitors are gone and the cats come out.
We had a team trapping in Plaza de Armas.
Another team was up the street ...
.. and down in the sewer system.
Well, Meredith was down below.
It was a good session with nearly 20 cats trapped.
The cats spent the night in a secure location.
They next morning they were transported to our clinic by horse and carriage.
Members of El Carriage - Cooperativa de Cocheros offered their services to our TNR.
These are the Coach Horse Carriage drivers that are for hire in Habana Vieja
The Spanky Project has been helping Cubans help their animals since 2003.
With every step we take we make new friends that join us on the journey.
We are grateful for each and every one of them.
Reunion 2008 

"If you want to go fast, go alone. 
If you want to go far, go together."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If you have much ....

It is a tough haul for Not For Profit and Charity groups working in the animal welfare field.
One would like to say it is feast or famine as far as fund raising goes.
More often than not it is famine for many.

Back in August I took part in an emergency run for Critter Cabs.
A near drowned squirrel needed emergency treatment.
 The run was from Smith Falls to Napanee. 
A 134 km road relay. I drove the last leg of of 50km.
"Rocky" was headed to Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre.
SPWC do amazing work in recovering and rehabilitating wildlife.
Be it squirrels, raccoons, skunks, birds ... you name it.

While there I had an opportunity to let them know of the Spanky Project's work in Cuba.
They offered to call if they had supplies donated to them above their own needs

A big shout out to 
I got the call.

Syringes, gauze, NG tubes dressing trays and much, much more.
All will be heading to Cuba over time.
If you are in Southern Ontario and have some space in your luggage we would love your help in getting some these supplies to Cuba.
Drop us a line if you can help.

If not please consider a donation to Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre .

Thank You!

"If you have much, give of your wealth; If you have little, give of your heart."
-Arab Proverb

Saturday, September 10, 2016

International Team WSD 2016

Bienvenidos Leslie!!!!
The first of our International Team arrives.
Leslie, from Canada, first joined us in 2012 for Havana's first mass TNR.
It was so good to have her back with us.
Leslie did say she was hungry so we took her out for a burger.
Next to arrive was Dr. Michael Belovich (Canada)
Dr.B is Spanky Project's Veterinary Medical Director.
Oh, and Leslie was still hungry.
A fix of Churros on the street did the trick.
Arriving with Dr.B was his partner Nelson (Mexico/Canada)

Audrey from the USA and her dear friend Katia from Guantanamo, Cuba ..
and a "photobomber".

Taru from Finland!

 Meet the team from Animal Balance.
Animal Balance were our invited guest collaborators.
Meredith, Amanda, Raymond, Emma

 Dr.Raymond Deonanan (Trinidad & Tobago) and Dr.Amanda Bruce (USA)
Animal Balance's -Director of Field Operations
Meredith Hippert (USA)
Emma Clifford (UK), Founder and Executive Director of Animal Balance.

Rounding out the Animal Balance Team is Dairne Ryan (USA). 
She is the Latin American Program Director.
Her and Emma look like a couple of cats that just ate canaries.
Obviously plotting and scheming in the corner. ;)
A special thank you to Emma.
Several years ago Emma extended a helping paw to us as she does here with Yindra.
At my invitation she and her teams have joined us, in Havana, on three occasions.
Their RSVP for this trip came down to the wire.
Animal Balance committed to our World Spay Day in Cuba about 
eight weeks before the event.
A close call for us to get their visas processed in time.

I have deeply valued her advice and friendship over the years.

Thank you Animal Balance for your contribution towards the cost of our supplies for 
World Spay Day 2016

Emma has decided that Animal Balance will forge their own 
agreements and chart their own course in Havana.
We wish the best for Cubans ...  their animals ...  and Animal Balance

...we believe that also extends to animals.