Yesterday was D Day --- the day to deal with Distemper in the village.
The Ground Zero dog --- a young male, maybe two years old? -- was put to sleep first. Then someone else in the village brought this cute little two or three month old white puppy to us to look at. Soft, like cocker spaniel fur. A family favorite. But he couldn't sit up, couldn't walk, couldn't hold his head up, couldn't eat. Just flop, like a rag doll.
The family said he had a cold a few weeks ago --- which, of course, we now know is the first sign of distemper. Oscar the veterinarian says the problem is that most families will assume it's a cold from cambio de clime, a change in climate. It's been quite cold at night.
And then it's too late.
Next we went to persuade the owner of the first dog that her other dog needs to be immunized. She had initially refused but yesterday luck was with us. Her husband wasn't home (she was home alone with her five children, 12 years old and younger) and we were able to convince her it wouldn't hurt the dog, she wouldn't have to pay for it, and it might save her dog's life. She reluctantly agreed when we showed up with the veterinarian and a loaded hypodermic.
The veterinarian put one more village dog down that had a snake bite on its neck, which he had initially survived. But then the wound got infected and it was too late to save him.
The final count:
• Seven initial distemper vaccinations for dogs that were in direct contact with Dog #1.
• Three dogs put down and buried on the beach.
It's heartbreaking work, and incredibly frustrating to try to help in a country where everyone is speaking rapidly -- and all at the same time -- in a language I'm just past 'how are you?'. But despite the obstacles it feels like we have some momentum in getting help earlier, doing some prevention. And then, on to massive spaying and neutering.
For those of you who wonder why the heck we're doing this, why we're so immersed in helping animals --- really, it's because it is the greatest need.
We're offer English classes to the children in the village. We're offer music lessons on piano and guitar and the occasional music evening. But these are all bonuses for the village. If we left tomorrow, the town could take what English and music they've learned and choose to continue on. Or not.
But dogs in the town are suffering, not intentionally, and that is something that we may be able to change. And eventually, if we leave, the culture around how to take care of the dogs may have changed too.