Local Vets Without Borders team reports on mission

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Puppy love -- Village children in Hopkins, Belize, attend Saturday afternoon puppy classes where they learn how to care for their pets. Carroll County Vets Without Borders team member, Debbie Weiland, hands out small toys and goodies donated by Mike's Tree Service in Eureka Springs. Photo submitted

Carroll County Vets Without Borders (CCVWB) started with an eye-opening tourist trip to Belize in 2007.

A "crazy idea" born there resulted in a sustained visiting veterinarian program for the Hopkins, Belize Humane Society (HBHS) in Central America -- a model they are sharing with other Third World countries.

Earlier this year, the CCVWB team, Ramona Hambrick, Debbie Weiland and Tina Cone, returned from a mission to Hopkins, Belize. It was the third CCVWB trip, and, according to Cone, the most successful.

The kindest cut -- The Carroll County Vets Without Borders team spent a week in Hopkins, Belize earlier this year. Shown here, Berryville veterinarian Tina Cone creates an educational opportunity as she neuters a male dog while his owners watch intently. Photo submitted

Clara Lee Arnold, HBHS board member from Oxford, Miss., acted as local coordinator for the week-long surgery clinic in Hopkins.

The team saw some improvements when they arrived. A sizeable grant from the Wallace Foundation via the Humane Society International allowed the HBHS to purchase a vehicle for transporting animals and to build a covered porch clinic addition with dog runs underneath.

Linda Wallace-Gray of the Wallace Foundation made a visit to inspect the progress and observe the HBHS visiting veterinary program in action.

When the team heard a veterinary team from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, was coming with her, Cone remarked, "We were a little apprehensive about working with another team, but we soon discovered we were quite compatible."

Since there were now two vet teams in Hopkins, and abundant supplies, the HBHS wanted to try a few remote surgery clinics to help out their neighboring villages.

The team traveled to Seine Bight, a small and poor village, to do a clinic there, bringing drugs, instruments, and basic equipment.

Within 30 minutes after arriving, a little church on the beach in Seine Bight had been converted into a veterinary surgical clinic.

On one occasion, the Arizona team went to Maya Center to do a remote surgery clinic. There wasn't a suitable building available, so the male dogs were neutered outside under a tree. The female dogs were transported back to Hopkins for the Carroll County team to spay at the HBHS clinic.

"There was a good turnout, so we were busy all day. This was our last day in Hopkins and was scheduled to be our day off, but we just couldn't say no to the need," Cone said.

Both teams enjoyed attending "puppy class" in the village park. Each Saturday afternoon, Joseph Morgan, a villager who works for the HBHS, teaches village children how to take care of their pets. Joseph also gives vaccinations, administers parasite treatments and dispenses dog food.

Mike's Tree Service of Eureka Springs donated pencils, erasers, hair ties, toys, and other goodies to give the children. Clara Lee brought along coloring books, collars, leashes, and dog toys.

The team often had to work around scheduled all-day power outages, a fairly common occurrence, and took that down time to be tourists. Both teams went to the nearby Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve, an excursion donated by the Hamanasi Resort.

"We were happy to celebrate a very successful, fun, and compatible experience with the HBHS workers and volunteers, Clara Lee, Linda, and the Arizona team, as well as the life-long friendships that have been formed," Cone said.

On this Belize trip the Carroll County team performed 59 spays and neuters, two entropion (eyelid) repairs, treated a horrific machete wound, a harpoon laceration, one Parvo puppy, and did countless examinations and vaccinations.

To see more photos of the trip, go to the Hopkins Belize Humane Society Facebook page and click on the album entitled "Double Teaming."

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