Last Sunday of the Month, Boquete, Panamá

Yesterday was the last Sunday of the month which means it is the Amigos de Animales Spay and Neuter Clinic.

The day actually begins on Saturday when it is time to take a small day care center and turn it into an in-take processing area, pre-op area, surgical room, post-op area and recovery room. Every square inch is used in the most efficient manner possible.

On Sunday, the veterinarians arrive from Costa Rica to begin operating on at least 100 animals. Owners and animal collectors bring cats and dogs first to registration. It only costs $10 to ‘fix’ a dog and $5 for cats. Yesterday we saw sooooo many cats. Most of them are feral, trapped by the collectors. Many times the females are pregnant. If they are caught early, the kittens can be aborted. Yesterday we got a cat that was close to delivery and the kittens can be saved. Nursing mothers get spayed through the side so it doesn’t affect them from nursing their young. We also had several moms with their pups. The whole lot of them get neutered/spayed.

My husband, David, started working in in-take a while ago because many of the animals have to be weighed and restrained for anesthetic. David works with Ken getting the animals in position to get their anesthetic from Dr. Chely. Then, either the staff or the owners stay with the animals until they are unconscious. Cats are different as they will try to escape at every opportunity. Even the cutest, most docile housecat gets put in a cage to to get anesthetized. Once they are ‘out’, they get weighed. Louis and Rosie give the animals more shots for pain once the animal is completely under.


The animals are ready for their shave and tattoo.

Fur disappears from the appropriate body area and their ear is tattooed signifying that it has been neutered. Occasionally, we get a trapped animal for neutering who has the neutered tattoo. These animals can go directly to recovery.

I take care of them at this point. I make sure that the animals are kept warm, have their required shots, and are taken to surgery in the right order. Sometimes an animal is very heavy and needs two people to carry them. I also write on their tag if they need their ears cleaned, nails cut or any other special treatment. I was trained by Vicki who is leaving for several months. She actually created this job to make sure all the animals are properly prepared for surgery.

The animals go into surgery. These vets are specially trained so the can operate in about 10 minutes. If an animals has a tumor or another obvious injury, they will treat that too. They work non-stop until every animal is done. Yesterday that meant four vets saw and treated 138 animals. All of this is done in a room that is only about 8′x8′. They are amazing.

After surgery, the animals go to post-op where their wounds are treated and they get wormed and some vitamins. Some animals begin to come out of anesthesia but most go to recovery still out.

Preparing animals for surgery – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingBecause the animals are sedated, this is where they get a little needed TLC. Their nails are trimmed, ears are cleaned, they get treated for fleas and ticks, and mostly just affection. They get jostled until they are awake and alert. Owners are called and given simple instructions and the animals go home. From start to finish, animals are ready in about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

During the day, other volunteers bring us food. Nancy makes a wonderful egg casserole for breakfast and Burt brings us a feast for lunch. Yesterday we had pasta, meatballs, salad, green beans, cake and brownies. There’s always snacks and drinks. The vets take few breaks from this demanding schedule. In the States there are several awards for unknown heroes. The founders and organizers of Amigos de Animales and the vets that volunteer deserve a huge award for the hours they put into this program.

Standing, moving animals, bending down to pick up animals for 10 straight hours is really tiring. Every muscle aches and you’re too tired to do anything more. But you do – - because the entire clinic must be taken down and put back into the 8′x8′ surgical (now turned storage) room. It takes about an hour.

Not only do they get much needed medical care but for a few hours these animals get some love and attention. Owners are sent home with instructions and,sometimes, food. We are trying to start a pet care instruction program. Amigos de Animales is a fantastic organization and they are now known in the smaller communities around Boquete. So on Sunday, September 29 we will be up with the sun to begin again.


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