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Fast Forever Friends

September 10, 2023

Cortney Chadbourne, AVC 2024, travelled to Sheshatshiu as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of writing.

While I am not yet a veterinarian, I have worked in a veterinary hospital for the last 7

years, and have been able to appreciate the dynamic emotional experience of caring for animals.

When I consider what truly makes this a tough career, there was a common theme involved;

being a veterinarian is hard when you want to do more for an animal than you are able. There are a multitude of reasons that we cannot always help an animal: financial restraints from the owners or financial expectations of the hospital. In the case of Sheshatshiu, we weren’t sure who owned many of the dogs. Many dogs wandered up to the clinic or were roaming in the road, but we had to wait until a community member could confirm they were not formally owned and have the member sign a consent form for the dog. This challenged me ethically. (Editor's note: these animals are often called 'community dogs'. They may have associations with one or several people, but are not owned in a more formal sense)

We were willing and able to provide support to these animals, so initially I felt it was our obligation to help. I have a huge heart that goes out to anyone and anything that may be even remotely in need (Editor's note: of vaccines, deworming or a neutering surgery) . I innately want to help whenever and however I can. Being able to serve is also what fuels my soul to keep going. This particular situation was challenging though, as the animal could be owned by someone who is choosing to not pursue veterinary care. As a veterinarian, you have to both honor the animal and respect the person who cares for them. By choosing to treat a dog from the street, it is possible you may be going against the wishes of the

owner. It is a tricky situation that requires discernment and serious consideration.

In Sheshatshiu, we required that each unowned dog be signed for by a community member prior to receiving treatment, which was our way of honoring the wishes of the residents and Band Council. Maintaining a good relationship with the community is essential so we can continue to serve this community moving forward.

There were two mature adult dogs that were hanging around the clinic during the second half of the trip. They were extremely friendly and hungry. They wandered around inside the building- positive, sweet additions to our day. Each time I sat recovering a patient from surgery, I was accompanied by one of them in particular, who I started to call Chinook. Once it was confirmed they were not formally owned and a community member signed consent for them, we had the approval to neuter these two boys. The surgeries went very well, and they recovered uneventfully. As they didn’t have a home to recover in, we left them contained in the clinic overnight. They did very well, eating all of their food and drinking water.

The next day the boys didn’t want to leave. This was the last day of our clinic and we were packing all our supplies. I cried so hard when a community member finally came to pick

them up to bring them elsewhere, but I was reminded that they have such happy lives. While they may not have a house to stay each night, they are loved on and fed by the entire community. They thrive because of how kind and friendly they are. I will miss them, but getting to connect with these two creatures so deeply and then saying goodbye, will remain in my heart and memory forever. These boys were just one example of how being a veterinarian can be emotionally tolling. I felt fulfilled and relieved that we had helped them, but I still felt a tinge of sadness knowing their future is unknown.

Each of the patients that I interact with so easily touches my heart. It is natural for me to

love an animal, and I am incredibly blessed that I was able to follow my dreams and pursue a

career loving animals. The Chinook Project was an incredible opportunity for me to connect with animals, care for them, and to support a beautiful community. I will take the lessons learned and the perseverance, and I will continue seeking opportunities to serve.

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