July 19, 2023
Jamie Kennedy, AVC 2024, traveled to Sheshatshiu in 2023 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. In this piece, Jamie writes about several meaningful interactions in the clinic.
As with any trip, there tends to be bumps along the way. Our trip certainly began with some. When we arrived at the airport, the group was eager to get to Sheshatshiu, Labrador and start setting up the clinic. We shared our feelings of nervousness and excitement over dinner at one of the airport restaurants. However, just as we were finishing our meal, we were notified that our flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the following evening.
Our group, along with the other passengers from our flight, waited outside for a shuttle to the nearby hotel. Everyone began chatting, initially about our shared frustrations, but then about our plans in Labrador. We explained the Chinook Project’s purpose and that we were headed to Sheshatshiu to provide the community with veterinary care. It turns out that the gentleman we were talking with was a retired veterinarian himself. This was one of several moments throughout the week that I felt we were in the exact place we were meant to be, and that everything would work out.
We finally arrived in the community, set up our temporary clinic, and had a successful first few days of meeting the kind people in in the community and caring for their animals. It was definitely an interesting experience trying to find our rhythm on the first and second day, but by the third day we had a good handle on things. Our team worked really well together. Throughout the week, we were fortunate to have support from a handful of wonderful, local volunteers. One evening, my classmate and I were getting a dog prepped for surgery and one of the volunteers came over and began asking questions. We said we would be happy to have them watch, and we explained everything we were doing from inserting the intravenous catheter to intubating the animal with an endotracheal tube to keep their airway open. We chatted about the patient and about veterinary medicine in general, and through this conversation we learned they too had a dream of one day becoming a veterinarian.
Our last full clinic day was a busy one. As a team we completed 17 surgeries and saw many animals for medicine appointments. At one point I was sitting with three dogs while they woke up from their procedures. As I was checking their vitals, brushing their coats and cleaning their ears, two young girls came in with their dad and puppy for vaccines and deworming. One of the girls was incredibly sweet and interested in what I was doing. She told her dad she wanted to work with animals, so I invited her over to listen to the dog’s heart with my stethoscope. I placed the bell of the stethoscope on the dog where I could hear the heartbeat and then passed her the ear pieces. This was a deep chested dog, so the heartbeat was more difficult to hear. She smiled while listening and then I asked if she would like to hear her own heart, to which she nodded yes. I showed her where to place the stethoscope, and when she heard it her face lit up. Seeing her excitement reminded me of how lucky I am that I get to do this every day.
This trip was one that I will never forget. We were able to help 150 dogs, and the ones I interacted with have truly made lasting impressions. Although, on top of all the animal care, it is the moments like the ones I mentioned above that grounded me throughout this experience. These brief, but meaningful interactions were little reminders that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what I love with like-minded people. I am looking forward to being a part of more opportunities like this one, helping animals, meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and inspiring others to follow their dreams as I am mine.