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Unexpected Ties — by Vanessa Gerber

It was mid-day when a bright and cheerful golden retriever pranced into our homemade clinic in Apex, Nunavut, happy to see everyone and everything. He was a familiar face to most, being the puppy of one of our hosts. The clinic was bustling, brimming with people and animals alike; the four veterinary students were chasing uncompleted tasks around the room like loose dogs — which were fortunately absent in the literal sense. Fast paced though it was, our spirits were soaring on our first day of clinics, and a visit from the friendly golden pup only improved our mood. As I grabbed some vaccines from the center table, I overheard our hostess telling one of the vets that the pup had gotten into some stuff at home and needed to be forced to throw it up. The other students had drawn near with interest as she began to tell us what happened.

Normally deterred from entering the downstairs living room by a gate, the pup had managed to get past it that morning and had found himself in the gloriously new and exciting location of one of our bedrooms (a sense of alarm crept up my throat as I hastily tried to recall if I’d shut my door that morning). When our hostess had arrived home for lunch, there was an impressive amount of yarn strewn over the living room, up the stairs, and trailing to her own bedroom a floor above. She had gathered the yarn up and placed it in the living room, where she then noticed a bottle of pills open and chewed, scattered amongst the colourful strands. As the knitter of the group, I knew the yarn was mine, and I began to feel queasy, much like our fuzzy friend who had just received a dose of medication to encourage him to vomit. Rightfully concerned that the puppy had ingested some human pharmaceuticals, our hostess brought him to the clinic right away, where – thankfully—we were successful in purging his stomach of the products of his morning adventure. Once the puppy was relieved of his stomach contents and our hostess had departed with him, we all met one another’s eyes apprehensively, wondering what exactly we were going to arrive home to that evening. Fortunately, the concern was fleeting as the four of us dove back into the hectic day of surgeries and appointments.

The evidence

It was a late in the evening, around 10:30, by the time we left the clinic. As we ambled into the entrance of our hostess’ home, quietly exchanging thoughts on how the day went, I had nearly forgotten what was waiting for us in the living room. When I walked through the door, a wave of shock went through me at the sight of it: what used to be four beautiful rainbow skeins of yarn was now an indistinguishable mess, jumbled into a twisty colourful maze on the floor of the living room, trapping various chewed items in its wildly entangled tentacles. I could feel my classmates glancing in my direction, gauging my reaction, as I willed myself to remove the hopeless expression I knew I must have been wearing. We all stood frozen, still in our scrubs, until someone grabbed a garbage bag and began to eliminate the unsalvageable. When only the yarn remained, the four of us stood silently and still like statues around the pile of it, my spirits sinking lower as I wistfully envisioned the sweater it might have turned into.

And then something incredible happened.

One by one my classmates sat down cross-legged on the floor and began to navigate the yarn. As the last of my classmates planted herself on the living room carpet, I protested that it was far too late in the night and said that in no way did I expect them to stay up and tackle this. But nobody said anything. In response they simply started rolling the ends of yarn they had found into the tiny beginnings of balls. I remained standing for a moment, though my legs wobbled as I took in what was happening. Here were my classmates – having just spent an exhausting day at the clinic, going to get up in less than seven hours to do it all again, and only just beginning to get to know me – here they were all sitting there, all helping me, all without ever being asked. A wave of gratitude washed over me as I dropped down to join them. Teamwork had shone brilliantly not once, but twice today.

There are some bonds in life that happen quietly, happen in a way you would never have imagined, and there were many moments in the hours we spent chasing rainbow strands that I felt something kind of magical happening. By the end of the trip, I had four good-as-new balls of yarn, and three incredibly kind new friends…who can all expect something rather woolly for Christmas.

Vanessa Gerber, AVC 2017, traveled to Iqaluit in 2016 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Vanessa’s pieces.

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