These past few days, we’ve been experiencing first hand the life of a mobile veterinarian in Belize. We had some *exciting* drives up extremely steep dirt roads to beautiful hidden-away farms.
We started off our day with physical exams, vaccinations, and deworming for a herd of about fifteen horses. This was much more in my wheelhouse than the dogs this weekend! I was actually partnered with the same person as in the clinic, and I was happy to help her out with the horses, which she was much less familiar working with. I got to work with a stallion for the first time, administering injections and deworming medication, and I’m pleased to say I did not spill a drop of dewormer 😊
Quick aside, I loved the vibes and compatibility of our group. We had a very diverse array of animal experience between large, small, exotic, etc., and wherever someone was a bit weaker in one aspect, someone else would help them out. No one was ever arrogant or overbearing, or made anyone feel like they “were dumb” because they didn’t have as much experience in a particular area. It made for a really welcoming learning environment and really helped our group bond and work well together.
Back to the action! After finishing up with the horses, we went to Dr. T.’s own farm to vaccinate his sheep herd—about fifty in total! We set up a really effective assembly line, and after the farm workers handled the adult animals, we got to “wrangle” the lambs! They were so darn cute, and so different from the Rutgers sheep. The sheep we worked with were mainly crosses of dorper and Barbados blackbelly sheep, which are much smaller and lighter-wooled than the dorset sheep I’ve worked with at Rutgers. This helps them better tolerate the hot, humid climate of Belize.
Our day started off with vaccinating a herd of about forty cattle. Like the sheep, the cattle in Belize are also more adapted to the heat, so we have mostly been working with breeds like Brahmans. At this farm, the cattle were driven into a chute, where we reached over the top and vaccinated them in the rump. We administered blackleg vaccine and a vitamin injection. It was exhausting, but actually a lot of fun! After the cattle, we accompanied Dr. T. on some farm calls, first to a bull with a swollen leg (who was treated with antibiotics for infection), and then to a dog with a growth on its leg. Dr. T. turned the back of a pickup truck into a makeshift surgery table, and removed the tumor in about ten minutes—so quickly and steadily! After a long day’s work, we went to a fantastic restaurant for dinner, where I got lamb ragu rigatoni—and was then mock attacked by my CELA friends for eating lamb the day after we worked with them! I know some pre-veterinary students decide to become vegetarian after starting to work with animals, but honestly, I have found that my work with food animals has given me a better appreciation for the meat I eat, if that makes sense.
We’re horseback riding today! After performing physical exams, and giving vaccines, dewormers, and vitamins, we all got to horseback ride through the Belizean rainforest. I worked with Holiday, a little chestnut mare who’s half-Thoroughbred and half Quarter Horse (the farm owner jokingly remarked that she thinks she’s all Thoroughbred). Holiday was also the horse I was assigned to ride, which I was so excited about. Riding through the Belizean rainforest was incredible—we learned about all types of plants, from trees with toxic sap, gum trees, bushes that house stinging ants, the trees used to make thatched roofs, etc. About halfway through the ride, the guide asked if any of us had cantering experience; only myself and one other student did, so we led the pack essentially at a hand gallop on a straightaway through a plantation. Little Holiday was not tall, but man could that little mare move! We had such a great time, and during the ride, I got to learn a bit more about the equine breeding program.
After our ride, we had a delicious chicken soup lunch, and then went on some house calls with Dr. T. to vaccinate dogs. Once we had finished, we had the option to either go ziplining through the rainforest, or cave canoeing through a cave that was once inhabited by the ancient Mayans. I opted for cave canoeing, and I’m so glad I did. Our guide was so knowledgeable, and the artifacts were fascinating—pots, human skulls, footholds carved into natural stone bridges, etc. We also saw lots of fruit bats!
Until next time!
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