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Animal house calls

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baker Lake played host to the third annual visit from the Canadian Animal Assistance Team this past week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Veterinary technician Carley Lay, left, vaccinates a sled dog while its owner, Sharon Ookowt, helps keep it calm in Baker Lake this past week. - photo courtesy of Susan MacIsaac

A total of nine team members, including co-ordinator Susan MacIsaac, made the trip.

MacIsaac has been co-ordinating the team's visit since the program began three years ago.

Although MacIsaac moved to Ottawa this past year after 10 years in Baker, she plans to stay involved with the annual clinic.

"I stayed involved with this year's clinic again because I started this program and became the main co-ordinator with the veterinary team," said MacIsaac.

"I plan on staying involved for the next couple of years because we've got a five-year plan with the Canadian Animal Assistance Team."

This year's visiting team members came from parts of Ontario and British Columbia.

The group spent a full week in Baker, focusing on population control, vaccines and deworming.

MacIsaac said dogs were given a rabies vaccine and a core vaccine against parvo, distemper and other common viral diseases.

She said the team also had specific dewormer medication for the types of worms dogs get in the Kivalliq.

"Some of the money for this comes from fundraising in Baker through a committee called the buddy fund.

"It raises money for the part of the project that's the community's responsibility.

"The community has to assist with airfare, find a place for team members to stay, feed them, and find a place for the clinic to run.

"Also, including transportation in the community, basic supplies for the clinic, and, last year, the purchase of an emergency supply of dewormer, the minimum we have to raise for a clinic is $15,000."

Companies do chip in to help support the clinic through sponsorships.

Calm Air provided a reduced airfare rate and the Qulliq Energy Corp. provided space in a staff house for this year's clinic.

MacIsaac said the number of animals the team treats in Baker has gone down during the past three years - and that's a good sign.

About 170 animals were vaccinated and 75 to 80 spays and neuters performed each of the first two visits.

"If we see a solid decrease in the demand for spays and neuters, that means we're capturing the majority of animals in the community that need those procedures.

"We've only done about 50 or so this year, which is a good sign for this clinic.

"It means we're doing a good job in getting people to have their animals spayed or neutered."

The number of dogs requiring vaccinations in Baker also dropped this year.

MacIsaac said while that's also good news, animals still need their booster shots.

"Probably, most of the dogs in town have been vaccinated at least once during the past few years.

"It would be ideal if everyone came back every year, but it's much better now than what we had before here."

Team leader Laura Sutton has made all three trips to Baker for the clinic.

She said the community has been very receptive to the message of improved animal health.

"People who have dogs as pets, as well as those who have sled-dog teams, are very receptive to us coming here," said Sutton.

"Not everybody wants their pet spayed or neutered, because they want to breed them or increase their teams.

"But they're still very interested in the vaccines and dewormer.

"You can tell by the way people talk to us and interact with their dogs, how much their dogs mean to them."

Sutton said dog owners in Baker understand the team is trying to help them provide the best care they can to their animals.

She said there was a bit of hesitation during the first year, until people saw what they were up to.

"They know we're not trying to twist their arms to get dogs spayed or neutered, or we're not taking anyone's dogs away or anything like that.

"We get a great response from people here."

Sutton said the team doesn't perform any major surgeries while in Baker, but it's certainly capable of taking care of minor injuries.

She said team members can also take care of ear and eye infections and offer training advice.

"I was expecting to see nothing but husky crosses when I first came to Baker, but we see a great variety of breeds, including an Irish wolfhound, a Newfoundland dog and golden retrievers.

"There is, of course, more outdoor and Northern breeds of dogs, but we still see a huge variety of others.

"I've developed a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Baker and I really like it here.

"I'm not going to promise I'll be here on future trips, but it would be really, really hard for me to say no if I was invited back."

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