Trip Start Oct 02, 2007
1Trip End Ongoing
I've been in Peru for a week now, and I'm in the Piura airport on my way home after a quick stop in Lima. I decided not to stay for the entire clinic, because my goal was simply to get a feel for the program and see what else might be needed. Perfectly logical, but I feel a little heartbroken to be sitting in the airport while my new crazy gringa vet friends are out vaccinating and castrating, cleaning up saddle sores and deworming and breaking their backs cutting hooves. And all of that for the cost of five or ten soles per horse - less than four dollars - all of which goes to the local animal protection organization. The truth is that although I love my current job (truly, it's perfect for me), I do so enjoy the hands-on animal work. And I don't have much experience with horses, so this trip has been enlightening. Aside from learning to vaccinate and deworm, I've translated for the vets, which has taught me a lot in terms of home-care instructions. Of course, the most common instruction was, "Feed your horse!!" But there were also recommendations about treating sores, preventing cracked hooves, etc etc. The vast majority of our clients were horses, donkeys, and mules, but the vets also attended to the odd cow or dog, and in one town we were brought a lamb that had ripped open its leg on a fence. The owner had tried to sew it up himself with dental floss
This trip has also coincided with World Animal Day, which many Latin American communities celebrate with a Blessing of the Animals on the feast day of San Francisco de Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals. Our wonderful host Rosemary Gordon arranged Blessings in several communities, and we were able to attend two, one in Piura and one in Colán. They were so much fun! I'm sure in the US, a Blessing ceremony involves leashes and cages, and maybe some semblance of order. In Peru, everyone shows up with everything - dogs and cats, of course (largely unrestrained), but also fish, pet birds, baby chicks, rabbits, roosters - just every animal you can imagine
The area itself is really interesting. It's quite close to the equator, but it's a desert, so it gets cold at night. It's on the coast, and the beach is littered with huge glacier-blue jellyfish. It's a popular tourist spot for Peruvians, but only in the summer months (our winter). The towns themselves seem highly improbable, nestled as they are in a dusty, inhospitable, almost lifeless landscape. A river runs through one valley, providing water for rice and corn fields. Even so, it's hard to imagine how that singular valley supports even the tiny villages that hang on outside the irrigation zone. The entire area depends on its horses for its survival, which makes the animal welfare work all the more satisfying.
So now I'm back in DC, rolling around on the floor with my cat and dreaming about bony horses and dusty landscapes. There's no accounting for what you love, I guess.