It’s been an oddly disquieting 24 hours. You know how they always say a modest life in an industrialized country is a life of untold wealth and riches in the third world? It’s true.
I mean, it’s something you know on an intellectual level, but to experience it, and to live within it for even that short period of time, really cements the impression. Indoor plumbing? Luxury. Hot running water? Absolute decadence. A house with more than one toilet and multiple bathtubs? Palatial, really, by the standards of the villages we visited.
Tamanco was fairly developed compared to a couple of the other places we saw. Besides the presence of a clinic staffed by a doctor on a daily basis, most of the people there had shoes.
The children wore clean clothing, and none of them showed the telltale round bellies of kwashiorkor. Not in this town, at least, though that was not the case throughout the week.
A quick 360 degree spin at the dock shows you the town in its entirety. The white building at 0:12 is the medical clinic where we performed the surgeries with such a pretty view of the green fields.
But looks aren’t always everything.
This was also the town where we had to beg a person to let us treat a dog he had kicked out of the house weeks prior. It was his dog at first, but then it wasn’t his dog anymore, and no you can’t treat it, well, I guess you can if you must though I don’t know why you would. We neutered the dog, removed his maggots and botfly larvae, gave him dewormers, and hoped for the best- that maybe someone else in the village would take pity on him and give him food.
Considering the casual way the children here kicked at the dogs if they crossed their paths, it’s hard to say whether or not I felt optimistic on that count. I watched children shove each other to the ground in order to grab an extra banana one of the volunteers had offered to them.
It was so frustrating to see the casual disregard so many (though by no means all, or even most) people had for the pets. Until that changes, none of the other medical procedures we perform will make a lasting change. OK, those strange people with cameras showed up and did something that left my dog with a bloody slash down her belly. Now what am I going to eat tonight?
It would be so easy to stop at the first sentence of that last paragraph. After all, it was so frustrating. On the other hand, when you see how hard these people need to work and reach just to survive, I can’t fathom judging them by the same standards we have back home. How can you fault someone for their dog having parasites when the people do as well?
I am sure they sit in judgment as well. I wonder what these people would think of Brody, with his 5 different collars and electric water fountain. They drink and bathe in the river. There is no delivery of grain-free dog foods out here. There is no delivery of anything, unless you go out in a canoe and get it yourself.
Faced with that barrier, one built of language, culture, and poverty, it was hard to say exactly what the long term goals are of an animal care organization in these situations. While we were performing surgery, the Amazon Cares director Bruno was with the children, delivering a talk about animal health and welfare. That is key. That is where change starts.
At the end of the day, all I could really do was put my head down and do what I came to do, which was treat the animals to the best of my ability. If nothing else, the seed was planted in the hearts of the people so keenly watching the proceedings: someone cared enough to come all the way here, just to treat these animals. Perhaps they do have some worth.
As they learn from me about what might be important, so too did I learn from them about what is not. GymBucks, for example, or the school Jogathon deadline. I am afforded the luxury of worrying about staying on trend for fall because I don’t have to worry about whether my kids have dysentery.
I learned more than I would have imagined.