Dr. Peuser’s RAVS trip
In July, I spent a week working on an Indian reservation in North Dakota. The trip was sponsored by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS for short) and is one of many that they provide throughout the year. The group who worked on the trip was made up almost exclusively of volunteers. On this trip, there were 8 veterinarians, 35 veterinary students, 4 veterinary technicians, 2 administrative volunteers, and 2 volunteer cooks (the food was very good!).
We met in Bismarck on a Sunday morning. After a brief orientation period, we set off in a caravan (14 vehicles) to the reservation, a 3 hour drive. The clinic was run out of the local rec. center. The equipment for the clinic is contained entirely in a gooseneck trailer. Everything is labeled and packed very specifically to ensure nothing is lost and all necessary equipment is available. The level of medicine that was provided was as good as I have seen at most private practices. This was one of the most impressive aspects, especially given the less than ideal working conditions.
Monday morning brought the first patients. These were animals owned by local tribe members, as well as local non-Native Americans. Monday through Thursday we spayed and neutered dogs and cats of all sizes, ages, and health status. We did 40 to 60 surgeries per day. Additional surgeries were done as needed. For example, a dog was hit by a car and received an amputation of his front leg. Another dog had a ruptured eye so we removed that as well. A great dane on the trip had a condition called entropion, so we corrected that at the same time as her spay.
Friday was then spent as a wellness clinic. Animals were brought in by owners, in some cases by the truckload, for vaccines and exams. Some animals had minor health problems, others had major health problems. Parasites were rampant on these animals, both internal and external. Every animal was treated for fleas and ticks, dewormed for intestinal parasites, and vaccinated. Animals with other health concerns had them addressed as well.
At the end of the day Friday, we packed up the clinic and left. In all we saw nearly 600 animals. The best part of the trip was getting to work with some amazing people. The veterinarians were great people with a wide range of experience and expertise. The students were all eager to learn, which made teaching a lot of fun. Experience levels ranged from not knowing how to restrain a dog or a cat, to having done several spays and neuters on their own. Most were somewhere in the middle. The majority of clients loved their pets just as much as our clients here in Olathe. Some were taken care of as well as our patients we see here, but these were the exception rather than the rule. Overall it was a memorable trip and was a great experience.
Check out numerous photos from the trip on our Flickr page.
You can see the setup of the clinic, our sleeping area (on the gym floor), and several photos of students and locals. Some photos that you won’t see were of the case of mange I contracted while on the trip. Not one of the better memories I made, but quite the experience nonetheless!