WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
The work of the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT)
By Nicole Jamieson, DVM
Have you ever had a dream come true? I live in Prince Rupert and work as a veterinarian at Pacific Coast Veterinary Hospital. I am a member of the Tsimshian Nation and the Lax Kw’alaams Band, matrilineal side. I am also of Cape Breton descent on my father’s side. I am very lucky to be truly Canadian with history from coast to coast of this great country. Even though it has nearly been 10 years since we graduated from WCVM in Saskatoon, many of my classmates remember that it was always a dream of mine to be able to help provide veterinary services to remote locations.
Thanks to the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT), and with the combined hard work of the community members, Band members, and all of the CAAT volunteers, I was able to participate in my first volunteer group for a spay and neuter program. My dream came true.
Lax Kw’alaams is located 40 kilometres north of Prince Rupert, not far south of the US-Canada border, near the famous Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Access is via boat, float plane, or ferry from Prince Rupert with a recently paved 17-kilometre road from Tuck Inlet to Lax Kw’alaams to complete the journey.
Participating in my first CAAT volunteer trip was an experience and a half. In a few short days, the team of volunteers was able to complete 94 spays/neuters for dogs, cats, and stray cat populations within the community. To experience, first-hand, the amount of organization needed to transport what was essentially a mobile hospital was mind boggling. The people of Lax Kw’alaams were wonderful. Many took time off from their jobs to volunteer and assist. The owners of the pets were very sweet and open to conversations about medical care, wanting to learn. The children who came were fantastic, curious, and very polite. It was wonderful to see the whole community involved; seeing the school groups doing tours of the clinic, learning and being open to experiences; seeing the community coming together to experience what is involved in veterinary care; seeing people laughing and learning; it was all priceless.
As part of CAAT, we provided service to cats, dogs, and some feral cats, performing spaying and neutering, vaccination, and treatment for intestinal and external parasites. CAAT has an awesome system and very efficient protocols in place for anesthetics, prep stations, supplies, team organization—everything.
Emotionally things were challenging. Just days before the trip I had to say goodbye to my own dog, Rusty, and I feel that this story should be dedicated to him. My mother was fantastic, and also volunteered. So despite us both saying goodbye to our own best friend, and having to leave my other dog at home, working with the CAAT was everything I dreamed of and more. The team was awesome in their support; the volunteers were open, caring, dedicated, giving people. I was able to make friends and laugh during an emotionally challenging time and to get the job done.
Dr. Jamieson was an invaluable addition to our team. Everyone had to fly into Prince Rupert (thanks to Aeroplan for making that a reality) and she was there to greet us and to help us get the rest of the way to Lax Kw'alaams. Thank you to our Aeroplan donors for getting us to where we needed to be. We look forward to getting back to travelling to our communities when COVID19 allows us to.