More news from Dahab

One of the reasons for returning to Dahab last month was to help a Saluki-type dog who had been suffering with complications after fracturing bones in a front leg. The injury occurred a few months ago and a very kind Egyptian lady and her husband had taken him in and cared for him.

Fracture repair in Dahab is not easy. Radiography is basic and apart from casting and resting, other procedures such as pinning, external fixation or plating are non existent We are always reminded during these visits about how fortunate we are back home.
The dog was unable to use the left foreleg which had actually become a hindrance. Seeing him I was reminded of my grandfather who had a paralysed arm after a stroke and frequently complained of the dead weight of this arm.

Karin of Animal Welfare Dahab had asked if we could amputate the leg. After examining the dog we decided that this was indeed the best option. The procedure can take quite a bit of time and without gas anaesthesia or our full arsenal of painkillers we set to work. Lisa did her magic with the drugs available including local anaesthesia and the surgery went well.

Visiting the dog 2 days later was a joy – he was desperate to go for a walk on the beach and looked so much happier and comfortable. It felt really good!

Thank you to all the people who support us back home and also thank you to Karin and the people who help her at Animal Welfare Dahab. Also thanks to Dr Amira for letting us use all her equipment and premises and for assisting us during the operation.

 

 

Karen

Birds

Our house martins have gone.
We don’t know exactly when they left as they tend to disappear quietly. No big deal, they seem to say.
But it’s a huge deal.
When our house martins leave they embark on an astounding journey.
Not much is known about their destination, as they’re not often seen once they reach Africa. One theory is that they fly and feed above the rain-forests, and thus escape detection.

I look at these little guys flitting in and out of those amazing nests under the eaves of our house in the Cotswolds, and I cannot imagine them flying above a tropical rain-forest in Africa. Let alone imagine that long and arduous journey.

How they manage to navigate from here to there (and vice versa) is very complex, or, to put it another way, we don’t really know. It seems they get information from the stars as well as from landmarks, but the earth’s magnetic fields play a role too. We do not understand how – although there is an interesting theory concerning quantum entanglement.
Really.

We have about 10 or 15 nests. Not all of them are in use during the summer, but we usually have 5 or 6 couples nesting, each producing 2 or 3 broods of 2 or 3 chicks.

At night we hear small sounds from the nests close to our bedroom window, tiny chattering noises as they seem to hold long conversations.
It sounds so cosy.
Some nests last for years, and a side-effect of their extremely tidy and clean housekeeping is that we wind up with heaps of bird poo in various places, which they refuse to clean up.
So we have to.
But really, that is such a small price to pay for the pleasure they give us every summer.

Occasionally a young martin, in a failed attempt to enter a nest, flies into our bedroom and hides behind the curtain. When you carefully pick it up, you feel that surprise that everyone feels when they pick up a bird: it’s just feathers and air.
I used to think that their hollow bones make them lighter, but that’s not true. Hollow bones have to be dense, else they would be too brittle, so a bird skeleton weighs about the same as a mammal skeleton of a similar size.

They always return in April. We listen for them, we watch for them, and when we finally spot those familiar fast flying shapes, the little arrows that dive through the sky, we somehow feel better about everything.

The RSPB assigns colours to birds to indicate how endangered they are. Red means globally threatened, amber means generally a decline in population, and green means all is good.
The house martin is on amber, their numbers are declining in Europe.
There are various and complex reasons for this, but one reason is that people don’t like having them around.
Sadly, there are a lot of articles on-line telling you how to get rid of these fabulous birds and the perceived mess they make. Yet many of those articles remind the reader that house martins are protected by law.

Please keep our martins where they belong. They’re called house martins, remember?

Harry

Running for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

For the past 4 years I have run the British 10k in London, supporting the PCRF, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.

In the village where Karen & I live, we lost 2 people, prematurely and unexpectedly, to pancreatic cancer.
Wendy and Ken.
When I run I think of them, I carry them with me.

So this year we’re doing it again.
This coming weekend, on Sunday 15 July. And it’s going to be a scorcher.
Just like last year, my cousin, Marieke, is running with me. This time she brings more support from Holland: her dad, Gerard, who is running his first 10k, and her friend, Willemijn.
So it’ll be four of us running in the red-and-yellow shirt of the PCRF

Last year we raised almost £1,700, a total we should be able to beat this year… with your help. Please support us.
You can donate by clicking this link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/harrykappen
Alternatively, if you are in the area, you can pop into the Practice and fill out the sponsorship form.

You can read more about the PCRF here: http://www.pcrf.org.uk/

Thank you!

25 Years this week

On Sunday morning, before leaving for Egypt, Karen was watching a video about veterinary compassion fatigue.
Already? I thought.
After only 25 years?
Compassion? Yes.
Fatigue? Sometimes, yes.
Compassion fatigue?
I don’t think so.

When we decided to start our own veterinary practice 25 years ago in 1993 we didn’t plan too much detail. But we did know exactly what kind of veterinary practice we wanted. We didn’t bother with a mission statement, as was the fashion then (and perhaps still is), but we had some key ideas: professionalism, friendliness, care, and compassion. And these concepts were to be applied to our patients, their owners as well as our staff.

We scraped together some money and went ahead. Karen was the solitary vet, we employed Debbie and Le-Anne to work as receptionists and I did the management and planning. Debbie, who has incredible business acumen, had found our site on Cogges Hill Road, and was (still is) a good friend. (She now runs the highly successful ‘Shake Shop’ in Witney – best ice creams and shakes in the area. Debbie is not paying me to say this. No, she’s really not!)
The practice consisted of a front desk, a solitary consulting room, a corridor with some cages and an operating theatre. Upstairs lived some people.

Over time the practice grew considerably, and we built 2 extensions. We also took over the flat upstairs.
And now there are 20 of us.

Throughout these past 25 years we stuck to those initial concepts, that commitment. It permeates throughout the practice, it is taken on board by every member of staff, and it continues to serve us well. Our clients notice this.
When Jessica posted news of our 25th anniversary on our Facebook page a few days ago, the response was overwhelming. It made us proud to be a part of this continuing story.

Oh yes, we all went out for a meal to celebrate, and here are some pictures:

Harry

Laika

This year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where all the latest electronic gadgets are introduced to the world, a new ‘canine companion’ was demonstrated. It doesn’t look like much, really, just a small plastic barrel, but it contains a camera, a microphone, and it can give treats to your pet. It is also chew-proof, talks to your pet and you can either control it using an app, or let it run by itself. It also contains artificial intelligence and gets to know your dog and its habits, then works at keeping her entertained.

It’s a snip at £220, and I’m sure the manufacturers won’t mind if I include a picture and a link for further information:

This link will tell you more:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/laika-an-interactive-companion-for-you-your-dog-dogs-robot#/

So why do I mention this toy? I’m not receiving any commission, I can assure you. I’m not recommending you buy it either. What really drew my attention to the article was the name of the toy: Laïka
I don’t know why there are 2 dots on the i, but maybe it has to do with the original name in Russian: Лайка

I was 9 years old when the Russians shot Laika into space. My heart went with her. Naively, I expected her to land a week later, tail wagging as she ran across some Russian field into the arms of her Cossack owner. But Laika died in space and my heart fell to earth and was crushed.

The facts of her death took a while to emerge – 45 years, to be exact. I won’t go into the unpleasant details, but Laika died within hours of take-off, and she was never expected to survive the journey into space.

This is Laika:

Laika didn’t have an owner to whom she could run, she was a Moscow street dog, and Moscow street dogs are tough, they survive extreme temperatures and withstand hunger. Laika was small, hence lightweight, and she was a calm dog. The ideal candidate.
Lucky Laika.

Should you want to read more details about Laika, wiki has a really good article about her:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laika

In 2008 the Russians unveiled a statue of Laika, finally giving her some recognition and ensuring that her place in the history of space exploration would not be forgotten.

It is believed that Laika was 3 years old when she died.
She’ll always remain my favourite space traveller.

Harry

By the way, if you want to read a lovely account of a meeting between Atlas (carrying Earth) and Laika (circling Earth), read ‘Weight’, by Jeanette Winterson. Highly recommended.

Back from the Caribbean

I am back from the Caribbean, re-adjusting to the cold, while Cabayo, the dog mentioned in the previous post, is still at the clinic in Carriacou. And making great progress.

Talya, his owner, came to visit him one Saturday morning while I was still there and spent some time with her much loved dog. When she left, Cabayo really got quite agitated and tried to climb over the fence in an attempt to follow her. Thankfully he was soon back to his normal, cheerful self and the other dogs seemed to take his mind off his beloved owner.

Cabayo’s degloving injury is healing slowly but surely. The skin on his paw has basically all regrown and we have been able to close the wound more and more every few days.

The biggest problem is the carpal joint, where the joint capsule was damaged during the accident. Joint capsules don’t tend to heal easily, so he will most likely retain a slight limp .The alternative would have been to amputate his leg – so-called “tripods” are not popular in the Caribbean, so on balance, a limp is not a bad result.

Doris

 

The love of dogs

Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?’
This was an advert placed by a medical research charity. But there were 2 versions.
One of the adverts showed Harrison to be a human, the other showed him to be dog.
Guess which advert got the better response?
Yes.

It made me think of this National Lampoon cover from 1973:
What a fabulous dog! But, even though this is obviously a joke, the photo is really powerful and it does elicit an emotional response.

The above mentioned research, done by Harrison’s Fund, reveals that people are more distressed about reports of pain inflicted on dogs than they are about the same reports about adult human beings. There is however an equal response for puppies, adult dogs and human babies.

I have often suspected that in many cases people care more about their dogs than about their fellow human beings, including (quite often) their spouse.
And it’s far from rare to hear someone say that they love their dog more than anyone else, including (quite often) their spouse…

We have invited dogs into our homes, and subsequently into our families. And perhaps, in many cases, many of us feel genuine love for our dogs.
(Some people even claim to love their cats, but that’s based on the mistake that a voluntary submission to the demands our arrogant feline friends constitutes love.)
It raises the question whether or not our love is reciprocated.
Do our dogs love us?
I don’t think so.

Love is very complicated. Dogs, generally, are not.
How complicated is love?
Well, I think we’ve all attended that amazing wedding where the bride and groom, deeply in love, swear eternal love for one another. Then 5 or 10 years down the line they’re in court fighting a bitter battle, and they cannot stand the sight of each other. Love is complicated, and it can change to hate. Sometimes we get cross with our dogs, irritated, but we don’t get to hate them. And they never, ever hate us. Their relationship with us is uncomplicated. Which is why I would hesitate to call it love.

The research I mentioned above reaches 2 conclusions.
One I have alluded to, namely that we see dogs (and cats, and other pets) as part of the family.
The second conclusion is that the empathy we show towards our dogs has to do with their helplessness. Which is why we respond that way to babies too.
I don’t entirely agree with that – after all, as we keep reminding everyone we know, dogs have teeth. Lots of teeth. Not entirely helpless then. But they don’t understand why someone would point a gun to their head. In most cases they don’t know what a gun can do. And they aren’t scared to die, because they don’t know that they’re going to die. It’s a state blessed ignorance. It is innocence.
Which I believe to be the crux of the matter. Like babies, dogs are innocent. And we protect the innocent, it’s a completely natural reaction. And there’s an innocence to dogs when they play, run, go crazy and even when they stubbornly refuse to do what you want them to do. You want to be cross, but then they look at you, wag their tail, and all is forgiven.

I love our dogs, I really do. And our dogs are good, they are pretty faithful (unless someone else offers them a treat), and they are probably devoted to us. It all adds up to an incredible relationship, even if my love is not properly understood, and hence not reciprocated.

Harry

This article uses some information from ‘Dogs take the lead when it comes to winning human empathy’, printed in the Times on 1 November 2017.