I'm sitting in a rustic yet cozy, 1979 travel trailer with the sound of stormy, Pacific Ocean waves crashing in the background. I was supposed to use this volunteer shift at CARE Network's rural animal shelter to clean a big truck to ready it for important renovations. The weather is too wet and windy for that. It is too wet and windy to do most things. I have a hard time imagining how dogs and cats without indoor homes survive these near-constant winter storms on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Perhaps as a small act of mercy, CARE's manager suggested I use my professional skills, writing, to share how Covid-19 is still impacting animal care in the rural and remote communities of Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds. I jumped at the opportunity. However, what is top of mind for me right now is how different life with dogs and cats is out here, especially in remote communities.
I grew up in Leeds, a small city nestled in the English countryside. Our family had dogs for as long as I can remember. And like most urban dwellers, when Poochie got sick or injured or perhaps needed a shot, we would trot off to the veterinarian a few kilometers away.
As I find myself pondering the great distances between the communities here, some requiring boat travel, and how scarce veterinary services are, I realize how I took our vet access privileges for granted.
I imagine a happy dog running freely in the rugged west coast wilderness and becoming injured; how do they get their injuries treated? And what if that dog has never been in a car or on a boat? Or maybe never even walked on a leash like many in free-roaming communities? Then I start thinking about my dog back home, getting herself in all kinds of mischief that end up in a vet visit. Here, it would not be so easy.
With the logistical challenges that come from living in such a remote place, my mind drifts to the financial side of things. It is only recently that I learned that there are costs involved with vet care (Mom & Dad: that might have been good info to share). I’m sure many others think the same as me. It seems then that there's another barrier to getting pets the help they need. Even if you can find a vet to see your dog or cat, and you can get them there, how much will it cost? Canada’s healthcare system doesn’t cover our furry family members' ailments.
A quick Google about vet access in British Columbia suggests that the number one animal welfare issue is inadequate access to veterinary care (www.pawsforhope.org).
What did James say CARE’s new, 3-tonne truck was going to be renovated for? Spay & neuter surgeries? Is CARE making plans to bring medical treatment directly to the animals? A veterinarian on wheels certainly seems like it would allow greater access to a critical service. It would be a big, expensive project but one that could help so many animals in need.
If you have read this far I want to express my appreciation and thank you for considering my ponderings. Now I think it's about time to give Roscoe the dog a nice head scratch and continue thinking about how we can get this show on the road (pun intended).