Monday, June 15, 2015

TNR - Regreso

(On-the-spot news from Susana Hurlich, the Spanky Project’s coordinator in Cuba)

On Sunday, June 7th, 2015 we held the first of two small sterilization campaigns for the cat colony coming under the care of two wonderful ceramicists who live and work on Mercaderes Street in Habana Vieja, Amelia Carballo and her husband Ángel Norniella. 
The cat colony, who have made two tiny parks - Rumiñahui and nearby Simón Bolivar – their home, come daily to the front entrance of Amelia and Ángel’s expo-venta (exhibit-sell) studio-gallery – known as Terracota 4 and located right across the street from Simón Bolivar - for their meals.

Amelia's and Ángel's ceramics workshop on Mercaderes Street, Habana Vieja

Two years ago, Amelia and Ángel’s entire cat colony was sterilized in what was Cuba’s first Trap-Neuter-Release campaign - organized by the Spanky Project in collaboration with our sister organization, Animal Balance - in which some 500 cats were sterilized in four of Havana’s municipalities. Amelia and Ángel were key of our several partners in Habana Vieja. However, during the past two years, new cats have come into their area and though some of the original group remain, their colony now has a number of new members.

Definitely time for a small, targeted mini-sterilization campaign.

Because they live a distance from the veterinary clinic in Habana Vieja and transporting the cats was a problem, it was decided to hold the mini-campaign in Amelia and Ángel’s home which has good conditions for a “holding and recuperation area” for the cats, an area for surgery and adequate water and light.

With backing from the provincial and national level of the Sociedad de Clínica y Cirugía Veterinaria (Society for Veterinary Diagnosis and Surgery), we had a wonderful team! Three veterinarians: Leyssan Cepero, Fernando Gispert and Yanaisy “Nana” Pino. Two third-year veterinary students who, as part of their practical training, frequently assist Nana and Leyssan: Ernesto Carlos Hernández and Yoani Alfonso. And a support team consisting of Amelia (helping with post-operative animal care), Ángel and María (Amelia’s sister) providing coffee, fruit juice, soft drinks and sandwiches, and me (coordinating the order of surgeries, numbering the cages and taking lots and lots of pictures!)
The team: (left to right): María, Fernando, Susana, Leyssan, Nana, Ernesto, Amelia & Yoani.

(Ángel is behind the camera!)

The day before the surgeries – Saturday - Amelia organized trapping the cats, using our special cat traps. Ángel, María and a few others helped. They already had four cat traps at their home, Susana brought two from home, Leyssan brought one from his work site (Quinta de los Molinos, an “educational park” in the middle of the city that comes under the Historian’s Office), and even Eusebio Leal, Historian of Havana, provided the Spanky Project cat trap that’s on extended loan for his use, making for a total of eight traps. We also brought ten “recuperation cages” to Amelia and Ángel’s home, loaned by Quinta de los Molinos and which are actually large cages used for their annual pigeon (rock dove) exhibitions.
Amelia with trapped cats before surgery begins.

 Ernesto with recuperation cages.

The plan was to sterilize ten cats each Sunday. Amelia and Ángel had captured nine: eight females and one male, a couple of whom were quite friendly and didn’t need to be trapped. As soon as they were in their respective cages or traps, the trap was covered with a light cloth (to make it somewhat dark and cave-like so that the cat would feel safer and less exposed, as seen above) and was brought to Amelia and Ángel’s apartment, located very close to Rumiñahui.

On Sunday, everyone arrived at Amelia and Ángel’s home on time – 8:30am. We organized the surgical table, a large dining room table with room for two surgical areas on either end. We covered it with special plastic and surgical cloths. Leyssan and Nana arranged all the medications, most of which Leyssan and Susana had dosed out the previous week. Fernando provided absorbable sutures and Leyssan provided injectable vitamins.
Nana, Fernando and Leyssan talking about medications.
 Leyssan preparing his surgical instruments while Ernesto looks on.

Nana explaining her anaesthetic protocol to Fernando

Then the surgeries began. Leyssan worked at one end of the table with assistance from Yoani and Fernando worked at the other end of the table with assistance from Ernesto. As third year veterinary students, they’ve already had experience suturing so in a number of cases, they did the final “sewing up.” And under the watchful and instructive eyes of both Fernando and Leyssan, Ernesto carried out the final sterilization with flying colours!
Nana administering eye lubricant just before surgery.

The surgical teams: Fernando and Ernesto. Leyssan and Yoani, who is putting in the final stitches under Leyssan’s watchful eye.

Nana, who has an incredible hand and experienced instinct with just how much sedation and anaesthetic to use, had the responsibility of sedating the cats and administering the anaesthetic. The cats were prepared two by two, with Ernesto, Yoani and even Amelia wearing a heavy work glove to hold the cat in place inside the cage while Nana administered the sedative. Once sedated, they were brought to the prep table where they were shaved for surgery – under the belly towards the back for Leyssan and on the right flank for Fernando. (Either method is acceptable in the hands of a good vet!) Since all the cats were colony cats, they got the internationally recognized mark indicating they’ve been neutered: the tip of their left ear is cut off (while under anaesthetic, of course!).
 Yoani restraining a colony cat while Nana injects sedative.

 Amelia ready to assist Nana to sedate a colony cat.

Two of the females were in fairly advanced stages of pregnancy. Another female is still occasionally nursing her already weaned kittens (she received a flank sterilization so that she could still nurse without discomfort), and as for the male, well, he must have been greatly disillusioned when he realized that rather than being in kitty heaven with eight females, he was about to lose it all!
 Ernesto shaving the surgical area of a sedated cat.

Ernesto sterilizing a cat under Fernando’s instructive eye & Amelia’s watchful gaze.

After surgery, all the cats received injections of an analgesic (and some received a local block before surgery), a 72-hour antibiotic, complex B and B12 vitamins and ivermectin (anti-parasitic). Each cat had her (or his) little report indicating exactly how much of what medication had been administered. No claws were trimmed – something that is usually done when domestic cats are sterilized – although they were checked to make sure there were no problems (claws growing into pads, seriously broken claws, etc.) that needed attention. However, they need their claws sharp and untrimmed since they’re colony cats who also hunt.

 Nana administering post-operative antibiotic, analgesic, vitamins & anti-parasitic.

Amelia and Ángel placing the male cat into his recuperation cage following surgery.

The male cat – waking up – half an hour later.

Leyssan also did a detailed calculation – based on the precise notes that Nana had made for each cat – and concluded that we still had enough medication to sterilize between fifteen and eighteen cats the next Sunday. Amelia and Ángel were thrilled as they still have a number of their own colony that needs to be neutered. Amelia also plans to include some “neighbouring cats” of other colony caretakers in the area.
Leyssan calculating the remaining medications.

Three satisfied vets: Fernando, Leyssan and Nana.

The decision was to keep all the cats in their cages overnight and, in the case of the two who were pregnant, to keep them for two nights to ensure there were no complications. The plan was for Amelia to offer a broth with soft fish (or whatever) towards the end of the day, along with water, in case they wanted to eat or drink. (Most of them did…)
Yoani, Ernesto and Amelia checking the patients.
Once we were all assured that the cats were coming out of the anaesthetic well and showing excellent vital signs, we cleaned up everything. Ángel and María brought out the snack – delicious mango juice, simple sandwiches etc. Fernando made a very nice statement thanking everyone for their good work and willingness to give up a Sunday to help our beloved cats. Susana, in the name of the Spanky Project, presented Ernesto and Yoani with their very own digital thermometer. They were thrilled, as you can see from Ernesto’s expression below, as it was their very first such thermometer!
A happy Ernesto with his very first professional digital veterinarian thermometer.
And then a group of us went to the nearby Museo de Chocolate. Not everyone went: Fernando wanted to spend part of the day – his only day off during his usually busy work week – with his family. Amelia didn’t want to leave her precious charges alone. Ángel wanted to get back to the ceramics studio, and María stayed with Amelia. But for Leyssan, Nana, Ernesto, Yoani and Susana, we thoroughly enjoyed our cold chocolate and delicious selection of chocolates, courtesy of the Spanky Project.

Left to right: Yoani, Ernesto, Leyssan and Nana enjoying cold chocolate and a box of delicious sweets.
(Susana is behind the camera!)
I called Amelia towards the end of the day Sunday. All cats were doing well and some had asked for food. When Amelia called me Monday late morning, the male and several of the females had just been released. One of the females was shivering in her cage and I suggested she put warm water into a little water bottle, wrap it in a bit of cloth, and place one along her back and the other along her belly to warm her up. It worked. Later Monday other cats were released and two had been picked up by a neighbouring protector. By Tuesday late morning, all cats were well, liberated and – says Amelia – clearly feeling well.
Two-month-old kittens saved by Amelia and Ángel as their mother, one of the cats sterilized today, had no milk for them. They were seven in all; two already have new homes!

If you’d like to help our work…

…although the entry of medications into Cuba - such as anaesthetics - is tightly controlled, there are a number of disposable supplies that are extremely useful for sterilization campaigns for cats. Here’s a little list of things that are in short supply here and that can be brought into the country by visitors without the need for customs authorization:
  • Syringes, 1 mL (1 cc), sizes 27G x ½”, 25G x 5/8” and especially 23G or 22G x ½”
  • Absorbable sutures (both internal and external), sizes 2.0 and 3.0
  • Surgical gloves, size 6.5, 7 and 7.5 (& some 8) (Note: surgical, not examination)
  • Ink for tattoo machines (Ketchum Animal Tattoo Ink)
Contact us for more ways to help Cubans help their animals.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

CLINVET - First Edition

The Spanky Project would like to send our most heartfelt congratulations to Dr.Fernando Gispert, and all involved, in the publishing of the inaugural edition of CLINVET.

Here's a bit of background from Susana Hurlich Spanky Project’s Coordinator of Programs in Havana.
“Clinvet is an idea Fernan has had for a number of years but he didn't have the time to follow up and make it a reality nor did he have the authorization to do it. But a year ago, CCVC (national) authorized the magazine - and only now has Fernan been able to produce and issue the first edition.

He wanted to put it up on the website of Medicina Veterinaria de Desastres (Veterinary Medicine for Disasters), which comes under the CCVC, but the CCVC couldn't do this as they said they have very little MB to put something as large as Clinvet up. They - CCVC - said they could do it as a link but they're still investigating this and it hasn't yet been done.”

In the first edition we are elated that Spanky Project initiatives get four mentions.
All are related to Dr.Hester Massop’s month long collaboration with Cubans and their animals.

We hope you enjoy the read and we look forward to Hester’s follow up.



Efectuado conferencia de Herrería Veterinaria en Quinta de los Molinos 

Sept. 2- Una conferencia, acerca de Herrería Veterinaria, impartió la doctora británica Hester Massot en la emblemática Quinta de los Molinos sita en Avenida de Carlos III e Infanta. La Dra. Massot, invitada por Spanky Project Organization Canada, expuso a un grupo de profesionales cubanos la importancia del oficio de herrero que ha devenido ciencia al contar con la sabiduría del albéitar en función de la salud del pie equino. 
La actividad forma parte de III Encuentro Veterinario Canadá-Cuba que coordina, desde 2008, Spanky Project Organization Canada con el Consejo Científico Veterinario de La Habana, contribuyendo también al trabajo veterinario comunitario y la vinculación con universidades cubanas.
Blacksmithing Veterinary Conference at Quinta de los Molinos
Sept. 2- A conference about Blacksmithing / Veterinary Medicine was held at Quinta de los Molinos, located at Avenida de Carlos III and Infanta, by Dr. Hester Massop from Britian.
Dr. Massot, invited by Spanky Project Organization Canada, spoke to a group of Cuban professionals on the importance of the trade of the blacksmith who with the science and wisdom of the veterinarian the health of the equine foot depends.
The activity is part of III Encuentro Veterinario Canadá-Cuba, Spanky Project Organization Canada with the Scientific Veterinary Council of La Habana, with contributiion to Community veterinary work and links with Cuban universities.

Realizada clase práctica de Herrería Veterinaria en La Habana Vieja 
Sept. 3- Como parte del III Encuentro Veterinario Spanky Project Organization- Cuba la Dra. Hester Massot, especialista en Herrería Veterinaria, realizó este 3 de septiembre una clase práctica de Herrería Veterinaria en los predios de la Cochera Equina sita en Tallapiedra, municipio Habana Vieja. El encuentro, que contó con la presencia de técnicos, médicos y herreros de La Habana, Mayabeque y la hermana provincia de Pinar del Río, sirvió para enfatizar en la defensa del Bienestar Animal en los equinos, así como preparar mejor a los profesionales más cercanos a los animales-nuestros veterinarios.

Blacksmithing practical workshop in Old Havana
Sept. 3. As part of the III Encuentro Veterinario . Spanky Project Organization Dr. Hester Massop, blacksmith veterinary specialist, conducted on September 2 a practical class of blacksmith veterinary was held. Located in the premises of the equine garage Tallapiedra, Habana Vieja municipality.

The meeting, atteneded by technicians, doctors and blacksmiths of Havana, Mayabeque and sister province of Pinar del Río, served to emphasize the defense of the equine Animal welfare, as well as to better prepare professionals closest to animals-our vets.

Entrenamiento en Equinoatría

Sept. 13- Un entrenamiento en Reflexología y Masoterapia fue impartido a propietarios y cocheros por parte de la Dra. Hester Massot, Especialista en Herrería Veterinaria del Reino Unido. 
La actividad se efectuó en la Cochera de Tallapiedra, en la Habana Vieja, y tuvo como objetivo ilustrar a los cocheros en evidenciar Bienestar Animal a sus animales. 
La Dra. Massot, quien incursiona con gusto en las terapias naturistas, manifestó que estas maniobras son inocuas, sencillas, solo toma unos minutos y brinda un gran beneficio a la salud del caballo, lo que se traduce en mejor economía para el propietario ya que le ahorra muchos gastos en medicinas ya que estas técnicas son consideradas como medicina preventiva. 
Este entrenamiento forma parte del III Encuentro Spanky Project- Cuba

Training in Therapy for Equines 

Sept. 13. A training in reflexology and massage therapy was given to owners and Coachmen by the Dr. Hester Massot, specialist in Blacksmithing veterinary medicine in the United Kingdom.

The activity took place in the garage of Tallapiedra, in Old Havana, and the aim was to illustrate to the Coachmen the benefits of animal welfare to their animals.

Dr. Massot, who ventures warmly in naturopathic therapies, stated that these manoeuvres are simple, harmless, only takes a few minutes and provides a great benefit to the health of the horse, which translates into better economy for the owner since it saves you many drug costs since these techniques are considered as preventive medicine.
This training is part of the III Encuentro Spanky Project - Cuba. 

Cuarta desparasitación equina gratruita 

Sept. 28- Con la presencia de Spanky Project Organization, quien realizó la donación de productos antiparasitarios para equinos, fue realizada la IV desparasitación equina en la zona de Tallapiedra del municipio Habana Vieja. 
Este trabajo, que forma parte del III Encuentro Veterinario Spanky Projetc- Cuba, contribuye a disminuir los riesgos y vulnerabilidades sanitarias en áreas del Centro Histórico, donde trabajan estos animales. 
Médicos y directivos veterinarios, junto a los patrocinadores, trabajaron en función de librar de strongílidos, parascaris y strongyloides a 68 caballos y ponies que transportan turistas e infantes en el Centro Histórico.

Fourth Free Desparasitization of Equines 
Sept. 28. With the presence of Spanky Project Organization, who made the donation of antiparasitic products for horses, was performed the IV equine worming Tallapiedra for the Habana Vieja municipal area.

This work, which is part of the III Encuentro Spanky Project - Cuba, contributes to reducing the risks and health vulnerabilities in areas of the historic centre, staffed by these animals.

Doctors, veterinarian directors, along with the sponsors, worked on the function freeing from strongilidos, parascaris and strongyloides 68 horses and ponies that carry tourists and infants in the historic centre.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ayudame!!! Help Me!!!

This little guy is hanging around Parque Central in Havana, Cuba.
We need to find a foster home in Havana now.
Email me if you can help.
Contact your friends or family in Havana.
Veterinary care and food costs will be covered.
He just needs a safe place and some love.
We will pluck him from the street and deliver.

I have nicknamed him....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dispatches From Havana

Here is the first in a series of reports directly from Havana.
Susana Hurlich is Spanky Project's Coordinator of Projects.

Susana reporting from the field…

Report #1 of our mini-sterilization campaign of mini-dogs at Quinta de los Molinos

Our mini-sterilization campaign for mini (or small) dogs began at Quinta de los Molinos on Sunday, November 2nd. With the Spanky Project providing all the essential medications and disposable supplies, our wonderful collaborating veterinarian at Quinta – Dr. Leyssan Cepero Fiallo, DMV – was the operating surgeon. Leyssan is also the veterinarian for the Historian’s Office of Havana. Here he is at his microscope that we provided to Quinta last year:

He was assisted by his wife, Dr. Yanaisy (Nana) Pino Quintana, who did the anaesthetic and post-operative care. Nana, who actually specializes in birds, is the veterinarian at the nearby Asociación Ornitológica de Cuba (Cuban Ornithological Association). Below you can meet Nana holding a young bird in her care:

The third member of the team was Yoany Alfonso, a second year veterinarian student at the Veterinarian Faculty of the Universidad Agraria de la Habana. Because this campaign will be going at a slow pace – two or three animals each Sunday for the next five or six weeks – it provides an excellent opportunity for the two young vet students (the other is Ernesto, a third year student), who occasionally assist Leyssan, to have some hands-on practice. Not, however, with the surgery itself, which doesn’t begin until their fifth (last) year of studies. Here’s an image of Yoany (green shirt) and Leyssan (blue shirt) in the small Quinta lab, where the surgeries are taking place.

 However, at today’s campaign, instead of sterilizing small dogs, we sterilized two small cats! The reason is that October 27th is Día del Gato Cubano (Cuban Cat Day), and in honour of this special day, we decided to kick off our campaign sterilizing two cats!

Before I tell you about the two cats, let me tell you a little bit about Día del Gato Cubano. The celebration of this day is thanks to the Asociación Cubana de Aficionados a los Gatos (ACAG, or Cuban Cat Fanciers Association, of which I’m a member thanks to the four kitties with whom I share my life), which chose this day to pay homage to cats, as it was on October 27, 1991 that ACAG was founded. With more than twenty years of existence, this organization is dedicated, above all, to the conservation and protection of felines. Since 1992, ACAG members and Cuban cat lovers in general celebrate this day with various activities, such as children’s art programs and exhibitions dealing with the theme of cats. Cuba isn’t the only country in the world that has a special day for cats. Similar days exist in Italy (February 17), Poland (February 19), Argentina (February 20), Russia (March 1), Great Britain (August 8), the US (October 29) and Belgium (the second Sunday in May).

OK, now back to the campaign – and our two symbolic but very real cats! And here they are – in Leyssan’s arms before surgery. The yellow tabby is called Yelow (one l as two ll’s, in Spanish, is pronounced like a “ye” sound) and the black and white kitty is called Musita.

And they have an interesting story to tell. Musita and Yelow live at Conde de Villanueva, a fairly upscale hostel in Habana Vieja. Like many hotels, restaurants and museums in Habana Vieja, workers at this hotel have “adopted” abandoned dogs and cats. In the case of Conde de Villanueva, they have two cats (Yelow and Musita) and three dogs. The director and vice-director (Lili) – a married couple who love animals – have decided that the hotel can’t support any more than these five animals, and wanted the two cats sterilized. These two cats, who are now about eight months old – and hence ready to reproduce! – were taken in by Lili when they were just tiny abandoned kittens. They are fed regularly with (delicious) scraps from the kitchen. Because their primary caretakers had to work the day of the surgeries, they were brought to Quinta the evening before where Leyssan kept them in a large cage provided by the Spanky Project.

The surgeries went very well and both kitties received a tattoo in their left ear, which is the symbol used by Quinta for dogs and cats sterilized on their premises. The tattoo is SP for the Spanky Project, which was their creation and something we only learned about very recently! The kitties recovered quickly and returned to their home Sunday afternoon.

Next, two small dogs are scheduled to be sterilized, both of whom are in early stages of pregnancy. Leyssan calls the owners beforehand and has a small waiting list readily at hand…