Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Douglas College program helps rescue, shelter animals

Animal Health Technology student Kimberlee Jones examines Rocky, a rescue dog.
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Rocky, a six-year-old Tibetan terrier cross, sits patiently on a table in the Animal Health Technology (AHT) lab at Douglas College’s Coquitlam Campus while a student feels his belly and checks his heartbeat. Though he suffers from bad teeth, Rocky is looking pretty good these days. His fur is soft and curly and his eyes are clear and calm.

He’s come a long way.

Just over a year and a half ago, Rocky was discovered in an abandoned recycling centre in Taiwan by a passing schoolgirl and her mother. Starving, dehydrated and losing his fur, Rocky was picked up by an animal rescue organization and treated for mange, heartworm and other ailments.

Rocky, as he was found in an abandoned recycling centre in Taiwan.

Three months later, Rocky found himself in Canada. Brought over by the Penny Foundation, an agency that rescues dogs primarily from Mexico, Taiwan and California, Rocky was given a new lease on life. Last month, Rocky came to Douglas College.

For the past two years, the AHT program has been treating rescue dogs from the Penny Foundation, as well as dogs and cats from Lower Mainland shelters since the program’s inception, in 2007. All procedures are carried out exclusively for the benefit of the animals, says Dr. Pauline Chow, a practicing veterinarian and Coordinator of the AHT program.

“Every procedure is justified,” Pauline says. “Every injection we give, every blood sample we take, every x-ray we develop, is for the benefit of the animal.”

What’s more, the care comes free of charge.

Through the AHT program, Rocky has received two physical exams, multiple blood tests, multiple chest x-rays, general anesthesia, intravenous fluids, treatments including antibiotics and pain killers, multiple dental x-rays and extractions, and a teeth cleaning. At a private vet clinic, these procedures would have cost around $1,500, Pauline estimates. At Douglas, they cost nothing.

“The costs of these procedures add up, and I think a foster parent taking care of a dog prior to adoption would find this bill very high. So for us to be able to do this for these animals is a huge benefit. And generally, we do three of these animals a week, so that’s a fair amount of veterinary services we’re providing.”

Pauline also says caring for shelter and rescue animals is an invaluable experience for students.

“When you work with such animals there are a lot of pre-existing problems and diseases. We do our best to help them, but sometimes it’s beyond our abilities. We had a dog that was seizuring. It probably needed an MRI, a very expensive procedure that needed to be done at a specialty centre. We couldn’t do it. There are a lot of these stories, and I think it is an invaluable experience for the students. They learn empathy and compassion, as well as learning about shelter medicine and rescue organizations.”

As for Rocky, he’s found a home. Alison, the sister of his foster mom, moved to a dog-friendly apartment just so she could take him in.

That’s what we call a lucky dog.

For more on the AHT program, visit their web page. To make a donation to the program, see the AHT Pet Trust Fund web page. To find out more about the Penny Foundation or to make a donation, visit their website.