A diary about one of the TNR projects by Marlies Lang, volunteer

Those that know me will know that I LOVE animals, especially dogs. Last year when Sea Dancer Dive Centre, Dahab’s dog Skanky got poisoned and died it was a very upsetting time. We’d know and loved her for most of her life, and we estimated her to be around 9 years old. A dog of that age in any western country is good going, but for a dog here in Sinai is quite unheard of! So myself and the dive centre manager Steve started looking into what could be done to help the local dogs. Already set up in Dahab is a charity organisation called Animal Welfare Dahab (AWD). We already knew they had a Trap, Neuter and Release scheme in place and so approached them to see what more we could do – already we had one of their collection boxes at the dive centre.

A few months later, myself and my boyfriend had a personal loss, when one of our dogs Frank also fell prey to the poison being laid down. This helped us ramp up a course of action, any course of action! Something drastic needed doing!!

A friend of Adam’s had been to Dahab several occasions diving and conveniently worked in a vets practice back in England. She’d previously mentioned about wanting to come to Dahab with her boss Karen and doing some kind of charity work for the local animals. Through Facebook, we’d contacted Lisa, so on her diving holiday with Sea Dancer in October 2013 we put her in contact with Jose from AWD. From that meeting Lisa then went back and approached her boss Karen from Cogges Veterinary Surgery, which led to the both of them coming to Dahab for a full-on 2 weeks neutering as many cats and dogs as they could fit in. You can also follow their blog here.

I haven’t been involved with all the pre-planning and setting everything up, that has all been been done by Karin and Jose from Animal Welfare Dahab, I’d been busy preparing and running the December IDC. Since then, I’ve had more and more contact with AWD helping with logistics to make this project happen successfully. After a few headaches of finding a suitable venue, arranging aftercare for the dogs that needed it, and more fundraising all was ready, we just awaited the arrival of Karen and Lisa.

Day one went quite smoothly, Karen and Lisa donated and brought a lot of supplies with them. End of day 1 they managed to neutered 7 cats and 5 dogs, the target for the whole project was set at 50 dogs, 50 cats.

Karen and Lisa needed some time to get used to the anesthetics used here, but after the first two dogs things went smoothly. Amal, an Egyptian Veterinary student, has joined us to get some practical knowledge. We also had our Dahab vet Dr Amira, join on a few occasions to watch how operations are performed in England.

Day 2 saw 9 cats, 6 dogs neutered.
Day 3 saw 8 cats, 7 dogs neutered.

Day 4 was planned to be a workshop day. Dahab is getting bigger and bigger each year, and Amira is the only vet in town, so the planned workshop was to teach animal lovers and owners how to effectively administer injections and put canulas in. This was open to everyone, and had a great turnout.

Day 5 and back to the project and task in hand of neutering, and what a day!! So much happened, we had a random puppy turn up, which straight away we managed to find a forever home with one of my upcoming IDC candidates Catherine, thank you, you and your Fiance are stars! An attempt was made to catch some of the not so easy to catch dogs in Assala. With the help of 2 Bedouin boys one shy female was caught and 2 friendly males. The cats though kept rolling in, too much to our liking even. At 4 pm a new, unexpected batch came in from one of the camps, so we ended the day with a grand total of 15 cats, 8 dogs. In addition, a cats tooth was pulled, a finger treated.

Day 6 was the day of the difficult cases and also the day to try and neuter some of the wild dogs from the Wadis, oh there was drama in the clinic on this day! So compared with the previous day the numbers decreased drastically, but still a very productive day in which we neutered 5 cats and 7 dogs.

Day 7, a quiet day at the clinic to close off the first week. Success in finally catching a dog nicknamed ‘Big Tits’ from the beach, renowed for having several litters of puppies, also taking 2 small puppies that she had adopted to keep her company during the aftercare.

The total count at the end of this week:
Cats: 30 female and 18 male = 48
Dogs: 14 female and 27 male = 41

It should be noted, the target set at the start of the project was 50 cats, 50 dogs, and already after the first 7 days the vets have nearly met that target, I’d say that was very, very good going, Karen and Lisa are amazing. Lets hope next week is just as successful!

Finally a big thank you goes to all the locals, and local businesses that have made food donations, both at lunchtime and for the vets in the evening.

So the first day of week two started off with a tally of 3 cats and 5 dogs. The animals treated were from the wadis making them considerably more wild and feral than the other animals that had been treated so far. Karen, the vet thought that as the dogs were heavy tic-infested it caused additional inflammation inside them, making the operations go much slower.

One of the spayed cats, a cat from Ralph’s German Bakery at the Lighthouse, nicknamed Broken Leg also had a hernia repair, and then performed a leg amputation-triple operation! This cat who has suffered for months, with a lame leg, will now hopefully be a lot more comfortable.

The Cogges team were ill-equipped to perform an amputation, their focus being on neutering, so, in typical Dahab fashion, time for some innovation. A sterilised set of nail clippers proved more than adequate. Undoubtedly the three-legged cat will receive lots of sympathy and pastry at Ralph’s, and looks like she will now have a new name … we thought Tripod!

As we’d been so successful on the first week, we started to notice that supplies were running low, which limits how much the vets could do. We occasionally received some supplies, but this restricted the vets to working on an op-by-op basis to see what we can do. The AWD team and myself were trying to source supplies from anywhere we could think of … .

The following morning we’d planned for consultations- but the day began by checking up on the Ralph’s Bakery cat-Tripod who underwent a triple operation the previous day: leg amputation, hernia removal and spay. It was fantastic to see her doing so well – she was very lively and keen to learn to walk on 3 legs. Generally, both cats and dogs cope amazingly well with the loss of a limb – they just get on with it.

By the end of the day a total of 17 animals were seen, some cases were fairly simple, like a mysteriously vomiting cat, where the problem turned out to be a hairball. Others were more complex, like Bobby, a dog who was almost incapable of walking. After a full reflex and spinal check, the diagnoses: a long-standing neck injury which affects most of his body. To fix this problem would have been very complex and expensive, even at home. Bobby seems quite happy, so he was given anti-inflammatory pills to help ease the problem. Little else can be done.

In addition to the above, we did another male and female cat neuter, while having scheduled the removal of a mass for the following day. The total operations now an impressive 111.

The afternoon was spent with Karen and Lisa exploring Bannerfish Bay (snorkeling) right out the front of Sea Dancer Dive Center, while Chris was offered a chance to try sidemount diving with Adam. As can be expected, all of the vet team saw a huge variety of sea-life and had a great afternoon.

Myself and Adam hosted a barbeque for all of the AWD/TNR team. Thankfully no-one was sick the following day ….

Day 10′s tally for the day: 5 dogs, 6 cats. In addition, a concerned local brought in his heavily pregnant Bulldog Sushi, who un-beknown to him was actually in labour and then proceeded to give birth.
Total number of operations for the project was now at 122, already way over our target of 100. As such, it meant that for the final few days the vets needed to carefully control the amount of medication administered to each animal. This is a difficult task as it is hard to predict how much sedative each patient will require.

We were also paid an impromptu visit by 7 members of Dahab city council, and although communication was limited, they wanted to see the project in action. Apparently they expected to see 20 vets at work… Karen replied: “Nope, just me!”. They were due to return the following day accompanied by the mayor, to see more.

Friday, day 11 was the final opportunity to do some operations. It was difficult to work out the most efficient way of making the drugs last, but Karen and Lisa succeeded to work all the way down to the very last millilitre of anaesthetic drug, and so achieved the maximum possible result before packing up the clinic. The ops went smoothly, with Lisa keeping a close eye on drug supplies.

Total for the day: 2 dogs, 4 cats. In addition, an operation to remove a mass from a dog that had been brought in during the consults. So this left us with a grand total of 128 neutered animals during 10 days of ops, easily beating our target of 100.

Friday began with Karen taking the plunge with a PADI Discover Scuba Dive with myself, in which Lisa, an already experienced diver, tagged along, along with Adam to get photos and video of the occasion. Karen at the start of the project was adamant that she could not dive as she has asthma, but after taking her to one of our excellent dive physicians Dr Heikal and getting clearance to dive, she appears to be a natural, clocking up a whopping 72-minutes for her first ever dive. What a dive, as well!!! Turtle, seahorses, octopus, to name but a few of the many delights we have here in Dahab.

For our final evening in Dahab, Karin invited all of the volunteers up to her incredible house up in a wadi outside the town for a barbeque. We enjoyed a beautiful evening and lovely food cooked by Karin and her husband. The starry sky was amazing, and, as the temperature began to drop, the team enjoyed a warm bonfire.

Saturday was clean-up day. Our makeshift clinic was returned to its original state, which didn’t take long, as we all worked together to move out furniture, scrub walls and floors, so we could eventually close the gate for the last time.

Everyone feels the financial squeeze, due to the current economic situation, but we can guarantee you that if you can spare anything at all for the Animal Welfare Dahab, it will ALL be used to the benefit of local animals here in Dahab. Not a single penny goes to administration. To donate, please use one of the options described here.

With so few tourists in restaurants, there are no scraps for the dogs. Many locals suffer from a vastly reduced income and have stopped feeding the street-dogs. This has lowered the number of dogs in the town, but as they look elsewhere for sustenance, they create other problems, and this has led to a spate of poisonings. We hope that this TNR campaign will help control and eventually reduce the population numbers in the town, thus giving the remaining animals an easier life. As we say in Arabic, Inshallah!!!

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