While at ACE, we were lucky enough to have accommodations right at the clinic itself, allowing us easy access to all of the in-patients for late night checks and administration of drugs/treatments. It also allows for a sort of 24-hour emergency service to the area, in which owners can bring in animals after the clinic closes for the night in case of emergency.
Unfortunately, after hours also means that we are without the wonderful Egyptian vets who speak fluent Arabic and can translate for us. At this point, my limited knowledge of the Arabic language includes the words for ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘halter’, ‘hay’ and ‘water’. Not exactly enough to generate a full medical history.
For many of these drop-offs however, a full medical history wouldn’t change the outcome of their situations. Many late evening drop offs are donkeys that have literally been worked to deaths door, emaciated and covered in harness and whip wounds. After weeks of struggle, they have finally used the last of their strength and just refuse to get up, no matter what the owners try. So, at the end of the work day, they are loaded into the back of a pickup truck in any way possible, and brought to the clinic as a last ditch attempt to get them back into working shape.
By the time they get to the clinic though, many are just too far gone to try to rehabilitate. The extent of their wounds, the internal damage from chronic malnutrition, the lameness from years spent pulling heavy loads on rough terrain all adds up to a poor prognosis. Being a primarily Muslim country, it is strictly against most of the populations’ beliefs to allow an animal to be euthanized, however in certain cases they will ‘surrender’ the animal to the clinic in exchange for a small amount of cash. Although it seems like a terrible idea to pay these owners for these animals that have been put through so much, it is the only way to end the suffering. Once the animal has been surrendered, we try to show them a little kindness, a handful of alfalfa and some water, a kind hand on their sunken face. After they have munched peacefully, we show them the final act of kindness, a humane death.
Although these drop-offs weigh heavily on us all, we know in our hearts it is the only way to ease their suffering. And of course, the full stable of in-patients and other drop offs keep us busy too. Aside from the downed donkeys, there are always other late night surprises, including an 8 week old Arab foal that had lacerated his forearm and had to be sutured at 2am. Not wanting to wait for the suturing, and needing the mother for work in the morning, the owner left, leaving us with a very unhappy, newly weaned foal to try to keep still for stitches that had to be done by flashlight. After a bit of a struggle, the little colt is all stitched up and settled in with an older donkey jenny to keep him company for the night. Not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing suture job ever done, but functional, and after weeks of emotional turmoil, one just has to be thankful for the little victories.