Another week in Zanzibar
  • Catharina Hjorth

Another week in Zanzibar


Another week at the Zanzibar veterinary clinic got off to a quiet start. Each day starts with cleaning of the kennels and the cattery. I won’t lie, it's nothing glamorous, but at least it gives you plenty of opportunity to cuddle and say hello to all the sweet dogs and cats at the clinic - but beware, some of the cats are less friendly, as we quickly found out after a few scratches. Apparently street cats aren't fond of being petted, who would have guessed.

But besides that there was plenty of the dogs, which, albeit not particularly academically relevant, was just as important, as some these dogs have rarely seen love and care from humans.

Let me introduce Lucky, Honey, Tuk and the gang.

Lucky and Honey spend the vast majority of their time outside the clinic where they function as guard dogs, and company for the volunteers. Though they both had a bark that could make most people run, they were some of the fussiest dogs I have ever met - especially if you had a treat on you!

Tuk was my little sweetheart. A former pet, he was left on the beach with no food or water, and unused to hunting for himself, it led to some unfortunate incidences with people who tried to get close to him - as well as with our vet and his assistant, who had to drive home from the beach, with a loose Tuk in the car, who was more than a little, lets say upset, about the situation. Also, as we found out quickly, he was the greatest escape artist since Houdini. Put in a kennel with wooden boards, he quickly bit his way through them, managed to get through a 3" wide gap in the fence and get out. Luckily he did not get far, and we managed to get him back in - after running around in complete darkness to find a mostly black dog. That's why I named him Tuk-tuk, for being small and incredibly fast. It wasn't the last time he got out, as I said, he was almost as smart as us, and a whole lot faster. Exactly why I fell for him immediately, especially as he never showed any signs of aggression towards us - he was just a scared dog that had been left behind.

The gang was 4 puppies that had been severely beaten by humans from a young age. Countless hours was spend sitting in their kennel, slowly throwing biscuits towards them till, after 3 weeks, Robin - named for his bravery after Robin Hood - came close and decided to join us in the sun. His siblings still preferred to stay a few feet away, but in the end at least decided that our biscuits were worth eating.

A lot of our time at the clinic was spend with the dogs. This is partly to do with one thing you need to know about "African-time": It involves a significant amount of waiting time. This isn't bad, as it gives you plenty of time to get to know the clinic thoroughly, as well as the animals and the staff on it. Every single person there are so sweet and helpful, and no one more than Anna who runs the place. At any time, if Anna was around, you can be sure you'll be offered a cup of coffee and a chat, and Anna is one of the most inspiring people to talk to. Especially about all her hard work for the donkeys on Zanzibar. There's a reason she's known as Anna Mamma-punda (Donkey mum) on the whole island - few has done as much for the animals as she.

A bit more relevant to our course, I got to see a dog covered in more ticks than I could count, a cat with calicivirus and a dog whose ear wouldn't heal. On Zanzibar big vans with kennels aren't an option, so when a 40kg dogs needs to come with you to the clinic, that means it rides in the back with you - luckily Butch was probably one of the nicest dogs on the island, as well as one of the most cowardly. A cone and 1 small injection, not even touching him yet, was enough to cause an uproar resembling the one of a dog who has just been run over. That will most likely be one of the fastest injections I will do in my entire career! Luckily the sweet boy quickly recovered from the incident, and with a lot of gentle nursing, he even accepted treats from us again.

As with the week before it ended with Saturday clinic. Which as always was extremely rewarding, and challenging at the same time! Don't know when I will ever again sit on top of a cow while injecting it, or treat +20 goats within an hour. It's by far one the most teaching experiences, as you learn to keep calm in chaos, evaluate the needs of each animal and still be effective and high paced. It can only be recommended for any veterinary student out there. Plus, when will you ever get the experience of sitting on top of a cow while injecting it?