Every morning when I arrive at the International Fund for Animal Welfare-supported clinic in South Africa, I do not know what to expect. I might be faced with a ward full of happy, healthy cats and dogs or a hospital filled with pets in the worst of moods.
Some days my first patient is a dog that wants to attack me while another is a kitten that wants to wrap himself around my arm for warmth and love. Above all, what gets me up in the morning is the passion I have for animals and knowing that I am responsible for making another life happy and healthy.
My morning drive from home to work allows me time to think and plan. I know I have specific patients waiting for me. I use this time to mull over the technique I am going to use for each patient’s surgery or procedure. At 08:00 I arrive at the clinic feeling prepared and ready to take on the day. I am welcomed by our loving resident dog Cindy. Just as I start greeting the pets in the hospital I am told that I already have an emergency to attend to.
A three-year-old pit bull dog from Makhaya got stuck in a shack that was on fire. He had endured severe burn wounds. I remain calm, cool and collected trying to gather the full story. I examine the patient and admit the dog to the hospital.
Immediately afterwards, Bambino, a female mixed breed dog that was run over by a car, gets rushed into the surgery room. Now the morning is in full swing. After performing an emergency operation on Bambino I can start my hospital rounds and examine each hospital patient. Mario has not been eating for two days – he needs a blood test and an x-ray. Bobby cannot walk by himself. He also needs an x-ray as I believe he has a spinal injury.
Most of the patients I see are injured due to being knocked over by a motor vehicle. This is a large problem in the Khayelitsha community. Danger, a cross-breed male, was run over by a car last week and broke his right back leg. He needs to undergo surgery to pin his fractured bones together.
After lunch and a short break more animals need my help.
Rex needs to be injected and put into his cage - if only he would let us! Rex is being treated for toxic shock. He is very aggressive and wants to bite everyone who touches him. After much struggle and many tricks with dog sweets we are able to inject him and get him safely into his cage.
The rest of the afternoon I move from cage to cage in our hospital, theatre and cat ward administering afternoon medications, changing bandages on wounds and ensuring all our patients are comfortable.
This is an example of one day as a veterinarian at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic. Some days consist of simply performing sterilisation procedures; another might consist of only emergency operations. The worst days are those when I need to put many animals to sleep as they have suffered such severe injury or neglect that I cannot do anything to help them. Other days consist of simply looking after all our little patients, administering medication, changing drips and bandages and making sure that everyone is comfortable.
That is a day in my life. There are happy times and sad times but I practice my profession with one philosophy and that is to do the best for each and every animal that enters my life.