February 12th, 2013

Dr. Michael P. McTigue, Dr. Brian C. Hurley and the rest of the Gardner Animal Care Center team are pleased to welcome you to their hospital blog. This fun and fact-filled blog is updated regularly and includes up-to-date information about your pet’s health care. Also included in the blog are fun, pet-related news stories that we want to share with you and photos and information about our hospital and staff members.

We invite you to check our blog often.

Thank you for visiting.

– The veterinary team at Gardner Animal Care Center

Day 10 Nicaragua Veterinary Mission Trip 2017

January 7th, 2017

It is always captivating to look back at a period of time from 35,000ft, it gives a different perspective. I gaze down at clouds that look like Nancy’s cinnamon buns that we have every Thanksgiving and Christmas, comfort food for all of us, especially the 4 daughters, our family tradition that connects us to the past, to us. That’s what I saw in Nicaragua, where family and tradition and culture come together and form a connection that lasts, not just years or decades, but timeless, like it has always been that way. How else could you not just survive harsh conditions, but thrive. We saw people who seemed connected in such subtle ways, often seeing no obvious signs of greeting or communication between them, but with an understanding that didn’t need words, because it was just the stuff of life, no language needed. Kind of like when your wife knows stuff she shouldn’t know because she has that mother radar thing going, and she just knows things, like she’s got eyes in the back of her head, and she’s focused on you loco gringo. It’s funny what you notice when your guiding a student thru a surgery, confident they will suture appositionly with the proper tissue layers closed because you’ve been stressing it all week, and you have the time to look around and watch, hearing words you don’t understand and seeing things you haven’t seen before, like dogs walking under your surgery table, or kids doing arts and crafts in your recovery ward, or women in a bible study right next to you as you cut and sew the spay; as I said before, things that don’t go together but fit perfectly here. Like warm soft cinnamon buns out your window over Central America.

Our last day of service was at Oscar and Tamy’s house in Catarina where we were staying. Eating breakfast we looked out the window, the people already lining up, horses, dogs, rabbits, patiently waiting without complaining, without electronic devices, without anxiety and hurry. They are never in a hurry here. The Canadian author Ann Voscamp said “hurry is the sure sign of the amateur”; I guess I have been an amateur most of my life. But here, even in the busy and chaos of the Vet work, it is different, its not something you are even conscious of, the stress and tension and hurry, they don’t belong here. We all felt it, it came out repeatedly in our devotions and quiet time; we miss home and loved ones (and pets) but we wanted that different thing, the other perspective that you only get when you shed the things that block and blind, to last a while, not just vanish the minute we step off the plane and resume our normal.  We don’t want to go rushing back, in a hurry, like an amateur. So we talked about it, prayed about it, to be a little different when we get back, even when everything else stays the same. If we don’t bring back something different, something new, something better, then all we have done is had a good mission trip, a fun time, a learning experience, but it’s still all about us, and that’s not what makes success. Or significance. To be significant, to make a difference, that’s a universal desire of all people. Hopefully we won’t have success sickness when we get back; getting what we want, and not being happy when we get it. If we slow down and share and help other people see things differently then we have that elusive prize, something that matters, something that can make a difference and change a heart. And it turns out it’s not about us at all. It’s about other people. And its about God. Even though we’re in an animal career, its still about people. I hope I don’t forget that back home when I’m in a hurry.

So we finish our vet work, take an inventory of supplies, organize the storage trunks so the next group can start off well, and clean up. Turns out we treated 640 animals on the trip, and many people from the villages told Oscar and Tamy that they might start coming to their church now. That’s the significant part. We are there to help them reach out to people, show them there are people that care, that want to help without cost and give something from the blessings that have been given to us. That’s how God works. He gave us everything, free of charge, full of all the good, forever! So we teach and we are taught, help and we are helped, care for others and voila, we are cared for. The upside down economy of God, too good to be true, but not too good to be God. 

So what was the best part for me you ask? There are always lots of memories you take away, but it might be this one that stands out the most. On our first night in the countryside, after we had a very good group devotion and Oscar shared his testimony, about how he was saved, and all the ways God had spared him during the Sandinista revolution, and we all prayed together, then time for bed, but we didn’t feel tired that night. So with the girls sleeping inside, and the guys sleeping outside, we put our cots in the corner of the weedy but flat baseball field just in front of the church. And we layed down, and gazed up….and saw the most star studded sky I have ever seen! The stars were brighter and more stunning than I have known. And I was pondering why…I included that little tidbit because my southern friends have all sorts of expressions about tads and whittles and sayins that we don’t hear up in New England and I want to make them feel included too…I think we have too much light pollution in our lives. The physical light from our technologically advanced society that keeps things at full speed 24/7, day and night, doesn’t matter, much haste required. But I think there is also a dimming of the other lights, the ones that come from inside us, as we become so focused on the “getting” that we forget about the “being”. We live in a busy world, and that isn’t a bad thing, but we get covered in layers of things that can keep us from being real, and it keeps our eyes focused inward, and we forget to look outward. So on this night there was nothing else to do but look up, and nothing else to be but His. The heavens declared His Glory, and it was wonderful to see and be part of. We were blessed that night. We always are. We just forget to look up.

So I wait, sitting in gate E10 in Houston, watching the departure board because Boston is getting up to a foot of snow today, and finish typing, which takes me a little longer than most people, but I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world, and if its delayed and I’m still here this evening, I won’t forget what to do: just look up!

Until next year, Many Blessings

Dr Mike

Late week blog from Nicaragua Veterinary Mission trip 2017

January 7th, 2017

Well I have been remiss on my daily blogging, so I will explain, or make excuses, depending on how critical you are. There is always the time factor, working in the villages until no more animals show up, packing up the supplies and heading home, which may take 15 min at the shortest, and over 2 hours on the longest. When we get back there is dinner and devotions and some time to relax and talk with the team in small groups or play games. I’m not big on playing most games, but it is a hoot watching the students play cards and get feisty and funny. Then it’s bedtime and we’re always more tired here than home, so we don’t have to say anything to the students, they are just as tired as us old guys. We also only have wifi while we are in the cabins, and even then it is slow, so trying to upload pictures or download anything takes too long usually so I will attach pictures when we get state side. But the main reason for my tardiness is a little more sinister. Have you ever seen that show called “monsters inside of us”? It’s about all sorts of nasty bugs and mites and worms and microbes that infest people and cause all kinds of gross stuff. Well I met one of them down here. And they are not nice. My personal bad boy was of the respiratory variety, with all sorts of coughing and stuffiness and soreness all over, very tired and no energy. Yesterday, after I finished a big German Shepherd dog spay with my student Lena, who did most of the work anyway, I layed down in the van at 2:00 and pretty much slept for 16hours until this morning. Thankfully we are on a veterinary mission trip so we have all sorts of medicine to pick from, so I bypassed the chewable chicken flavored ones and picked Azithromycin, a “Z-pack” and started that. Now I don’t want to hear anything from any medical people who say you should go to your Dr and not self medicate, especially when they always treat their pets first with whatever medicine they have left over and only bring the pet in if it’s not better. Besides the medical care of these vets is better than many human ones anyway. I’m not sure what other goodies I will take but we will see if any other symptoms develope and then I can decide if I need some of the big gun dewormers. I hope not. I have a long flight home and layover tomorrow, so I don’t want anymore uninvited guests.

Well the veterinary work has proceeded very well, with lots of people showing up with all sorts of animals; Dr Justin has floated lots of horses teeth, which is something they don’t normally do down here, but he did some fund raising and was able to get everything you need, including power floats so you don’t have to do them by hand, and his equine team has been busy with that. Basically the edges of the horses teeth do not wear evenly, so over time they develope sharp edges that can cause lots of problems in the mouth. The power float grinds them down so the edges are flat and even so they can chew better. They have never done that before, but they will see a big difference and their horses will be healthier. Dr Mark has done lots of cattle work and kept the students safe and the cattle healthy with vaccines and deworming mostly. The small animal work with Dr Wayne and myself has been very steady, with lots of spays and neuters, that the students do under the supervision of the vets, one on one for each surgery. This is often the first time they have done surgeries, but they are very quick learners, and are quick to pick things up. There is also a lot of small animals to deworm and apply flea and tick medicine, including dogs, cats, chickens, turkey’s, duck (just one), and rabbits. We keep it simple and give them all the same medicine, mostly ivermectin for deworming, and whatever topical treatment for fleas and ticks we have.

The food has been very good, plain and simple, very nutritious with beans and rice and fruit, and some chicken usually also. The weather has been very nice, sunny and mid eighties if you like that kind of thing. Personally I can’t wait to get back home and take Sam and Lexi for a walk in the snow, but I guess I am the exception, putting it nicely, which I know you would do anyway. Tomorrow morning we are headed home, and we need to leave at 3:30 am, so I will have one more blog left, just warning you. It has been a very good time, other than my unintended guest, but hopefully I will cough up a big lougie and leave it all down here. Sorry to be gross but what do you expect from a vet?

Well so long from Nicaragua

Many Blessings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Dr Mike

Day 5 and 6 Nicaragua Veterinary Mission

January 4th, 2017

We headed out to the countryside bright and early Monday morning. It is nice getting up and not having to scrape ice or snow off the car, so the warm is tolerable, unless you like the snow, but you need to go with the flow, you know, and you don’t want to be slow, oh no, I’m rhyming again, sorry. We needed  an anesthetic for our equine castrations called xylazine, but it is a controlled drug. No problem down here, just pull into a little house that doubles as a store, look in the cabinet, and there it is; the fact that it is an open bottle with only 15ml instead of 20ml is not unusual, so we even got a little discount. Who needs a veterinary license anyway. Then off to our first stop in the San Francisco area in central Nicaragua, at a small town called Vijegua, which is pronounced VIJEGUA, just like it says. You can probably tell by my pronunciation that my Spanish skills are improving, oui oui. 

We set up all our small animal medical and surgical supplies and tables inside the church, which is a typical small town building, rectangular, brick, walls going up 6-8ft, then open air until the roof; no pews, just the plastic one piece lawn chairs you see on any outdoor porch in the USA. That is the only type of chair they have down here. Then the 12 students split into 3 different teams, 1 doing equine with Dr Justin, 1 doing cattle and pigs with Dr Mark, and 1 doing small animal with Dr Wayne and I. Then they rotate each day so all of them get experience in each area. The large animal work includes vaccinating, deworming, castrations, floating horse teeth, and sick animal treatments as needed. The small animal work is similar, with spays and neuters taking the majority of time, but deworming and flea and tick medicating lots of dogs and a few cats. We start in the morning and then continue until all the animals are done, usually between 3-4:00, with a break for lunch. 

The second day we set up in a town called Las Mercedes in a beautiful park the had a playground and lots of large trees with a huge canopy and extensive roots that were above ground and radiated in every direction, flowing down the gentle slope like a wooden waterfall, a wonderful location for a veterinary MASH unit. Once people know the veterinarios were here, they just start trickling in, no rush or hurry, everyone relaxed and friendly. They love watching the animals after we give them the pre-surgical sedatives, as they turn glassy eyed, start to weeble and wobble, and finally lay down in a peaceful slumber. They often watch the surgeries and ask questions in spanish about what we are doing; they are very warm people. It was kind of neat to just watch all the action, guiding students in surgical techniques while a bible study with the women is right next to the surgeries and kids and dogs are running around, kids swinging and playing on the monkey bars while they watch the surgeries, arts and crafts and playing and laughing, things that aren’t normally in the same place at the same time, but here in the countryside, it made perfect sense. It just fits here.

After the work in Las Mercedes, mid afternoon on a dry, hot, sunny 85 degree day, sweating and dusty and stinky and happy, we went to a river, the only rapidly flowing clean water I have seen here. The river was shallow, the current was strong, the water was warm, and we waded in and payed down with the water rushing over us, it was better than a water park, and we all washed our hair and tried not to fall on the round slippery rocks. The food is simple and delicious, and always includes guya pinto and pollo – rice and beans and chicken. You might not think rice and beans are good breakfast food, but you’ld be wrong (as usual) because they are, try them try them and you will see, you will like them in a tree.

We go to bed early now, after our group devotions and prayer. The girls sleep inside the church the guys outside; some people in hammocks, some on cots. It’s 10:00, but feels later, and we are tired from a day of feasting; feasting on life in a different world. We have had a time of new and different, with a pace that seems slow, but a day that ends full, with bodies that are tired, but hearts and souls that are quickened, ready, hungry. We spend so many days rushing, hurrying, trying to take big bites of life so we don’t miss anything, always striving for more. But we end up missing so much, especially the smaller things that don’t demand attention because they don’t beep or blink or glitter. But if we slow down and look and listen we can see things that are truly filling, the little bits of real life that feed the soul. So we begin to know the people even though we don’t understand the language, and we feel something familiar in a place we’ve never been. I think it’s a little taste of heaven, and it feeds the soul. 

Thank you Lord for the Feast today!

Many Blessings 

Dr Mike

Day 4 Nicaraguan Mission Trip 2017

January 2nd, 2017

Well after the exilerating New Years Eve festivities, we needed a little extra down time to clear our head, lungs, and ears. And that’s what we got today, some free time. I was able to have a cup of coffee, pray, write a blog, eat a healthy breakfast of homemade sweet bread and an orange, fresh off the tree; it was green which wouldn’t sell well in the store, but tasted just fine; it kind of reminded me of one of my favorite books to read the girls at bedtime, “green eggs and ham”. I can still remember the words without looking and can’t wait to read it to my grand daughters. We had a picnic at Oscar’s farm, which is a mile down the road from the cabins, and he has 18 acres on which are 18 different fruits and vegetables, including coffee beans, chocolate fruit, mangos, lemons, bananas, coconuts, mangos and lots of others. It is very scenic and well kept. He also had a horse to ride. So I rode it. It was fun. She wanted to gallop. I didn’t want to. I didn’t let her. She didn’t like that. I didn’t care. The girls in the group like to gallop. So they did. They had fun. The horse liked them. I didn’t care. I like Dr Seuss. I think I will start to write like him. But I forgot to rhyme. But I had a good time. That’s a good sign. 

I was remembering our New Year’s Eve and all the fun we had. They have some interesting traditions here, and one of them is the “old man of New Year’s Eve”. So what they do is get a dummy, not a dumb person dummy but a fake scarecrow type of mannequin dummy, and they dress him up like an old man, and they set him up outside the home, and he just sits there and looks, well, dumb. But what he represents is the past year, and to celebrate the end of the last year and start of the New year, they light the dummy on fire; exactly at midnight, and they let him burn away to nothing; away with the old. We walked into town to catch the end of all the old man dummy fires, and it was kind of interesting to see all the fires in the middle of the road, like you were in some kind of war zone. We got up close to one of them as it was just about done burning, and we found out another one of their traditions. They put an explosive device inside of them I guess, or maybe they did it because they saw a large group of green shirted gringo’s coming to look at their dying ember dummy, and it exploded right as we got close, which was quite a surprise to us, and quite a delight to the others; but I kind of like and respect that kind of sick slightly dangerous humor, as it was something I might do to my sisters when I was younger and immature, not like now. So I may just bring that tradition of burning explosive dummies at midnight, as well as fireworks inside church on July fourth – that’s a keeper too. 

Well we are off to the countryside tomorrow morning for 3 days of Veterinary service to the underserved people and animals of Nicaragua. We will be out of cell phone service, wifi, and even electricity so you will not hear from me for a few days. Actually you should have probably quit reading this awhile ago anyway. But I really love this part of the trip, and I will tell you about it if you want, but I am not going to complain about the noise anymore, even though I know there are dogs and roosters and other noisy things just waiting for us out there, but I am going to just put in my foam ear plugs and grin and bear it. That’s the mature thing to do. And I have been transformed, thank you Jesus. 

And I do so like green eggs and ham. Try them, try them,  you will see, you can eat them in a tree, with a rooster, with a dog, in a hut, or with a hog, I will try them you will see, and then will you please, just let me be.

Many Blessings

Dr Seuss McTigue

Day 3 Nicaraguan Mission Trip 2017

January 1st, 2017

Well the night was not as bad as the previous night, and I was wondering why when early in the morning, and I don’t know the time because in Nicaragua time is in a different dimension anyway and none of the people or animals seems to follow a normal pattern like “quiet and sleep when night and get up when light”, so it was sometime in the early morning dark during deep dream stage sleep that I felt it, not just heard it, and it was loud enough to set off a nearby car alarm, some supercharged wake-up-now made-for-the-military exploding firework. Up to that point my foam earplugs were sufficient to keep things toned down enough to sleep, but that nuclear blast from some well meaning but obviously time deficient yankee-hating person changed the game. I hope he wasn’t wearing his foam earplugs and now understands the difficulties and suffering he has caused, and will repent of his well intentioned but misplaced desires. Thankfully he must not have been able to afford too many of these bombs because the carnage stopped after 3 or 4 blasts, but the damage was done, and sleep was displaced by a zombie like state. If this were a TV series, I might have thought I had transformed into a zombie, and the bags under eyes would have confirmed the appearance. But I quickly remembered that today, Saturday, New Years Eve day, was our play day, and my mood quickly changed to a pleasant serenity, however if I ever did find out who kept waking me up, I was still capable of malevolent harm. 

Well we had a VERY good day, and our whole team had a great time, and how can you not when you start the day with a wholesome breakfast that included a fruit juice made from bananas and some other delicious ingredients that was sweet and healthy, fruit, eggs, and coffee, not quite like we are used to from fresh ground beans, but good enough from some kind of ground concentrate, it did the trick and the bags under my eyes were not quite as scary and no longer would have been targeted by a zombie hunter. We then went zip lining down the side of a dormant volcano covered by a canopy of very large ficus trees. This was my fourth time going, and it’s still a rush to hang upside down swinging your arms like a monkey, making monkey howls and hoots, speeding down a zip line, and everyone is laughing with you not at you. I think. Then we were off to Park National Volcan Masaya, which has a Nicaraguan Natural History Museum and a large semi active volcano. They only let you stay at the crater for 15 min, and you could not climb to the top of the rim as in previous years because there is active activity and visible lava flows, and if it goes off and explodes they want you to be able to get out of there quickly so you don’t get hurt. That is very kind of them. I wish they would extend that “safety first” mentality to the vicious criminals exploding bombs near our cabins every day, but again this is a different culture and I must not be negative, and you see all kinds of ironies every where you go, and you must not let it affect your inner peace, as you can tell it has not affected mine. We then went to get pizza at a local pizza place called Papa John’s that was very similar to what we have back home, and the pizza tasted very good, as pizza always does no matter where you are. Then off to shopping at a “mall” in Masaya, which is actually a collection of 120 small vendors selling all sorts of locally made products, and we stocked up on gifts for our loved ones. I won’t tell you what I got Nancy because I know you will spill the beans and tell her and ruin the surprise, but she likes whatever I get her because she knows it comes from the heart, right honey? 

After that we went to Oscar’s church in Masaya, which is a brand new church he just built on 2 acres of land. Now that may not sound like much to you, but land is very valuable here, and hard to get, but Oscar bought the land last April and immediately started to build the new church, and had it ready in 6 weeks which is very fast in any culture! We had a very nice New Year’s Eve service, which included many songs song in both Spanish and English, not at the same time though, and Oscar presented awards to all the many volunteers who have made a significant impact. The only slow part of the service was the sermon, and I followed most of it and only nodded off a couple of times, which was good because I was the one giving it. But the people were very gracious and smiled thru most of it, and afterwards they let me eat with them, so I think I did not offend them too much. Naturally I said nothing about the noise pollution I had encountered.

But after that, I have to tell you, all the negative perceptions and difficult trials I had endured went up in a cloud of smoke, literally. You see in Nicaragua, with all their strange national traditions, they did something that put them at the very top of the cultural pyramid; they started to blow things up! Everyone, old and young, girls and boys, pastors, wives, even the dogs (ok I am exaggerating a little bit) would set off something that explodes. And it started INSIDE the church with sparklers and little fireworks that explode when you throw then on the floor, and then it moved outside where the bigger stuff was all lit off, just outside the church. And it is not just a church sanctioned event, but a church funded event! The church provided all the fireworks, how great is that. I think I am going to ask for a line item in our church budget next year and call it “recreational supplies” and bury it in the Children’s program budget, and then go buy a whole bunch of fireworks and let all the kids set them off at church on the Fourth of July! The elders may give me a little resistance at first, but once they try it and see how much fun it is, they will thank me profusely! After that we came back to our home base in Catarina and waited for the real stuff to go off,  as I found out church was just the opening act. It started around 11:30, and peaked at midnight, and if I thought barking dogs and crowing roosters and drumming parades were noisy, this was insanity; pure genius insanity; everyone everywhere in Nicaragua sets off something, I think it is a crime if you don’t have fireworks. It was so loud and smoky you’ld have thought you fell into one of the volcanic craters. Now this is how you celebrate New Years Eve! Back home my family thinks my bothers David and Mickey  (and John Blodget too) and I are pyrotechnic maniacs, but I have to tell you we are rookies, “greenhorns”, kindergarteners compared to the Nicaraguan people, all of whom have advanced degrees in the fine art of explosive entertainment. And if I have to leave you one picture that conveys the entire night it is this; at church, while we were setting off the bigger stuff outside, sitting on the brick wall was a father holding a 14inch firework that you light and aim and it sends off these small rockets that fly out 50feet and then explode, and he held and steadied his daughter’s hand on the firework launcher as the rockets flew out the end of the barrel, and all of them including her mother behind her had ear to ear smiles on their faces at the joy of the moment; and the little girl was only about 2 years old! I was humbled, in awe of the culture I had previously thought deficient, but now realized was more technically advanced and socially developed than my own. It was a transformational moment, and I finally felt the peace and serenity I had been looking for, not relief from all the noise and chaos of Nicaragua, but fulfillment thru it. I truly believe that when we get to heaven and are celebrating one of the endless holidays we will have, there will be fireworks, and everyone will be participating and laughing and enjoying, and who knows, maybe instead of just shooting them off maybe we’ll be riding them, but either way, it will be a blast! I can only imagine.

 I will never complain about the noise again! And I slept like a baby.

With many Blessings

Dr Mike

(Pictures will be coming later when wifi finally speeds up)

Day 2 Nicaragau mission trip 2017

December 30th, 2016

The plane was delayed from Chicago to Houston, so we were 45 min late arriving in Managua, so our rather large group had to wait a little longer at the airport for the Massachusetts guy, but they were good sports about it, and only teased me a little, something about deflated tires and the usual stuff, of course I would have to respond in kind about how we beat all they’re teams in every sport anyway, and the usual banter that picks up 1 year later like you never missed a day. It is good to see them. It is good to beat them in every sport also. 

We got in kind of late and went to bed after midnight, and then, well guess what… if you have read any if my previous blogs you know what happened, and you have probably been secretly hoping it would happen again because you want me to write about the trials and problems because they are always more fun to read about than the good stuff, unless the bad stuff happens to you, then its a different story, but since this is my story you are glad it happened to me because you know I’m going to write about it and I know you’re going to like reading it, just like you enjoy rubber-necking at an accident scene. It was probably 12:30 when it started, just kind of slow at first, some dog barking, not non stop but close enough, just on the other side of the brick wall that surrounds the cabins, it was loud, but then he would stop, and a few minutes later, that ignorant, time-challenged rooster would start crowing, again not non stop, but enough to get you out of that deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that we all need for a proper nights rest, then after a few minutes, a firework, just 2 at a time, at regular intervals, like someone had a stopwatch and knew that you were about to fall asleep again so time to set off 2 more firecrackers, or kick the dog, or start the rooster a-crowin again; it went on again like that until 4:00 in the morning, on the dot exactly 4:00 am. Do you know why that’s significant? Well I will tell you: at 4:00 in the morning in the week between Christmas and New Year, the Catholic Church has a tradition, a custom that includes a parade celebrating something where they go thru town, and call people out of their homes to join their celebration that ends at the church where they have a service or mass. Now that sounds very proper and traditional and peaceful…NOT. You see the way they get people out of their beds…is to make so much noise that they can’t fall asleep. It starts with a drum, a snare drum, and they play a marching beat that sounds like something from our civil war days where the drummers lead the men into battle, and then just like the civil war, they start blowing things up, firecrackers and cherry bombs that sound like they’re coming from inside your room, like you’re in a war or something, and for some reason that attracts people to join the parade which makes it bigger which makes it louder, which attracts more people, which makes it bigger and louder…its a vicious cycle, like a hot spot on a dog that starts out small but all that licking makes it raw, which introduces the bacteria, which make it inflamed which leads to itching and more licking and infection and on and on until you get so much noise you can’t sleep and you say to yourself I really like the people of Nicaragua but some of their traditions I really don’t enjoy, and it feels more like pain and infection than pleasure. At least for the dog we can give it a steroid injection to take away the itch, and do the humane thing. But this, I don’t know the remedy. And even worse, the parade tomorrow morning will probably be louder…I cant wait. 

We worked today in a small town called Las Mederos, and we set up our supplies and surgery tables under a small crowded portico, which is actually just a tin covered roof held up by 4 thin posts, but it did the job as we spayed some dogs and cats, and treated whatever animals people bought to us, including dogs, cats, pigs, ornamental chickens (not oriental chickens that naturally taste like teriyaki) and even a guinea pig. It was fun to watch the students do their first spay under ideal conditions including dogs that were waking up half way thru the surgery because we had no tape to hold in the catheters which kept coming out so we couldn’t give the full variety of anesthetics we had in our possession because some of the bottles were actually empty anyway, so it made for an interesting opportunity to practice the patience and grace we always talk about, which is always easier to preach than practice. But the whole team did very well and actually enjoyed all the challenges, and all the pets survived and went on their merry wobbly drug induced stupor way. 

After we finished the veterinary work, Oscar and his church group put on a performance that included songs, skits, and bible readings of the Christmas story for all the local people. It was very well done and the people really seemed to enjoy it. Even though it was all in Spanish, you can still understand the story and sing the familiar Christmas tunes. We passed out spanish pamphlets that explained the story and talked about Jesus and who He was and what He did. After a good hearty dinner of rice and chicken, we had our first group devotion. This is always my favorite time of the day,and it is very uplifting to sing and share and pray with our team. It is a real blessing for all of us.

Well its time for bed, and I’m really tired, but a little nervous about, well you know what, you rubber necking geeks. And I’ll bet you are just hoping for another fun night for Dr Mike. Well I’ve got a treatment for this condition, they’re called ear plugs, and tonight I’m going to sleep like…. a wobbly surgery dog. So good night for now.


Dr Mike

Day 1 Nicaragua Veterinary Mission trip 2017

December 29th, 2016

I hate to start off my first blog of the year with a false statement but I have to confess that although this is my first day of the mission trip, it is actually 2016, Thursday 12/29/16 to be exact. I could have also started it off by making other false statements, like how excited I am to be going to a Central American country with a semi-tropical climate with average daily highs in the mid eighties when back home we are getting 8+ inches of fresh white powder that could be used very productively by a pair of Golden Retrievers, or a pair of Vokyl RTM (Ride the Mountain) skis, but alas, here I am in Houston, waiting for an outbound flight to Managua, with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and no chance of snow. Now most of my family, all of them actually unless you count Lexi and Sam, but I think dogs should get a vote too, don’t understand this kind of thinking (or not thinking depending on your point of view) and they prefer the warm, so I will try to make the best of it even if inside I hope Nicaragua gets its first snow in history and then I can show them how to use some Vokyl RTV (ride the Volcano) skis. As usual I digress from the main point, if I actually had one, but now you made me forget with all that talk about snow, so let me focus and get back on track….ski tracks in fresh powder, I wish….

Well this is my fourth trip to Nicaragua with a group of Veterinarians and Veterinary students and 1 spouse (Hi Kathy) Thru CVM – Christian Veterinary Missions. I am happy this year to be returning with a lot of the same team as last year, including 3 vets, Justin who is an excellent equine practitioner from Texas, Mark (and his wife Kathy), a mixed animal vet also from Texas, and Wayne, a small animal vet from Atlanta; we also have 6 veterinary students from Illinois, 4 from Virginia, and 1 vet tech student, 6 of who made the trip last year. Having an experienced team will be a pleasure, but even better because we had such a great time last year, and our group became close friends in the short time we had together. Now I must point out that the group is all from the south (yes Illinois and Virginia is still south from New Englands perspective. This actually presents a wonderful opportunity to encourage and guide them to learn and grow in many areas, including sports culture (they aren’t yet Patriot or Bruins fans), appropriate recreational habits (see previous comments on snowshoeing and skiing), and language skills. Now they are all really smart people, having gone thru the rigors of veterinary school, but sometimes it is hard to understand them. They use words that aren’t actually words (Y’all for instance) and they pronounce good English words with a funny accent, a southern “twang” that changes the whole meaning; I will try my best to help them use proper Queens English, like we use in Boston, but it really is an uphill battle; but I care enough to try, even if I am going to take a lot of flack for it, c’est la vie in Spanish.

 We will be working alongside Oscar and Tamy Gaitin, who live in Catarina, and they will be our hosts. They have a lot of experience hosting all variety of mission groups, and they have been working with CVM for many years. Oscar is a pastor who has planted many small churches, 12-ish, (I like to add ish to words, i think it’s because I am ir-ish, I mentioned that last year but it still seems to explain some things), and he takes different mission teams as he makes his rounds in the countryside. He has veterinary, dental, construction, teaching, and other team-ish types that help him serve the people that may not have access to the care that we can provide. As we care for the needs of the animals, Oscar and Tamy can connect with people and try to build bridges and establish relationships with them. They are invited to the church, which is always led by local people, and hopefully can lead to a relationship with God thru Christ. It is a privilege to serve alongside him.

So as I sit here writing this in the Houston airport, having just finished a good meal at Pappadeaux restaurant (I think that’s a Spanish place) I can’t help looking forward to serving in Nicaragua. Despite all the hardships, we will endure (ok even I think that is a little over the top, but sometimes it just feels good to try and be humble and noble and all that kind of stuff, and don’t tell me you don’t try and fake it sometimes too). So off to United Airlines, gate E16, flight 734 (i lied again – I don’t even know the flight number), arriving in Managua, Nicaragua, at 9:19pm, ready to go, hoping to help, and willing to try. If you want to tag along, you are welcome to read the blogs, but please remember, no one asked you to read this, so be warned, if you do continue you might just find yourself in a better place, one where you cheer for the right teams (Go Patriots), play the right sports (get some Vokyl’s), and speak the right English (Bon jour mon amigo). 

Time to go Fly!

Many Blessings

Dr Mike

PS: Hi Nancy, I know you still love me no matter what; and Hi Family, and especially granddaughters Lucy and Ella! And Lexi and Sam too – I’ll be back to hike in the snow with you soon…

Another Nicaraguan Mission Trip…

December 21st, 2016

For those who are a glutton for punishment, I will be going on another Mission trip to Nicaragua with Christian Veterinary Missions and a team of veterinarians and veterinary students to do some basic animal health care in the countryside! I will be posting a daily blog, so if you are interested and have low expectations, come on back on Dec 29th and you can read about our daily adventures…if you dare…

Day 8 Nicaragua Mission trip 2016

January 9th, 2016

I am writing in an airplane between Miami and Boston, American Airlines seat 11A with the broken seat so I can’t lean back, drinking water, no peanuts supplied. It’s funny how things have changed, but I’m not complainin, cause I am still surprised how easily we can get back and forth between countries, between continents even, by just going online, searching a few of the common travel sites, picking the cheapest and best flight, giving them your credit card info and voila (I should be using Spanish since I just came from Central America but I don’t know the Spanish word, and southerners don’t know French or the queens English so they won’t get it either), you get a ticket, a seat, and an adventure. It really is pretty cool. That’s not how it is everywhere, Nicaragua being a good example. Some people never leave their home village, staying near family, working a small country farm with a few horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens (which means they have to have them dang roosters too), as well as dogs and even a few rabbits. The one thing we did not see that was surprising was wildlife. For a tropical country, there are almost no wild animals or birds. Our hosts said it was because of the lack of hunting regulations that allowed people to hunt with no restrictions, causing unsustainable pressure on the birds and animals. Hopefully that can change soon as they enact some restrictions. I have nothing against hunting, other than coming back empty handed when I go, but there does have to be limits. Now I do have to hand it to the southern girls on our team, most of them hunt, both bow and rifle or shotgun, and they actually get deer, ducks, geeses, and they think it’s weird that around me in Massachusettes, hardly anyone hunts. I may pick on their accents, but I really think that’s pretty cool. Maybe I will go back to Gardner and see if any of the ladies at work want to go a huntin. I think I know the answer and I can’t print it, but you never know, sometimes you can’t predict which dawgs will hunt, as they say in Texas. 
We had to come to the airport in an old flatbed truck, that had temporary seats in the back, enough room for 10 people, because the van, which seats 18 people (unless you are in Mongolia, where you could stuff in 25, but that story was blogged 3 years ago and I hate to repeat myself because I might make up a new number) had broken down the day before on our way to the volcano. There are no tow trucks in Nicaragua, so they just called up Oscars brother and voila, a flatbed showed up. They are very resourceful people, and they always seem to find a solution regardless of their means. That is another reason I really like the people, they find a way, no matter the limits. I wish we could do the same with less, as we have become a disposable society, and we sometimes don’t value things rightly. I will miss them.
I was talking with our group about the things I do and do not like about Nicaragua. In the no list are things like roosters, Nicaraguan dogs when the sun goes down, bugs in the outhouse, and not knowing the language. It is frustrating not to be able to talk with the people, but on the other hand, sometimes a smile can go a long way to bridging the gap between languages. It is a universal connector, something everyone understands, and it does connect us in a real and personal way. The people smiled a lot while we were there. I will miss that. As for the things I did like, besides seeing Gods creation from another perspective, like the birds eye view from the top of a volcano, was the excitement and joy on the students faces as they placed their first catheter, anesthetized a horse for the first time, and especially when they finished their first spay or neuter. It was a joy and honor to be part of it, and I will not forget it. Most of all I will miss our prayer and devotion time as we circled each night to talk and pray and sing. It is not common to have a group of people together without cell phones, homework, emergency calls, home and kid chores, tv, and all the other distractions of modern American life. We were unencumbered by time and distractions, free to listen and pray and participate, the way I wish it could always be. We come back and resume the old, but we have been changed by something new, something good, something God. My hope and prayer is that the mission trip is not over, but would start when we get home, where God has planted us. We live in the now, and the not yet; 2 kingdoms, one here on earth, another to come, but not yet here. So what do you say we look for the next opportunity, a divine appointment, a chance to be a funnel, a light, to someone who doesn’t know the answer. Since we know the end of the story, let’s fill in some empty spots here and now, using what God has graciously given us. 
Well thats all for now, till the next mission trip. Until then, adios amigo, Bon jour baca verde, and bye bye all y’all!
Many more Blessings

Dr Mike

Day 7 Nicaraguan Mission trip 2016

January 8th, 2016

This was our last full day in Nicaragua, and it was a good one. We started the day, after morning quiet prayer time and breakfast, going to the base of a volcano, Mt Mombaso, for some zip lining. Now I have done this twice before but it never loses its fun and excitement. You go zipping along on a wire through a tropical forest, with the high wires suspended between some very large ficus trees, and the Nicaraguan guides let you go down in all these different positions, from just sitting down, to upside down, to the superman position, to upside down swinging from side to side like a monkey, to the last one where they bounce the wires as much as they can, probably not so much to scare you as to see if there is any lose change left in your pocket. It was really cool to watch everyone, most of them having never been on a zip line before, go from nervous and tentative to hootin and hollerin upside down all the way. I was especially proud of Nicole who was so nervous of heights that she almost didn’t go, but she overcame all her fears, and by the end she was upside down hootin and hollerin like all the other southerners. Now I should probably explain something: most of our group is from Texas and Tennessee and Virginia and places like that, where the queens English has been twisted enough that sometimes you aren’t sure what they are sayin or meanin. Like they have a drawl, don’t put the G sound on the end of words, and say things like yawl, or worse, all-yawl, and then expect you to understand it. At least the Spanish speakin people know they sound funny and don’t expect you to understand them, but the southerners, which is anyone south of New Jersey, and New Jersey is its own country anyway, they think they are talkin normal and you should understand them and talk like them. I am really a bit concerned that Ima comin back with an accent that’s so strong even my dogs won’t understand me. I tried really hard to get them some culture, but there were so many of them, and they all hunt and shoot, and go about hootin and hollerin so much I was a tad bit scared, and even backed off callin our team the Bruins, as they were gettin a bit ornery bout it. So please don’t go a hatin me if it takes a bit to start talkin nermal agan, it will hopefully pass like a temporary infection.
After zip linin we went to the volcano natural museum, and then up to the top of a big old volcano. One of the craters was still a-belching smoke like it was ready to bring up some cookies but thankfully nothing spewed out. We had a nice little hike up to the top, which had a great view of the whole area, and then we could run down the loose volcanic ash rock path like we were skiing in Vermont, but the southerners didn’t quite get the hang of it, and tried to trudge down it like they were still huntin deer, but they did the best they could considering their accents.
After that we went and had pizza, which was pretty good, as good as anything we can get in Ashburnham, and we all chugged our gatorades cause we was so thirsty we was like a dusty ol hog in the back country of Texas when they find a waterin hole. I kinda made that up cause I really don’t know how thirsty hogs git down they’re, but it sounded pretty good, cept they probably don’t think so. I really shouldn’t go a pickin on em so much cause I really do like every one of em, but dang, I still can’t get this accent out of my typin.
After some swimming (that’s better) we had dinner, and then our final group devotion. Now this is my favorite part of the day, and the part I will miss the most. Everyone shared about what this week meant to them, and how God had been such an important part of it. Our team really came together and bonded and cared for each other. The cooperation and encouragement between all 19 people was really something to see. We were blessed in so many ways, as we learned and taught and helped and laughed and loved, that we will not easily forget. And maybe the biggest lesson we learned isn’t here in Nicaragua, but back home when we go back to our normal, and we can share the blessings that God has graciously given each of us. We need to be funnels, not buckets, of Gods grace, so we can pass it on to others, and not just hold it in ourselves. If we could do that, share Gods love more when we get back than we did before we left, then this has been a great trip indeed. And to top the evening off, 2 of the young ladies, “Teddy” and Lena got baptized! It was the best ending to an amazing week that we could possibly have. There were a lot of tears and even more joy. Thank you Lord for this week!
Tomorrow we have to leave at 5:00am for the airport, then on to Miami, then home. And even though the week has gone by much to fast, we know we will see each other again someday. In the mean time, I better be gettin ta bed so I can git up on time to kitch the arrplane. The longer I stay a down here the longer itll take to git rid a this thing!
Many Blessins

Dr Mike