On Saturday 1st June I began my journey from rainy cold Edinburgh to the humid heat of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. I then spent the next fortnight having the most incredible experience on a spay and neuter surgery course at the World Veterinary Service (WVS) Intensive Training Centre. I was accompanied by nine other students from Dublin, Bristol, Glasgow and New Zealand who were so welcoming and made travelling on my own so much easier.
The first day began with a morning of lectures on surgical principles followed by a demonstration of neutering each sex of dog. We discussed the rest of the course where each of us would spay 10 female dogs, castrate 4 males and monitor anaesthesia for fourteen patients. We were paired off so one student would make sure the dog stayed asleep and the other performing high-quality surgery with one on one teaching from a qualified Thai vet. We were supported by a team of nurses and dog catchers who were lifesavers especially when the dogs were aggressive.
The dog population in Thailand is ever growing. The people frown upon the use of culling as a method of control and favour the birth control programs run by charities. The neutering of dogs not only prevents unwanted pregnancy, but also reduces aggression, infection risk and reduces the chances of mammary cancer. Dogs in Thailand are mostly owned to some degree. This goes from dogs fed at the local temples by monks to roaming dogs to household pets. The clinic would send catchers to local areas to find the ‘owners’ of the dogs to ask their permission to neuter and bring the dogs in the back of a truck to the clinic overnight before performing surgery the next day.
Before I left I was quite worried about travelling alone. One of my main concerns was getting to the centre by myself which was very easy in the end with all my flights being on time and a member of staff coming to collect me from Chiang Mai airport. I had been told by friends to watch out at airports for people charging high rates for taxis so I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t need to sort this out. Being organised and making sure I knew where to go was essential to this running smoothly.Coming away from this Animal Birth Control programme I feel inspired to help charities in future when I’m a qualified vet. I feel confident performing basic surgery which has prepared me for beginning final year and I have developed skills which I will use throughout my career. Another lesson I learnt from the course was how much the people you are working with make any experience enjoyable. The staff and other students were great company and all there to ready to help whenever a challenge appeared. I look forward to travelling again on my own and getting the opportunity to meet more inspiring people.