Spay day in San Carlos — dogs, cats, vets, retirees, kids and people who care

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Who stuck out whose tongue first — the dog or the doctor?

San Carlos to have fewer and healthier dogs and cats

story and photos by Eric Jackson

New Jersey native Lil Miller, now a resident of Altos del Maria, does not flaunt trappings of authority. She just manages a Spay the Strays Panama show that works on a shoestring budget and lots of donated labor of many sorts, and if nobody had pointed her out it would take some long and careful observation to discern her role. It’s not as if there is no organization — there are specialized roles, some more skilled than others. From the registration table to the veterinarians and assistants to the pre-op and post-op tables, to those who taxi animals among these places, to the tick pickers to the kids who pat the recovering kitties, people have their jobs and go about them. Some clean the surgical instruments, some clean the tables between operations, some make the coffee, snacks and lunch. Then there is a community of volunteers who bring in their own pets to be neutered, those of friends and neighbors as a favor, and homeless animals who will be released where they were found if they can’t be placed for adoption. Yes, there are dramatic moments like a cat that puts up fierce resistance to an injection — leaving a veterinarian bleeding — to a woman who comes in late without a reservation and won’t take no for an answer to her demand to bump someone who has been waiting in line so that she can be served. But everything runs smoothly, with neither insignia of rank nor proclamations of authority. As in well managed.

Spay the Strays is one of the several local organizations that sprang up in the wake of the Spay Panama project that Pat Chan started. Call it a “spinoff” if you must, but this group, which serves the beaches and mountain communities of Panama Oeste’s Chame and San Carlos districts, began in 2007 in partnership with two groups, Spay Panama and the McKee Foundation. It now has a life of its own. In its nine years it has neutered about 3,000 animals. Along with its independent existence Spay the Strays also has needs of its own. Most of all it needs funds to buy medicines and surgical supplies.

The needs that received priority on their June 18 spay day at the San Carlos Casa Comunal were about 75 dogs and cats — nobody brought in a rabbit or goat or boa constrictor to be neutered this time. Except from that one lady, the only complaints that this reporter noticed were from dogs and cats who objected to being stuck with needles.


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A ferocious attack cat, doing hard time in maximum security. Or is it just a dislike of needles?


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At the sign-in table.


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A doggie adventure.


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A beautiful and gentle retired working dog, looking for a permanent new home.


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The needle and the damage done — here the damage was to the doctor, who was clawed by a cat who objected to being stuck with a needle.


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Cleaning the surgical tools. Spay the Strays uses chemicals to sterilize them, instead of an autoclave that uses steam.


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The “taxis” do the light and heavy lifting, carrying the anaesthesized animals to and from the various stations in the surgical process.


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Cutting away further parental concerns, and part of the future dog population of San Carlos.


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Filling the syringes for the post-op phase.


A big guy on the post-op table.
A big guy on the post-op table.


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From post-op they go to the recovery area.


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Coming to….


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While they are recovering, dogs get cleaned up, including some major tick picking here.


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The cats have their own recovery area, where special care is taken to protect their sensitive eyes from the light.


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Retirees form the core of the volunteer force, but there are also a lot of kids.


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