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On mission in the Bahamas

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By Kirsten Laskey

Shaunessy Nadeau, Dr. Dan Dessauer and Dr. Jacque Kottenstette have all at one point traveled down to the Bahamas, but these trips were not to sit back, relax and enjoy the tropical sun.

Nadeau, a veterinarian technician, and veterinarians Dessauer and Kottenstette at the Los Alamos Animal Clinic, were on a mission to help out man’s best friends.

They participated in the Helping Paws Across Borders, which is a group of animal professionals dedicated to reversing the horrific conditions some companion animals endure across the U.S. borders.

Their mission is to bring animal humane services to desolate areas in different countries at no cost to local people. To achieve this mission, the group supplies medical equipment and medicine to local animal shelters, educates local clinic volunteers in shelters about medicine, works to stop overpopulation of companion animals and assists with spay and neuter programs when needed.

Nadeau and Kottenstette took part in the program last year and Nadeau and Dessauer returned to the Bahamas this year to continue the work.

They learned about the program through an e-mail sent by Angie Cherry, a veterinarian technician in Albuquerque.

Nadeau said they seized the opportunity to join to help animals and to travel to the Bahamas. This year, they spent the first week of June in Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island.

Dessauer said they spent the majority of their time spaying and neutering cats and dogs, as well as taking care of these animals’ health.  They neutered about 112 dogs and spade 25 cats.

Last year, Kottenstette said, they helped set up the surgery suite in the humane society.

Before their arrival, the shelter was working out of a shack, Nadeau said.

“It’s an eye-opener,” Nadeau said. “(You) learn to appreciate what you have in the U.S.”

Kottenstette added last year, the shelter didn’t even have X-rays. Plus, all the animals have heartworms, ticks and fleas.

There are also a lot of stray dogs roaming the area. Dessauer explained they are called potcakes because it is a tradition to feed these strays from whatever is left in the pot.

These strays must have made an impression on the local Helping Paws Across Borders volunteers, because they had a potcake of their own at the clinic during the Monitor interview. She is a caramel-colored dog named Coconut.

Needless to say, the volunteers saw a huge difference this year at the shelter. Nadeau said the shelter houses about 300 dogs and approximately 80 cats. Whereas last year, there were about 100 dogs and between 10-12 cats.

She added the shelter is very clean and well kept.

Besides assisting in the care of the animals, Nadeau said it is important to educate people about their dogs and cats. “I feel it’s important to educate the islanders to do the heart guard, do the flea and tick because a lot of them, they don’t know.”

Being ill informed is not caused by a lack of concern for the animals, Dessauer said. In fact, he said, people love the stray dogs. “They have a loving type of relationships.”

It wasn’t all work and no play. The volunteers enjoyed watching the ocean from their hotel porch, eating conch, drinking beer called klick and snorkeling.

“(It) feels like (you) get to go to a nice place and still do something good for the animals,” Kottenstette said.

Employees at the Los Alamos Animal Clinic plan to continue their work in the Bahamas Sept. 13-20. To raise funds, they will host a fundraising booth Aug. 22-23 during the Blast-off Soccer Tournament hosted by the Los Alamos Youth Soccer League in White Rock.