I dropped by LVS the other day to visit my friend Dr. Avery Bennett and to talk about his recent visit to Tanzania. For the past several years, Dr. Bennett has volunteered his services and time as the leader of a surgical team of students and doctors from the University of Illinois . Their mission is not only to educate the veterinary students at the Mogotoro Veterinary School but to castrate, spay, vaccinate and deworm  the villager’s animals, which by the way, are not considered pets but rather possessions

With Gandolph, the newest feathered friend nestled on his neck, Dr. Bennett explained the program and his initial involvement when he was a professor of surgery at the University of Illinois.  In those days, he taught the Junior surgical labs, using the dogs and cats from the local pound for spaying and castration procedures.  Dr. Margarethe Hoenig was organizing a group of students to go to Costa Rica and a surgeon was needed to teach and oversee the neuter clinic. Avery Bennett was a natural for the position and was commandeered for his help. Thus the volunteer mission began.

Years later, the program expanded to Tanzania , a far cry from the easy jaunt to Costa Rica. The trip to East Africa takes 40 hours. The team visited 11 villages, vaccinated and de wormed over 500 animals and performed 91 surgical procedures. These were done under a tree while an amazed group of village children watched on. Not the best of sterile conditions but as Dr Bennett remarked, “we did best we could do with what we had available.” Supplies for the journey are always a challenge and this year LVS was able to donate fluids, lines and catheters.

My only question was why do all the dogs look alike?  Well apparently, most are Basenji mix and are preferred because of their inability to bark. They are used to hunt (especially monkeys) and being barkless makes them better hunters.

So, Dr. Bennett, are you signing up for next year?  “Yes, the plans for our next visit to East Africa are already in place”.  Any volunteers?

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