Tuilei and her friend Ilene, along with Tuilei’s mom Luana, do so much as volunteers for the single veterinary clinic in American Samoa. Recently, Tuilei wrote about her experience volunteering during Coconut Mutts’ volunteer veterinarian program with Dr. Bret Grover. Read more to experience helping animals through Tuilei’s eyes.
I wake up at 7 in the morning, rushing around in a half-asleep stupor to get ready for the long day ahead of me. The details of my volunteer work at American Samoa’s vet clinic are still unclear but I’m certain that by the end of the day I’ll be covered in poop, urine, and other fluids. Dressed in clothes I wouldn’t mind throwing in a fire once I’m done, I head over to my workplace for the next two weeks. The minute I step out of the car I am greeted by the barking of dogs itching to get out of their cages. I peek around the building to find a family of three already waiting patiently outside the door with their mangy dog.
Together my mother and I shuffle in to start working. There’s no time to dilly-dally as I begin the check-in process of animals. Everything happens in a flurry. Owner after owner brings in a dog or a cat to get fixed or seen by the vet. Many of them tell me the problems their animal is experiencing as if I am the vet himself. I guess my glasses and worn out Hawaii t-shirt gave them the impression that I was not Samoan. The process of getting an animal processed for fixing is a tedious. First, the owner has to fill out a form regarding questions about their animal and their contact information; meanwhile, we volunteers scramble around to find a big enough cage to fit the dog or hurriedly put together cages for scared cats ready to jump out of their owner’s arms. Many of our cages are old and rusted. Before putting any animal in we have to furnish the bottom with a sturdy sheet, towel or rug to protect their vulnerable feet. Then we add a filled water bowl to keep them hydrated through the day. By the time this gets done we’re able to put the dog in its cage with a tape indicating its ID number.
The visiting vet is a nice guy – hard-working too. Even after being on his feet for 10 hours a day, he’s always found smiling, and happy to converse with the workers at the clinic. While in surgery I’d walk in on him a few times dancing to the soft music playing from one of the worker’s phones. I really give the man credit. One day we processed around thirty surgeries which was way over our limit of twenty. And that doesn’t include the multiple health checks that walked in. Thankfully the vet and staff were willing to get the job down even at the cost of unpaid overtime.
This isn’t my first time doing an animal clinic, but it was definitely one of the most organized. We did a lot of work which included cleaning the poop from cages of 8 animals who are living at the clinic for various reasons, including a paralyzed pup. I met a lot of owners who were very grateful for the vet’s work, and many who brought in animals they didn’t even own. Coconut Mutts and Banfield Foundation have definitely improved the welfare of our animals in American Samoa, and saved thousands from being born into terrible living conditions. Thank you for Caring!