On Monday, Ellen performed her first unsupervised veterinary surgery, on Toby, the farm’s dog. Toby used to be a street dog, and he still walks around like he owns the town. He rules the streets and keeps the other dogs in line, chasing them off the property. When we go down to the local pub, Toby warns off the local men who get too close to our table. Toby may be small, but he means business. A few days ago, Toby started favouring his leg. He’d been in a fight with another dog, so we figured he’d been bitten, but the wound wasn’t healing. The spot on his leg got bigger, and two lumps were under his skin. We showed them to Mario, the grandfather here at the farm, and he told us they were bot fly larvae. Bot flies bite animals (and humans) and lay their eggs in the bites. The larvae hatch and grow under the skin, breathing through a hole in the skin. According to google, they itch like crazy. We started discussing how to remove the larvae from Toby’s leg. Mario said he was able to suck the larvae out of a cow’s wound, but wouldn’t do so on a dog. Someone had heard that putting tobacco over the wound would draw the larvae out, but Toby wouldn’t leave the bandage on. Mario suggested antibiotics, but Javier, the farmer, was out of town all weekend, and nobody knew whether we had any or where they’d be kept if we did. By Monday night, Toby was miserable and we decided to act. Philippe, one of the volunteers, offered to try to suck the larvae out of the wound, using the spout of a bottle so he wouldn’t have to put his mouth on it, but couldn’t force himself to do it. I retreated to the far end of the dormitory to avoid having to see Toby’s festering wound being treated. Ellen stepped up to the plate to surgically remove the larvae.

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By combining various volunteers’ first aid supplies, Ellen was able to arrange the operation. One person held the dog still (Toby was remarkably cooperative). Another volunteer fed him bits of coconut butter to distract him. Ellen cut his leg open with a straight razor and pulled the first larva out with tweezers. I was still in the corner, hearing the horrified screams of the volunteers, but I came over to take a picture for Ellen (and for Facebook).

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Once the first one was out, Toby hopped away, but allowed Ellen to pick him up for the second operation. The second larva came out much more easily, and Toby limped off to lick his wounds.

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The larvae from Toby's leg

By Tuesday morning, he was back to his normal self, napping in the gardens and waking to chase off the neighbourhood dogs who dared trespass on his domain. Within twelve hours of the surgery, Toby’s wound had closed over, and now it’s barely noticeable and not bothering him at all. We’re glad to have Toby back.

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