By Cheryl Scott, DVM
“Estar en la cola de un ciervo”(To be on the tail of a deer.)
I heard this saying a few times before I asked our translator what that meant. He looked down at the ground for a moment, and said, “The people here say that ‘to be on the tail of a deer’ really means that this idea we are talking about is elusive, a dream that will always be chased’”. We are beginning to understand why placing priorities on animal health are not realistic. Nicaraguans in this village spend all day long just trying to provide daily meals for their families, how can we possibly assume that they can spend resources on their animals.
As veterinarians we spend four years in our medical schools, several in internships and residencies, and even more time focusing on and practicing medicine on individual animals. Some of us do learn more about population medicine and ecosystem health, but above all, we learn our lessons in a very different culture than that of Central America. Life in Nicaragua does not revolve around going to the mall or taking road trips. Nobody takes long hot showers, or lingers over lattes at Starbucks. Priorities for life here start with feeding and providing shelter for your family, striving for a little income, and end with starting all over again tomorrow. One quickly has to replace the American mindset of treating pets like family members, to one where animals exist solely to provide livelihood for humans. Rarely can anyone ‘afford’ pet care here; animal health is hoped for but not paid for. Animals are considered valuable only if they contribute as food, income, or to the well-being of the family in some way. So, the question becomes not “How can we start a clinic for animals?”, but “How can we contribute to health as a whole, where animals can be healthier so that they can contribute to the health of humans?” That is our challenge now. We are bringing home all of the answers to our surveys, our observations, our thoughts, our ideas, and will be turning those into a strategy for One Health in Sabana Grande.