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Russell's visit 2016

Russell Lyon and his wife Chris once again agreed to spend 4 months on Paxos from March - July working at the PAWS clinic 2 days a week and covering emergencies. They were joined in June by vet nurse Zoe and her partner James plus an Australian vet Jo Lubberink. The team had a very successful and busy time together.

Throughout his stay, Russell dealt with 334 consultations, neutered 89 cats, 16 dogs and carried out numerous other operations including dentals, dematts, eye enucleation and tumour removals.

Russell also continued negotiations with the Hunters Association with advice and help on improving animal welfare - see separate report - Meeting with the Hunters.

Included below is an excerpt from Russel's report:

There were two highlights (of many) to mention in the four months in Paxos.

Paws does not rehome animals and my heart sank when I saw a German lady striding down the path to the clinic with a black haired and a tan coloured puppy under each arm. I explained the Paws policy but she said they had been found on the road and she was leaving them with us whether we liked it or not. I put them in a cage and found them to be healthy well fed and socialised. Faye and myself over 24 hours tried very hard to discover from where they had come to no avail. Many said they knew of them but no one would own up.

I mentioned my dilemma that evening to a lady I knew in Logos and she promised to come and look at them in the morning. When she saw them she immediately christened them Fred and Ginger (after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) and promptly adopted them both. I neutered them both free of charge before I left.

The other highlight was an acute emergency which arrived just as we were closing for the evening. A bitch was carried in by her owner. She had been in labour hiding under a bush probably for at least two days. A dead stinking puppy was extracted per vaginum. Her rear quarters were covered in fly eggs and maggots. An immediate hysterectomy was carried out. There were another five dead pups inside her abdomen and peritonitis was very obvious. The abdomen was flushed with copious amounts of saline and she was put on a drip. I gave her chances of surviving at no more than 10%. I happily was able to beg more bags of saline from the Health Centre as we had quickly used up all our supplies. For two days her life was in the balance but day three she decided was going to live after all – Paxos animals are tough! On day four she walked out of the clinic wagging her tail behind her very happy owner.

There is no doubt our mission on Paxos is changing. Fewer cats are being neutered although the need for the neutering programme is still very apparent. In March 90% of the cats presented to be spayed were pregnant. In Zoe’s last week we had a visit from Corfu Scouts who were walking and camping on Paxos. Zoe explained the neutering procedure and especially how cats that have had operations have their left ear notched or cropped to identify that they had been done. The Scouts promised to look out for breeding feral colonies and to let us know about them for future reference.

More dogs are being neutered each year but still too many puppies are being abandoned by uncaring owners. We get reports from time to time of packs of dogs creating havoc in the villages and are not sure whether these are owned dogs that are being allowed to roam unhindered or true ferals.

In April, PAWS was contacted by WVS  and asked if we could accommodate Jo Lubberink a vet from Australia, who was working in England and had been due to volunteer on Samos but the welfare facility had closed down.The timing coincided with Russell and vet nurse Zoe starting their full time spell so plans were agreed and finalised. Her trip was sponsored by both WVS and PAWS.

Jo was an instant success and quickly made friends with the team and everyone on Paxos. She was in Russell's words 'an excellent surgeon and addition to the team'. 

PAWS hopes that she will be tempted to return to Paxos in 2017.

Below is an excerpt from Jo's report after her visit:

From day 1 of my arrival it was easy to see the positive impact PAWS has had on the island. The locals were so warm and friendly, however once it was discovered I was working with PAWS the hospitality reached a new level – free donuts and drinks everywhere coupled with animated discussions regarding their pets and the strays and how PAWS has helped them.

The number of stray cats around Paxos has reportedly dropped over the years that PAWS has been active however there is still a lot of work to be done, with numerous colonies present around the island both remotely and around the town centres.

I was lucky enough to work alongside Dr Russell and his wife Chris, Nurse Zoe and her partner and cat-trapping expert Jimmy. Together we trapped neutered and released a LOT of cats (I should have kept count!!). Most of the females we trapped were pregnant. Some days were more successful than others for trapping, however when considering each female cat may produce 4-5 kittens a year at least, it is impossible to deny the importance of every single neutering.

The majority of the work was done at the PAWS clinic in Magazia, a beautiful clinic which exceeded all my expectations – an autoclave, anaesthetic machine, separate surgery and consult room, and everything required to give the animals of the island the best care. The clinic attracted a lot of visitors, tourists and locals alike who had all heard about the clinic and wanted a look, all very impressed with the work and the facilities and the majority of them generously making a donation.

A highlight was when we spent the day neutering on the balcony of a Greek family’s house in the hills outside of Gaios. With a beautiful view of the ocean and a lovely family bringing you home baked cookies and helping you trap the cats it becomes easy to understand the adage ‘if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life’.

I can’t put into words how amazing my time was on Paxos, but I am so grateful to Lindsay, Russell, Chris, Zoe, Jimmy and everyone else who has made it possible. I am proud of what I achieved during my time and I think PAWS should be immensely proud of all the good they have done for the animals of the island and their people. It is so special to be a part of something that is not only making a real difference but that is also received so gratefully by the people of the island. I am literally counting down the days until I can go back!

At the end of Russell's visit, a meeting was arranged with Nefeli Damigou, the Greek vet that worked with PAWS during the winter. Lindsay the Director of PAWS came over to Paxos to join in the discussions with Russell, Nefeli and Faye.

Russell and Nefeli (see adjacent photo) discussed case notes at the clinic and then we all considered the long term possibilities for PAWS. We would very much like Nefeli to be part of this plan but we have to make sure the best decision is made for Paxos and the care of its animals.

Meanwhile, Nefeli will be working for PAWS in July and August and will also return again in the winter from November 2016 to March 2017.

PAWS sincerely thanks Russell & Chris plus Zoe & James once again for their dedication to our charity and the care of animals on Paxos. We are also delighted that Jo enjoyed her first visit to the island and hope that she will become a regular volunteer. Thanks also to Nefeli for returning to Paxos and for being so caring and enthusiastic.