Monday, June 11, 2012


The last village I visited was called Nuiqsut. A new group of volunteers (2 coasties and a USPHS veterinarian) joined Dr. Coburn and I for this trip. We left early on Tuesday morning on an ERA Alaska flight. The pilot, Eric, held the door open for us as we walked out to the plane. I asked him, "Do you have a copilot?" He responded with, "No, do you want to be one?" Of course I said yes, and I joined him in the cockpit.
The small airplanes are not heated or pressurized because they fly so low to the ground (relatively speaking). So during the last few flights to the villages, I stayed bundled up in my winter jacket, hat & gloves. However, in the copilot seat, the sun was shining right through the windows, keeping me nice and warm. It felt like a summer day with the sun warming my face!

Nuiqsut is a medium sized village, with a population of about 400. Once again, we stayed at the local health clinic and set up surgery in the garage. However, the health clinic apartment was full so we got to sleep on random couches in offices and meeting rooms. We also showered in the emergency room shower.....kinda weird.

After settling in, we headed out to the village, going door to door vaccinating dogs for rabies. For dinner, we went to the local hotel, which has a restaurant/buffet that is open to the public for $20 all you can eat. The food was amazing (grilled salmon, homemade mushroom soup, steamed veggies, and peach cobbler). I think it was the best food joint in all of the Arctic, even better than the restaurants in Barrow.

On Wednesday, we had a few surgeries scheduled. It was a pretty exciting day, Dr. Renee did her first spay of the trip and the coasties, Josh and Nathan, learned how to properly wrap an IV catheter on a dog (its much different than people because of all their fur!). Later in the day, we split into two groups and  vaccinated the rest of the dogs in town. Thrusday consisted of spays and neuters and visiting any houses that we missed on the first 2 days since people were not home. On our way back, we stopped and chatted with a guy who was working on preparing a seal hide to dry. Once it was tanned, he was going to make his son a hunting pouch with it, to store all of his hunting supplies.

Our flight left on Friday afternoon, so we had the entire morning free. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we went for a walk down by the river. The ice was just begining to break up, leaving large chunks of ice stranded on shore or floating downstream. We had a blast jumping from iceburg to iceburg and taking rediculous pictures. While there, we even saw some beautiful tundra swans floating in a pool of water between the iceburgs. 

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