Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tigger, Rabies, New faces

It has been a terrible week.  Our big, brave, beautiful, bouncing 2 yr old dog Tigger began exhibiting unusual symptoms last Sunday, nipping at my throat upon our arrival. Monday he bit my finger, so before heading down the mountain we closed the center and called the only person in the village with a course in Veterinary care. He said there was rabies in the village and told us to quarantine so Auguste returned the next day with Dieugrand, our new Security Coordinator, to construct a safe place for Tigger. Our newly prepared bike garage was the only available space, so it became his prison.

There have been many experiences in Haiti which have made me empathize with Britain's Queen Elizabeth when she spoke of her "annus horribilis" in a year end broadcast. While the year itself is not yet over and there have been joyful times, this last week will be remembered as our "septimana horribilis"

Tigger always thought of himself as one of the staff.
Despite a severely broken leg at 6 weeks,
Tigger healed, and didn't walk, he bounded, hence his name.
We usually traveled up and down the mountain once a week as our truck was near the end. This week when we really needed a reliable vehicle, we were able to travel back and forth 3 times with peace of mind - not even a thought of a mountainside breakdown. No, the road surface did not miraculously smooth out, but thanks to Benjamin Plett and the  Jasmine Foundation, we now mountain climb without worry, because of a generous gift in memory of Jasmine co-founder Diane Plett, who died in January. No more eating dust or being drenched from the heat, just quiet comfort when taking the bumps.

Our new Nissan Frontier-no bells and whistles
just basic comfort.
Tigger's condition deteriorated, so Auguste returned to Cap for me. We drove back up Thursday and I was shocked at the change in our once happy, healthy dog. He had refused food for a week, but did take liquid vitamins which I fed him on a spoon (Thanks Dufferin Veterinary Clinic, Orangeville). Thursday night he paced and howled, gnawed the metal bars. I sat outside his cage fighting off the mosquitoes and talking to him. Our neighbor's wife, twenty years my junior, died during the time I sat with him, and the wailing from family and friends mingled with his cries. It seemed the whole village was in agony. It is a good thing hearts don't really break. I find it more difficult to witness suffering than to experience it.

After the church bell tolled at 5 am to wake the village,  a nearby house choir began to practice, soothing me and easing the sadness. For the first time I can remember, the women took their practice "repetisyon"to the street, processing around our "katye" and back home. No religious holiday, not taking it to church, just a spontaneous act of joy - human voices joined in song, sharing with all in range.

As  seen from our 2nd floor gallery - Singing to soothe the spirit - a spontaneous pre-dawn procession
Friday morning at a staff meeting we decided to open the cage and clean it out. Instead of bouncing out, Tigger shakily walked toward the pile of construction gravel to do his business, then lay down in the sunshine. The staff did not want to approach him, it was up to me.While attempting to close the cage door after cleaning, he took a last good bite out of my foot. Not his fault. We left him out as he had no energy to hurt anyone who didn't bother him. He died in the courtyard. Night student staff St.Luc was sitting beside him. This was my first encounter with Rabies. I hope it's my  last.

Back in Cap-Haitien, Saturday morning we took our male pup, Senkyeme to the 'vet' for neutering. Afterwards, I stopped at Santi Publique and made an appointment for anti rabies injections, 5 spread over a month. Our puppies here receive their Rabies vaccine at 3 months of age. A vet friend of mine in Canada cautioned that it's too young.  Antibodies in mother's milk are still working and can interfere with the vaccine. So the dilemma now is do we re vaccinate all? Tigger never ran free - he lived in the compound. Twice a day he and his kennel mate Granjil went for a walk on their leashes with staff members. There were no skirmishes with wild dogs, just barking and posturing. The only possible contamination that we can think of is a bat bite (chat-sourit).We'll never know for sure.

Closing the center was the only responsible action. Schools are scheduled to open October first so we still have time for interviews and registration. We will reopen the Sen Rafayel center Wednesday. While our "Waiting for Admission" list still sits at over 200, we have added many new faces using general funds.Here are a few:  In Sen Rafayel:
Alexandra - 8eme
Odette - 8eme
  Myka - 9eme

 Rose-Tania - 7eme
                Estepha - 8eme
Wilbrode - Sec. 4(final year)

Jonathan - Sec.4 (final year)

Jasmine - 8eme

Myrlande - Reto (second last year)                  
 Sylvina - 8eme 
           Merline - Reto
Dieuner - Sec. 1

Marguerite - Sec. 1

Fabiolla - 9eme

 Irlande - Sec.1

Paulene - Sec.3

Adeline - 3eme            

Ketteline - 2nd
Dupy - 9eme
Lilia - 3eme

Rose-Darline - 8eme

And in Cap-Haitien:





There are always lessons to learn and new experiences. Haiti is a surprising teacher. Some lessons I would like to avoid, others I embrace. When I look at the faces of the young people who arrive on our doorsteps and watch the changes in them as they grow, I am grateful for everything life throws this way, even the pain.

Let's make this new school year an "annus mirabilis"(amazing). Working together, we can accomplish anything.


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