Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pachi's Trip to the Vet

Poor Miss Pachi ran into a stick or something and injured her right eye a few days ago. Bert woke me up early Tuesday morning to show me.
Not even the worst of it! This was the first day.  By the second day, her third eyelid swelled up so much it covered three-quarters of her eye. :(
I inspected it, flushed it with water, and asked the advice of my friends and Google. It didn't appear that the cornea was scratched, but her entire conjunctiva was swollen up so much that I started calling her "zombie dog"! I was really hoping that it would just heal up on its own, but it got progressively worse over two days, so this morning I decided to find a vet.

The Panajachel Facebook group recommended a vet named Cristina so I mustered up my courage and gave her a call. Courage? Why courage? Because I don't speak Spanish very well. Plus I've always been one of these people that gets nervous talking on the phone, so even when I'm speaking English, I rehearse what I'm going to say beforehand. This time, I practiced some Spanish phrases and had open to translate whatever she responded with.

Unfortunately, Dr. Cristina was out of town and wouldn't be able to see me until the next night. I asked her for another vet I could see today and she said to go to Zoo Mazcota. I had seen this vet's office on our walks near the market, so I knew it wasn't far. I had heard it was expensive though, but I figured at least Pachi and I could walk up there and get treatment right away.

We arrived at the office and the secretary told me that the vet was out on a housecall and would be back around noon. So we decided to wait the 45 minutes sitting on the sidewalk outside. Almost right on the dot at noon, a red car pulled up and bunch of young people dressed in scrubs got out. They walked into the clinic, so I followed. Was one of these 20-somethings the vet?

One of the young women, very pretty, spoke to me in English and told me the secretary would take some information and then she would see me. I told the secretary my first name, easy, Cristal is how they spell it here, but then I blanked on how to spell my last name in Spanish. I ended up just writing it in the book for her.

We sat in the waiting room for less than two minutes before another woman came out to take us into the exam room. The room was the same as a vet exam room back home: a steel table, a cabinet full of medical stuff, and a person sitting at a computer at a desk. It turned out to be the nice young woman who spoke English that was going to examine Pachi. But she couldn't be the vet? His name was Miguel. It knew that because it was plastered all over the walls on countless certificates. (Like seriously, at least 30 certificates.)

No matter who she was, she was an excellent doctor. She spoke better English than I spoke Spanish and was excited to learn new words like "eyelid" when she stumbled over them and I corrected her. I had done a lot of Googling before going to the vet, so I knew what to expect. First they asked all the regular questions about Pachi: age (who knows?), fixed (yes), vaccinated (yes, thanks to Ayuda), and what had happened. They weighed Pachi but I didn't catch the number. Pachi is chubby though! :)

She and the other woman inspected Pachi's eye, looked at her teeth, then put fluorescence in the eye to check for a scratch. The vet explained everything as she went along, and even showed me Pachi's eye with the fluorescence in it to show there was no "ulcer", as she called it.

After it was all done and Pachi was back on the floor happily wagging her tail and getting pets from the assistant, the vet-lady told me that Pachi would need surgery under anaesthetic to repair the third eyelid. Uh-oh! I stammered out, "¿Es posible no?" (Is it possible no?) I was panicking because I was worried about the cost. I just got paid but I really wasn't prepared to pay hundreds of dollars for vet bills! We talked back and forth a bit in mixed English and Spanish. She said that we can try antibiotics for a week and see if it helps. She was happy to do that, and said that most doctors would rush to surgery but she wasn't like that.

She lifted Pachi back up on the table and gave her a shot of Ketofen for pain and inflammation, then wrote a prescription up for two other drugs: Ofloxacin, and antibiotic drop for her eyes, and Rimadyl for pain. She noticed Pachi's dew claws were very long so she cut them for me. How nice!

At this point I finally asked her name. It was Debbie. She handed me a prescription for the drugs, and I had to ask, embarrassed for not understanding, "Where do I get these?" She said to just show it to the front desk girl. I thanked her profusely, said goodbye, and took Pachi out to the front.

The secretary checked the prescription and went in the back to get the drugs. Then she rang up my bill and typed the total into a calculator so I could see the numbers. (This is a cool thing they do here sometimes for gringos who can't quite get Spanish numbers correct. It's ingenious and very helpful!)

The grand total for the consult and drugs? Q391. That's about $68 Canadian. Holy cheapness, Batman!
Pachi's vet bill.
So a vet consult costs around $13 Canadian or a bit less than $10 U.S at today's exchange rates. Wow. I walked into the vet's expecting to pay WAY more. It's a huge relief that it was not as much as I was fearing, as I only had Q600 in my purse. But I am sooooooo hoping that these antibiotics work and we don't have to do the surgery. Vet bills are not something that I think anybody is really prepared to pay for, especially with Xmas and birthdays approaching. But Pachi's health is important, and she is such a good dog, she deserves to be happy and pain-free. :)

I have to say that that was one of the best experiences I've had with a vet anywhere in the world. Debbie was kind, efficient, and explained everything. She listened to my concerns. She was sincerely worried about Pachi's pain, and took the extra time to clip her dew claws. I don't know anything about the "real" vet who runs Zoo Mazcota, but I would be happy to return there with Pachi or another pet just to see Debbie!

I also want to say something about this experience that may not have come across in my writing. It was very stressful. I'm normally not one to get freaked out about vet trips. In fact, having studied zoology in university, veterinarian visits are fascinating to me. But the big thing that caused me so much stress was the language barrier. I was worried that I wouldn't understand what the vet was saying, or that I couldn't communicate properly the information they needed about Pachi's health and lifestyle, or I wouldn't be able to tell them my feelings or concerns properly in Spanish. I couldn't ask about the drugs, the side effects, what to look for. I couldn't even make jokes about Pachi being a silly pooch! And in the end, I couldn't properly express my gratitude for their help and compassion.

This is a big thing that I seem to be struggling with here in Guatemala. I've always prided myself on being an intelligent and articulate person. But in Spanish, I'm an idiot. Plus my tendency to get flustered in social situations doesn't help! I can practice my Spanish phrases at home until they're flawless, but put me in front of someone who's looking me in the eyes and I screw everything up!

Bert has been so supportive of me in this aspect of adjusting to life in Guatemala. He insists that I'm doing great, but I know that I would say so much more, and say it much more eloquently, if only I was speaking English. I study Spanish almost every night but I still feel like I'm not learning as quickly as I would like. And being put in a very specific situation like a vet visit only serves to clarify how little Spanish I know. *sigh*  Oh well. I suppose it will come in time. And I was extremely grateful for the vet's English skills, as it made it so much easier and relieved some of my stress.

As it stands now, Pachi is sleeping soundly on her blanket, probably without pain for the first time in two days, and I am going to finish up this blog and then Google all her medications before giving any of them to her, just to be safe. Cross your fingers that all will be well in a few days!


  1. Cristel, I have exactly the same language frustration at times. I want to say so much more, but I can't. Just remember that Guatemalans are wonderful people, and they are so patient, and you communicate a lot with your willingness to try and with your body languages and smiles. You are doing great, and it WILL get better.

  2. It sounds to me like you are doing fine. Give it time and keep going out to talk to everyone you can. Try the children if you can handle them. They are very forgiving of your lack of skills. Above all remember that it took you several years to learn English and then several more to master it so your could express yourself. Be patient with yourself.