As I approached Noah’s Ark, I could already feel it in my bones that I was in for a special experience. Just standing outside at the gates, hearing the deafening barks of the animals inside were enough to confirm the sentiments that I felt. I’ve heard stories of Noahs Ark from people who had been there on visits, but nothing they said could prepare me for what was in stall. When the gates opened, we were immediately surrounded by dogs of all sizes. They were jumping and running up to us, each one desperately nudging their noses against us, each wanting just a piece of acknowledgement and needing that little affection from us; it was overwhelming. By the time I finally got into the house, my white shirt had already turned to a shade of brown, complemented with designs of paw prints on it!
On the first night, it was hard for us to sleep. The occasional barking of the animals outside was enough to keep us awake through most of the night and I found myself waking at the break of dawn by the deafening barks as the dogs woke up eager to see their handlers.
It was during this trip, that I had a taste of what it was like to be a veterinarian. Raymund must really be given credit for his patience and tenacity as he and the attending vet gave us very clear and precise instructions what was expected of me as I assisted in the various procedures. What was a simple procedure to them took twice as long for me to complete. Whether it was holding the scalpel blade at the start of the operation or even just holding the needles holder, I was undoubtedly nervous and it was blatantly displayed by my trembling hands. Sometimes having Raymund standing in close proximity did not help at all, causing my hands to shake even more!
However, with his encouragement and a constant reminder to breathe and relax, I managed to succeed and finally did various parts of the operation by myself. When he felt that I was quite safe to be left on my own, he sat close by in the next room eating cookies and started telling the dogs around him how students like us were causing him to put on weight as he had to find ways to occupy himself while we practiced our surgical skills! I bet this must have been his ploy to help me relax and not be so tense! Hee hee.
What was initially a nerve wrecking experience soon became a routine procedure. In time, I realized my hands were no longer trembling with nervousness! I had learnt to suture up a wound and how to feel for the various reproductive organs in an animal’s abdomen. It felt truly amazing and the confidence I gained from having such hands on experience was priceless. Throughout the trip, I got to learn how to perform sterilizations on both dogs and cats. It was a good hands-on experience, and being able to watch those procedures from a very close proximity was an opportunity not to be missed. We were shown the different aspects of shelter medicine and it was really an eye opener.
Going to Noah’s Ark was an unforgettable trip for me. It served as a good reminder for me as to why I wanted to become a veterinarian in the first place - to help animals.
Raymund has proven that with passion and enough determination, anything is possible. Anyone and everyone can play their part and improve the lives of strays. In the midst of studying, one tends to get lost and forget main goals. I was reminded that being a veterinary student is not simply about studying just to pass exams and gain the qualifications, but is it to also gain as much knowledge as possible to better equip one’s self for any scenario presented in the future. It was only after having numerous discussions with Raymund and personally seeing the fate of numerous strays that I was able to truly comprehend the need for more shelters like Noah’s Ark that provide a safe haven for the animals. Being able to rehome an animal is always a desirable outcome, but humans still need to be educated on being responsible pet owners for as they say, “A pet is for life”.
Thank you Uncle Raymund for what you are doing for all the strays and the homeless and most of all, thank you for taking that time to guide and instruct me and having the faith in me.
**Story contributed by Marian Low