Ohio is known for many things. Buckeyes. “Swing state” status. The Drew Carey Show (Cleveland rocks, you know).
And now, the greatest intern in the history of internships. I am honored to hereby hand this blog post over to Antoinette, a sophomore at The Ohio State University, who has spent the past summer working with Dr. C and Denise. As you’re about to read, Antoinette’s summer was wild beyond the gates of Tabby’s Place.
“Animals must speak English.”
That’s what Dr. A, a Guatemalan Veterinarian and VIDA staff member, said frankly to our team of volunteers as we worked to keep intake under control. She then turned and began conversing in Spanish to the young girl holding a cat.
Our attention was quickly turned to deciphering – the young cat would be getting spayed. But after the tabby was handed over to the waiting pair of vet students, we were surprised to find that Dr. A did not back up her odd statement with an explanation. She continued with intake, walking the next undernourished mutt to a pair of anxious vet students on the other side of the church lawn.
“Just a wellness exam, girls,” she explained as she handed the twine rope leash to the pair. Our spirits dimmed momentarily, as we all coveted the surgery cases, but they were quickly relit with a whimper and a lick from the young mix. I met Dr. A half-way between the medical zone and the entrance of the church where intake was held.
“Why English?” I questioned.
She responded, “There is no real science to it; it just makes more sense than Spanish. In my language a dog goes Guau Guau (pronounced wow wow) a sheep meee meee and a chick pío pío. But, that’s not at all what they sound like. You Americans just seem to have it right.”
I had no response; I was stunned. When you slam a door in Nicaragua it sounds the same as in the United States; when the radio station is fuzzy it sounds the same; and after 4 clinic days in Nicaragua, I was positive that when a dog barked it, too, sounded the same. Therefore, up to that exact moment in my life, as ignorant as it may have been, I had assumed every language in every corner of the globe used the same animal noises, when in reality they are often unidentifiable to an untrained ear.
This was another fact to add to my list. I had been in Central America for almost two weeks now, working spay-and-neuter field clinics with a group known as VIDA. As an aspiring veterinarian, I was having the time of my life. I made sure to replay my day every night and reflect on what I had learned in an effort to avoid forgetting anything.
This night was different, though, as I lay awake in my home-stay’s house thinking about what Dr. A had said earlier that day. I was thinking less about the facts and more philosophically. After two weeks, two countries, and hundred of patients, I had formulated a new theory. Animals, whether cats, dogs, pigs, or cows, have a language all their own, uniting pets to pets as well as pets to their owners. It was eye-opening to be apart of interactions between people who spoke different languages but used the animals as an avenue to share important information to reach a common goal.
This powerful ‘language’ based on empathy, compassion, and body cues is hardwired into us all but is not as easy for some to tap into. As fellow animal lovers, I challenge you to teach through your actions and encourage those who have not spoken the language to take a moment to truly interact with our furry friends.
Antoinette, you are wise beyond your years.
While there’s no doubt that Tabby’s Place was clearly the wildest place Antoinette has interned, we are grateful to have lived vicariously through her farther-flung missions of mercy. Amiga, we will miss you mightily as you return to Ohio. Keep up your amazing work of love in every language.