A Bridge to a Sustainable Veterinary Program in Baja

November 13, 2007

By Susan Monger, DVM

HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) has worked in Mexico with the Humane Society of San Jose del Cabo and Drs. Bravo, de la Garza, and Gabriel for the past three years. Building on the work we began, these veterinarians established a new clinic in an area of Baja California, that lacked veterinary care.

After a two-week HSVMA-RAVS clinic in San Jose del Cabo and Todos Santos—where the team performed 265 surgeries and delivered veterinary care to more than 300 animals—I accompanied Dr. Bravo up the East Cape Highway to visit the new clinic.

Help on the way

Bridge with Vincente
Bridge with her proud new owner, Vicente Garcia.

The grand opening had just been a few days before, and it was none too soon. En route to the neighboring town of Las Barilles, Dr. Bravo saw an abandoned dog on a bridge along a stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere. He stopped and attempted to catch the dog, but she ran away.

The highway along East Cape is busy and dangerous. With the average rainfall at 4–6 inches a year, water is scarce in this southern Baja desert. On this trip, Dr. Bravo came prepared with food, water, a catch pole and a cage.

As we approached the bridge, we could see the dog, a German shepherd mix, lying right beside the highway in the middle of the bridge. We pulled over, and Dr. Bravo crouched down and approached her slowly with some food in his hand. He had the catch pole in the other, just in case.

Talking to her in a soft voice, he extended his hand with the food. She didn’t move, allowing him to approach her. She even wagged her tail a bit. She seemed exhausted, and there was no need for the pole, as he was able to slip a leash around her neck and walk her slowly back to the truck.

She happily climbed into the cage, and we proceeded to the clinic.

Happy Bridge

We put in a full day at the new clinic, seeing many cases and doing a few surgeries. The rescued dog slept peacefully in her cage. At the end of the day, Dr. Bravo returned to San Jose del Cabo with the dog and kept her in the shelter. When I returned to San Jose del Cabo a few days later, there she was—a sweet and happy dog, well cared for and seemingly settled in well at the shelter. Her new name was Bridge.

Locals such as Vicente Garcia know that the shelter in San Jose del Cabo is a good place to adopt a companion. Vicente works with horses and lives on a small farm on the outskirts of town. He came to the shelter looking for a dog to keep him company on the farm, and he is now Bridge’s proud owner. Thanks to the persistence of Dr. Bravo, Bridge has a good home, and Vicente has a great companion.

In addition to caring for the animals at the shelter and the new clinic, Drs. Bravo, de la Garza and Gabriel spay and neuter dogs and cats in their communities in San Jose del Cabo and Las Barilles. They are dedicated to delivering veterinary care in places where it isn’t readily available. They are just three examples of how an initial partnership with HSVMA has grown into a sustainable program that will benefit the animals and people of the region for years to come.

Dr. Susan Monger is the Director of HSVMA-RAVS, International Program.