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Saturday, October 15, 2005


Drama in Dogistan

The oft-asked question of "just how bad is vet care in Azerbaijan?" has been answered: very, very bad.

Mo, the most precious dogchild, was attacked by a German Shepherd Monday night while we were still in the States and he was staying at his Russian dogwalker's out in Baku's nether regions. The dog's owner took responsibility and Lena the Russian dogwalker was extremely diligent, taking him to her vet and obtaining a medicine cabinet full of antibiotics, antiseptics and vitamin shots (a key component of the Russian pharmacopoeia. Got a kidney infection? Here's a vitamin shot.)

Yes, this is the second time he's been attacked by a German Shepherd. He sends out signals to larger dogs that say "go ahead, kick my ass." I wish he'd stop. He always loses.

The injury was not very serious, but I wanted to take him to the vet used by most westerners and Embassy people here to make sure everything was OK.

Next time, I'll resist that impulse.

If you were willing to overlook the staff standing around smoking cigarettes in the waiting area, the storefront office met minimal cleanliness standards. The equipment was fairly medieval, but in a country where people are treated with leeches (no, seriously) and tumor is blamed on the victim having gotten cold, it wasn't all that bad. The vet seemed competent as he examined the wounds and declared there was no infection and everything was OK. He then used a French-made antiseptic on the wounds that looked like hair mousse.

As I stood talking to the vet about getting dog passports and microchips (now required when they travel) Mo had a rather violent allergic reaction to the anti-septic. He went nuts, scratching and rubbing his face and ears on the hard tile floor. The vet told me this was normal.

As Mo became more distressed, with his eyes getting blank and tongue hanging out, I became somewhat mental. The vet, sitting at his desk smoking a cigarette, told me to calm down and denied that anything he had done had caused this reaction. I told him to do something to help my dog. Someone ran across the street to the Aptek to get an injection, probably of an anti-allergant, but who could tell since the labeling was in Russian.

After a few minutes, the shot took effect and he started to return to normal. I walked him home, but he was clearly uncomfortable.

An hour later, they barked at someone at the door, but Mo barked in a "weird voice" and shook his head like he had a migraine. His ears were hot and swollen. At this point, I pretty much lost my mind.

-- The Producer was still in the US (not that he would have providing any calming influence whatsoever);
-- I refused to call the same vet again;
-- I considered calling our vet in Portland, but it was 3 am, I wasn't clear on what he'd been given so wouldn't able to explain the problem in a helpful way and, given where I live, I was certain that I couldn't implement any recommendation;

Even though I had one of my staff translating for me all along, the language and cultural barrier seemed insurmountable. I simply did not know what to do.

A friend knew of another vet that made housecalls. Since I was out of options, Dr. Anar was called and showed up within an hour. Meanwhile, Mo lay quietly with a bag of ice on his head.

Dr. Anar carried a little cooler with his stethoscope, thermometer and had a very soothing manner. He took Mo's temperature, looked at the wounds and his ears. Satisfied, he declared that the wounds were fine, the allergic reaction would pass and that Mo is too fat. All this for $10.

My staffer, who admitted to never having met a vet in his life, volunteered that Dr. Aziz (the Embassy vet) was a total quack and Dr. Anar, the housecall vet, was the real deal. I had to agree with him.

Mo still isn't 100%, but he enthusiastically greeted Lena the Russian Dogwalker, who comes to give him his shots. She calls him "Moka" (little Mo). Every 10 minutes or so, I resist the urge to put them both on a plane and send them home to their father

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