Counting dogs, with Gondar’s children helping us

By Ally Sterman, 2015 DVM and
Alexandra Medley, 2017 DVM and 2018 MPH/VPH
The Ohio State University

Our dog survey project takes us through various areas and communities in Gondar. Many of these areas are homes or rural communities that are heavily populated with families who have many children. As we walk around the areas, we quickly attract children. It is not common in many of these areas for individuals with white skin to pass through. When I was in Ethiopia the previous summer, in very, very rural communities children used to run and hide from us. This summer they run straight for us.

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Often times we know they are coming for the screams of “you, you, you” or ” foreingee, foreingee.” Once they arrive, they begin to ask us our names, how we are and where we are from. Many will try to speak some English with us and others will suddenly become shy and run and hide. If you pull out a camera to take a picture, they also all hide but when we bring out the iPad to record data they become super interested in what we are doing. The brave ones come up and want to shake hands with us. Such a simple gesture brings a wide smile to their faces.

They have been very helpful, helping us identify what sex the dogs are, where they are and even bring them up to the front of the yards to help us see them better. In the suburban areas we had as many as 30 children following us and in the rural side entire small villages of children.

Interestingly, the local veterinarians have told us that the main breeding season is in the Ethiopian Spring (September by U.S. calendars), although we have seen many pregnant dogs and puppies. Despite our initial thought that each dog would be hard to tell apart, we have seen a variety of shapes, sizes, breeds and coat patterns. So far we have been able to casually determine that dogs are mostly found in the peri-urban, or housing, areas. Although dogs tend to remain in a small area, or territory, there are many friendly dogs that roam in groups.

 

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We have seen many different medical conditions in the dogs, such as lameness, ticks, fleas, fighting wounds, and malnutrition, but none of this was outside of what we expected. We have completed our two rural paths, that are high up in the mountains where there are less than 15 houses per path. We have seen many dogs there, but more incredibly, the stunning panoramas of Gondar from up high. This season heralds strong winds and rain, and sometimes we had to brace ourselves from falling over as we navigated hilly terrain. In a few more days, we will wrap up our dog survey.

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Thesis defenses and counting dogs in Gondar, the student perspective

By Ally Sterman, 2015 DVM and
Alexandra Medley, 2017 DVM and 2018 MPH/VPH
The Ohio State University

After a 13-hour flight, we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A thought that kept crossing through both of our minds was whether or not our 140 pounds of veterinary medical supplies would make it to Ethiopia, through customs, and with us to Gondar. After locating the correct baggage claim lanes (this airport has 4), we waited patiently for our oversized and heavy baggage. Thankfully we made it with no difficulty through customs and to our airport.

Flights to Gondar leave early morning and we stayed overnight at the Jupiter hotel near the airport in Addis. The view from our room was of a large abandoned field. By day this field was a grazing zone for various sheep and goats, but by night it was a parking lot for local vehicles. After exploring around the area, we ended up calling it an early night.

We arrived to the airport early and upon arrival in Gondar were greeted by our partners from University of Gondar and taken to our hotel. Soon after settling in we headed to the vet school. We had the opportunity to listen to senior veterinary students defending their theses, which is the final project necessary to graduate. There are some striking differences between Ethiopia and U.S. vet school training. In Ethiopia the students defend a final thesis project instead of a cumulative boards exam (USA NAVLE), they attend school for 6 years (USA, 4), and primarily focus on large animal medicine because that is the primary need in the country.

After listening to the defenses we had a meeting with the faculty who helped us organize our dog survey. For the next week we are walking 15 different paths we have plotted through the city to count the roaming dog population and do a brief visual physical exam on each dog. Data we want to collect are the number of dogs seen along the path, sex, age, reproductive status, and any other clues to their health status.

Something we have learned already is how mountainous Gondar is, so although the paths are short, they take a while and we get a great workout. To get to destinations we take buses or taxis which are far more crowded than the average taxi in the US.

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Taxis and busy city streets

We have seen many types of dogs so far, from a small Papillon cross to a large Mastiff. Our favorite dog is the mixed breed brown dog who resides directly outside our hotel, affectionately named Kino.

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Kino, the dog

Whether Ethiopia or U.S., independence is a global value

imageBy Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio StateĀ College of Veterinary Medicine

Traditions and holidays are important wherever you are and know no boundaries. This holds true for the four of us students working here in Ethiopia. As July 4, neared we thought of the best ways to celebrate this holiday while abroad. Through Ethiopia was doesn’t officially have an Independence Day as we do in the states, they celebrate Adwa Victory in February. This is in memory of the Battle of Adwa, when they freed Ethiopia from Italian colonization.

We were in luck when we found our local convenient store ( a very small one room store with items on all the walls and one very small row of cookies, cereals and juices) at the end of our street had fireworks and sparklers. We purchased a few to celebrate and help make it feel like home.

We decided to try to find something very American for dinner and since our luck with cheeseburgers wasn’t going to well, and hot dogs aren’t common, we all agreed pizza was our best option. We celebrated our Fourth of July as best we could with pizza and fireworks. It wasn’t a traditional picnic cookout with the family and ending the evening with fireworks however it came pretty close.

We have all become close here like family, and our pizza and sparklers were just as much fun as a picnic and fireworks. All in all it was a successful Fourth of July celebration here halfway across the world.

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Ohio State in Ethiopia: Now the students’ work begins

By Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

With the start of the both the new week and new month our Ethiopia summer project really begins. Though we four students from various colleges at Ohio State arrived near the end of last week in Ethiopia, we did not begin our field work until July 1.

Our project takes us into both the rural and urban communities interviewing local adults, children, policy makers, community and faith leaders, as well as health care workers about rabies and dogs. We are set to travel around to three different areas before a workshop is held in Addis Ababa to discuss rabies further in mid-July.

However we do not go out alone. Each Ohio State student has two wonderful Ethiopian University of Gondar partners. These individuals are primarily faculty and staff at the university from a variety of fields/disciplines. They not only serve as interpreters for our project but tour guides of the city and historians for Ethiopia’s culture/traditions/history. They are quickly becoming lifelong and treasured friends. I know I can speak for all of the students about how grateful and appreciative we are for their help and how much fun/enjoyable they are making this experience.

The picture below was taken before one of the interviews conducted by my group. My group’s main focus is community leaders which include teachers, faith leaders, elders, and other various leaders in both the rural and urban settings. This picture was taken of one of the churches we travelled to in the city of Gondar where we had the opportunity to meet and talk to the priests about rabies and the dog population here in the city.

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