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Medical Pet Care on Four Wheels

Spending a Day with Hilary Barclay

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Friday morning 11 am. I am standing at the parking lot of the Hout Bay Spar supermarket, waiting for an old silvery Mercedes Benz to come and pick me up for an adventurous day of pet care and medical treatment. “Come on in, how are you?” Hilary Barclay, driver of said Mercedes, friendly salutes and invites me to jump into her slightly wrecked vehicle that has been the motorized means of transport for many of her four-legged patients over the last decades. Working as a vet nurse for the local shelter DARG as well as for her own non-profit organization PETS (Proactive Education, Treatment and Sterilization), Hilary provides a weekly mobile medical service from the trunk of her car for the residents of the township of Hangberg and their furry friends. Every Friday, dog and cat owners from the township gather together at the side of Bayview Road and wait for the “dog lady” to treat their pets.

Once we reach the township, Hilary parks her four-wheeled pet hospital, gets of it and moves naturally among the many patients waiting for her treatment. She occasionally pets a head or two, enthusiastically greeting every other dog with the words: “Hello, my boy!” It is only now that the real work starts for the former cardiothoracic ICU nurse from Glasgow: vaccinations, de-worming tablets and treatment against the common skin disease canine scabies (also known as mange) are provided from the trunk of her car and carefully administered to her furry patients. Part of Hilary's working philosophy is that the pet owners only have to pay for the medicine – never for the service itself. Otherwise, she later tells me, many would not be able to afford the treatment so that a great number of dogs and cats would end up not being treated at all. Vaccination and de-worming only cost the small amount of 50R while other medical provisions like for instance vitamin tablets are often completely financed by donations and hence given away for free.

What impresses me the most about Hilary is the way she addresses the township residents. She is respectful and friendly yet direct and down to the point when she, for instance, emphatically advises the pet owners to have their dogs and cats sterilized.

Unfortunately, not all of Hilary's furry patients can be treated right on the spot. When a dog is suffering from a deep bite wound or a broken leg, Hilary often re-functions her mobile pet service station into an animal ambulance and takes the four-legged injured patient straight to a veterinary hospital. Today, not even all of the “normal” cases can be sufficiently treated since Hilary is running out of medicine before each dog has had the chance to get his share. She patiently explains to the remaining pet owners that a new box of medical provisions is due for tomorrow and that everybody is welcome to come to DARG the next day in order for his furry friend to be looked after. As I have to learn, Saturdays are by no means leisure days for the passionate dog-lover Hilary. Her shift is quite often a twenty-four-seven one, the constantly ringing mobile in one of her pockets delivering vivid proof for this.

Once Hilary has treated all of her little patients, she hurries back into the car, already being a little overdue for her next appointment. Following her shift in Hangberg is a house-visit, which is obligatory whenever a family decides to adopt a dog from a shelter in order to make sure that their properties are well-prepared for the dog. Also on her to-do list for the day is the picking up of five baby kittens from a local resident and a stop at the veterinary hospital in order to check on one of her little patients. Although Hilary is often working some extra hours, even spending her weekends at DARG, she never seems to be frustrated or tired by the work she is doing. She greets each and every furry patient with the same warm-hearted head stroke and the same loving words of empathy. By the end of the day, when she drops me of at the Spar market, the “dog-lady” still seems to be full of energy, waving a hearty goodbye, inviting me to come and join her for another trip of medical care in her old silvery Mercedes Benz.

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Author: Daniela Koentopp

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