(Mary-Claire Sanderson, AVC 2016, travelled to Natuashish in June 2015)
“I don’t know guys, I can’t see the mountain,” I said with a yawn to Chris and Andrea as I blearily peered out the front door this morning. Our weather eyes have been glancing towards Sango Mountain, a high peak to the west of Natuashish, ever since our flight to Goose Bay was canceled Tuesday morning by a thick, lingering fog. Our view of the landscape has been completely obscured, and, as any local will tell you, there will be no flights in or out of Natuashish until Mount Sango comes back into view. The pilots rely on sharp, 20/20 vision to land their little plane, making it unsafe to land without a clear vista of the runway and surrounding terain. Therefore, until the fog lifts, Natuashish is where we shall stay.
Fortunately, the Chinook team is an optimistic lot. Rather than idyll in despair over the days we are missing in our next community, we decided to take this unavoidable delay as a serendipitous opportunity to continue our work in Natuashish. Surgical equipment packed to go at a moment’s notice, we shifted our focus from dogs to children and paid a visit to Mushuau Innu Natuashish School.
The school was preparing for tomorrow’s graduation ceremony in a flurry of activity. Not wanting to interrupt the older students completing the year’s final lessons, we accepted an invitation to a kindergarten class and chatted with them about their favourite animals. One wanted to know if we had ever seen horses or cats, having only seen them in pictures. Another
proclaimed confidently that elephants ate bananas. Where they interact with dogs on a daily basis, we touched on how to read canine behaviour and act safely around dogs. When it came time to say goodbye, several little girls reached to be picked up and gave us huge, warm hugs and kisses. They asked again for our names and played with our earrings. I looked around at our faces as we left the room, and we were all sporting huge grins.
I have often thought that children and dogs share something essential. They have a kindred reckless abandon that sparks pure joy in me like nothing else. I think part of me wanted to become a veterinarian in the same way human doctors aspire to be pediatricians; to help an innocent element in the world. It feels right to work on a project that reaches out to them both.