As our little plane bumped on the tarmac of the Iqaluit airport, conflicting feelings of both overwhelming happiness and nervous anticipation began to bubble within me. This was one of those trips I had dreamed about for years — 6 years to be precise –so the pressure was on. I had heard about the Chinook Project from a veterinarian three years before entering vet school. And I was excited to finally become a part of the experience. I knew that this trip would be a real boost to my veterinary education, but I had no idea that I would be embarking on the soul-soothing adventure of a lifetime.
Our first day of meeting clients proved to be a difficult one for me. I was exhausted from the early morning flights. Add in the chaos of having twenty-five patients coming through the doors and three surgeries to do and it was a recipe for me becoming stressed out. I knew the only thing that would help was a breath of fresh air. I asked a fellow Chinook student to step out and go for a walk with me before supper, and, to my pleasant surprise, she needed that break just as much as I did. We left the Chinook clinic and walked down the street near the waters of Frobisher Bay. It was a beautiful day, and as we walked, I experienced a sense of calmness. The two of us discussed our day and how stressed out both of us felt about remembering drugs, surgery techniques and seeing so many patients. Before long, our conversation began to shift to how grateful we were to be there and how happy our walk had made us. I headed back into the clinic with a big smile on my face and was reminded of the importance of getting back to nature when I felt stressed out.
Both “getting back to nature” and also working in the service of others were some of the things I had decided to do when my uncle had died in my first year at AVC. My uncle was a Jesuit Priest who took a vow of poverty and who vowed to do everything he could for the environment, animals, and the poor. After his death, I promised myself I would try to live –as best as I could — in a way that honoured his memory. His death was sad and heart wrenching, but it gave me a purpose: in some way, to help others.
The second clinic day with the Chinook Project brought more excitement than stress as I became more comfortable and confident with my medical and surgical skills. And at the end of the day, all four students decided to go on a bit of a hike to the Apex Park near our clinic. As we started our hike, the first things I noticed were small flowers poking their beautiful bright petals from the otherwise drab soil. How could these little flowers grow in such a harsh climate? I climbed a bit higher and noticed the arctic willow that Marti, our coordinator, had told us existed here. We were above the tree line, but this little tree had such spunk and tenacity to grow in an environment that seemingly didn’t want it. Finally, we reached the top of the hill and sat on the edge, overlooking the frozen Frobisher Bay. No words can really describe the feeling that overcame me at that moment. Not a word was spoken for a few minutes, and I had an overwhelming feeling that my uncle was there with me. I could see his face smiling in the sunlight at the top of this little hill. I could feel the calmness that he exuded throughout his life. And I could sense his happiness at the thought of me, helping the community and the animals of Iqaluit. In that moment, I experienced the sensation of fully living in his memory – something I hope to experience over and over again as I live my own life, in service to animals and grounded in nature.
Mila Profit, AVC 2017, traveled to Iqaluit in 2016 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Mila’s pieces