“It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same.
You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
My name is Erin Andersen. I’m from Makkovik, a community on the North Coast of Labrador. When we were young our dad would tell us this is the land of our grandmother’s grandmother and that we could trace our Inuit ancestry back that way. Northern Labrador is inhabited by Inuit, Innu, and people of European descent who were drawn to live in this place for all manner of reasons.
I grew up fairly shy, with two loves: reading and animals. The desire to be a veterinarian took hold at a young age. I was 18 when I moved away for school. Like many people at that age, after living in a small and remote town, I had a craving for newness: new experiences, new sights, new anything.However, I spent the next ten years learning that to be from Labrador is to carry something that never leaves you. I’ve never found a collective sense of humour quite like the one here. Certain smells, sounds, tastes are ingrained in my memory: wood smoke on a bitter cold January day; the tick of a snowmobile engine cooling down after you’ve stopped for a boil-up on the land; springtime sun warm on your face; Caribou soup.
When I’m away, Labrador is a place I can sense, sort of like how you can hear your own heartbeat in the stillness of a quiet night.
After a lot of trying and with unbelievable support from many people, I was able to start training as a veterinarian at the Atlantic Veterinary College. I joined a community of people dedicated to improving the lives of animals through the practice of good medicine. And I learned about the amazing opportunity the Chinook Project offers AVC students to hone their skills.
10 years after I first moved away from Labrador, I got to come back as part of a team of vet students and veterinarians. We’re wrapping up our week of clinic days in Nain and Sheshatshiu, in the fire halls transformed into a fully functional animal clinic for wellness exams, spays, and neuters. There hasn’t been time yet for the experience to fully sink in, but being welcomed back to Labrador in this way has been the greatest honour of my life. There are so many dedicated individuals here, devoting their lives to the health and well-being of companion animals. It has given me a new appreciation for the resourcefulness, intelligence, and kindness of Labradorians. The most heartfelt thanks goes out to Paul Fenton for being such a protector and friend of the animals here, and to all the volunteers helping our Chinook team practice in the most meaningful way possible.