Getting students to international congresses

A nice, yet short break from my slowly improving patient in Oxford yesterday:

I took the soon unaffordable train from Farnborough to London (£43 for a return ticket!!…) and met with Independent Vet Care’s Director of HR Richard Parker to sign a sponsorship agreement between FECAVA and IVC to allow ten vet students from different European countries to attend the FECAVA Congress in 2020 and 2021.

This is a great opportunity for our young colleagues and something that was pretty much unthinkable when I was a vet student (even attending our national congress in Germany was unaffordable for us).

Animal welfare and veterinary medicine are issues that are truly international and the best way to understand this, is to communicate directly with fellow students and colleagues from other parts of the world.

It is something I have always enjoyed and I hope that more young colleagues will catch the travel bug……

My next patient…..

Back in the UK I have focused my attention now on a serious case of neglect in Oxford and this is certainly not an easy patient……

With being over 100 years old, a bit long in the teeth and in desperate need of a big dose of TLC.

The work is ranging from some wound drafting

over some issues with the circulatory system

to a serious case of colour blindness …….

I hope that over the next 4 weeks we will manage to stabilize this patient.

However, I already know that I will need all my skills of handling exotic species to dislodge the dorsal fin from the roof tiles…..

Oh yes, after all I had to do it……

For the last 2 weeks I had carried around a can of “Bear Spray” with me and had relied on it in case of a close encounter with one of the larger local predators, without really knowing if it would work if being used and how long the reach would be.

As I could not take it with me on the plane, it was time to try it out (without a bear….)…

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and the Bow Glacier Falls Trail

On our way back South from Jasper to Canmore along the Icefield Parkway we had booked one night at the iconic Num-Ti-Jah (meaning “Pinemarten” in the language of the Stone tribe which used to live here) Lodge on the shores of the Bow Lake.

This self built and by now pretty dated wooden structure was the lifetime work of “Jimmy” Simpson, a UK immigrant, and his family. Jimmy must have been one of these larger than life characters working as an outfitter, a mountain guide to the rich and famous, as a public speaker and as an artist pretty much until his death at the age of 95.

(Images taken from the NTJ Lodge)

He reminded me a bit of a similar character of my childhood, a South Tyrolian mountaineer and globetrotter called Louis Trenker who in the 70th had a television show where he just set behind a desk and told the stories of his colourful life. He too lived far into his nineties and remained a lifelong inspiration.

On our journey along the Icefield Parkway I ceased the opportunity to sit on a fully grown grizzly bear

and I learned my lesson never ever to ask for two scoops of ice cream in America….

We still arrived early enough at the lodge for me to us the wood fired house owned sauna

before enjoying dinner in the atmospheric Elkhorn Dining Room.

Getting up early the next day was rewarded with a blue sky and fabulous views of the lake, the surrounding glaciers and an outstanding hike to the Bow Glacier Falls.

Jasper Veterinary Clinic

Janet Jones, owner of the Jasper Veterinary Clinic was another kind local colleague who allowed me to visit her clinic and to say hello to her and to her friendly team.

The Jasper vets are treating both small animals and horses and the clinic has a branch 120 km away (!) in Valmount on the other side of the mountains in British Columbia. As in Canmore Janet’s clinic is surrounded by mountains and her employees must enjoy some of the most scenic journeys to work every morning.

Although her clinic appears to be small from the outside, with a tiny waiting room and only two consulting rooms, the building extends considerably out at the back – very similar to my old place in Virginia Water.

But unlike me, Janet had added extensive grooming facilities which – I know- my clients would have loved as well.

Janet took herself a considerable amount of time with her patients and went with her very satisfied clients through all aspects of preventative healthcare.

As in Karen McMillan’s place most dogs pull their owners into the consulting room and sit on the scales in expectation of a treat, which doesn’t take long to materialize. Most dogs ask to be weight at least 2-3 times….

Fearful dogs like this German Shepherd are approached in a lowered and indirect way to reduce anxiety. Both my colleague Victoria Rudolph and I applied similar techniques with our patients.

All in patients and surgical patients are prepared by her efficient team of technicians and animal care assistants.

The clinic performs a range of routine and advanced surgical procedures (Janet was just about to start a femoral head excision in a small dog with a chronically luxating hip joint) which are helped by the availability of a surgical laser.

I would have loved to spend more time talking to Janet and her fantastic team, but they had to attend to a long list of patients and my next hike was waiting ……

Walking the Skyline Trial and more encounters with dangerous animals

Another epic hike in the Canadian Rockies is the Skyline Trail between Maligne Lake and Signal Mountain on the outskirts of Jasper.

The highest point on the trail is the “The Notch” with over 2500 m altitude and it is normally a three day hike with two nights spend on one of the official campgrounds.

As permits for the camp sites were difficult to obtain and as one half (not me…) of the team did not appreciate the idea of being woken in the middle of the night by a hungry bear, I had checked us in at the Shovel Pass Lodge which is the only solid structure on the whole trail.

The lodge was in the middle of the trail and the only issue was getting there which meant 22km of hiking each way crossing two mountain passes and having to carry your own wine and cognac (!)……

Backpacks filled with bear spray and only the bare essentials (see above….), we set off early in the morning and after three hours passed the tree line, leaving the mosquitos behind, which was a relief as we had forgotten our mosquito spray (and I didn’t want to try using the B-spray for this purpose….).

The first “Little” Shovel Pass was crossed and beneath us opened a pristine alpine meadow, with no roads and buildings and the home of thousands of ground squirrels and marmots.

These sizeable rodents looked super cute but perceptions can be deceiving…..

After another couple of hours we crossed the second pass and while descending towards the cabin we were amazed how relaxed and approachable the marmots were; especially an older one that just couldn’t be bothered to run away at all.

Finally – after 7 hours on our feet – we reached the cabin and enjoyed both coffee and home made banana bread.

At dinner we met the other- all Canadian- hikers and learned not only that the tame marmot had a name – Mervin – but that he also had a bit of a reputation:

“Take all your leather containing boots inside the huts or he will have them !” we were told….

Another bad habit was that he had taken a liking to – preferably used – toilet tissue……

“And that’s not all” said one lady from Calgary “he even tried to make off with my hiking pole!”….To proof her point she provided us with the evidence:

Mervin caught in the act…….

After running away with the pole for not less than 100 meters, Mervin then failed to drag it down into his borrow, so that it could be retrieved, but not without considerable damage:

…..and there we were just worrying about the bears……

The next morning we gave “The Notch” a miss and headed back the way we came across the lunar landscape of the “Big” Shovel Pass

and the plateau

still with full sets of hiking boots and poles.

Running with a bear (in your mind ?…..)

After spending most of the day behind the wheel driving along the magnificent Icefield Parkway

between Lake Luise and Jasper, we managed to check in at a hotel near Sunwapta Falls.

The water of this spectacular waterfall feeds into the Athabasca River which then flows thousands of miles North into the Arctic Sea.

To put in some exercise for the day, I dug out my running shoes and decided to head past the waterfall along a local hiking track.

As I was aware that bears might be around, I took professional advice from Becky from Winchester who was manning the reception as part of a working holiday and got reassurance that it would be unlikely that I would run into one.

To be on the safe side I still took along my trusted bear spray and headed off…..

I felt reassured, when I passed a huge number of tourists at the falls and pressed on, down the well signposted hiking track to cover the 7 km to the first camp site called “The big bend” .

The trail was great, just a bit muddy at places but after a while it became more over grown and I realised that I hadn’t seen anyone for the last 2-3 km…..

Hmmm…..I became a bit uneasy, but as I didn’t want to give up so soon, I started shouting at regular intervals into the forest ahead of me, to warn all (larger) wildlife that I was approaching. Eventually I was in the middle of nowhere with still a couple of kilometers to go, when I thought that this was getting really silly and in fact dangerous……

As I was just about to turn around, there was suddenly someone shouting back just a few hundred meters infront of me and a moment later I passed two girls with back packs who were aiming for the camp site as well to spend the night there. They were much amused about the shouting German tourist in the woods….

Somewhat reassured that I was not alone, I carried on running and was eventually rewarded with the stunning scenery of the “Big Bend”

On my way back, I was again grasping my bear spray and start with my regular shouting and noisemaking but bumped first into another couple of hikers, the a group of another four with a Golden Retriever , who needed reassurance that I was not out of my mind and finally I met a couple with a small child…..

It was a great run, but admittedly, when I arrived back at the hotel, I felt a bit silly and the bear spray disappeared quickly in the boot of the car…..

After an additional evening stroll in the woods near the hotel (this time without the bear spray….), we set off the next morning to drive the remaining few miles to Jasper, when – not more than 200m from the hotel – we past this seemingly hungry fellow…

The bear spray is now back in my running belt and I am again happily shouting my way through the forest while in bear country……

Whaleback and Iceline Trail

If you want to avoid the crowds of Banff and Lake Louise while traveling the Canadian Rockies, you might consider joining the smaller crowds in nearby Yoho National Park.

The Whaleback and Iceline Trail is a great two day hike that offers a bit of everything the Rocky Mountains have to offer – high mountains, spectacular waterfalls, glaciers, peaceful lakes surrounded by fir tree forest and from time to time the odd moose crossing your path….

After a night at the rustic Whiskey Jack Hostel ( which had nothing to do with a guy called Jack and Whiskey was also not involved in the history of the place…..), the hiking trail started just next to the majestic Takakkaw Falls which are said to be four times as high as the Niagara Falls (but not that big….) Not bad for a start…….

Trekking North along the Yoho River past the “Laughing” Falls, brought us after 3 1/2 hour – unfortunately mostly in the rain – to the Twin Fall Chalet – an old timber structure with a lot of history which was run for many years as a tea house. Unfortunately Fran Drummond the very charismatic (70+year old !) proprietor who is said to still carry all supplies for her guests to the cabin herself , wasn’t in ( possibly shopping for new hiking boots?!….), so that we had to make do with a cup of tea on the front porch

(photo taken while thinking of all my Estonian friends…..).

That restored us well enough to scale the Whaleback – a partial ridge walk, which at 2200 m above sea level brings you up to the iceline and provides you with stunning views of the forest covered valley and the Yoho River below.

From there we eventually descended again the valley and joined the trail to the Stanley Mitchell Hut – another Canadian Alpine Club hut with matresses under the roof, an old woodburner and a couple of outside toilets – Silke was not really overwhelmed…

At least there was excellent company and she managed to gamble away a considerable share of our travel funds (ok, not really – she won most of the time..).

Next morning we continued our hike along the Iceline Trail, an iconic high route, passing one glacier after the next with even more (unfortunately retreating) glaciers now visible on the other side of the valley.After a short detour to Lake Yoho -extremely beautiful –

We returned to the hut and finished the day in style with an excellent (admittedly Australia) Red….

World class cross country skiing – if you don‘t get eaten by a bear…..

As some of you might know – crosscountry skiing and biathlon are some of my passions.

In North America you will struggle finding better training facilities than the beautifully located Nordic Skiing Centre in Canmore.

The Centre is home to the Canadian crosscountry skiing and the Biathlon teams with outstanding training and competition facilities.

When visiting – as a member of the London Region Nordic Skiing Club (you can imagine that there are not a lot of us around….) – I was given a guided tour of their gym, including the facilities for the top athletes, featuring a custom made treadmill for roller skies.

This beast is the size of a small gym itself and most of the machinery is underneath it in the ground, making it very difficult to fit it through the windows in the first place.

When exercising on the treadmill, athletes need to wear a harness and have to hook themselves up on a rope with a carabiner, to avoid injuries in case that they fall or faint, which happens from time to time if endurance limits are tested.

I was wondering – as the facilities are used by skiers from all over the world – how many world and olympic champions might have hung on this rope and this carabiner over the years…..

This is, providing that they were not attacked by a bear, which currently is a real problem (take a closer look at the small yellow sign..)

The ski tracks are used in the summer also by mountain bikers and runners and it is advisable to have “Bear Spray” ( a very strong pepper spray)

rather than your water bottle with you, when exercising in the forest, hoping that at the end of the session the only bear you have encountered was the one on the outside of your beer can……