Baker Lake (Qamani’tuaq)

In September 2012 I left the comforts of my home and family in Guelph to spend 10 days
Baker Lake (Qamani'tuaq)at the geographical centre of Canada in Baker Lake, Nunavut locally referred to as Qamani’tuaq, Inuktitut.  I traded sunny days for cloudy skies and even snow!!  Why, you ask?!  For some of you readers that don’t know me well, I have a bit of an adventurous streak.  It’s been awhile since I’ve gone on an exciting excursion, I always love combining travel and adventure with an opportunity to help animals!

I was part of a team of 12 volunteers from the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT).  This charitable organization was founded in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, as a way to help displaced animals that were affected during that time, 82 volunteers from Canada assisted people and pets in New Orleans during this traumatic time.  Over the past years they have helped pets in countries including Canada (northern BC and Nunavut), Belize, Mexico and Botswana.  You can read more about them at

Baker Lake is a small community about 300 km inland of Hudson Bay, and is known for being close to the geographical centre of Canada as well as being Nunavut’s only inland Arctic community.  It is home to approximately 1800 individuals, the majority (90%) are Inuit.  The people of this small hamlet do have pets– mostly dogs, there are cats and even a few pocket pets too!  There are no veterinary services nearby, so CAAT first organized a team of volunteers to travel to this community four years ago.  Otherwise if you need veterinary care, the closest clinic is in Winnipeg Manitoba, 1632 kilometers away.

The majority of the dogs in this community are working dogs – they are used as part of a sled team that will travel for hunting purposes.  A few teams have competed in races, but the majority of the dog teams are used for personal travel purposes.  There is a significant need for veterinary services in this region which is why the community applied to CAAT to have a mobile clinic visit on a yearly basis.  I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the two veterinarians travelling to Baker Lake this year. Our team consisted of 2 Veterinarians, 6 technicians, and 4 animal care attendants.  We have three main goals when volunteering here, population control by way of spays and neuters, vaccines and deworming and public education.  In Ontario, it is very common to have your pet spayed/neutered at a young age both for population control and health benefits.  Many individuals in Baker Lake have never had access to this service, or were not raised to understand why this procedure is beneficial.

Last summer, a wolf that was infected with Rabies came right into the community.  Because of the work that CAAT has done, many of the dogs had already received a rabies vaccination.  Without the help of CAAT, almost the entire community of dogs would have had to be destroyed.

To assist with public education, CAAT has done presentations to the community, as well as yearly visits to both the public school and high school.  I assisted with the public school assembly and it was so much fun to see all the children talking about their pets, and learning about things such as bite prevention, proper ways to handle and treat pets, in addition to the benefits of vaccination and neuter surgery.
Baker Lake (Qamani'tuaq)After our 10 day clinic, we saw close to 250 animals – they received a physical examination, appropriate vaccinations and deworming, and if owners wished they were spayed or neutered.  On our first day, I spent just over 8 hours in surgery!

This was an amazing experience – I met lots of grateful members of the Baker Lake community and hundreds of happy dogs and cats, even a guinea pig, and made some great friends.  I really feel like we have made a positive impact on this community and I look forward to joining CAAT on other projects!

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