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Pet Talk: Aitutaki – A parting gift for Te Are Manu veterinarian

Wednesday 18 October 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


Pet Talk: Aitutaki – A parting gift for Te Are Manu veterinarian
Te Are Manu’s Dr Michael Baer and nurse Sarah Nooroa. TE ARE MANU/23101720

November 17 will be Te Are Manu’s final visit to Aitutaki for the year. It will also be my last visit to Aitutaki, for the monthly clinic, and my final day working for Te Are Manu, writes Dr Michael Baer.

How lucky am I to get to visit Aitutaki for my final day? And how sad? I have been told that these clinics are a great initiative and I have been given a lot of credit for the fact we do them. I am very happy to take it, but as you will see that credit has largely been misplaced.

Te Are Manu’s visits to Aitutaki go back a long way.  Acting in support of Aitutaki Community Animal Rescue, we began our work there in the long-forgotten days of pre-Covid. As the only vet clinic in the Cook Islands, we have always been aware of our responsibilities to the Cook Islands, not just Rarotonga.

Soon after I arrived at Te Are Manu our nurse, Sarah Nooroa, and I were talking about Aitutaki. She and Ellen (former vet) had been part of a trek there in March 2021, and I had not had a chance to get there yet. Sarah thought a monthly clinic in Aitutaki would be a great idea, and explained how it could operate, combining routine surgery with consultations for sick pets and livestock. I had been in Rarotonga for about five seconds so was clearly an expert on everything about the Cook Islands. I decided, because of my superior knowledge and better judgement, to see if Sarah’s idea could be put into practice and if I could claim it as my own. No point in not taking the credit, or, even worse, sharing it!

It took six months to get the clinics happening; Covid came back. But we got there thanks to a lot of help from the board of Te Are Manu, and input from Aitutaki. Our need for a major sponsor was quickly met and Air Rarotonga have been amazing in their support ever since. The help we have had from their staff has been fabulous. The level of support and the level of service are world class.  Not to mention how easy they have made the entire process.

My (Sarah’s) plan worked, and we had great support and help from the community in Aitutaki. And we saw lots of animals. Each month we have seen 10 -18 animals to desex, and 6 – 10 animals to check and a few goats and pigs have been treated as well. My actual plan, the one to get the credit, worked and I didn’t share any of it.

Vets go over on Air Rarotonga’s first flight, with the day trippers on the Vaka cruise, and then return on the last aeroplane, about 7-7.30 pm. Unless there is a chance to spend a day or two over there exploring, which we always do, time and volunteers allowing. Then our return flight is on Sunday, or Monday.  Or Tuesday.

My (Sarah’s) plan relies on the help and goodwill of a number of people in Aitutaki. Steph Joseph, at T and S Ukeleles and Pearls Aitutaki, takes a break from making pearl jewelry to pick up the vet and organise the day. Yvonne from Black Pearl Charters makes sure we are well fed, and is often on airport duties.  Vicky and Winnie lend a hand with administration, and feeding me. And the pet owners of Aitutaki come out in support.

I am very proud of these clinics, and the impact they have had. I think the initiative has been really positive and it served as the template for the rest of our Pa Enua work. Without Sarah to think of it, Te Are Manu board to support and guide it, the staff and volunteers at Te Are Manu to enable it, Air Rarotonga to sponsor it, T and S and everyone else in Aitutaki to make it worthwhile, my solo effort would not have come off. Lucky for all of them I was here to claim the credit.

And lucky for me that I get to spend my final day in Aitutaki. What a fantastic leaving gift!