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Pet Talk: The round eternal

Wednesday 20 September 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


Pet Talk: The round eternal
Dr Michael Baer is the main vet at Te Are Manu. Photo: Sian Solomon/22051332

Banjo Patterson, the man who wrote the words printed on the Australian $10 note, described his office job as “the round eternal”. It never ended, it never really started, and it was very difficult to see any progress, writes Dr Michael Baer.

Our programmes to reduce unwanted puppies and kittens from being born, neglected, and dumped, sometimes feels the same.

For example, on one Wednesday in August 2022 we desexed 21 dogs. 

It was a good effort, the team operated well, the animals were all well cared for and the owners were involved and interested. 

But on that same Wednesday the SPCA were handed 22 puppies. 

Net overall outcome for all that work was minus 1.

It seemed pointless.  It seemed like the round eternal was in fact a death spiral.  It seemed that there was no point.

But sometimes it is hard to see the point of all that effort immediately.

As with sports teams, consistent small gains made over thousands of hours of training eventually result in incredible, seemingly immediate success. 

Well, as long as you aren’t a Wallabies fan.  And so it appears to be with our work.

At the start of the desexing clinics in July 2021, we had a serious dog problem in Rarotonga.

Puppies and unwanted dogs were everywhere. 

People moving overseas to seek employment during the tough times of Covid-19 left dogs and cats to fend for themselves. 

Hungry animals roamed the island, turning over rubbish bins and attacking livestock. 

The SPCA had more dogs than homes, and more puppies kept coming in.

Things have changed.  Hungry dogs still knock over bins, and the SPCA still have more dogs than homes. 

Puppies still come in.  But the numbers are reducing. 

There are less animals being abandoned. 

There are fewer animals being attacked, fewer accidents on the roads from dogs, and our nights are quieter because there are fewer dog fights.

It is getting easier.  On the equivalent Wednesday in August 2023 we desexed 10 dogs, and the SPCA had no new puppies.  Serious progress.  We can let up at last.  Or can we?

One pair of dogs (or cats) can have a huge impact. 

Within a year they can produce two litters of puppies, say 16 new pups. 

Then the pups start breeding, and the numbers really ramp up.

Three years down the track there are 500 odd extra dogs.

A few years later there are 64,000.  That is quite a lot.

So, at this point we have a choice.  We can slack off and enjoy our success. 

Like the Wallabies, that will result in years of failure, disappointment and questions of where it all went wrong. 

Or we can keep grinding, working harder for seemingly less of a result. 

Like the Crusaders.  Constant small gains add up over a long period to give great results.

Despite being a lifelong Wallabies fan, I prefer the Crusaders’ results (can’t bring myself to say the All Blacks). 

As do the team I am lucky enough to rely on.

So, on Wednesday TAM and the SPCA will be in Nikao, desexing all the dogs we can. 

Back on the round eternal.