When Escot, a four-year-old Lab-mix living in the Galapagos Islands, was accidentally poisoned in September of 2013, some thought all hope was lost. However, some people got together and created a makeshift ambulance out of things laying around, and Escot’s life was save just in the nick of time. Dr. Tjarda Reints Bok recounted the story in an interview with The Dodo.
“Escot was already starting to shake,” Reints Bok, a volunteer vet with Darwin Animal Doctors, a veterinary clinic and animal welfare organization, told The Dodo. “I was very worried. Normally when they start shaking, we can’t get them back. It’s sort of the point of no return.”
This poison in question was organophosphates. These are a kind of pesticide made to attack the central nervous system in all kids of horrible ways, and is toxic to far more than just “pests.” According to Tod Emko, cofounder of Darwin Animal Doctors, on the Island of Isabela, and the other islands on the Galapagos, many people actually view dogs as pests, and will put out poison to keep them away.
“There’s zero education on poison and other deadly substances widely available in the Galapagos, so people put them out to solve ‘pest’ problems of all kinds, not knowing how to safely distribute a deadly poison that would potentially poison the environment and kill any human or animal that eats it,” Emko said.
“People don’t want any dogs there because they can pose a threat to the wildlife,” Reints Bok said. “They just roam the beaches and don’t walk on leads, which is a big problem there. Around Isabela, [local people] place poison around the edges of the national park, and around the edges of the outskirts of the village.”
It’s believed that Escot had been roaming around the island earlier that day, and ate some tainted meat. He walked back to a familiar place, his human’s grocery store, and collapsed at the front door. Escot’s human tried to help using a folk-remedy in the Galapagos, by rubbing olive oil on Escot. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to work. In fact, all the oil really did was make inserting an IV to push fluids in and the poison out extremely difficult.
Thankfully, the fluid flush started to work on Escot almost right away. He wasn’t sailing clear seas just yet, but they bought him some time. Reints Bok needed to get Escot to the Darwin Animal Doctors’ clinic, but that was about a mile away from where they were. Without a vehicle, getting a heavy dog to the hospital was going to take a bit of thinking, but thankfully an idea was hatched.
Escot’s human had a three-wheeled bike used for deliveries. He immediately got the idea to use it as an ambulance for Escot and they got to work making sure he was safely attached for the ride. Dr. Reints Bok climbed in with Escot to hold the IV in place, and one of the grocery store owner’s sons had come home during the event and was so upset, he climbed in the cart to go to the hospital, too.
“It was very wobbly!” Reints Bok said. “He became more alert on the bicycle,” Reints Bok said. “He started sitting up.” It was far from perfect, but they made it! It took the better part of the day, but by evening it was clear that they really had come together to save a life.
“The same evening, I went to the store to see how he was doing, and he started barking and growling — his normal behavior,” Reints Bok said. “And I thought, he’s back and better, and back to his old self again.”
Darwin Animal Doctors runs the only year-round, full-time, free emergency clinic in the Galapagos Islands that treats domestic animals like dogs and cats, as well as wildlife. To support this organization’s work helping animals, make a donation.