by Nicole Spencer

Destination Ulukhaktok.

On the edge of the Arctic Ocean four dedicated women ventured to a remarkable land where they did their best to help local dogs and their owners.

They had travelled to the tiny hamlet of Ulukhaktok to set up a temporary veterinary clinic to help the community with its puppy problem.

This beautiful community has about 400 residents and many dogs.

Its is a problem affecting many Northerner communities. A lack of effective veterinary care means there are few ways to prevent an overpopulation of puppies.

Dr. Michelle Tuma, Leigh Harris-Carlson, Anna Corothers and veterinary student Michelle Ornawka set out on Sept. 10 to set up a temporary veterinary clinic.

For one full week our team worked spaying, neutering and tending to as many dogs as were brought in to the makeshift operation. The result was 50 vaccinated and dewormed dogs, 15 spays, 10 neuters, one major tumour removal (a happy Pomeranian now lives without a huge mass) for a total of 27 surgeries.  A success if I do say so myself.

Leigh Harris-Carlson getting a ride with Margaret and her little dog River after his surgery. Photo courtesy of Nicole Spencer.

Susan Kaodloak, NWT SPCA’s acting senior administrative officer, spearheaded this amazing effort. She started the ball rolling when she contacted me last spring after learning about a similar clinic we set up in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. This was something she knew both the two and four-legged residents of Ulukhaktok badly needed and made the decision to do something about the dire situation.

What happened in the community is truly wonderful.

Outside of the obvious results of this clinic, something even more positive occurred. Children were exposed to something outside of their world. They were so fascinated by this clinic; the surgical lights, the dogs on the table, the dogs with cones on their heads and the learning of what and why this was happening in their town.

“I want to be a vet when I grown up,” was heard more than a few times.

Something like this clinic goes far beyond the initial intent. It opens realms of possibilities for the children and their community.

It also brought people together. Locals helped with the clinic as volunteers and offered flat-out incredible hospitality.

Though many more dogs could have been sterilized, we definitely will take this as a win. The more we get into the NWT communities to help with veterinary care, the more people will appreciate benefits of spaying and neutering pets and the healthier and happier the dogs of the North will become.

We wish to thank First Air Cargo for helping us get to the community and to offer our heartfelt thanks to the residents of Ulukhaktok for hosting the clinic and making the week a spectacular one for our team. Hopefully we’ll be invited again next year.

Nicole Spencer is president of the NWT SPCA. She can be reached at

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