Adding a New Member to our Family

Many years ago, before I had children, my mother and I traveled to San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala to volunteer with the San Lucas Mission. Traveling was (and is) a passion of mine, and although I was lucky enough to have visited many places already, San Lucas was a completely different experience from anything else I had ever seen or done.

My Mom and I stayed in a little bed and breakfast style hotel called Casa Blanca and we shared a small room. Every morning we would meet at the mission, just a short walk from the hotel and would have breakfast with all of the other volunteers, and then we would pile into the back of a pickup and it would take us to whichever part we were volunteering at that day. My Mom, a nurse, helped with the clinics, while I mostly went to help dig a foundation for a communal washing station as part of a Women’s Center. We would walk down a huge flight of stone steps, fill a bag with dirt, carry it up those steps, hand the bag off and do that again, and again, and again. It was the hardest work I had ever had to do and I would fall into bed after dinner every night exhausted.

guate guate2While the landscape was beautiful, there also was so much struggle. Kids with no shoes, selling trinkets for extra money, large families living in nothing more than a one room shack. I wanted to help everyone I saw, and felt utterly helpless at not being able to do more.

The other thing that really struck me was the street dogs, and they were everywhere. Just bones and fur, they lurked around corners and would dart away if you tried to approach them. I started smuggling buns from the communal dinners and would rip pieces off to throw to the dogs, something that I was chastised for numerous times. They would tell me that I was just creating a problem, that feeding them was making it worse, but I couldn’t help myself.

Every night I would stuff four or five buns in my bag, eating less myself to make up for taking the food. I would secretly rip the little pieces off and would drop them casually when I thought no one was looking. But my little plan backfired, because the dogs caught on and I soon had a nice little entourage of street dogs following me around, sniffing my bag. If I found myself on the street alone it was a veritable smorgasbord for the dogs, I would unload the buns fast and furious, then I would shoo the dogs away so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

I knew it wasn’t going to make any difference, but I couldn’t see them starving and do nothing. It wasn’t a solution, by any means, it was just the way I coped with the helpless feeling. When I got back from that trip I cried the whole way home. I was happy to be back, but I couldn’t let go of all of the animals and children that I left behind. The stark contrast of New York City and Guatemala was jarring. Here we have news stories on pets that are too fat, we actually have DIET dog food, and these animals were going to starve to death, alone.

I haven’t gotten the chance to get back to Guatemala yet, being pregnant and having babies has impeded on my travel opportunities, but the San Lucas mission is something I always support, and I hope to get back there sometime soon to help dig some holes, sling some dirt, and toss some buns to the doggies.

Last April, we had to put our beloved black lab Lucy to sleep, and it was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I have ever been through. Lucy was a part of our family, and losing her was so difficult. I think that even our chocolate lab Hunter misses her, and we have been talking about getting a new dog to add to our family, but nothing felt right. It just felt too soon, and I wondered if I might ever be ready to get another dog. The other night I was browsing Facebook and saw some photos from local photographer Tracey Buyce, who was in Mexico with CANDi, Cats and Dogs International, a non-profit organization that saves the lives of stray cats and dogs in the Caribbean and Mexico through spay, neuter, adoption and educational programs. She was there for a 7 day VIDAS and CANDi International spay/neuter clinic and in those seven days they spayed and neutered 1,327 dogs and cats. Those sterilizations have prevented thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens dying on the streets.

CANDI’s programs are designed to expand and strengthen corporate social responsibility initiatives, while at the same time empowering local groups and communities to ease the suffering of homeless animals and end the cycle of overpopulation. The programs are viable, long-term solutions to animal overpopulation that can be replicated anywhere in the world.  As self-funding solutions, CANDi programs provide the resources necessary to address the stray animal issue in situations in which local governments and local animal groups would not be in a position to help.

While Tracey was there, she spotted Luna, sick and emaciated. The dog was very, very malnourished and has TVT, which is a very painful sexually transmitted disease that is also cancer. She begged the owner to give the dog up, and found a local vet who generously donated his time and talent to care for Luna. She posted about Luna on Facebook, asking if anyone would want to adopt her, and I immediately wrote back Me!! It just seemed so right, and such a beautiful way to bring in a new member of the family. I really felt like the best way to honor what a huge part Lucy was in my life would be to help this dog have a new life of her own. Luna will be on chemo for about 4 weeks, and once she is healthy enough to bring back, Tracey is going to fly back to Mexico to bring her here to us.

lunaluna2I’ve never had a rescue dog, and I am open to ANY advice that you guys can share with me. Tracey and I are working together to make sure there are multiple back up plans in case for some reason we aren’t the best fit for Luna, even though we are going to try our hardest. I am going to share our experience with Luna here with you guys and Tracey and I are going to work together to help bring awareness to the great work that CANDi and Isla Animal Rescue are doing.

luna1There are many, many dogs just like Luna, including many puppies that are available to adopt. In the upcoming weeks I’m going to share more about Luna, and more about ways you can help these animals too. To read more about CANDi click here, just $20 can spay or neuter a dog. To read about Isla Animal Rescue where people can adopt puppies that have been rescued click here. In Mexico, these puppies are often put into boxes and left on the side of the road to die. The people at Isla have saved over 5,000 since December of 1999.

As I said, I’m very open to any advice anyone has on rescue dogs, I want to make Luna’s transition into our home as smooth and as comfortable as possible for her, so if you have some tips or stories you’d like to share, send me an email at! xoxo


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9 Responses to Adding a New Member to our Family

  1. Tracey Buyce says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Thank you so much for giving Luna a new home! I am counting down the days until she comes to Saratoga!
    CANDi International and Isla Animal Rescue work tirelessly for dogs and cats of Mexico.
    There are still several gorgeous puppies at Isla Animal Rescue that need loving homes.

  2. meredith hanafi says:

    Just a small suggestion but if Tracey could send you a couple of blankets, towels or even a tshirt that Luna has been sleeping with then you could have them around for Hunter to smell and get used to. Congrats on your new addition and kudos for doing such a wonderful thing for Luna! Good luck!

  3. Jennifer Savino says:

    I love that you are adopting this sweet little dog. We rescued 2 dogs from Puerto Rico and they are the BEST dogs anyone could ask for. They were both in a similar situation and are now healthy and happy spoiled pups 😉 Best of luck with your new addition. (Love the name too!)

  4. Jennifer Faugere - American mom in Bordeaux says:

    What a great post!! I love it! You are so right, getting another dog has to feel right. What a special thing you are doing – and what a beautiful thing for you kids to know about Luna’s background and how you are helping. I can’t wait to hear more.

  5. Melissa says:

    Thank-you for stepping up for Luna! I have volunteered at these clinics and there are so many dogs that need help. We adopted our dog who is also named Luna and who is also a rescue from Mayan Riviera. You will find they are very flexible dogs, just want love, love, love.

  6. Vince says:

    Hi jenny, what a wonderful thing you are doing, thank you! I myself live in Mexico, a Canadian, been here since the summer 2012, and like you, noticed the street dogs, their struggles, the pain they go through, it was heartbreaking (still is) for me. I traveled here with my nine year old Dobermann Daša, who generally dislikes other dogs, except the mini schnauzer she grew up with, which sadly passed away in June 2012. While there is more to the story, I won’t bore everyone with it. In short, I thought Daša would NEVER accept another dog into the house. Well, let me tell you, she surprised the heck out of me when one day I could not stand to see this tiny puppy suffer anymore and I brought her home. Terrified what Daša might do, we took the first few hours very carefully indeed. But I didn’t need to worry, she took to the pup immediately, just like the stray did to her! It wasn’t long before they shared a bed and Daša would even let Penny (that’s what I named her) eat out of her own bowl. It was a beginning of a love affair. You’d think this was the happy ending. No, it gets even better! A couple of months ago I was sweeping the sidewalk in front of my house when an emaciated yellow dog came walking slowly down the street. She was walking right down the middle of it, seemingly without purpose, not looking either way. My heart broke, and I before I could think, I called to her. She came slowly towards me, her lips raised as in a snarl but I have since found out it is a smile! She sat in front of me and offered me her paw, I crouched down and she basically glued herself to me, burying her head under my arm. And since I had room in my house, and in my heart, for one more wandering soul, Agi is now a full-fledged member of his household. Yes, there are problems we’re working on, but thing major, everyone gets along just fine. So, after this horrifyingly dragged out story, I just wanted to thank you once more for offering Luna a home where she can be happy and safe. Good bless!

  7. Lou says:

    Thank you so much for taking this sweet girl in! As a volunteer with a rescue that often brings dogs up from Mexico, it constantly breaks my heart what these dogs have to go through. Like someone else said – they generally just want love, love, love. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly these dogs adjust, even after everything they’ve been through. Wishing Luna a quick recovery and safe travels to your loving home.

  8. Katy says:

    It. I really wish I had words to thank you for having such a loving heart! I have no
    doubts in my mind that God has reserved a very special place for those who love
    animals as we all here do! I’m so thrilled that you have started a family of your own
    no now,ones that Hunter and Luna will learn to love. What a wonderful mother you will be. Be. Luna is so blessed to have parents like you,with big hearts and open arms just
    Waiting to hold them and give them that secure feeling they so seldomly ask of us Us!

    I would like to post something I wrote a kids site for animals in need…can You
    Perhaps suggest who I might write to concerning this? Feel free to pass it on!
    Here is my question and I hope this doesn’t become a novel! That being said.
    Why can’t Disney be held more responsible for all these unwanted animals, chChihuahuas,Laboradors ,Saint Bernard’s,and every other animal they make these cute little movies about!? They are exploiting these animals and who is profiting from them!? This is no different then than having to pay a price for the copyrights of using someone’s product! A song,a photo,a can of Coke or Pepsi. I could get in trouble if i was a newspaper or magazine just because I “used” the names of sodas! What about all the innocent animals abused,neglected and tortured due to the making of these movies? Where is the copyright or “Rights” for them!? I believe if they wanted to really make an impact! They would make movies about the welfare of animals,how to take care of them,treat them,hold them,feed them,what vaccines are needed,what is best for their health etc…why not have a small clip at the ending or beginning (Not a three second clip either) explaining the proper care of animals,and if they have a book about the movie,why not explain the importance of taking care of an animal? Something has got to be done! We have so many brutal things kids are watching! I mean really,sit down and watch the content of some of these cartoons, it’s all about swords and fighting,and tripping,and punching,and throwing etc.And parents wonder why their child grabbed the puppy and held it upside down!? They saw it on TV! Look at this new funny movie Frankenweenie,this is great for perhaps for all the Emergency vet hospitals,and vets! What do you suppose a child is going to take from this movie if there is an animal anywhere near them!? I’ve heard the stories,I seen them in courts where a parent let their three year old “play” with the neighbors new puppy! I mean this has just got to stop! Why can’t Disney make a Saturday cartoon about being the new owner of a puppy? If the parent is going to be dumb enough,and the film industry stupid enough to make such movies that bring on unwanted abuse to these poor animals,surly someone could push for something like the welfare of these animals.

  9. jeni leigh says:

    This is so amazing! I have a rescue dog that is the absolute love of my life! it can certainly be challenging but it is so rewarding!

    good luck!