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.
While 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.
I’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.
There 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 firstname.lastname@example.org! xoxo