Mexico has been a dream come true. It’s beautiful, safe and welcoming and has opened our eyes to new life experiences, connected us with amazing people and though we’re just 2 days away from leaving, we already know we’re coming back. A month is just not long enough.
As incredible as this place is, life is not wholly black and white and the grey I can’t ignore is the dogs.
There are street dogs everywhere.
There are female dogs with teats so low to the ground they scrape the concrete, dogs with mange and open festering wounds who look at you, pleading with their eyes but cross the street if you get too close. There are dogs that eat our trash outside the gate and flinch each time I throw them bread acting as if I’m throwing rocks.
Then there was “Sandy.” Sandy is a beach dog (that’s what I named her) who Noah and I met one day while strolling along the beach. We passed Sandy as she was laying her head on a duffle bag next to a couple. At this point, we had no idea she was a stray since she was laying so confidently next to this couple until I said, “Awwwwhh” and pointed her out to Noah. Just as I did, a man patrolling the beach came up and the couple started complaining to him that this was a strange, street dog and wanted it away from them. The beach patrol dude starts approaching Sandy aggressively and she runs away towards private property. Apparently she wasn’t supposed to be there either (like she knows the difference) so the beach patrol dude starts getting pissed and he finds a big piece of concrete block and threw it at her! She was so confused on where to go to get away from this man so she went back onto the public beach and rested her head on the stomach of a pretty sunbathing lady. The pretty lady screamed since Sandy startled her and the concrete-throwing dick-wad pulled out his billy-club and was going to hit Sandy with it. With all good intentions towards my health and safety Noah has been adamant from day 1 that I not touch these dogs or get too close but when this scene unfolded in front of my eyes, I followed my gut and couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to get her out of there! I screamed “Alto! Alto!” (Stop! Stop!) and called her to follow me down the beach. She listened and trotted right along my side. If looks could kill, I murdered them all when I glanced back to make sure nobody was following us.
After a few minutes, we found a little alcove away from all the resorts and as we sat down, Sandy laid down too and instantly fell asleep. That’s all she wanted to do was find a place to rest and didn’t understand why so many people didn’t want her around. When she woke up, she saw a pelican in the water and was barking on the shore to get at it. She was sweet, hilarious, had no mange or external wounds that I could see. She was just a happy go lucky puppy. Although after the man hit her with the concrete block, I noticed she now played in the surf with a limp. Sandy moved on down the beach and followed anyone who gave her even the slightest acknowledgment. Her light brown coat blended in with the white sand and she soon disappeared into the horizon and just like that she was out of our lives. It took everything I had to not run after her and bring her home. Who could I call? Where would I take her? Who has a car we can use? I felt totally helpless.
Noah and I look for Sandy every single day and I pray that she’ll not die in the jaws of a larger dog, of disease, a car or any other tragic way that street dogs perish. I hate feeling helpless and after our encounter with Sandy, I knew I had to do some research to wrap my head around this issue, to take back control when it felt so uncontrollable.
Turns out, Mexico has 5 million strays and there are no multi-million dollar advocacy groups here like ASPCA, The Humane Society or Best Friends.
There are an estimated 20,000 dogs killed per month in Mexico City alone and due to it’s availability and cheap cost, the dogs are not “put to sleep” by way of injection but electrocuted by way of a weak car battery.
There are so many contributing factors that has led to this point: from egos, to ignorance, to the costs of spaying and neutering, to religion and everything else in between. We have lots of reasons but only our best friends end up paying the price in a slow, brutal and painful way.
A few weeks ago, I didn’t know any of this. I don’t like to read about mass animal killings before a tourist season (don’t shy away from traveling here, click the link to see why!), I don’t like to watch videos of pups being abused and scared. It’s not pleasant information and is in stark contrast to the beautiful beach scene just a 3 minute walk from our house. But it’s reality. My ignorance does not make it go away and when I’m feeling overwhelmed I’ve learned that action is the only thing that helps me right my downward spiral. I know that for every concrete throwing asshole, there is a person who lives to protect and love animals so I hit the web and found a group of animal angels. They’re called the Playa Animal Rescue (P.A.R.) and they just so happened to be having their weekly “Spa and Play” this Saturday! We were so in!
Early Saturday, Noah and I caught a cab to the P.A.R. volunteer meet-up where 6 other people were waiting. The majority of them being from Canada (thank you neighbors to the North!) and I remember thinking how cool it was that P.A.R. offered a free shuttle to their location. (By shuttle, I mean a kind man named Gary takes you in his car and braves the Mexican traffic. Bless you Gary!)
When we arrived, I was surprised to see a very plain building with no signage anywhere. Was this the place? Didn’t I read that they just moved awhile ago? I asked a sweet Canuck named Sergio, “How long has P.A.R been at this location?”
I was very confused why it’s taken them so long to paint the outside or put up signs… turns out, they can’t let anyone know they’re there. Thus the shuttle to the location, the lack of signage and no address listed anywhere online. That’s how desperate and serious the situation is down here. Can you imagine the Humane Society not disclosing it’s location? In Playa, they’re a very small battalion of people fighting a huge war. If the people of Playa knew P.A.R’s location they would be over-run with unwanted animals, litters upon litter’s of puppies at their doorstep each night and total chaos would ensure. P.A.R. does not have the luxury of shifting pups around from shelter to shelter since the next closest one is in Cancun an hour away and according their website they have 275 adoptable street dogs of their own.
P.A.R. is a no kill shelter and to remain that way, they need the protection of anonymity.
As we walked through the gates, it was like walking into an Oasis. There were brightly colored murals, large, clean pens, toys on the wall and most importantly, excited dogs. Each pup wanted to get a good look at the new visitors and wagged their tails with force. I was so happy for them all, they were all healthy and beautiful. This was going to be a great day!
I sweat excitement!
Noah and I were given a choice: Dog Washing, or Dog Walking. We chose walking and came to a cage that housed two calm and sweet pups. Noah leased up Coba and I put a leash on my girl Palomita. Like all the pups here, our new friends came to P.A.R. in very bad shape (Coba was hit by a car, Palomita was found in the jungle) but due to the love of staff, volunteers and donations both bounced back and were excellent walkers!
Coba and Palamito! Both sweet and ready for their forever home.
Noah walking Coba.
After a walk that tired me out more than the pups, we repeated the process a few more times and I even got to give Cucho his last walk around Mexico before he becomes a Canadian pup! So happy for him!
Cucho. Unbeknownst to him, he’s leaving on a jet plane to his forever home in Toronto in a few hours!
After I was drenched with sweat, I decided to switch it up and help with the bathing in hopes of getting “accidentally” sprayed by the hose.
I stepped up to the tub and then it happened… I fell in love. I didn’t want to but his eyes met mine and it was all over.
His name is Jake.
This is Jake.
After his bath, I dried him off and at each pass of the towel he leaned into me. He loved the attention, the feeling of being clean and petted. Ursula, an incredibly sweet volunteer told me Jake’s story: He was once someone’s pet and suffered from an embedded collar. She showed me his neck wound and it was scared over but you could tell it was deep and severe since no hair grew there anymore. It’s believed that Jake also roamed the streets and ended up in nasty fights and still has the war wounds on his body. Despite all this, he is a lover. I was scrubbing underneath him fairly hard to get him dry and he was loving every minute of it and not in the least bit skittish or worried I might touch him in an area that would trigger a bad memory. He just stood there sweetly and licked the sweat off my forehead.
I honestly don’t know why so many of the dogs there weren’t adopted yet, especially Jake, who has been at the shelter for an entire year. Many dogs have been there for a lot longer, just waiting for someone to give them a chance to be their very best friends. Already loyal by nature, I could see it in Jakes eyes, he was so incredibly grateful to have so much attention and has already let go of his past. Jake just needs a comfortable place to sleep with a loose collar and the occasional bath and he’ll love you for the rest of his life. We could all learn a lot from Jake.
Good boy, Jake!
After lots petting and “Omigosh Noah, look at this puppy!”, the day flew by and it was time to leave. I was sad to leave them but left feeling incredibly hopeful and reinvigorated. The stray population statistics can be overwhelming, like an uphill battle that can’t be won but to the pups at P.A.R, a pup like Jake, saving him from the street makes all the difference in the world.
This isn’t just a Mexico problem, it’s a global one. If you’re looking for a new love, please consider adoption!
For current adoptions, pup stories, donations, volunteer opportunities and more, go here: www.facebook.com/PlayaAnimalRescue
For more pictures of our day at P.A.R, click here
This post is Dedicated to the memory of Mojo who passed away while we were in Mexico. Thank you for adopting us boy. Good boy.