Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Quick Visit to the Spay/Neuter Clinic

As you all have read a dozen times already, Bert & I spend some time volunteering for Ayuda Para La Salud De Perros Y Gatos, an amazing non-profit organization here in Panajachel that cares for the animals all around Lake Atitlan. The small group of volunteers works daily to improve the health and wellbeing of the stray dogs and feral cats on the streets, plus educate locals and expats alike on responsible pet ownership. I could go on and on about their great work!
Calvin & Pachi, our goofy adopted "kids". 
We adopted Pachi from AYUDA, and Calvin is technically a foster dog of them as well, although he seems to staying rather a long time. (It's okay. He's an adorable goofball. If only he would stop trying to eat Willow!) We also fostered an adorable white & black dog while she recovered from her spaying operation and was then released back on the street.

Earlier this week, AYUDA gave us the go-ahead to pick up a skinny female dog that has been seen on the streets. Bert immediately went out and brought her back to our place for a bath before Selaine, AYUDA's founder, took her in a taxi up to the vet in Sololá. She will be spayed, treated for parasites, vaccinated, and released back near her home territory.
This little female has several names: Flaca ("skinny"), Perla ("pearl") and simply Little Dog. :)
AYUDA causes some contention amongst the people of Pana but this is nothing new for any animal rights organization. I worked at the Humane Society in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, back in my mid-20s so I know first-hand the criticisms that are leveled against those enforcing rules on pet owners.

However, I also learned at that time that I am more "pro-choice" than I thought I was when it comes to animals! I remember being very upset that I was ordered to remove a family of feral cats from a dumpster in an abandoned lot and bring them to the shelter. The mother was euthanized simply because she couldn't get accustomed to people. I was outraged! She could have had a life out in that dumpster near the forest, catching mice and drinking from puddles. Not a great life, but at least something! Cats are wild animals first, not pets. We as humans are the ones that decided to give them a so-called better life by taking them into our homes. In all our misguided righteousness, we tend to forget that they can take care of themselves. I distinctly recall arguing with the manager of the shelter and asking her if I was supposed to round up all the wild bunnies next because they could be pets too!

That was just one incident that led me to quit working for the Humane Society and start working for no-kill rescue organizations. We focused more on capture/sterilize/treat/release than on trying so hard to force feral animals into homes. We worked with the city to treat a colony of ferals cats that lived quite happily in a scrap yard behind the Taco Bell. They were all fixed, dewormed, vaccinated, and released back into the maze of rusted cars. There, there lived out the rest of their simple lives gorging themselves on leftover burritos. :)

Anyway, back to Guatemala where there are stray dogs wandering the streets at all hours. Coming from a first-world country where any loose dog is immediately reported to the Humane Society, it is quite a shocking sight to see so many strays. Plus, many of these poor dogs are emaciated, mangy (literally, they have mange), have ragged ears from bug bites, and sometimes open wounds from machete cuts. They obviously need help!

There is no formal animal control organization run by the Guatemalan government, as far as I know, and municipalities often cull the street dog population by littering the streets with poisoned meat before major holidays to make their towns more hospitable to tourists.

AYUDA has changed that here in Panajachel and many of the other small towns around Lake Atitlan. They have convinced the local towns to stop the poisonings and instead allow the dogs to be picked up, sterilized, and either adopted out or released. They focus on education and awareness, rather than just throwing money at the problem.

One thing that may be surprising to visitors to Panajachel is that many dogs on the streets here actually DO have homes. Their owners allow them to run free to scrounge for food. There are no dog tags, no leash laws, and definitely no stoop-n-scoop!

Spend enough time walking the streets here and you will become familiar with the dogs in each area: Daisy and Fred sleep in front of Pollo Campero; our former foster dog, Molly, hangs out near Llama del Fuego; and the local "bar dogs" from Gringos Locos and La Palapa stick fairly close to their territories.

So let's get to today's video! AYUDA had their year-end sterilization clinic at the Municipal Salon in Panajachel last Thursday. Bert and I stopped by to see what was happening and capture some of their good work on film. The best part? Puppies!! When working for an animal welfare organization where you see so much neglect, suffering, and sadness, it's always good to remember there are puppies to make you smile! (Although with sterilization clinics, hopefully less unexpected puppies in the future, right?)

Please take a moment to visit AYUDA's website or Facebook page and read more about them. If you are looking for a way to support this amazing charity, head over to their 2015 GoFundMe page. Don't know what to get someone for Xmas? Donate to AYUDA in their name. Muchas gracias!

1 comment :

  1. Thank you, Cristel for this encouraging write up and video! I'm very happy that you and Bert are part of our team.