If you saw the previous HSCAZ article, you know how compassionate our community is toward animals. Payson is full of people who love to walk their dogs, groom their dogs and do anything that has to do with their dogs, and we can’t forget about our cat lovers out there.
HSCAZ knows a cat lover when we meet them. Cat lovers cherish the acrobatic movements and eclectic antics of their feline friends, but both cat and dog lovers are the reason why HSCAZ is able to succeed and continue its mission. HSCAZ wants to say “thank you” while sharing the international world of animal welfare with you. So please enjoy the continuation of the End of Summer Series.
Central America and beyond
Like I mentioned in the previous article, I left my position at a well-funded U.S. animal shelter a couple of years ago and moved down to Latin America in order to experience animal welfare abroad. I was taking the U.S. for granted, and I needed to experience how the rest of the world faced the pet overpopulation epidemic. My first stop in Latin America was an animal sanctuary in Guatemala, but leaving the sanctuary turned out to be harder than I ever imagined. I had a lot to learn, but no one could have prepared me for what I was about to encounter in the following year.
Riding a bus throughout Latin America was interesting to say the least. Although the rustic stops at border crossings and the bus breaking down in the countryside of Nicaragua was an “experience,” the opportunity allowed me to access the true street dog population. I was shocked by the amount of dogs that lived their life constantly foraging for food scraps, and by the vast difference of animal welfare compared to that at home. Boney, mange-covered canines roamed the streets without the slightest idea of what human affection was, and they didn’t appear to trust anyone with two legs.
I remember one specific time when I slowly approached a stray golden retriever mix at a bus station in El Salvador. I threw the street native canine some food scraps and slowly tried to approach him. The dog leaned back in total fear and disbelief that I was trying to come near him while cowering in fear and urinating on the ground beneath him. The fact that this young pup was so frightened by human contact saddened me beyond belief. I thought to myself how his breed would quickly get adopted in the U.S., but like many of his street dwelling friends, he was left hopelessly alone with nothing but a weathered, matted coat for protection.
When I finally arrived in Costa Rica, I stepped off the bus into a tropical utopia. I was heading toward a remote part of Costa Rica which I had previously heard about from other backpackers. I asked around and apparently this town had a street dog population that was in bad shape. I jumped on an old-style bus and rode through the cloud-filled rain forest for about six hours. When I finally arrived at my destination, I stepped off the bus into the most humid environment I have ever experienced in my entire life. The air was so humid that my clothes were drenched with perspiration in about five minutes. Even though I was drenched in endless perspiration and the bugs were the size of my hand, I still felt like I was in tropical paradise. I found a cheap place to room for the night and immediately fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew exactly what I was going to do. I swiped my backpack upon my shoulders and headed for the town, which consisted of a couple open-air restaurants, several shops and a food market. I combed through the town for the local street dog population and, boy, was it intense. Even though Costa Rica is light years ahead of its neighboring Central American countries, the town was still swarming with street animals. However, these street dogs were surprisingly well socialized and very approachable. I whipped-out my tweezers and began pulling ticks off of the first dog that approached me. I spent about 45 minutes pulling off blood-engorged ticks on a small, white spaniel-looking dog. He was a delightful-looking chap and we quickly became friends. He followed me for the rest of my stay in town and he went absolutely everywhere I went.
I removed ticks from several other dogs and quickly had an entourage of canine friends following me throughout the town. Locals even asked me how I got the street dogs to bond with me so quickly. It was a site to be seen! I also used the opportunity to teach several locals about the importance of spaying and neutering personal pets. At this point, my Spanish-speaking skills were picking up, and I informed them about a low-cost vet in a nearby town.
After several days of chatting with locals and spending time with street dogs, I met a Costa Rican gentleman who spoke a bit of English. We bonded while chatting about his new mastiff puppy, and I met many of his friends who also had companion pets. I spoke about U. S. shelters and the lack of animals dwelling in our streets. They were in absolute shock. They told me that they honestly never really thought about the mass street dog population as a problem, but the conversation turned out to be an eye-opening experience for both me and my new friends. (Good news: my Costa Rican friend had his mastiff puppy neutered at the veterinarian I previously mentioned.)
After spending a couple of weeks in the small Costa Rican town, I realized it was my time to leave. I was scheduled to arrive at a South American animal sanctuary in the middle of the Amazon Rain forest in the coming week, so I packed my bag and hopped a bus to Panama.
I arrived in Panama City late at night, and the area was in a state of total chaos. There were political demonstrations occurring, and people were unfortunately using firearms instead of picket signs. As I stepped off the bus, I heard nothing but gunfire (It turned out the Panamanian public was outraged about some ongoing political corruption). I was originally going to catch a sailboat from Panama to Colombia (travel by either airplane or boat was the only safe route to get from Panama to Colombia being that the overland route through the notorious Darien Gap was quite dangerous due to rebel warfare), but I decided not to wait in Panama City for a sailboat because the political protests appeared to be escalating. I booked a surprisingly cheap flight, and flew down to Quito, Ecuador. Little did I know what South America had in store for me, and there was no way to prepare myself for what I would experience next.
To be continued...
Now it’s time to meet some of the wonderful pets available for adoption at the HSCAZ animal shelter, located at 812 S. McLane Road. For more information, call (928) 474-5590 or visit us online at humanesocietycentralaz.org.
Bella is a 2-1/2-year-old Ridgeback/Shepherd mix. She is loyal, loving and affectionate once she knows you. Bella gets along with other dogs, is house and leash trained and will make a great companion for a single person or an older couple that will take her hiking, and spend plenty of time getting to know and love her. She is spayed and up to date on her vaccines.
Toby is a 5-year-old Lab. He LOVES being around people! He has lived with children his entire life and is amazing with them. Toby knows basic commands and is eager to be with you. He loves spending time outdoors, or even just cuddled up beside you on the sofa. Toby is house and leash trained, neutered and up to date on shots.
Star is such a doll. She needs to be the only dog in the house, but that will give you both plenty of time to bond. Star is friendly, outgoing and playful. She will make an excellent companion. She is 1 year old, and is spayed and current on vaccines.
Tony is a 3-year-old Shepherd mix. He accidentally got away from his owner a few months ago, and unfortunately his owner had to move out of state. Needless to say, Tony is here with us and is looking to find a loving, forever home. He is obedient, friendly and well mannered. If you want a hiking partner or a family pet, Tony is your guy. He is neutered, vaccinated and ready for adoption.
Lexi is a 10-month-old beauty. This girl is happiest when she is around people. She will make the perfect sidekick for someone who is ready to adopt an outgoing, affectionate cutie pie. Spayed and current on vaccines, all this girl is waiting for now is you!
Maggie is a 2-year-old Boxer./Shepherd mix. She was brought to HSCAZ as a stray. This is one easygoing, loveable girl. She is well mannered and loves to be by your side. Maggie is spayed, up to date on shots, and is house and leash trained. This little girl is eager to see people and sits patiently in her kennel as you make your way down the row. She happily greets you with a tail wag and big grin.