Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mancha´s Story

Recently, another street dog came into my life. I had seen her a couple of times on the street when I was walking my daughter to school. She was horribly emaciated and it as if she had given birth recently. I didn´t see any puppies around her but a young girl from the neighborhood told me that she has one of her puppies. I believe she was thrown on the street here when her owner found out that she was pregnant. I asked around at the neighbor´s houses but noone claimed her. So I continued to watch her for a couple of months to see if anyone was feeding her. I caught her eating garbage more than a few times. She wasn´t gaining any weight and so I began to feed her. I thankfully gained her trust and she is staying with us now. She is slowly gaining weight and I´ve discovered that she is expecting. I want to find good homes for her pups when they are old enough. We named her Mancha´s, meaning spots or stains. She is white except for a few huge tan spots. She is very sweet and calm, although one of her favorite pastimes is chasing motorcycles. That scared me so I´ve put a metal grating over the fence so she can´t get through the bars.
Throwing dogs on the street is a very common practice here, especially when they are found to be pregnant. Most of the puppies that are born on the streets die before they reach four months of age. The ones that live go on to reproduce. Street dogs are treated by most people here as vermin. Some people purposely try to run them over, and the ones injured by cars are left for dead. They are also poisoned, abandoned, starved, but mostly they´re just ignored. The serious neglect of street dogs here is very difficult to deal with. Neutering and spaying would seriously reduce the population. Almost none of the street dogs are neutered or spayed. To make matters worse the dogs that do have owners are left to wander the street all day long. When the male dogs are in heat the fights are horrible. Sometimes there are seven or eight males fighting over one female. The wounds they get are ghastly and their owners do nothing so they suffer infections and unset broken bones that heal wrong. I try to dress the wounds of the ones that I know but can´t even get close to others. I would like very much one day to have land in the country enabling me to care for many more. My husband and I buy two 60lb. bags of dry food to feed more than eight to ten street dogs a day plus my three dogs. Some of the dogs that come to me have owners but aren´t given a lot of food. Some come to spend the night inside my gate when it is raining heavily, which happens quite often actually.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Macha´s Story

Macha´s story begins as a puppy on the street five or six years ago. She was found wandering the street full of Mange (A skin disease found in many mammals. It is caused by a mite that burrows under the skin) A kindhearted woman, who volunteers her free time to the ANPA, took her in and cared for her until she was well. She was unable to keep her because her elderly mother has a severe allergy to dogs. Her story continues on the street for another three or four years where she becomes pregnant. This is around the time I met her because I feed the street dogs and she came to me to eat. I watched her belly growing larger and full of movement that meant life, trying to gain her full trust so she would come to me when it was time for her to give birth. When the time came she went to the woman who cared for her when she had mange. Sadly, every one of the ten puppies she gave birth to were dead. The poor little mommy was heartbroken. Understandably so. About a month later some veterinarians had a spay/neuter campaign and we split the fee to have her spayed. Neither of us wanted to see her suffer again. I took her in after the operation because she could have contracted a life threatening infection. A month or so later I noticed she had some mucus leaking from her nose. I thought it was just a cold, wiped her nose and forgot about it. About a week later I noticed that the mucus was now tinged with red (blood). Deeply concerned I took her to the woman who previously cared for her. She, also very concerned, began helping me look for a vet that would give us a free exam. Needless to say, there weren´t any. One vet told me to give her amoxicillin, so that´s what I did. There wasn´t any improvement, so after seven days I stopped giving her the pills. She had started walking towards the right, and sometimes in circles. She started getting little tremors in her face and legs. She had also lost a shocking amount of weight, yet was eating, drinking, defecating the same. In the last 2 weeks of the illness, it had lasted more than a month, I had to carry her outside to use the bathroom four or five times a day so she wouldn´t soil herself. During one night, at around 1 in the morning I heard a kitten crying outside my gate. It woke me up, so I went outside to investigate. There he was, a gray little fuzzball with yellow eyes. So I brought him in and gave him some milk. He was only about a month old. Over the next couple of days he began interacting with Macha. I was concerned because she was so sick and he would go onto her bed with her and play with her tail. To my complete surprise, little by little, she began to improve. Interestingly, the kitten (who we named Smokey), began to suckle her nipples looking for milk, and she let him. Of course her milk dried up long ago but I think it comforted them both. Four months later she treats him as her own. She takes care of him, and they play together a lot. They´re mother/son and best friends. Macha is a great joy to us. She´s a gorgeous white and tan smoothly blended together. She´s a mixed breed dog with one blue eye and one brown. She is wonderfully tempered, loves affection, to eat and to play. She´s quiet, has a lot of self control and is super smart. We love her and her cat/son Smokey.
Her´s is just one of the thousands of stories about dogs living on the streets unvaccinated and not spayed/neutered. I am very grateful to have been able to give her a loving home, and I am very grateful that I have been able to share a story with a happy ending when so many end so, so sadly.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


My family and I took in a stray female who had gotten pregnant in her first cycle. We named her Rosie and excitedly awaited the birth of her puppies. To see them being born was incredible. There were seven. Four boys and three girls. Gorgeous, playful, and sweet. We bonded with all of them and spoiled them horribly. At about one month of age a stray puppy wandered through our gate looking for food. Unfortunately, she also infected four of them with parvovirus. She later died. To watch those four puppies go from babies full of life, and fun, to suffering, dying babies was unbearable. Sad, tired, not eating or drinking, vomiting stomach acid that resembled phlegm, having diarreah with blood as the illness ripped through them. The memories of them are so painful. I stayed with each of them as they were euthanized. I held them and talked to them and when they passed, I mourned them. Diseases spread like wildfire here beacause of the sheer number of unvaccinated dogs (with owners and without). Parvovirus and Distemper are most common. Some of the families are too poor to pay for the vaccinations and spay/neutering, some don´t care, and others just don´t realize what a huge problem this is. Thankfully, Rabies is not a disease that has entered this country as of yet and I hope it never does....... I would hate to think of the outcome when such a shocking number of dogs (with owners and without) are unvaccinated. Did you know that there is an estimated dog population of 1 million in Costa Rica (probably more by now) and only
20% are spayed/neutered?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The town where I live (Concepcion de Alajuelita, San Jose Costa Rica) is generally a very poor area, with some nice areas. Most of the people are hardworking, and are slowly trying to improve their lives. My first experience with stray dogs occurred when I had only been living here a couple of weeks. I was walking home from the store with my husbands uncle, Mario, and my daughter Alexandra(6) when we saw in the small river near our home, a dog. We moved closer to investigate (all of us avid animal lovers) and to our surprise the dog (of pittbull race) seemed to be paralyzed on the right side of his body and kept falling into the water struggling to walk. Mario climbed down and together we brought him out to get a better idea of what was happening. Just then an older man was walking by and stopped to see if he could assist. He said that the poor suffering animal had been poisoned. While he went to get a homeopathic remedy of powdered milk and lemon juice, we tried to comfort him by petting him and talking to him. When the man returned I held the dogs mouth open while Mario poured in the mixture. After a while the dog vomited some of what the man had said was poison. The man offered to look after him for the night to see if he would improve. Unfortunately, he did not and I decided it best to take him to the vet and end his suffering with euthanasia. We were devastated. The dog had just needed to eat and because of some heartless person he SUFFERED HORRIBLY before he died. Stray dogs are frequently poisoned in Costa Rica and to see such great suffering is unbearably painful. Just the other day I witnessed another dog poisoned, dead and carelessly tossed into the river as if a piece of trash. Very, very sad. My daughter cried, I cried. This personal story is just one of the many I have to share with you, and I will be regularly updating this blog to spread awareness.