{Todas las Criat uras de Dios} All God’s Creatures: Rescue in Mexico

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{Todas las Criat uras de Dios} All God’s Creatures: Rescue in Mexico

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No one knows how long Wilson had been fighting for his life, trying to keep his head above water in the ocean off the coast of Mexico near Cancun. The dog was old, some sort of small Retriever-cross, and was pretty close to the end of his struggle when he was plucked from the water by a fisherman. Infested with ticks, he had nails so long they had curled around into his paws. His left eye was hopelessly infected and needed to be removed.

Still, Wilson was lucky. He ended up in the hands of Alison Sawyer Current and her organization, Isla Animals, who took Wilson in, helped him recover then sent him off to a rescue group in Edmonton where he is joyfully living with his new family.

Being a dog in many parts of Mexico is no easy feat; a combined lack of money, education, and resources create torturous and often deadly situations. But Canadians living in Mexico, like Current, are making a difference, rescuing dogs and helping to make the country a safer place for our canine companions. Isla Animals, has rescued more than 5,000 dogs since 1999, including Karla, a two-year-old Schnauzer, another lucky dog. A school girl found her lying by the side of the road, not moving. It was clear she had been thrown there. She was blind, covered in ticks, a bone rack.

When Karla arrived at Current’s doorstep, she was welcomed, and with a little bit of care, she started to get fat; too fat. Current took her to the vet to be spayed, suspecting pregnancy. Instead, the vet found a tumour and since removal was far beyond his typical scope of practice, he sewed her back up and returned her to Current to die at home.

Instead, Current mentioned the tumour to a vet friend in New York who said “Bring the dog and I’ll take a look.” The “tumour” turned out to be a chunk of gauze, forgotten during a spay in Mexico. After a few weeks in intensive care, Karla got better and found a new home there. Isla Animals received a photo of a properly groomed Karla sitting by the tennis court with her forever family. It is these stories, Current says, that allow her the spirit to continue her work.

Current lives in Isla Mujeres, about a three-hour ferry ride from Cancun. A fishing village of around 20,000 people, mostly locals and some expats, Isla Mujeres is a laid-back community where transportation is provided mainly by golf carts and mopeds. After retiring, Current and her husband made the island their permanent home and, once they saw the plight of the dogs, they found their calling.

“The problem is people don’t honour dogs here like we are used to,” Current says. “They don’t spend any money on them; they’re not part of the family. [The dogs] live in front of the house and have puppies…which are then put in a box and abandoned in an empty lot or taken to the city dump or thrown in the street.”

Current is quick to point out that neglect is a far bigger problem than cruelty. Some locals, she says, care enough to drop garbage cans of puppies at her front door to give them a chance at life— which they get. Puppies are brought back to health and adopted out, a few to local families, but most are flown, courtesy of Air Transat, to dog rescue groups in Canada or America, where there are waiting families.

Current is quick to point out that neglect is a far bigger problem than cruelty. Some locals, she says, care enough to drop garbage cans of puppies at her front door to give them a chance at life— which they get. Puppies are brought back to health and adopted out, a few to local families, but most are flown, courtesy of Air Transat, to dog rescue groups in Canada or America, where there are waiting families.

She worked hard to alleviate the dog problem on her tiny island and made great strides, but the nearby tourist mecca of Cancun is far worse, so this is where she devotes most of her energies now.

She worked hard to alleviate the dog problem on her tiny island and made great strides, but the nearby tourist mecca of Cancun is far worse, so this is where she devotes most of her energies now.

Twice a year, Current organizes huge spay and neuter clinics, held at makeshift facilities at a local school. Over a five-day period, 760 animals are spayed and spaces are reserved every day for street dogs, many of which are trapped specifically for the clinics. Canadian and American vets fly to Mexico to offer their services and work alongside some 48 local vets to help develop sustainable skills for faster, safer, and less invasive procedures, important when most of the animals worked on are already compromised health-wise and there’s little post-surgery care.

“Ultimately, the solution is spaying and neutering. In the meantime, there are horribly hungry and suffering street dogs,” says Current. “It can break your heart in a thousand different ways.”

Kathryn Purse knows all about the heartbreak. Seven years ago, she quit her job, packed up, and moved to San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico.

“I had never seen a dead dog in my life until then,” Purse says. “You can’t drive down the highway without seeing a lot of dead dogs. They’re run over constantly. You see ones still alive who are so skinny; you can see what their fate is.”

Fate, however, also had something in store for her.

“I found five one-day-old puppies thrown in a drainage ditch on the only day there was no water in it,” Purse says. “I took them home and bottle-raised them, and it just took off from there.”

She now rents a small house on an acre within a 100-acre ranch and shares her home with 23 dogs. Two hundred dogs have passed through her doors. Some find their way into wonderful Mexican families and others go home unexpectedly with tourists.

“They change their plans and fly on airlines that take dogs and they go home with a dog,” she says. A vet check and rabies certificate are usually enough to allow the dog to travel.

Purse explains that both Mexican and Canadian mindsets can be challenging: Mexican, because dead, dying, and starving dogs are accepted as part of life, and Canadian, because we tend to believe that whatever the problem is, there are already people who are helping. In parts of Mexico, she says, there are no people who are helping.

She isn’t set up to take donations, so when someone offers her money; she takes the cash—and the person along with her—and goes to help a dog right that moment. She does encourage tourists to give money to small organizations like amigos-sma.org, which work to end the suffering of street dogs and have been successful in passing some protective laws, such as prohibiting dogs from being housed on roofs.

“Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it,” she says. She once questioned whether she was strong enough to help all these dogs, and has since realized she can do far more than she gave herself credit for. “If you see a dog on the street and leave it on the street, it will remain on the street. If we all do a small bit, it would help. Because I can’t do it all.”

Interested in getting involved? Check out islaanimals.org

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