Friday, April 10, 2009

Arroyo Seco dogs take a road trip to La Manzanilla


This is the story of how a couple of dozen dogs from Arroyo Seco came to be
hurtling down the highway in the back of our truck to a surgical unit in a neighboring town 30 minutes south of here.

Cisco's Amigos is a hugely successful volunteer (as in free!) animal clinic in La Manzanilla, founded by Julie Wagner and Rusty Schuetz from Nevada City, California (now permanent La Manzanilla residents). Apparently when they arrived in La Manzanilla years ago, they saw what we still see in many villages --- dogs with skin problems, emaciated dogs, dogs with too many puppies and just not enough food. A lot of sick dogs.

It's not that the Mexicans don't love their dogs. They do. But they frequently don't have the means to take care of them as most of us do in the states. And the animals often face many more challenges from living in a sandy (ok, dusty), hot, sub-tropical climate.

So Julie --- a woman after my own heart --- decided to do something about it, one dog and one cat at a time. The first, obvious step was to get the animals neutered. The females were having litter after litter with not enough food, not enough care.

It's made an astounding difference in La Manzanilla. It is the rare animal that suffers in the village and now there's someone to call. There's also a new, fantastic veterinarian in town as well. So the animals in La Manz are generally a lot healthier.

Cisco's has expanded over the past few years, allowing dogs from outlying areas to be transported in on specific clinic days. Last year our friend Tia Richardson picked up a load of stray dogs from Tenacatita. They came in, had a quick snip-snip of their reproductive organs, then got deposited back on their 'home' beach.

One afternoon at Palapa Joe's this past December, Julie and I enthusiastically agreed to have a remote clinic at Arroyo Seco on March 24, one of the clinic days scheduled for La Manzanilla. I was encouraged to produce 30 dogs to make it worth their while to move the volunteer vets and the clinic to our new palapa.

So I talked to friends and neighbors and two tienda owners took names and created a list of animals (strays and family dogs) for the clinic. There was a lot of excitement!

Then --- drum roll --- it became apparent that it would be too difficult to move the clinic out here this year but that we could have a designated Arroyo Seco clinic day in La Manzanilla.

Uh-oh!

So there we were on Arroyo Seco clinic day, a half-hour away by car, packing up the back of my truck and three others with all the animals that needed to go to the clinic but whose owners didn't have the means to transport them.

We called in the night before our clinic day to confirm with Julie and her amigos that we would be bringing in 21 dogs, mas or menos, and Julie said the vets enthusiastically said 'bring em on!'

It was a long day for everyone!

We started loading up the trucks at 7 a.m. We went rolling around the village to pick up each critter, tying them up in the back of the truck or tossing them in the back of the Isuzu Trooper, the smaller ones in some of the few cages we had.

We descended on Cisco's Amigos much to the shock and awe of the volunteers who were already close to overwhelmed for the day before we even arrived with our troupe. The clinic treated probably a record-breaking 57 animals by late that night. We left after 7 p.m. with the last dog, a Great Dane that was moved --- still asleep --- from the operating table to the back of our SUV, driven by Michael. He said he watched the rear view mirror the entire trip, hoping that the Dane would be friendly if he awoke from the anesthesia.

No matter how chaotic this all sounds, it was a great, important, incredible day for all of us in Arroyo Seco.

The people here were so grateful to have some help with their animals.

The dogs bounced back from the surgery the minute they got home and realized that they weren't on some train to a medical testing facility. They leaped and bounced and barked and licked when they saw their families, their familiar surroundings.

I've gotten to know a lot of people by going to their homes to meet their dogs.

Dogs I assumed were ferocious are as sweet as puppies and they are friendly to me when we take our evening walk. I'm beginning to learn their names.

I also learned that I don't have to be a trained vet to treat some of the simple problems I see in some of the animals here. A skin problem. Getting the right vaccinations. And there are others in the Rancho who also want to help.

In the end, it wasn't about a gringa --- an American -- coming in and wanting to fix and change a village. It was just someone in the rancho who knew how participate in a clinic and how to help with something they wanted. I had a ton of help from everyone who lives here.

Getting 20-some animals neutered this year in this small a village is HUGE. I'm guessing that if we can have a monthly clinic, a few dogs each time, we could really get a handle on the health and the size of the dog population within a year.

So that's the new goal.

Tomorrow we have a vet coming to our palapa to treat a village dog with a sexually-transmitted cancer and we'll start looking what other dogs need medical care.

We've arranged for one of our teens, Chena's daughter Brianda, to start an apprenticeship with the vet in La Manz.

It's all exciting, easy, rewarding.

And, really, it's all thanks to Julie at Cisco's Amigo's, for having the vision in the first place to see that this is a solvable issue and within our means to help.

For those of you in the states (or anywhere) who would like to help:

Cisco's remains a volunteer organization, it just 'depends on the kindness of strangers.' They have a few fundraisers during the year and collection cans around the village. If you'd like to contribute, please contact me and I'll make sure they get the money. This is one organization that uses every single peso towards its cause.

Just email me at fitzfox AT gmail.com.

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