Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another rescue!

Last week, the Los Machos Beach Project received a generous donation from Jamie Sherr, a regular donor from New Jersey and proud owner of a Puerto Rican sato. Jamie requested the donation be used to sponsor, Cisco (pictured also on the first post of this blog), in honor of her friend Gary Thomas' birthday. Well, Jamie...Cisco is officially off the street and safe in his new foster home at Adri's thanks to you.

Cisco, finally off Los Machos and in my car, confused about where he was going

I picked up this beautiful boy at around 9 this morning. Cisco and I headed straight to Dr. Ramos' in Puerto Nuevo. He was fantastic in the car, digging his nose into my armpit and hiding there for prolonged periods of time every now and then. He had no internal or external parasites, just some battle wounds from the recent dog-on-dog fighting on the streets (the ladies are in heat; therefore, the boys are picking their favorites and fighting for them). Altogether, he's healthy and that much closer to having a forever home.

Cisco, finally safe, on his way to the vet and then to his temporary foster home

On a sad note, however, I have to admit to feeling slightly defeated when I went to pick up Cisco from Los Machos. There were at least 4 more new dogs on the street, recently dropped off and absolutely darling. I felt, for a moment, that for every dog we rescue, a new one needing our help will appear. Obviously, this vicious cycle has to have an end...and then I jump back to the idea of raising funds for a piece of land for a sato shelter. On that note, supposedly the mayor of Ceiba wants to create a shelter for the local satos. My first gut reaction is that this shelter may end up being a "killing factory." Melodie is planning to speak to the mayor this coming Monday to offer our help for the supposed shelter...perhaps if there are enough of us willing to keep the shelter going, he will be more inclined to give these animals the chance they deserve to have a home.

Here's an action shot of one of the new additions to Los Machos, most likely just recently dropped off. I named her "Laylita" or "Layla." She loves to love.

Yes, I am so happy that since the launching of this blog (Jan. 20, 2008), three of our satos are no longer homeless. With all of your donations and support, this surge of rescues has been possible. We cannot thank you enough for the donations we have received so far. To highlight another specific successful rescue, thanks to two separate donations from Christina Beckles and Molly Weaver, Mika (featured in my 3rd blog post) is New York-bound once we arrange a good time to ship her. It is so motivating to receive your emails and letters along with donations, solidifying the necessity for this project. Please keep them coming and let others know that there are plenty of dogs that need help down here.

I will be in California until Feb. 5...when I get back, I should have news as to whether or not Bass, Dakota, and/or Cisco will be heading to St. Hubert's in New Jersey to be put up for adoption. Also when I return, ADLA will be meeting to discuss whether or not turning Adri's house into an animal shelter of sorts is a good idea or not. It's worked pretty well so far (Thanks, Adri!!), but needs some fine tuning. We will be working on getting some funding to build runs/cages for the bigger dogs, have confinement areas for any contagious animals, keep a consistent flow of dog food coming into the shelter, etc. Some more volunteers would be nice as well, since we can't have Adri carrying all the weight by herself. Stay tuned...


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rumor of poisoning

On Thursday night, a Ceiba local had heard through the grapevine that our Los Machos satos were in danger of being poisoned. By whom? Not clear. How was this rumor started? Also not clear. Our Ceiba animal family kept their eyes and ears open that night, while I tossed and turned an hour away in San Juan. First thing the next morning, I started calling around to check the status of the satos. Finally, Maria Garcia, also a Ceiba local, was kind enough to inform me the usuals were accounted for and that no suspicious-looking piles of food were found lying around. Whether or not the rumor was legit and just not carried out isn't worth questioning. It would not be surprising if it were true, as it wouldn't be the first time. So far to my knowledge of the last couple years, several small-scale poisonings (killing from two to 10 or so dogs) have occurred on and near Los Machos Beach. At any given point, someone or some people may decide they've had it with the satos roaming "their" streets...poisoning seems to be the preferred method of decreasing dog numbers.

Just a week or so ago, Melodie was approached by a farmer that tends to the grazing animals about a quarter of a mile away from the beach. He told her that a pack of satos took out one of his calves recently. This in NOT good. Melodie hopes she convinced him that we would like to work with him to remove these dogs from the area and therefore keep his herd safe...he acted as though he would be willing to cooperate. I would love if it were that simple, but am cursed with being realistic and slightly paranoid. Obviously I cannot assume that the rumor of a mass poisoning and the irate farmer are linked.

Regardless, I feel that the heat is on.
Oh that saying..."you can't save them all." It's been haunting me a bit lately. Moving a couple dogs every two weeks or so will not suffice if talk of mass poisonings are floating around. We are throwing around the idea of buying or renting some land near Los Machos to create a shelter. Our eyes are open for any reasonably priced land. In theory, this could work...a safe haven near Los Machos where we can temporarily place and keep an eye on the satos. In reality, however, would confining these dogs to an area simply make it easier to "exterminate" them? Discussions are in progress about the prospective shelter and how we can raise the funds for it if we decide to commence the project. Next on our list, however (aside from taking a dog off the beach every now and again), is organizing a spay/neuter event for Los Machos Beach...we'll keep you posted.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Seeking donations for Mika

Mika is a Napoleon Mastiff, around 2 years old, currently being fostered by Melodie Rios, my partner in crime for the Los Machos Beach Project. It seems as though the original plan for shipping Mika to her new home upstate New York maybe falling loose, due to monetary constraints of the sponsor. However, if we can get together some donations for our beloved, 100 lb., gorgeous beauty, she can be shipped out in the next week or two.

Mika, a ~100 lb. Napoleon Mastiff who I've claimed as my favorite of Melodie's "pack," has a home waiting for her in upstate New York. However, her sponsor lacks the funds to ship her...can you help?

Mika was rescued as misunderstood, protective dog who wasn't successful on the streets due to her intimidating size. Melodie decided to foster her when she was notified that she was to be euthanized for being aggressive towards a government official. She is a special dog and has been through enough for being only two years old. She may have been considered "scary" when she first entered Melodie's life, but you wouldn't be able to tell now. In the safe environment she has been in for the past few months, she has grown into a silly, playful and loyal dog. What she needs a solid, understanding home where she will never see a raised hand of abuse...and Melodie found such a home. Any amount would be greatly appreciated.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2 more dogs off the beach!

Well, yesterday was a huge day for the Los Machos Beach project on several fronts. I left my apartment in San Juan at around 8 am to go take two, long-time residents of Los Machos off the streets and into foster care at Adrienne Galler Lastra's (or Adri, as we fondly call her) home in PiƱones. The two lucky satos' names are Dakota and Bass, who both were featured in my last post. Both dogs are extremely docile animals and need to be in an environment where their love and affection will be reciprocated. And so they shall...

With collar on and all, this was a moment before Bass took his car ride to his temporary foster home (at Adri's). Finally, this big boy full of unconditional love and trust is that much closer to having a home that deserves him.

Adri's house has sort of become the ADLA shelter for us. The location and Adri herself are a blessing to our organization, and it would be an understatement to say we are all extremely grateful for her contribution to these beautiful creatures. A large number of satos stay at Adri's at any given point (last month, she housed 29 dogs and puppies!!) and are rehabilitated there until they are shipped to the U.S. Many of these fostered animals end up in St. Hubert's of New Jersey (St. Hubert's Website), a shelter that Elizabeth Kracht of ADLA began a relationship with, and since has taken in sato after sato. As of now, the plan is for Dakota and Bass to go to St. Hubert's on Feb. 8, as long as they can prove that they are adoptable, socialable and not aggressive in their new environment. Needless to say, we aren't too worried about their placement.

At Adri's, after a long car ride from Los Machos Beach, settling in beautifully. Step 1: fattening her up so she can live up to her gorgeous potential.

And as if a double rescue wasn't enough, I was greeted by Jeannette Rivera-Lyles (reporter) and Sara A. Fajardo (photographer) of the Orlando Sentinel upon arriving at Adri's with Dakota and Bass. The Orlando Sentinel is the primary newspaper in Orlando, Florida and has been in publication since 1876. Needless to say, these dogs are getting the attention they need in order to see change in their world. Jeannette and Sara asked the right questions to get the point across to their readers, my favorite question being (with respect to the cruelty and prejudice towards street animals in general in Puerto Rico), "How did we get to this point?"...At what point did people on this island decide that a street dog was equivalent to that of a diseased rodent? (my translation of the original question). In my opinion, when it is culturally acceptable to be cruel to animals, to dispose of a dog because he or she is no longer serving the purpose intended, to not spay or neuter a pet due to ignorance (i.e. believe a dog will not be as smart, physically able and/or "manly" in the case of a male dog) allowing for the number of unwanted animals to climb higher, when there is no enforcement of the laws that should protect these animals because those enforcers are of the same tainted mindset, the product = conditions like those at Los Machos or "Dead Dog Beach" in Yabucoa. And sadly it isn't in just these centralized locations.

People's minds can be changed, I'm sure of it. And this media attention Puerto Rico has received recently, especially in the instance of the Pet Massacre where an estimated 80 former pets and strays were thrown off a bridge in Barceloneta by a company called Animal Control Solutions, may be the beginning the awaited evolution of thought. I was ecstatic to talk to Jeannette and Sara yesterday and love that Dakota and Bass are going to be famous because of their visit. And, of course, I will post a link to the story/photos/video when it becomes available.

So, 2 less dogs at Los Machos...It's a great feeling.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An introduction to "Los Satos de Playa Los Machos"

"Sato" is a slang term used in Puerto Rico to refer to a street/stray dog. Satos are scattered everywhere across the island and are the primary concern of this blog. More specifically, the purpose of this blog is to spread awareness of the satos of Los Machos Beach, located in a small town called Ceiba on the east coast of Puerto Rico, the primary goal being to remove these satos from the beach and place them into loving homes. Our work is entirely volunteer-based and with the best intentions. We are part of a local non-profit, Amigos de los Animales, Inc. (ADLA), working to rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for the 40 to 50 or so dogs located within about a square mile around Los Machos Beach. While many ADLA volunteers are focusing their energy on other locations around the island and succeeding beautifully in getting lovable, adoptable dogs off the streets, Los Machos Beach is in desperate need of the same attention. So pay attention readers...our Los Machos satos are ready to bring radiant love and extreme gratefulness into their future forever homes!

The Road Gang
One of the 3 or 4 dog herds gathered around my car, waiting for some food and lovin'.

The state of Los Machos Beach is depressing, to say the least. Each visit there, we are welcomed with wagging tails and eyes of love. As wonderful as these dogs are, the environment and situations that surround them are far from that. This area is known for mass dog poisonings and beatings of the local satos, and we have witnessed the aftermath of these inhumane actions. Waiting to see if their situation will magically improve is not an option. Going to Los Machos Beach once a week and each time fearing that we will find one of these gorgeous, ready-to-love-forever dogs hurt or sick beyond repair or no longer alive is an option I'm barely able to stomach. The cruelty witnessed so far...dead dogs continuously dumped next to the beach wrapped in double, black plastic bags, sometimes only certain parts of a dog's body enclosed...a perfectly friendly and social dog one week becoming stand-offish and fearful of any human it sees the next week...deceased dogs sprawled across a field, all surrounding a common food source that was undoubtedly poisoned...just a few highlights. I feel personally obligated to rescue as many of these dogs as I am physically able, and I'm asking for your help to make this happen.

And one picture of the reality:

I'm sorry to add this
We don't know how this dog died, though we are reluctant to believe it was natural. A series of bagged dead dogs have been disposed of next to Los Machos beach in the same place, all bagged in a similar manner. Aside from the overwhelming scent of decay, there was also a chemical odor in this instance.

There has definitely been some progress since the project began. For all those who have graciously donated, fostered, adopted and/or given support in various other ways, we are extremely grateful. We are moving forward to help those that remain stranded at the beach with continued support and intense hope.

All of our work in based solely on donations, 100% of which goes directly to the welfare of these animals. On average, the cost of taking one of these dogs off the street is at least $300, which includes all of their initial shots, spay/neuter, boarding (if necessary), food, shipping fees to the U.S. (where most of these dogs go to be adopted), and other necessary health related tests and procedures. We currently do not have an official shelter space...with more funding, we hope to make this happen. For now, boarding and fostering animals until they are shipped has worked for us.

A bit about ADLA, as written on the organization's website:

"Amigos de los Animales (ADLA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to animal welfare issues faced on the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is currently considered a Commonwealth of The United States, and it is ADLA's hope that Humane Education will quickly take root in Puerto Rico as it has in the Continental U.S. ADLA both rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes abused and abandoned companion and farm animals, and also facilitates the rescue of such animals alongside other rescue organizations in Puerto Rico. ADLA successfully wages cruelty investigations when necessary, and is involved in Humane Education efforts/campaigns island wide. ADLA continually has its eye on the 'big picture' for Puerto Rico, and is not limited in its involvement in planning for a humane Puerto Rico."

A little about the manager the Los Machos Beach Project:

Shanti Santulli (Blog Writer)
Shanti recently moved to Puerto Rico from San Diego, CA in July 2007 for her husband's job relocation. Her entire life has been surrounded by animals, from having a plethora of house pets of different species to working at a no-kill animal shelter in Chicago, IL for two years. Shanti was fortunate enough to meet Melodie Rios and Elizabeth Kracht of ADLA and decided to return to investing her time in animal welfare issues. Her first visit to Ceiba and Los Machos Beach alerted her to the urgency of the sato problem in that area. One week later, she, along with her husband Colin, took home two Los Machos satos to foster and eventually adopt out. Now Shanti and Colin are planning to be perpetual sato foster parents, in hopes that a majority of the dogs at Los Machos will have a forever home as soon as possible. Shanti is also working on networking with stateside animal shelters to spread awareness of the animal welfare situation in Los Machos Beach, hoping that shelters that show interest in the situation may accept our satos into their shelters and put them up for adoption.

In short, we (as in ADLA) are committed to our four-legged friends on Los Machos Beach and are determined to change to the way these animals live.

To start, here are a handful of our personal favorites these days...and yes, they are all up for adoption and/or sponsoring.

Bass, formerly known as "Black and Tan" (young adult)
Considering this gorgeous Doberman mix was the center of a hardcore beating in front of the other Los Machos dogs, he is surprisingly loving, friendly, approachable and just plain awesome.

Chalupa, or just Lupa (young adult)
What a little beauty and a sweetheart. She often tags along with us as we do our rounds. She's a tiny bundle of love.

Gizmo (young adult)
She's in great shape and has a darling personality. Well, she could use a bath. Sadly, we have not seen her in our recent visits...we'll keep you posted.

Dakota...aka Kota (~ 1 year old, medium-sized)
Shanti's personal favorite Los Machos sata, Kota is extremely social, trusting and playful. She was, at some time in the past, hit by a car or something along those lines, leaving her a bit gimpy (left, hind leg), though barely noticable.

Cisco (young adult, medium-sized)
He's one of the dogs out there that seems equally as interested in getting some love as being fed meat and cheese. We can't wait to get him off the streets.

So, here's a intro to the Los Machos satos...please check back for constant updates.

Please email us if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks for reading,