Sunday, June 29, 2008

Interspecies love, cont.

Are you my mommy?

Sebastian, rescued from the Arecibo Municipal Shelter a few days ago, is a special kitty. Not only did he purr throughout the entirety of his vet exam (yes, even when he got the thermometer up the butt), he also thinks dogs are friends...even more, Sebastian thinks Boca, my sata, is his mommy.

Sebastian, looking for "momma's milk"...lost cause, buddy.

Dog/Cat Nap

Boca and Sebastian have become partners in crime. Throughout the day, I find myself distracted by their incessant playing. My personal favorite is when Sebastian hurls himself onto Boca's hind leg, latches on with his claws, and Boca proceeds to walk around our apartment with her personal terrestrial remora "suckered" onto her. Also, Sebastian's new favorite toy is Boca's tail. They are ridiculously sweet together.

Sebastian does not have a sponsor and, even better, would love to find a forever home...though those who have met him know that won't be too hard. He's a darling cat that got another, well-deserved chance at life.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Field trip to Arecibo; Lulu has Parvo

Yesterday, Liz, Jackie Fahey (Director of St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center) and myself hopped in my car and drove to the new municipal animal shelter in Arecibo. The shelter is technically not yet open, but that hasn't stopped the masses from doing what they do here: abandoning animals. Please, let me preface this post by saying that I am still distraught from our experience yesterday, though I will, to the best of my ability, be as objective as possible.

Alma Febus, another local rescuer, was kind enough to give us a brief introduction of the situation there and introduce us to others involved in the development of this new shelter. The land the shelter is on would make any rescuer "oooo" and "ahhhhh": The vast green space and fenced-in dog runs create an ideal site for adoptions, spay/neuter and educational events as well as a low-cost vaccination facility. Forced to face reality and come out of "dream world," the simple truth is that this shelter could too easily become an "animal control" facility, especially given that it is going to be a Muncipal Shelter. Our purpose of going there yesterday was to extend a helping hand, show our willingness to aid in setting up a general shelter, health, and adoption protocol.

Even though they are not yet open, there were 87 dogs and one cat there. Because the word is out about the soon-to-open shelter, people have already ditched their unwanted animals on the grounds. While there is a vet tech, Jose, on staff, who we met and feel will be instrumental in our efforts, the government has not given the shelter any money for medicine or vaccinations, not even for food. If it weren't for a determined volunteer who donates loads of food for the 90 or so animals currently caged and waiting in the shelter, these animals would have starved to death.

We took a look around and met the animals. I held back tears on at least 3 occasions that I can recall. I was horrified. The stench, the faces, the pain and agony that some of these animals were obviously going through was overwhelming, to say the least. While Jose and others are doing the best they can to keep these animals comfortable, they have no resources...nada. At one point, a sweet black puppy came charging at us, having just freed herself from her cage. Jackie picked her up immediately, and it was evident that she didn't intend to let go until we got her to the vet. We also decided to take the one cat there, who I named Sebastian. After a 30 minute tour, we went into the administrative building to meet the director of the shelter. We discussed with her our hope that this shelter will not become another killing factory, and instead that animals may be able to have a chance to be adopted, as opposed to being euthanized before entering the door.

Towards the end of the discussion, I began feeling dizzy and numb in my extremities. I sat down, asked Liz to get me some water, and the rest is a blur. I remember a bit of hyperventilating and those around me offering me sugary substances, assuming that my blood sugar was low. Then, to make sure no one at the Arecibo shelter forgot us, I threw up (three times) on the floor of their administration building. Why or what's wrong with me? I have no idea. I'm assuming that it was a mixture of the fumes, my emotions and the heat. Shortly thereafter, thanks to me and my dramatic performance, we left with the black puppy and Sebastian.

We are desperately seeking donations for supplies such as locks for kennels, bowls, food, dewormer, DHPLL shots, Frontline, and all the other good stuff. I do feel that those we spoke with at the shelter were receptive to our comments, as we were theirs. We need to help the Arecibo shelter. Be as generous as you can be, and as you always are, and we promise to back up your donations with action. I fear, as soon as the Arecibo Municipal Shelter actually opens, those dogs will be put to sleep without a flinch. We don't need another place on this island to have its doors open to mass euthanasia.

On top of it all, when we finally reached Dr. Ramos' with our two rescues, we found out that Lulu, one of the two black puppies most recently rescued from Los Machos Beach, has Parvo. Again came the tears. Her brother, Bongo, is showing no symptoms and Lulu is holding strong. I just received an updated on her, and she so far hasn't vomited today nor has she had bloody diarrhea (her initial symptom of Parvo). Parvo, for those of you who may remember, is what killed Bella, another Los Machos Sato. In young puppies, an estimate of 80% do not make it. Hopefully, considering she was in very good shape otherwise, Lulu will fight through and Bongo will dodge the bullet as well.

Blondie seems to be responding well to the new chemotherapy, but it is too soon to tell. We are in the beginning stages of finding her a home, one that does not have other dogs (considering if she does have TVT, other dogs can get it) and is full of love.

Photos: 1) a dog room at the Arecibo shelter, 2) the little freedom fighter that Jackie scooped up, 3) Sebastian, 4) Lulu, quarantined in a kennel

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Almost there!!!

Well, on Wednesday, I posted an urgent need for donations toward a plane ticket that would allow 14-17 dogs to fly to St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey, with me as the flyer. I was overwhelmed, in a good way, with the immediate responses from our beloved volunteers and donors, Jessica Bengels, Christine Bengivenga (Rocco's, of LMBP, mom), and Jamie Sherr. Because of these three rockstars, we only need $100 to cover the remaining balance of the plane ticket.

I have already booked the ticket for July 1, and am looking forward to spending a day at St. Hubert's on July 2 so that I can understand, in vivo, how this animal welfare center from the heavens works.

Blondie, in her famous "jailed sato" photo above taken by Liz, began her "special" chemotherapy to rid her of her growing sarcoma. I will find out on Tuesday (possibly tomorrow) how it went, or at least get an update on how she is doing.

More news soon to come,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

URGENT: Need a flyer or donation toward plane ticket

A wonderful woman, Elba, was kind enough to donate her American Airlines miles to ADLA for our flight to St. Hubert's in the beginning of July. Unfortunately, all free Advantage member seats for July to Newark from San Juan are full. Therefore, we are in a bit of a bind. We have between 14 to 17 animals we were planning on sending out in the beginning of July, but currently have no way of getting them to St. Hubert's. If you feel so inclined, please email if you are willing to fly or contribute money for a plane ticket to get these animals to their soon-to-be-future forever homes! As of now, the rate for the flight we need on July 1 to July 3 is around $600. Crazy, I know, but sometimes it's just what we have to do. Please let us know if you can help!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In BVI withdrawal

Colin and I got back from the British Virgin Islands on Sunday, and, well, we are in slight withdrawal of the daily dives, decadence, and dreamscapes we enjoyed while on our neighboring islands. It was the best way I could imagine celebrating a year of marriage. Here are a few of my personal favorite photos from the trip (and then back to sato business, I promise):

Today, Liz and I went to Dr. Ramos to check up on some of our satos and gatos. Everyone is doing well. Cha Cha and her pups are doing great, but will still be living at Dr. Ramos' for about another month before they will be ready to be shipped the U.S. Nugget and Annie are as cute as ever and will be on the next flight we have to St. Hubert's, though I have been speaking with a potential adopter for Annie the past few days...we'll see what happens.

Chip, Bongo, and Lulu are fantastic. The two latter adorable pups were as delightful as ever to see. Chip's mange is improving already, and I think he is slowly growing accustomed to life at Dr. Ramos'. He was a little shaky when he saw me, which broke my heart, but I think Chip in general has a bit of nervous energy in him. Can you blame him considering the life he lived as of only a week ago?

In Blondie-related news, we are going to try one more type of chemotherapy to attempt to remove the tumor that remains in Blondie's vagina that, as Dr. Ramos' staff told me, is unfortunately getting larger. The treatment costs $140, a small price to pay if this finally clears Blondie of her tumors. We still need to acquire the treatment, but will notify you of its outcome as soon as we get word. Anyone feel like sponsoring at least the cost of our last-ditch effort for Blondie? If successful, Blondie will be ready to go...imagine that. She's been living at Dr. Ramos' since April 4 of this year!

We are currently working on getting a trip set up for many of the above dogs as well as others. The more dogs we into forever homes, the more room we have to take in new rescues!!!

And finally, a new temporary addition to the Santulli household as of yesterday:

Annie, relaxing on our patio. She has taken to the "pet" lifestyle quite well. She is surprisingly already potty-trained and took very well to her leash. She makes fostering a sato look way too easy!

And as for those still on Los Machos Beach, it looks like sweet Toby has a home waiting for him in Pennsylvania!!! I will be picking him up next week and will start getting him ready to go!!! Also, in response to inquiries, Homer is still at Los Machos. He has been staying inside a gated area of an apartment complex, where he has been treated quite well (though they do not want another dog as a pet). He is still on my list of satos to rescue, though I am happy to say a few locals have been kind enough to give him some shelter and watch out for him.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Sponsor a Los Machos Sato this Father's Day!!!

First, about our morning at Los Machos Beach:

Karla and I left San Juan a little after 7 am this morning and headed out to Los Machos Beach.
On the way, we discussed what our mission was for the day: to communicate with locals about any recent happenings on or around Los Machos including dog "sweeps," suspicious behavior, etc. I also wanted to do a bit of outreach, carrying with me a handful of business cards to give to anyone willing to be a "watchdog" for me in Ceiba. Considering we still have four adult dogs and nine puppies to ship to a shelter in the States, as well as Blondie, and not enough funding to cover all the accrued costs of the vetting, boarding, and shipping of all of the above, rescuing a sato or two from Los Machos today was not on the agenda...always easier said than done.

Upon arrival, we went straight over to the abandoned gas station about a half mile away from the beach to look for Toby, where I was told he might be. Alas, no Toby, but there was this other cutie hanging out that wasn't overtly friendly, but didn't mind eating hot dog pieces from the ground a foot away from me. Let's call him Wally, shall we?

We cruised on over to the Avis car rental storefront, where many a sato tend to congregate. We were greeted by sweet Chip. Chip is a recent drop off as of about a month and a half ago. He has adorable puppy energy, wags his tail more with his butt than his actual tail, and loves to be pet and talked to. Considering his puppy tendencies, he actually has a calm demeanor about him with a pinch of nervousness, never being too overly anxious or rambunctious. He's, simply put, an amazing dog.

Chip, a resident of the Avis parking lot near Los Machos Beach

As Karla and I were about to get back in the car to hit up other areas, I decided that maybe today was Chip's day to be rescued.

We then went to the beach, right next to the fish market and saw 10-15 satos, including two sweet little, 3-month-old, black puppies. I felt relieved at this point because I saw many familiar faces that I hadn't seen in a month or so. It would seem that in my past few visits to Los Machos Beach, many of the regulars were simply "somewhere else" while I was there. Perhaps it was too hot; perhaps they have another hideout that I'm not yet aware of in the forest by the beach. Either way, they were alive and doing well...relatively well considering they are still all homeless. Among the friendly faces I've been missing was our sweet little hound mix, Toby. I have been communicating recently with someone interested in adopting Toby, and will hopefully be able to pick him up soon. Unfortunately, still no sign of Gizmo. Where are you, buddy?!?

After my initial sense of relief from seeing Toby among others, it dawned on me that there was absolutely no way that we were going to leave the beach empty-handed. I called Dr. Ramos's and found out that they had two kennels left that I could use. Then I told Karla that her job, as my partner in crime of the day, was to pick the lucky satos that should be rescued. Yes, I was joking, but unless you've been to a place that has 20 puppy-dog eyes staring at you simultaneously, begging you to take them with you, do you know how hard it is to pick only two dogs. First thing's first, Karla and I need to talk to locals, our original mission. We needed some time to make the decision...

We went over to the fish market and spoke with Juan, a man who looks after the fish-market dogs including the recently rescued Cha Cha and Nugget. I've spoken with Juan many times and am a big fan of his. My favorite part of our conversation with him today was when he mentioned Cha Cha. He first asked how she was, and was blown away when I told him she had nine puppies. Then he said, in Spanish, "You let me know if she's a problem for you, and you can bring her back here," with a
smirk on his face. We then proceeded to make fun of him for missing his Cha Cha. It was darling. Granted, I know Juan agrees with me in one way or another that rescuing these dogs is much better than them living even in the protection of the fish market parking lot. Still, I LOVE that he asks me about her every time I see him, and that he obviously thought of her as pet, in his own way.

Juan told us that there had been no beach sweeps recently and that the last
one he knew of was close to a year ago. He said that he knows people drop off puppies and dogs all the time. In fact, there were three new puppies in the fish market parking lot that were biting our ankles, playfully of course, while we were conversing with Juan. Juan also mentioned that many locals will pick up "the little ones" as their personal pets. I left him my card, actually three cards, and told him (through Karla's translation) that he can give anyone my information that may need help with an unwanted pet, spay/neuter for their pets, or with the dogs with Los Machos Beach. Juan was very receptive and endearing.

Karla and I decided to take the two black puppies, who we named Bongo (male) and Lulu (female), and Chip. How we came to this decision, I'm not sure. It's all a blur. With Chip, I worry about dogs near the Avis parking lot because they are in a common area for poisonings, out in the open, and in a relatively high-traffic area. Chip, also, has been all alone in that area for as long as I've seen him out there and is pretty regularly bullied by some other local satos since he's the "new guy." His mange and bite wounds were getting worse before getting better, on top of the fact he
was covered in fleas and ticks. All these reasons led me to choose Chip. Bongo and Lulu, on the other hand, just got lucky. They also were receiving a fair share of negative attention from some of the adult dogs, including snarls and bites, causing Bongo and Lulu to squeal in terror. That was most likely the point at which Karla and I deemed them "saved."

We headed away from the beach and decided to drive down to the other side of the beach. Unfortunately, we found what I often find at this specific location: a dead dog. I can't be sure how this dog died, but he or she was wrapped up in a blanket before being dumped here.

A dead dog in the normal dead-dog dump on Los Machos Beach

The sadness continued at out next stop, back by the Avis parking lot. Madeleine, who I have not introduced you to, is a troubled dog. In any and all of my visits, she will not come near me and has some aggressive tendencies. She is hairless due to mange among other skin problems. She has scabs all over her body and is a walking skeleton. Today, something was different, something was even worse about her than normal. I found her laying in the grass, motionless. I walked over to her and she didn't immediately run away as she usually does. She just looked up at me as if saying, "Please don't hurt me." It was heart-breaking, to say the least. Karla and I decided we needed to take her to Dr. Ramos, possibly have her put out of her misery (her eyes showed pain I had never seen in an animal before). Then, some neighbors came up to us to and told us she had been hit by a car recently and would not eat or drink. In the past, she would, at a far distance, eat a handful of hot dog pieces I gave her in one swallow. She was on her last legs, or so it would seem.

Poor Madeleine

The neighbors, Olga and Juan (not the same Juan as from the fish market) gave us towels to carry her in. We tried to pick her up, she yelped, snapped at the air though aimed at us, and released herself from our grip. She scurried into the bushes, out of our reach. Karla tried to access her, and was growled at. We missed out opportunity to help this poor creature today. I can't help but regret not having a carrier with me today, because maybe if I had, Madeleine's pain would be over. I gave the neighbors my card, asking that they call me to keep me updated on her condition and to have those people who feed dogs at Los Machos to call me about her. Maybe they can help her in my absence this coming week (I'll get to that subject later). I haven't given up on her yet, and I don't want her to die out there. I want her, if she cannot be saved, to feel peace.

We ended the visit on a more positive note, picking up Chip across the street from where I found Madeleine. He was an angel, though nervous about being inside a car. Back to San Juan we went, three satos in tow. On the way back to the city, both Bongo and Lulu got carsick. Otherwise, they took advantage of the air-conditioned atmosphere and took a nap the majority of the car ride. Chip was in the back of our 4-Runner, laying on a towel and occasionally propping his head on the back seat to say hi to Karla and the puppies.

At Dr. Ramos, Bongo and Lulu were tested for the usual and ended up having hookworms. Otherwise, they are healthy little puplets that should be ready to be shipped in two weeks. Chip is, as I figured, covered in demodectic mange, which could take some time to clear up. He was heartworm and ehrlichia negative (WOOHOOO!!!), but weakly positive for anaplasmosis, which is treatable.

Well, it's been a long day. I am happy to say that three more dogs are off Los Machos Beach. As usual, we need sponsors for Chip, Bongo, and Lulu. Think about this: What a wonderful present a sponsored Los Machos Sato would make for Father's Day!! (Hence the title of this blog post, in case you were wondering.) Wow, this marks the first time in my life that I have solicited anything for a Hallmark holiday. All jokes aside, I encourage everyone to consider sponsoring one of these animals honor of your father this Father's Day, for a friend's birthday coming up, as a wedding present for animal lovers, and the list goes on. Not to sound like a broken record, but our budget is tight and our vet bills are overwhelming. We will do whatever it takes to improve the lives of the animals still suffering on the streets and beaches in Puerto Rico, and are asking you to do the same.

Still thinking about poor Madeleine,

Photos: From top to bottom, Wally, Chip, Toby, Lola, a Los Machos clan, two new dropped-off puppies who are being watched over at the fish market, Bongo and Lulu, dead dog, Madeleine, Bongo and Lulu in the car, Chip being such a good boy at the vet.

P.S. I will be out of town, celebrating my husband and my first anniversary, from June 10 to June 15. I will be out of cellphone range and will not be checking my emails. I will return any messages when I return!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Satos missing, looking for answers; LMBP in "The Bark"

I've been stalling to post this, but over my past few trips to Los Machos Beach, I have only seen 10 or so dogs. While this should seem like good news, we all know missing dogs could mean bad things. Maria, a dear friend of Amigos de los Animales, was kind enough to call the mayor of Ceiba's office to see if perhaps the local government had "removed" dogs from the beach. She was told that the city hadn't sent anybody to pick up dogs, and the City of Ceiba no longer has a contract with Humacao's Animal Control. It has also been rumored that local Ceibans may be removing dogs from the beach themselves, possibly taking them to be euthanized at nearby shelters or selling them for personal profit. The possibilities are endless. Universities around here used stray dogs in as test animals in labs. I met a man out there once who said he had picked up 3 dogs from Los Machos and gave one to his sister as a pet, one to a friend, etc. So who knows? My search isn't over for more definite answers.

Here are two of my personal favorite Los Machos satos that I have not seen over the past three weeks:

Gizmo: This long-time resident of Los Machos Beach loves belly rubs. A few weeks ago, when Liz and I picked up five other Los Machos satos, Gizmo was on my list to rescue and even had a sponsor (I'm still searching for him, Sandra!!!). Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found and is still missing.

Toby: Also still missing, Toby has been rumored to be hanging out at the abandoned gas station near Los Machos Beach. However, I have had no luck finding him there. He's the sweetest little hound mix ever.

I'll be heading out to Los Machos again this following Monday with my dear friend Karla (Blondie's rescuer). With a native Puerto Rican Spanish speaker by my side, hopefully I can get answers we can work with from locals face to face.

In other news, guess what blog was mentioned in a recent article about Puerto Rican satos in issue #48 of "The Bark" magazine???? You got it...THIS ONE!!!! Pretty neat, eh? While primarily an article written for fellow animal rescue and welfare group Save A Sato by their own Twig Mowatt, a bit about ADLA's huge involvement with the rescue work at Dead Dog Beach is included as well as a brief mention of the horrific crimes occurring at Los Machos Beach, with the Los Machos Beach Project blog address in parenthesis. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when my nearest and dearest friend Martha called me to tell me the news.

And finally, if you haven't watched the most recent ADLA video, please check out my last blog post and watch it when you have 3 minutes and 22 seconds. In it, you will see some of our favorite Los Machos satos, including the ever-famous Dakota.

Recent rescue update: Cha Cha and her nine (not ten...we miscounted!!!) puppies are doing fine last I heard. Annie and Nugget will be spayed either today or tomorrow, but otherwise are ready to be shipped to the States as soon as we have a flight. Mouse is now being sponsored by Liz. He's still a bit on the timid side, but a little of socialization should do the trick.

Blondie?...Well, that's a more difficult situation. We found out that besides having the common and usually highly treatable canine transmissible venereal tumors, she does have a sarcoma in her vagina that will be more problematic to treat. Dr. Ramos is working his magic to find a way to treat her in a similar manner as before, with something like chemotherapy. Other possibilities for treatment would include basically burning off the sarcoma, which is extremely painful for Blondie, or surgery, which would require breaking her pelvis among other invasive techniques. Colin and I played with her for a bit a few days ago. Amidst all she is going through, her spirits are never down. She LOVES giving hugs, has the sweetest demeanor, and has won everyone over at the vet's office...which is why giving up on her won't be an option. All I can hope for is that someone may come along that is willing to see Blondie through her battle, simply because she is so worth it.

Though obviously she is a very special and needy case, would anyone be interested in adopting Blondie??