Our story is incredible as it has been life-changing in many positive ways. In January 2009, I had to have surgery so we planned a trip to Puerto Rico in February to rest and recuperate from the difficult weeks weíd experienced. As February approached, Michael and I spoke of how we would spend our time in P.R. We thought we would lay on the beach and at the pool all day, nap in the afternoon, and go out for quiet dinners. Our time in P.R. was nothing like we had planned!
We arrived in P.R. on a beautiful sunny Valentineís Day escaping the cold of New York. We rented a car and drove just outside of the Wyndham Rio Del Mar resort in Rio Grande. We stopped on the main road at a little grocery store just outside of the resort development. We were looking to have a Cuban sandwich, but they only sold groceries. We picked up some things that we needed for the room and asked the checkout lady where we could sit down for a bite to eat. She pointed down the road opposite of the resort and we headed in that direction. Driving down the road, we noticed that it was a deprived area but quickly found the little bakery/restaurant and went in to eat.
After lunch as we made our way toward the car, we noticed a pack of dogs roaming around the parking lot. Most of the dogs looked to be in good condition, but the one who walked up to us clearly had some health issues. We immediately felt a connection to her and began speaking to her, saying ďHi, Baby.Ē I knew she must be hungry so I went back into the restaurant and bought her a pound of turkey. We fed her and all her friends. The turkey went fast, so I encouraged Michael to go in to get another pound of turkey for them. We took turns going back into the restaurant for more turkey until all the dogs were satisfied. Our hearts broke to have to leave her that afternoon, but it was the beginning of our planning her rescue and recovery.
In the morning we returned with lots of goodies for the dogs. We bought hard food, soft food, bones, toys and every treat we could find. We even brought lots of goodies from that morningís breakfast buffet. The overwhelming feeling was starting to sink in of how fortunate we were and less fortunate others were. When we arrived, Baby seemed to recognize us and came right over with all her friends behind her. As timid and shy as Baby seemed, she also seemed to be the leader of the group. We fed them and spent some time with her, but it was becoming painfully obvious that she was getting sicker and sicker with each passing minute.
One afternoon we couldnít find Baby. I immediately started crying because I felt something was wrong. We saw a woman in the street and described the dog to her and she knew who we were talking about. Before we knew it, there were many people walking around in the street and parking lot looking for Baby. Finally Baby appeared, but she didnít look well. The townspeople were telling us stories of how they pour hot oil on the dogs to rid them of mange. They told us how the children throw rocks at the dogs and kick them. Right before our eyes, the womanís own son kicked one of the dogs that wanted some of Babyís food. We, of course, came prepared each visit with a car full of food and always fed all of them. It was paralyzing to me to watch a boy around my sonís age hurt an animal. I knew at that point that we had to move faster if we wanted to save Babyís life.
We continued bringing Baby food several times each day as we tried to figure out what we would do. One morning we decided to try to treat her open wounds with medicine. We arrived at the parking lot after searching several stores for the right products. I treated her cuts, gave her drops for the fleas and put a flea collar around her neck. I felt that we were moving in the right direction and went back to the hotel feeling a bit better. The initial goal was to help her medically, but as I later found out, it couldnít be done with her living on the street. Nor could I have left Puerto Rico without making certain that she would be properly cared for.
The next morning, we arrived at the parking lot that Baby hung out in and didnít see her. Michael quietly ran down the block to see if maybe she was in another lot that we had once seen her in under a car. We didnít want the people to come out of their houses. We had been stirring up too much attention. I stayed in the car looking around for her. My abdomen was killing me from the surgery and too much running around. I felt sick and weak and started crying and panicking when Baby didnít show up. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Baby in a ball by the front of a store. I almost didnít recognize her because she had no life left in her. I opened the car door and yelled for Michael to come quick. He shot down the block and we approached Baby. I went to pieces when I saw what they had done to her. They kicked her in the head, so now she had a new open gash on her forehead. They also took her flea collar off her.
Needless to say, I love animals, kids, people and every living thing. I will never understand nor tolerate violence in any way.
There were 2 chairs outside of the store that Baby was in front of and I had to sit down. I couldnít control my emotions anymore. We had spent every day calling around to find a solution for Baby. We had asked all the waiters, staff and people we came across if they knew of an organization that could help. They all said the same thing: that Puerto Rico puts down animals like that and that they live on the street. They donít treat dogs the same as we do in New York.
The storekeepers came out of the store we were in front of and felt bad for Baby and for our suffering as well. Baby could hardly lift her head off the ground. Her eyes were so infected they were practically closed shut. I told Michael that we had to take her. He knew I couldnít walk away and I know he couldnít either. We asked the store clerk for a box to put Baby in and asked where the nearest veterinarian clinic was. I had remembered seeing a clinic on our many trips back and forth to San Juan and had a good feeling that we should start there.
Michael lifted Baby and placed her in the box. Baby looked up at him with soulful eyes, but was limp and weak. We put her in the car and said goodbye to the store clerks who had helped us. The box was big but Baby, being the true survivor that she is, found the energy to stick her head out the top so she could look out the window. She smelled so terrible from the mange that we had the air conditioner blasting and the windows wide open. We were emotional, excited and hopeful that it would all work out.
We arrived at Clinica Veterinaria Rio Grande in record time, thanks to Michaelís fast driving and calm composure. We were greeted by Anna and waited for Dr. Roman to meet with us. I explained what happened with Baby through my tears and begged for her to help us. She explained that she could give her shots and treat her mange, but who would care for her and give her medicine when we went back to New York? Dr. Roman told us that their clinic does not take in animals like that. The answer was not what we wanted to hear. We had spent all week trying to make a plan for Baby and now when she was so close to being treated, we were basically being turned away. Needless to say, we wouldnít leave until something was worked out. Finally it was agreed that they would give her the necessary shots and start treating her for the mange and we of course would pay for their services. However, she still needed a permanent solution since she could not travel to New York in that condition, nor would they keep her at their clinic.
Anna was busy in the reception area calling around trying to help us. Time was running out for us. We were there for quite a while when Anna asked me to take the phone and speak to a woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth is with an organization called Amigos de los Animales. Elizabeth will always be special to us because she was the person who made it all happen for us. She is selfless and dedicates her life to rescuing animals. I spoke with Elizabeth through my sobs and she told me she would speak with Dr. Ramos to see if he had room for Baby in his veterinary clinic in San Juan. At that point I felt that things would work out even before getting the okay from Elizabeth. God was on our side. I later received confirmation from Elizabeth that Dr. Ramos would care for Baby.
The next morning we picked Baby up from the vetís office in Rio Grande to transport her to San Juan. She had gotten all of her shots and had just finished getting her bath. She was still wet when she came out. We had bought her a large carrier with a cushion and had toys for her to play with. She was so nervous having just had her very first bath that the minute she was put into the carrier, she went to the bathroom. Anna was nice enough to take the carrier in the back and make it fresh for her again.
We started on our trip to San Juan with Baby all clean in her new carrier. The excitement was overwhelming and emotional. We followed the directions and made it there without incident. Michael and I walked in to Dr. Ramosí office with Baby and then Michael went back out to park the car. As I was sitting in the waiting room, a couple tried communicating with me, but I donít speak Spanish very well. Nelda, the woman at the front desk, was translating for us. The couple looked at me with very sincere eyes and said, ďwhat a lucky dog.Ē Everything felt very emotional for me.
I gave Nelda all the things we had bought for Baby such as food, toys, collar and carrier. Nelda was then ready to take Baby into the back to start her treatment and told us to say goodbye. It was extremely difficult but we felt strongly that she was in the best of hands. We said our goodbyes choking on tears and went out to the car. We both sat down exhausted from the week. After all, we were leaving the next morning without having a moment of rest all week. We felt it was a huge accomplishment and our lives had forever changed.
We both agreed that Baby was very special to us and that we couldnít be without her. We will be going to San Juan on April 10th to pick her up. She has spent 2 months in the hospital and Iíve already consulted with my veterinarian in New York to continue proper treatment so she can live a happy and healthy life. Sheís our angel and we canít wait to begin our lives with her.
Everyone can make a difference by simply spay and neutering their animals. The population of stray animals in Puerto Rico is enormous. Many are in need of medical attention and all are in need of spay and neutering. It felt amazing to save a life. I encourage everyone to get involved in any way you can. If you donít know where to begin, just ask this extremely worthy organization, Amigos de los Animales. They care for many animals with very little money.
~Christine & Michael Perez
©Amigos de los Animales