Other than Humans in Cuba and Mexico


“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

I take too many photographs when I travel. That’s the truth! Yet, when I review the photos I take, they all tell a story than I will remember. Cuba and Mexico had delightful birds, dogs, cats, reptiles, and other creatures. Surprisingly, they all appeared to be in good health and well fed…not like the animals we see in Nicaragua.

The birds of Cuba sang lovely Cuban melodies.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Romeo’s Juliets


“Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Once there was a homeless dog on the Calzada in Granada, Nicaragua. He loved hanging around the outside café tables, begging for food, playing with the tourists, and sleeping peacefully under tourists’ feet. He was nicknamed Romeo for his charming personality. What a lover he was!

Romeo charmed many people with his sweet personality, but it wasn’t until two very special people came into his life, that he found his forever home.

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Romeo’s first Juliet

The first “Juliet” in his life was Jennifer who works with Granada Animal Outreach-Nicaragua. Jennifer said that Romeo came to her attention because he was always on the Calzada looking for food from tourists.

He was sweet as can be and we became buddies. I noticed he had the mouth issue, constantly moving his jaw. I tried to look in his mouth to see if something was caught in his throat, but saw nothing. He needed to be neutered so that was a great opportunity to have him sterilized and have his health checked out. The vet, Dr. Steve from Canada, the director of World Vets in Granada, described this condition as the symptoms of a previous case of distemper, probably when he was a puppy. This was now his ´´new normal.¨

13617398_10153778440693660_517514316_nAfter his surgery, the area became infected and he was in a lot of pain so I took him to my house to recover. He was pretty much perfect… wanting to please, looking for love and attention. I knew more than ever that I wanted to find him a permanent home. Also, some of the kid street vendors had started to abuse him and hit him with palm fronds… I knew it would not be a happy ending.

So, she posted this on the Granada Animal Outreach Facebook page:
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I had received numerous messages about him from people that had met him on the Calzada…. like maybe 5-6 people but no one ever followed through. I was feeling really down. And then Laura came along…..
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Weekly Photo Challenge: I Spy Eyes Close Up


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Close Up. I wandered around my house today shooting close-ups of eyes.

Queenie says, “I see it is an in-my-face kind of day.”
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The Start of Something Big


IMG_5343My former fifth grade student is visiting Nicaragua for the first time. On her 19th birthday, we took her to Charco Verde to see the monkeys. Returning home in the taxi, we had a flat tire. I couldn’t help but laugh at the taxi driver’s t-shirt. The Start of Something Big
His t-shirt says it all about living in Nicaragua.

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Going Green with Dogs in Nicaragua


Happy Earth Day! Not only is it Earth Day, but it is El Capitan’s (Cappy’s) birthday today. Read the story of his birth here: Plentiful Puppies

In honor of Earth Day, I found the Top Ten Green Pet Tips for Earth Day, although most of them do not apply in Nicaragua. I found four tips that are most helpful in Nicaragua.

The most important tip in Nicaragua: 1. Neuter your pet.  Pet overpopulation is a real problem—shelters are over-run and homeless pets are everywhere taxing environmental resources.  Only one in four dogs finds a permanent loving home.  When it comes time for your next pet, support adoption as part of a green lifestyle.

Cappy is one of the lucky ones. We adopted him a month after he was born.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Micro-moment of Warmth


“Love is that micro-moment of warmth and connection that you share with another living being”
― Barbara L. Fredrickson

 

The Weekly Photo Challenge is warmth.

We had a micro-moment of warmth today. Suddenly, the skies opened and the rain sliced through the air like panes of glass falling to the ground. The air chilled.  Cappy and Queenie enjoyed a micro-moment of warmth and connection.

IMG_6030From our little family on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua to our friends and families throughout the world, we wish you many micro-moments of warmth, love, and connections shared with all living things in the New Year.

Blessed be the peacemakers in this troubled world.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast


“There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.”~Herman Melville

IMG_3328There is a narrow line between serenity and agitation. Don’t you love the tranquility of the sea, yet hate when your respite is obliterated by two yapping dogs stuck together causing a brouhaha? Yep! Living in the land of contrast requires patience and strength.

Plentiful Puppies


“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
― Charles M. Schulz

Last night, on Earth Day, Ratonita ( I named her because she is a great rat catcher in our garden) gave birth to four puppies under our brush pile. At the same time, our neighbor’s other dog was giving birth to four puppies in his Sugar Cane field. Tyler, the macho father, has produced more puppies in our neighborhood, than I ever thought possible.

Now, I know that Ometepe Island certainly doesn’t need more puppies, but I have a plan. Our new veterinarian, Sara, came to our house last week and we discussed locations for a spay and neuter clinic. Our local community center at Puesta del Sol, will be a perfect place for a weekend extravaganza.   Cut, cut, snip, snip…no more unwanted cats or dogs in La Paloma.

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How many puppies did Ratonita have? Read more.

Remembering Conejo


“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
― Mark Twain

Conejo and RonConejo, which means rabbit, was our neighborhood dog. Most of the time our closest neighbors claimed him, but once Conejo realized that the gringos next door (us) had wholesome food and green grass in which to leisurely roll, he chose to live with us.
I asked our neighbors if they minded if we kept Conejo. They shrugged their shoulders and above the barking of their other five dogs roped to trees, they said, “No importa.”

You see, Nicaraguan people don’t understand the concept of pets. They are guards, herders, and working animals. In return for guarding their houses and herding their cattle, they are fed rice and beans, or out of desperation they learn to fend for themselves. Once, I asked our neighbors what they did with their rancid cooking oil, and they said, “Our dogs love it.”

It’s not that the Nicaraguans aren’t compassionate. They are. But, they are very practical and poor people. They understand the importance of a good hunting, herding, and guard dog. However, they don’t understand the importance of giving their dogs nutritional food and tending to their illnesses. Spaying and neutering dogs is not the norm. It’s expensive and in their eyes, unnecessary. It stems from a lack of education and a lack of connection with their animals.

We’re not sure how old Conejo was. Dogs generally don’t live a long life here. One day, I noticed one of our neighbor’s five dogs tied to a tree in their front yard, instead of with the others in the backyard. “Why is your dog isolated from the others?” I asked. “Oh, he is very sick and old,” Jose responded. “He is four years old, and he will die soon.”

Conejo was not familiar with love and affection. He barked at intruders, like a good Nicaraguan dog, but when we tried to pet him or show him some affection, he shied away from us…almost like we were going to hurt him. It took over a year for Conejo to trust us enough to pet him.

But, oh boy, once we started loving on him, there was no end. He followed us everywhere. He’d lie down and let us rub his belly, while he moaned in ecstasy. He was never demanding, always waiting patiently for a few kind words and a bowl of chicken scraps mixed with dog food.

In March, Conejo developed a tumor in his mouth. He looked gross with snot dripping out of his nose, but the rest of his body was healthy…gordo in fact… with no rib bones showing…unlike all the other dogs in the neighborhood.  So, I called our local vet. He arrived with a hunting knife and a piece of rebar. After many injections to put him to sleep, so he could operate on him, they laid him gently on top of our septic tank and removed part of the tumor, then cauterised the cut with a hot rebar toasted over a fire.

Julio holds Conejo while Conejo refuses to fall asleep.

Julio holds Conejo while Conejo refuses to fall asleep.

It was a very primitive operation giving me nightmares for days afterward. Guillermo, the vet, told me he had 35 years of experience, but no professional training. He said, “I was bestowed with a gift from God to help animals.” I truly believe him. His compassion and understanding comforted me. With gentle guidance…and lots of soft homemade chicken soup  ( by the way, everyone laughed at me making chicken soup for a dog), we nursed Conejo back to health.

Yet, I knew his time was short. The cancerous tumor was deep in his throat and inoperable. Guillermo hugged me and told me that when we felt Conejo’s quality of life was compromised, he would return with an injection and euthanize him.

Meanwhile, Conejo got stronger and fatter. He learned how to play…amazing for a dog that never had a playmate. He kept the cows and horses from weaseling their way to our property to munch on the ripe mangoes…and Ron’s garden produce! He dug hundreds of holes in the soft volcanic sand and made cool little nests. He barked ferociously at people passing by our front gates. And he made friends with our three new kittens.

Sadly, the tumor grew back. We added milk or water, or sometimes chicken broth to his dog food so he could eat. His breathing became labored and we knew it was time. Yesterday, Guillermo returned. He helped us dig a grave, and we cradled Conejo  one last time…reassuring him softly that his suffering was over.

R.I.P my friend. We’ll miss you.

There are several wonderful organizations in Granada that rescue abused and neglected animals. If you are looking for an organization or a way to help through donations, or volunteering contact one of these programs:

Granada Animal Outreach
Casa Lupita
Animal Welfare in Nicaragua
World Vets in Granada, Nicaragua