Loving the Street Dogs of Mexico

Seattle has a very interesting relationship with dogs, in fact, dogs in Seattle outnumber children! Seattleites bring our dogs to restaurants; most coffee shops offer puppuccinos or at least dog treats. My husband built a career out of taking care of other people’s dogs (and cats, turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and …) We have shops all over town dedicated to high-quality pet foods, toys, beds, and clothes. You think up something that you might want for your pet and you will be able to find it in Seattle. I often joked that our dogs ate better than we did; I was only half joking! It seemed almost everyone you met had dogs, was a dog walker, or was involved in a pet rescue. It really is not an overstatement to say that Seattle is obsessed with dogs. When we sold almost everything and left town, no one questioned what we would do with our dogs. Seattleites knew that our Basset Hound and German Shepherd would not be left behind.

Lord Harley the Great, came to our family during a time when my 13.5 year-old beloved Australian Shepherd mix, Indah, was at the end of her life. She had been with me longer than my children at that point. My grandmother was also about to go into hospice and life was heavy and dark. For some reason, I just happened to be looking at dogs on Craigslist and there was Lord Harley, a full blood Basset Hound that was no longer wanted by his family. My heart melted and the next day he joined our pack. Fast forward about 6 years – my husband always had German Shepherds but Eva the love of his life, and apparently the “best dog ever,” had passed about 8 years earlier. Although he cared for dogs all over the city, he did not have his own pup to come home to at the end of the day. So of course, I decided he needed a GSD. The pup had to be a female and a rescue. I waited and I searched; then one typical cloudy day, a beautiful face appeared on the Seattle Humane Society website. Ava immediately stole Stan’s heart. She is a very special girl that requires a lot of patience and attention. She was in 3 other homes before ours, one person took her back to the Humane Society after just a couple of weeks. Poor sweet girl. Turning our backs on her is not an option. She is now bonded to us and Lord Harley. She is 100% family.

Ava Harley

Lord Harley the Great and Ava enjoying the beach in Grayland, Washington, USA

We even had to buy a larger vehicle before setting out on our adventure, because Lord Harley and Ava take up a lot of space! They are having the time of the lives and enjoying the adventures, hiking, and change of scenery as much as we are. Before we crossed the border, we obtained the required health certificates for them. Although it’s always good to have your documents in order, we were waved through at the border with no questions asked. We were shocked at how easy it was to bring them into Mexico! I have been to Mexico many times and knew we would encounter street dogs. We talked a lot about how to keep our dogs safe when we did. We felt prepared. However, we weren’t prepared for the magnitude of homeless dogs we would encounter.

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Strolling the Malecón in Ajijic. This lady stole my heart!

It is impossible to walk down the street without running into street dogs. Most are very shy and avoid people. Many have battle scars, injured legs, and/or mange. Stan being “The Doggy Guy,” wins most of them over, takes their pictures, and gives them some love. However, “kibble” often doesn’t get their attention, unless they are really hungry. Perhaps it is because in places like Ajijic, they line up at the butcher shop in the morning waiting for scraps … kind of like Seattleites line up for their morning lattes. Most locals have compassion for the street dogs and feed them scraps. Many restaurants even have “regulars” that are street dogs or dogs from the neighborhoods that come for dinner every night. They generally don’t beg like our spoiled dogs, rather they wait off to the side patiently hoping they will get the remains of someone’s dinner. Some seem to prefer ice cream and have learned how to be ridiculously cute to get their way.

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However, the relationship with dogs here is very different than in Seattle. Of course, poverty plays a big part in this. When your own basic needs are scarcely met, the needs of animals cannot be your highest priority. Veterinary care and pet supplies are expensive, therefore spaying or neutering is often cost prohibitive. This contributes greatly to the problem of street dogs in Mexico. According to SpayUSA, an un-spayed cat and mate(s) can produce nearly 2 million kittens within 9 years and an un-spayed dog and mate(s) can produce 67,000 puppies within 6 years! That is a lot of animals that need homes!! Many organizations around Lake Chapala are working to remedy this situation. Rescue groups provide veterinary care, “freedom flights” to the US, and spay and neuter clinics. At a recent volunteer-run spay and neuter clinic in Jocotepec, Jalisco, volunteers were elated by the turnout. In just two days, 200 animals were spayed or neutered (83 cats and 117 dogs)! People with extremely limited resources brought their dogs in boxes, sacks, a grocery cart, and whatever else they could – just so their animals could be sterilized. Volunteers’ remarked that they are seeing more men than ever bringing their dogs to these events, including large breeds like Pit Bulls and Malinois. Many people brought their whole families along and children from the area even assisted with the clinic. Volunteers offered rides home to ease the difficulty of transporting post-op animals on the bus. It was truly a community event!

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Taquito’s injuries have healed. He’s doing great & is a frequent dinner at the SmokeHouse!

While there are many volunteers from the local and international community working to help the animals and to prevent the birth of unwanted ones, no one loves the animals more than Alvaro Rene Garcia Martinez. He moved back to his village a couple of years ago to care for his elderly mother, but now also cares for an astonishing amount of animals as well. Alvaro is well known in this area as the person to go to if you find any animal that needs help. He currently cares for over 40 dogs, dozens of cats and birds, and even a couple opossums. He has become so well known that it isn’t unusual for him to wake up to a box of puppies on his doorstep. He works tirelessly to find homes for as many animals as possible! Not having a car doesn’t slow him down, he miraculously manages to arrange rides to the vet, spay and neuter clinics, and meet and greets with potential “forever families”. Immanuel Kant said, “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals” ­– Alvaro’s heart then is pure gold! It is impossible for him to turn away from a suffering animal or to say that he cannot help. He didn’t ask for assistance from others, he simply took care of the animals in need. Alvaro truly leads by example and in doing so has become a magnet for others who want to help.

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Alvaro Rene Garcia Martinez with Briso – 8 months old and available for adoption

The number of animals Alvaro cares for is mind-boggling and people in the community recognized that he could really use some help! A group of ex-pats recently joined forces to help him start a non-profit, It Takes a Village Lakeside, so that he would have more resources to help the animals in his care and the others that are surely coming his way. People are also lending their time because it truly takes a village to care for this many animals in need. If you would like to learn more about Alvaro’s incredible work, want to adopt a street dog, or feel compelled to donate you can contact the group at – https://www.facebook.com/ItTakesAVillageLakeside/

It take a village lakesideFollow us on Facebook to see more pictures of the Street Dogs of Mexico or Stan’s animal photography The Doggy Guy

Update 01/15/17: You can also help the animals by shopping our “Dogs, Pets and Animal Friends” section in our CafePress store! 25% of profits from this section will be donated to non-profit animal rescue organizations!

  21 comments for “Loving the Street Dogs of Mexico

  1. December 9, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Thought-provoking. Thanks.

  2. Alessa Bernal
    December 10, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I’m from mexico and i understand what you’re talking about :(its really sad the situation and thank god there’s a lot of organizations that are destine to help them as well as the government is working to make laws to protect them to! I love your post seriously I’m happy that you care for contries like mine!

    Please visit my blog if you can! 🙂
    http://www.alessabernal.com

    • December 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

      I am glad you like the post. I am hoping it will help some of the street doggies find new homes north of the border! We are learning so much and enjoying exploring your beautiful country!

  3. susanoskij
    December 10, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    When I was in Albania, I saw many street dogs there. It breaks my heart seeing animals suffer like this. It’s so lovely to see people taking initiative and making a real difference.

  4. December 11, 2017 at 8:19 am

    It’s always heartbreaking to see animals suffer. Lovely post though 🙂

    • December 11, 2017 at 6:20 am

      It is heartbreaking but also amazing to see so many people that want to help! If we could, I’ll adopt them all 🙂

  5. Sara Russell
    December 11, 2017 at 9:18 am

    This is really interesting and got me thinking of how much you can understand about a culture just by looking at how people relate to dogs.

    • December 11, 2017 at 7:36 am

      Great point Sara!! As we continue to travel more dog stories will undoubtedly unfold. It’ll be interesting to see how they differ around the world!!

  6. Len
    December 11, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I found your blog this morning via your visit to see the goats! We have met Laura and Juan Diego on our visits to Ajijic this last year.
    I really appreciate your writing style and your descriptions of situations and encounters. We live in S. OR and have a son in Kirkland so I am relating a lot. We will return to Ajijic in Feb and Mar with a possible intention of making the transition to full time. If you are still in the area, it would fun to meet you all. PS I also have an asthmatic past, so related to your prior post. Enjoy.

    • December 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      Len, Thank you so much for your kind words. Awesome that we have been on so many similar paths. We will probably be elsewhere by Feb., but since we are grabbing opportunities…you never know. I hope you keep following our journey. I bet eventually our paths will cross.

  7. December 13, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Hello! I live in Mexico and it’s super sad to see lost dogs or even dogs that have been intentionally left behind unwanted by their owners all the time. Many times they get hurt by cars and it’s just so awful…. It really warms my heart to know that there are people out there that love and care for animals so much. Life would be so boring without our furry companions! 🙂

    • December 14, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Hi Erika, I agree 100% our furry companions make life much better! It is great to see so many people that want to help the animals here. I think things are changing for the better! The amount of kidness we encounter everyday in Mexico is inspiring.

  8. December 17, 2017 at 1:50 am

    Oh they really tug on my heart strings! It’s so sad to see them…I always want to take them home!

    • December 17, 2017 at 6:49 am

      Me too and I would but we have a rescue that only gets along with our old Basset hound. So we can’t take in more!

  9. December 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    There’s a similar situation here in Cuenca. It’s both sad and bizarre. Once I have a better handle on the language I want to dig deeper and see if I can help, maybe even adopt.

  10. EniD Cano
    January 7, 2018 at 6:53 am

    I totally agree with this post. I have the fortune to know Alvaro Rene Garcia. He is an amazing people that helped me with my pets. I think we should fine the way to start a crowdfunding for his job, then he can have a better opportunity to help the animals he has. I just love his way. Thank you Alvaro for helping the world to be better. 💕💕💕

    • R.Harwick,PhD
      January 7, 2018 at 8:31 am

      Great idea about crowdfunding for Alvaro and the animals. Have you asked the people running the It Takes A VIllage Lakeside page on Facebook about this? There is a whole team helping with fundraising now! https://www.facebook.com/ItTakesAVillageLakeside/?ref=br_rs

  11. March 10, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    I wish we had something like this here in Uruapan! We have so many stray animals. Actually two of our three cats were rescues from the streets when they were kittens! Thanks for sharing and thanks for caring!

    • R.Harwick,PhD
      March 11, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Tina! So great that you have rescue kitties! I think there is a group working on Spay and Neutering in Uruapan. Not sure how active they are though. They are called “Esterilizaciones Uruapan” and they have a facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1466320523668597/ Let us know if you find out anything about them. We hope to visit Uruapan in a few months!

Thoughts? Ideas? Please share

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