Our first year on BCI on our veterinary mission trip, one of the very first dogs we came in contact with was Monica. At the time we met her, we thought she was a friendly stray who liked to hang out at the hotel where we were staying called Casa Canada (yes, it is owned by a bunch of Canadians). She is an adorable little brown ‘island dog’ – about 30lbs, with lean legs and a short coat – a mutt through and through. She wandered down that first morning at breakfast where we sat on the deck overlooking the ocean, and of course we all fawned all over her. She is no dope – she knows that the tourists are likely to feed her snacks, which we of course did. She kept coming back those first few days, and from talking with the staff at the hotel, we found out she was actually owned by a family who lived up the street. Armed with a description of the house, we headed out to talk to them about bringing her in for vaccines, to be spayed, and other preventatives!
The house where she lives is not in the best of shape – it is a cinder block, concrete house with about 2/3 of it open and exposed to the elements. I think at one time it had a full roof, but time has not been kind, and unfortunately her family just does not have the means to replace it. There is a tarp strung over part of the open area, and one room off the side that has a roof that functions as a bedroom, plus at least one more room at the back. Her family consists of a friendly grandmother, her adult son, and a little boy, named Jefferson. Monica proudly trotted up to the house with us in tow, and to the right of the steps leading into the house, she brought us to see her puppies. Her puppies were a MESS. They were all so sad – weak little cries coming from them, as they laid in filth on an old piece of cardboard. All of them were weak and dirty, and terribly underweight. And understandably so – poor Monica herself was so underweight it was hard to tell she was even nursing! We struck up a conversation with her owner, and gently persuaded and cajoled until he agreed to let us take the puppies to give them a chance (he admitted that one had already died), and to spay Monica. In exchange, we gave him $100 US, and a promise of some food and supplies for Monica. In this conversation is where we learned her name – though we heard Monica, and it stuck in our group, her name is actually ‘Muneca’ – which means doll in Spanish. This fact always gives me a chuckle.
We rushed her puppies to the clinic and immediately gave them all a bath to get the hundreds of fleas off of them! We warmed them up and gave them some SQ fluids, and supplements, and applied some preventatives. We kept them at the clinic for the first few days to make sure they were recovering well, and got them eating some mushed-up puppy food that we bought from one of the little grocery stores that has dog food. Which, as an aside, the way that they sell dog food on the island? They buy big 50-60lb bags of food, and open them up, and then people buy the food by the scoop for their dogs! Most of the dogs live off a mixture of dog food and left overs – many don’t even eat dog food at all!
Once we felt like they were healthy and stable, we put them up for adoption – Nicaraguan style!! As people came into the clinic, we spread the word that we had puppies available, and people would come back and interview to adopt them. Cynthia was super specific in her interviews, and I think scared off a few people with her descriptions of us following up to ensure they are taken care of, and what would happen if they weren’t! We made sure to choose families who were coming in with their pets already, so we would feel comfortable that they would follow up and make sure they got the rest of their vaccines (which we left for them with some friends!), and that they would see the NicaVets over the summer to get them spayed/neutered. All six puppies made it, and got adopted to loving and excited homes! Monica was spayed and vaccinated, and set up with a big bag of food and 12 month’s worth of preventatives. She is such a special and wonderful dog – her personality just makes you smile, so I am so glad she was one of the first dogs we met on the island.
Every time we get updates from our friends down there – we ask about Monica with breath held. Every year, one of the first things we do is rush down the street to visit our mascot. Thank goodness, she has been there, alive and well, every year. Last year, she even trekked along with Dr Becky and I while we did a pub crawl down the street from the hotel! I like to think that we had something to do with her still being there – every year we dote on her, and are sure to get her vaccines boostered, and leave her a big bag of food and preventatives. Her family doesn’t have much, but they do love that little dog, just like we do, and I look forward to seeing her smiling face every year.