With all the latest fads and devices we have at our fingertips and inside our ears these days, the world continues to become a more virtual place with less person-to-person human contact. For our own use of technology, we have become reconnected with old friends who continue to support animal welfare in new and different ways. We have also become connected with many wonderful new friends, including new friends from afar. For a program as young as Ayuda, the long distance start up support we have been receiving is very encouraging and highly valued.
And also of great encouragement and value are the unsung care givers with whom we have been personally teaming from right inside our own neighborhoods.
These unpaid volunteers and concerned residents of our village have been helping to shape Ayuda’s cornerstone as it continues to form and perform.
This post is dedicated to our fellow community members, neighbors, and friends who have been independently providing their own forms of care and protection to our roaming fellow citizens; the homeless street animals. The bullets below represent Ayuda’s first list of Local Heroes for the village of Panajachel:
- Russell is a well known and constant street guardian of the poor and homeless. We asked him to keep an eye out for our old street pal Staci after she didn’t show up in her usual spots for a few days. Shortly afterwards Russell not only let us know that he had found her, but that he was giving her a new home far off the streets. Staci and other formerly homeless dogs now live happily on Russell’s spacious property on the western shore of Lake Atitlan. We know Russell as a good friend, fellow animal lover, and someone who jumps in head first whenever asked to help.
- Gabriel, Sue, Nanette, Barry, David, Yanna, and others have gone so far as to surprise us with unexpected donations as acknowledgments of neighborhood improvements and continued faith in our work.
- Steve has very recently joined the ranks of Ayuda volunteers. Two nights ago we were on the lookout for a dog we had heard was badly injured and hangs out on Calle Arboles. We purposely went to dinner in a cafe with a good view of the street, and then it started to rain. As Steve was leaving he said he’d take the pain pill and go looking for the injured dog. For the next couple of hours we watched him walk up and down Arboles in the downpour searching for the dog. Steve was still on the job by the time we had finished our dinner and left to go home. Both he and the dog have been M.I.A. since that night, but we expect to get an update this evening. Steve has told us that he is anxious to help Ayuda in any way he can on his daily travels around Panajacel.
- Local businesses (which shall remain un-named at this time) have also amazed us with cash and in-kind donations. Walking into a cafe or shop and then having the owner present a generous donation as a word of mouth gesture of support just blows us away with heartfelt appreciation.
- The open air cafe near the Panajachel bus stop and bookstore is a coffee drinkers haven for many long time and new residents. A number of street dogs know that this is a good place to find food and shelter from the elements. Regulars like Dale and Bonnie have been mixing Glucosamine and Chondroitin in with dog food servings for special cases Blanca and Goldie. If Ayuda falls behind on keeping up with the cafe’s food supplies then the regulars chip in and do their own re-stocking. Keeping up the health of the homeless animals and keeping Ayuda informed on the dogs’ conditions has enabled a valuable bonding of community watch and care.
- The public mercado building has a nasty disposal area (basurero) which is situated just off the street and down at one of the far ends. Perishables are pitched into rotting heaps. The farming people from the village of Tierra Linda sell their vegetables and other daily goods very close to the opening of the basurero. Territorial and starving dogs are regularly lured out of the depths of the basurero to receive Ayuda nutrients and meds, and sometimes escorted to the vet’s office for emergency and planned parenthood treatments. There are times when unruly and aggressive pack conditions can make things a bit nervy and delicate. But the always warm gestures of appreciation offered by the mercado people make the dirty jobs go so much easier. Their friendly pats on the back and genuine thanks for kindness to the animals is like fuel for the soul.
- Sometimes living in Guatemala feels like being in the old wild west. Vigilantes abound, including one particular courageous protector of the Panajachel street animals. This guardian (who has specifically requested that his name not be published) is well known for hopping on his motorcycle and running down reckless tuk tuk taxi drivers when they harm or nearly harm a street animal. He makes it known to these drivers that the number of their taxi is going onto a black list. The black list is shared with fellow animal protectors in the community. More and more savvy residents are looking at the tuk tuk numbers before entering them, and telling the drivers why they won’t ride with them if their number is on the black list. Our Local Hero is our friend the vigilante rider. The black list concept is his doing, and it’s working.
- We believe that there are more undiscovered people in the impoverished neighborhoods who are like Rosa, who feeds 14 dogs every day. Through our daily travels and growing network of volunteers, we hope to find more of the Rosas and offer them Ayuda support and camaraderie.
- Rudy and Christian have been helping us tremendously by watching over the church courtyard dogs. They help with round ups, feedings, and scheduled treatments. They are also quick to alert us of new animals who find their way to the courtyard and claim a free spot of cobblestone as their new home base. Newcomers soon discover that they have wandered into one of the village’s open public sanctuaries, watched over by kind human guardians.
- Marcel and Marcelle. Where to begin. Their generous support in so many different ways simply speaks for itself. Thank you both for so much, and we hope you’ll be pleased to know that the feral cat trap is finally in our possession.
- Tootsie is a friendly big dog who has a family and spends a lot of time on the streets. Recently she was walking down a busy side street during a night of fireworks and fiestas. She came to a point where she could go no further. She knew that she was about to deliver. At that instance a taxi pulled up. Marilena was in the back seat. But instead of getting out at her stop, Tootsie looked up at her, stepped onto the floor of the tuk tuk at Marilena’s feet, and collapsed. It was clear to Marilena that this dog was about to have her puppies and that was that. She knew that Tootsie had a family but none of us knew where they lived. Tootsie went home to Marilena’s that night and had her pups in a safe and secure place, and with plenty of tender care. The dogs and the family were happily reunited soon afterwards. Marilena has a long history for her many acts of kindness and giving. But if not for her heroics on this one particular night, Tootsie probably would have given birth at the entrance to the always busy Circus Bar.
- And last but not least in this post of acknowledgments to Local Heroes is long time resident, successful business owner, and Panajachel icon Kelly. Kelly has not only offered to be a member of Ayuda’s Board of Directors; she also certified her due diligence and faith through a generous in-kind donation. The always upbeat and forward-looking senses of community and spirit which Kelly brings to the Ayuda program are graciously welcomed and highly motivating.
Even though Ayuda has only been in existence for a little over one month, we are proud to publish this list of Local Heroes: our initial Wall of Fame.
Ayuda believes that the kind of caring and concern which we have been unveiling and nurturing is a strong statement of community recognition for the problems, health, and well being of homeless animals. It is exactly what we have been hoping to bring to the surface and collectively harness. Through organized information, defined territories, treatment schedules, and the sharing of resources in all forms, we believe that our collective and simple approaches and measures will encourage others to join with us to create an even broader network of caring people.
If you are new to Ayuda we gratefully invite you to help extend this growing community of indigenous and international helping hands for helpless animals. When visiting Guatemala, please help us attend to the homeless on the streets and neighborhoods where they live and survive. Our supplies of medications and nutrients are steadily consumed and often difficult to replenish. Please bring with you whatever you can. We regularly discover new prime candidates for spay/neuter but often lack the funds to pay for their surgery and vital vaccines. For each donation of $30usd we are able to have one more homeless animal sterilized from reproducing further homeless offspring, as well as vaccinated against common local and deadly diseases. We welcome you to join our growing village of caring and support in any way you can.