|Meeting Coco at the Cartagena airport|
Since then, every visit to Ambergris Caye has had me at Saga Humane Society getting weekly quality time walking some of the most lovable & adorable pooches around. And my consciousness was raised so that I also became aware of Cartagena Paws, an organization in another country I visit often, which helps the all too numerous street animals in that city.
Both Belize's Saga Humane Society and Colombia's Cartagena Paws work not only to help abandoned animals, but they of course want these dogs & cats to have forever homes too. Many times those willing & best able to adopt pets live in the US or Canada, and so the critters lucky enough to be adopted often need help getting to their new homes. This is where travelers like me (& you?) come in handy!
|Packing for a Purpose with donations!!|
Coco, his four brothers & their mom had been found in an abandoned lot, obviously neglected and in need of help. They all received medical care, vaccinations, etc, and ultimately found families in the US; there were a number of different flight volunteers in June flying them to California, New York, Massachusetts, & of course Maryland.
I met Coco & his foster dad (& foster terrier brother!) at the airport the day before our flight, so customs paperwork could be processed. I volunteered to foster Coco for his last night in Colombia so we could bond a bit before our long travel day -- what a cutie! After getting a huge number of licks from him at the airport, Coco followed my every step in the apartment. I would be at the kitchen sink and he would lie at my feet; if I went the two steps from there to the refrigerator, he got up to follow me; of course if I was sitting anywhere, he needed to be curled up next to me. Adorable!
When we got to Baltimore, my first concern (after meeting his new mom!) was to get Coco outside & out of the carrier so he could do his business; it had been a long day! We went out to the sidewalk and opened the carrier; Coco walked out, looked around, but was seemingly so overwhelmed by it all, that he walked right back in to the familiar & curled up in his carrier. Poor guy!
|Coco with his new brother|
Now I know that there are some who are probably wondering about a couple of things, as I have heard & had these questions myself.
Aren't there dogs & cats in the US who need to be adopted? Why are we flying in animals from other countries as pets? I volunteer with an SPCA in Maryland, which is always looking for families to adopt their animals, so it is ironic that I have brought a puppy from Colombia who was adopted by a family in Maryland. But I have also heard from friends that it can be much more challenging to adopt a pet in the US. Adopting overseas could be a faster & easier process for some, funnily enough. Others may feel more inspired to help a dog or cat from another country; isn't it great those animals too will also have loving homes? I thought there were good balanced arguments for both sides about this here. One of the 'against' arguments calls for "dealing with the causes [of stray animals], such as neutering, animal control, and owner education." Definitely in agreement and Saga in Belize, and other groups also, do this as well. [2019 note: Cartagena Paws has also started a spay/neuter program.]
Shouldn't we be helping people rather than animals? Shouldn't we be helping both? And in some ways by helping animals, you're helping people too. Belize's Saga Humane Society, for example, has an education program visiting schools to teach kids how animals should be treated & cared for (animal abuse is not uncommon, unfortunately). And by teaching these kids compassion for animals, they learn more about compassion in general, with the goal of having a more compassionate society overall. [2019 note: Cartagena Paws is fundraising towards an education program also.]
Other thoughts/comments welcome!
Interested in being a flight volunteer for a pet? You can read more about it here. There is a list of organizations around the world looking for flight volunteers here, although it is a limited list; there are definitely more such groups out there, including:
*South America: several in this post
*Belize: Saga in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
*Mexico: Tails of Mexico and The Ranch in the Lake Chapala area
*Turks & Caicos
*Thailand: Soi Dog Foundation; there are two Facebook groups (one here and another here) for those flying from Thailand to anywhere in the world, although mainly to Europe and the US/Canada.
General flight volunteer needs in this Facebook group.
*Shenzhen, China: Karuna Rescue (needs flight volunteers out of Hong Kong)
Learn more about Cartagena Paws in this Colombia Calling podcast!