A Spay/Neuter Clinic At The End of The World.
Next month we leave for the Corn Islands. It’s a team of eleven of us, thus far - five vets - Dr. Tom and a bunch I‘ve never met and four techs - Toni, Nick, Kit and I. And Donna and Kit for back-up and because they're running this show. A multi-day, two island spay/neuter bonanza.
The Corn Islands are on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, two small, beautiful little Caribbean islands, mostly uninhabited with little tourism but a healthy diving/snorkeling industry. I’ve never been out there but the people I know who have - and the pictures I’ve seen - make it seem like a picture book paradise of white sandy beaches and blue ocean. To the best of my knowledge they’re accessible only by plane. The whole east coast of Nicaragua is very hard to get to - getting off the coast is even harder. You have to fly in on a small plane from Managua.
I think this is how it all began but I'm not entirely clear on it: a very cool couple from Colorado went out there to go diving and found a puppy, a sad, skinny, homeless puppy.* They found it a home with a restaurant owner out there but it was kind of an eye opening experience for them - they started to notice all the other skinny, homeless animals and wanted to help. So at great personal expense to themselves and with the aid of other ex-pats out and some elders out there, they got the ball rolling to do a spay neuter clinic. They found Donna and asked her if she knew any vets.
Field trip, kids.
While the couple and the people on the islands have been unfailingly generous - we have free housing, even a scuba/snorkel trip, we still have to cover all of our airfare. The two airlines which services the islands are not kickin’ down . And the airfare ain’t cheap. But with such a limited population of animals and an army of vets, imagine the impact we’ll have on the islands
We have a rare opportunity here to literally almost solve the starving spay population in a little known part of a third world country.
I never flat-out ask for money and I won't again but I am now: this is not a cheap project and we need funds to do it. The potential end result project is unbelievable - we can almost literally fix the problem in one small place. But we need money. We need money for airfare, we need money for supplies. While the islanders have been unfailingly generous, they can only do so much. So please, hit the link to Building New Hope on the side of the blog and donate through PayPal. And send a note specifying that the money is for Casa Lupita. If you mention you heard about the project through my blog so much the better.
Here, I'll make it even easier for you: http://www.buildingnewhope.org/casa-lupita.html . You don't even have to go to my links site. Just go there, hit the paypal and help out.
And for the record the cool couple that started this whole project? They’re taking Porsha. Told you she got a good home.
And At The Other End of Nowhere, Another Clinic Run Essentially By An Army of One.
Twice in the past few months I’ve been out to Las Penitas, a little coastal town outside of Leon. Las Penitas is not a big tourist site for gringos - it barely merit’s a paragraph in most guidebooks. One of my roommates turned me on to it and I went out there twice when I had people visiting.
Las Penitas is the real Nicaragua. Yes, there are nice summer and weekend houses out there owned by rich Nicaraguans and a few ex-pat owned bars and hotels but there’s also the poorer houses, the ones with tin stapled to the roof. In 1992 a tsunami hit the town and took out a lot of the buildings. Some have never been replaced and the ruins just sit there. **
Both times I stayed at Barco De Oro, a little hotel on the inlet at the mouth of the river. It’s a beautiful spot - you can see the ocean and the river from the patio, the hammocks are plentiful, the food is decent, the staff is nice, the surf is a little rough but I’ve body boarded out there a few times. It’s just at cool place.
Sandrine, the French woman who owns it, is a huge animal person. She has two dogs of her own that live there - Luna and Mileu. Luna is ancient, an old gray creaky creature that genially drops on her back for belly rubs when you look at her. Mileu, a big one eyed pit/hound something, is everyone’s dog. He comes to the beach with you and guards your stuff while you’re in the water, tries to get you to throw sticks for him, accompanies you around town. It’s kind of a cool thing - a free rental beach dog. There’s other animals there - a few cats, some nasty parrots, some odd pigeon things. With the exception of the birds all are ex-animales de la calle - street animals - that Sandrine took in. It adds a nice vibe to the place - a peaceable kingdom.
Las Penitas has a deluge of street animals, particularly skinny dogs. Some of them kind of belong to someone but most are just sort of hanging about, waiting for a handout. A lot of the other restaurant owners will slingshot them or throw rocks to keep them away. Sandrine doesn’t. While she doesn’t welcome them into the hotel she does occasionally put food out for the super skinny ones and she turns a blind eye when tourists share their food with them. She has names for some of them, watches out for them if they get too skinny or too sick.
As far as I could see there are no vets in Las Penitas. It’s about as unlikely a place for a spay/neuter clinic as you can imagine. Granada has a tourist industry, an ex-pat population that has imported some ideas about animals. Las Penitas doesn’t. It’s just another Nicaraguan town with a lot of skinny stray animals.
Unlikely, yes, but it seems Sandrine pulled it off. She got vet students from the college in Leon to come out and do spays and neuters. The original idea was to do all the street animals but the first time they did it a bunch of people living in town brought their animals in and so they did those instead. Now she’s setting up other ones, not just for the street animals but for the owned animals that didn’t get done the first time. They need money - for anesthesia, for supplies. So do we. Badly. But in a country with so few animal welfare resources it would be a sin for me not to mention Sandrine and what she’s doing out there against all odds.
I don’t think she has a pay-pal button on her website or even any information about her clinics. There’s just some very low key fliers up at Barco Del Oro saying look, this is what we’re doing, if you can help please do. But she does have a website with information about her beautiful hotel and her email address is up there. And I know they need help, too. Some of the tourists give money, some of the turista bus drivers will occasionally drop some cash, too. But for the most part it’s an uphill battle in a little known part of the world that has a lot of other problems and no over-active bloggers constantly talking about it.
This is her website: http://www.barcadeoro.com/eng/index.html . If you find yourself in Nicaragua, stop by and see her. If you can help her with her clinic, please do. If you do web-design and can possibly help her set up a paypal button on her site for her clinic, drop her a line.
*Two things - if the small skinny puppy belonging to a restaurant owner sounds familiar it’s because it is, in fact, the Minnow. And Scot, if I’m getting the story wrong correct me here.
** See prior notes re: no one gives one tenth of a crap about Nicaragua. Did you know it had been hit by a tsunami? I didn’t.
****Some photo credits: I've never been to Corn Islands so I boosted the Corn Islands photos off of Kristen. She's a good egg, it's for a good cause, I don't think she'll care. The Las Penitas photos were mostly shot by K as well - my camera got boosted. In one Kyle, my old college roommate, throws a stick for Mileu, one of Sandrine's 'beach rental' dogs. Luna, the ancient dog, naps under a hammock. Final photo is a reciept for a donation to Sandrine's clinic.