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Due to the complete shut-down of Puerto Maldonado because of strikes and blockages of streets by the strikers, I haven’t been able to leave the house for 2 weeks. Well, there was a 3 hour window last Sunday in which the market was open and taxis were running so I managed to get out and stock up on fresh fruit and some carrots! I keep having cravings for broccoli! There’s been no fresh green available for weeks; but shops are still shut, ditto banks, the Post Office, the phone company. Actually everywhere is shut. The centre of town looks abandoned. I haven’t been able to pay the electricity bill, nor for my cell phone plan and am expecting those to be shut off any day now. But the dogs are mostly fine; they have enough food and I have a good stock of medicines should they need those.
I have advertised 3 times on Facebook for someone to take Coffee, the Chihuahua who was unwanted and brought to me on my birthday, but although various people have said they want her, no-one as yet has fronted up to take her. At 7 weeks, she’s definitely a Chihuahua with attitude! She thinks she’s a Rottweiler and takes on the biggest dogs to scrap with. She is strong enough to drag the dog beds from one room to another!
Coffee and Ringo Starr: they seem to be planning more mischief
Little Ringo Starr came home with me the day after I got Coffee; he was wandering alone along a busy road in town, tiny and covered in mange and sores. His skin is taking a long time to heal and although I’m looking for a forever home for him as well, it’ll be a few more weeks until he’s ready to be adopted.
The other new dog at the Shack (aka The Pink House) is Toby. Poor Toby, he has pneumonia and wounds all over his body and he’s not doing too well. In fact, I don’t think he will make it, he’s just so sick and each day his breathing gets worse. But I have to think positively and I keep telling myself that at least he’s eating.
When Toby arrived in our lane last Thursday he would pull away if I went to touch him. Little by little he has let me pat him, and now I can lift him up, and he even enjoys a massage on his back. Toby has won my heart in just this short time that he’s been here because he does something quite unusual for a dog: he stares into my eyes. He’s trying to ask me to help him I’m sure. He has dark brown liquid eyes that stare at me from his terribly damaged head. I just want him to survive.
Of the 10 dogs I have with me at the moment, 9 have been victims of abuse/cruelty/starvation/abandonment, and in several cases, all of the above. Throwing rocks, water (sometimes boiling), hitting with sticks, kicking, starvation, all these types of cruelty are used against unwanted dogs. Little Pinkie, who was kicked (literally and in front of me) out of her home at age 8 weeks, is just one of the horrible histories that my dogs come to me with.
Pinkie was kicked out but being so young and with no-where to go, she took to sleeping in front of a shop across the street from her owner’s house. No food, no water, no shelter and still a baby, she spent all day sitting and watching the door to her house. She had big weeping sores all over her body which the owner told me was the result of having boiling water thrown over her by someone. Why wasn’t she taken to a vet for treatment? A shrug was the answer. The owner just didn’t care. So I took this beautiful little girl to the vet myself and luckily her sores were not the result of boiling water, but of infected mange.
Pinkie with sores from infected mange
Her owner was guilty of extreme neglect and cruelty but of course, in a country where there are no animal rights, there was nothing I could do except take Pinkie home and keep her.
That animals have no rights was brought back to my mind this week when first a man was about to throw a rock at one of my dogs when we were out walking; and then the next day the man who lives upstairs from me threw down a basin of water onto my dogs who were waiting to go out the gate. He said he did it because he thought they were going to burrow under the gate. Believe me, he won’t do it again!
A group of animal lovers in Lima have started a petition to give to the government, demanding an Animal Right Bill be passed in the senate. They want to get 70% of the population to sign it and so we (the group that I belong to) are all gathering signatures. Unfortunately it isn’t an on-line petition because here in Peru documents mean nothing if they don’t have a finger-print on.
Barabas where he slept after being abandoned because he was too old
Unnamed puppy who was put on the side of a highway when his owner couldn’t be bothered to feed him and treat his infections. We named him Bendito (Blessed)
A tribute to Wendy, my dog who passed away early this morning.
I found Wendy some 5 months ago while walking home from the vets. She was sitting in a pile of rubbish in a back street near the New Shack and appeared to have been put there as an unwanted piece of garbage. She was only about 4 weeks old, malnourished and mangy. As I already was carrying another dog who had a broken leg, I had to pile Wendy on top of the other dog then put them both down every few meters as my arms were aching with the weight. When I got her home I was so busy with the other dog that I called a friend and asked her to come and bathe this stinky little scrap of life; and so Brenda arrived and was wonderful, she gave Wendy her first ever bath, dried and fed her, and then gave her the sweet name Wendy.
Baby Wendy after her first bath
Wendy must have remembered her early abandonment because she never particularly liked people. She was a dog’s dog. She didn’t want to be picked up and couldn’t be bothered with pats or cuddles; she just wanted to romp with the big dogs and fell asleep draped over one or another of the dogs who would tolerate her. When she was ready to be adopted I wanted her to go to a person who had other dogs. One girl showed up but it was clear from the start that Wendy and she wouldn’t be right for each other. The girl wanted a fluffy toy and Wendy was definitely not that; and so Wendy stayed on with us. She was quiet, small, fine-boned and very well behaved.
While I was in Australia at Christmas Brenda took Wendy home with her and they just clicked and Wendy actually slept on Brenda’s bed, something that she had never wanted to do with me. Unfortunately when I came back to Peru Brenda had to give her back because Brenda’s family also save street dogs and already have 6. The night that Brenda came to visit us in the Pink House, after she left Wendy cried and clawed at the door to get out and follow Brenda. It was so sad to see.
Wendy died today of a bacterial infection in her intestine. She had been getting through a back fence into a neighbour’s garden and eating the baby diapers that were thrown there; Dr Boris thinks that’s why, and because she was taken away from her mother at such a young age she didn’t have the antibodies to fight the infection.
Goodbye Wendy Darling, we will miss you and always you’ll be part of our family here in Puerto Maldonado xxxxxx
Greetings from the Pink House! We moved in almost 3 weeks ago and apart from unceasing rain that is causing a blocked toilet, water running down one wall in the living room, and bit of water seeping under a door, we are enjoying our new space and big overgrown yard. We have fenced in along the front of the house so the dogs are secure in the garden, but Yacka still has his street-dog mentality and spends days sitting outside the front door or wandering in the mud, checking out the piles of rubbish that are everywhere. Due to flooding there hasn’t been any rubbish collection in the time we have been here. When I asked at the corner shop where I should put my bags of rubbish she just laughed and waved her hand around.
I’m still trying to find a home for Dolly, who gets bigger by the hour it seems. I tell people that she is a medium-size breed, but the truth is, she’s going to be BIG. Big and sweet. And very affectionate.
Dolly waiting for cuddles on my bed
Little Wendy, my second-to-youngest, who I found in a pile of rubbish near the New Shack when she was tiny, is a bit sick at the moment with a fever, infections in her eyes and ears and a wheezy cough. With Dr Boris away, I decided to put her on antibiotics to try to bring down her fever. Hopefully Boris will be back from his vacation next week and will be able to check her out thoroughly.
The Pink House is in a part of town that I don’t know at all so am enjoying getting my bearings, although I have to keep with me a piece of paper with my nearest street written on it as I still can’t pronounce the name. That works well until I flag down a taxi driver who can’t read! The neighbourhood seems to be very poor with mud roads and old wooden shacks and small dirty kids everywhere. And dogs, oh my goodness, hundreds of dogs! Sterilisation Program number 5 is already being planned!
Anyone who would like to donate towards medicines for this program can do so on this web site. It costs 120 Peruvian Soles for one sterilisation [that's approx 25 British Pounds (£) or 47 Australian Dollars ($)], but if I supply the medicines needed the cost is about half that. Thank you.
Back yard under water
This will be my last Chronicle as I leave on Saturday for Christmas in Australia. When I return to Peru in January I plan to retire from active street dog work. Of course I will still have my darling 8 dogs, but my role will change now that there is a group of caring people here to take over the work that I have been doing treating and feeding and arranging vet care for the street dogs. I feel that I shall be leaving the dogs in good hands.
I will continue raising money for them to do their work while I look for another town to move to. My dogs and I have suffered enough in this difficult climate.
The past week has been filled with stress and fear over the health of Charley. He has been having epileptic seizures at the rate of 6 to 7 per day. Dr Boris still hasn't come up with the right medication for Charley which worries me sick as I fly out in 2 days. When he starts fitting the other dogs get scared and try to attack him so instead of a calm quiet environment in which to recover there is lots of barking and jumping around. Not a good situation for me to be leaving poor Charley.
Charley when he first arrived at The Shack
I wish everyone a happy and stress-free Christmas with lots of love from Yacka, Vincent, Sweetie, Milagro, Wendy, Charley, Pinkie and naughty little Mimi. And me xxx
Chilling out in the garden
This last fortnight I was privileged to meet a lovely group of women who sell fish at a small market here in Puerto Maldonado. It had been reported to me that 3 dogs are living at the market and that the women want them to be sterilized as they are having trouble finding homes for the countless puppies that keep being born. These people, who work seven days a week in pretty rough conditions, always seem to be smiling and are taking care of and feeding the three dogs who are fat and happy.
And so Negra, the first one I managed to catch, was operated on last week; but she was naughty and pulled out her stitches so had to be re-sewn a few days later and is now thriving again.
Negra on the operating table
Then came Negro (black dogs here always get called Negro or Negra, depending on if they are males or females). He didn't fare so well: when I pulled him out from under the fish scaling table we found that his tummy was swollen and he passed away later the same night from a stomach infection. That just leaves Blanca who tries to bite me when I get close to her, so I've sort of been putting off catching her until Dr Boris has time to give her a tranquilizer first.
Woman at fish market
When I took this woman's photo at the fish market she and her friend when into peals of laughter: it was the first time in her life that she has ever had her photo taken!
Guty, who was found with a head full of maggots and had been living with me the past 2 months, passed away a week ago of old age. Poor old dear had no teeth and could barely walk but I'm happy that his last couple of months in this world were peaceful and that he didn't have to search the streets for garbage to eat; instead, he had soups and baby food at every meal and died in his sleep.
Christmas is in the air here and stalls are popping up all over town selling tinsel, baubles of all kinds, including a huge range of tiny pottery animals to put in the crib beside baby Jesus, some pretty unusual animals too, like llamas, elephants and giraffes. Only 9 days more until I start the long haul back to Australia, frankly I can't wait!
The sterilizing campaign was a huge success! People, dogs and cats were queuing up at the clinic from 8.30am and by mid-morning there was a crowd spilling out onto the street where a canopy had been put up to give animals and people a bit of shade from the sun. Inside the clinic there was an almost party atmosphere as a group of young girls came to help. The four vets were efficiency itself, 3 operating without a break all day in 36 degree heat while the fourth shaved and anesthetised the animals and stopped total chaos from happening.
Three of the vets were operating non-stop all day!
Mimi was the first dog to be sterilized and when I went back at 1 pm she, in her usual hyper-active way, was tearing round socializing with dogs and humans alike, no sign that 4 hours earlier she had had major surgery.
Here I am with Mimi waiting at the clinic
The woman who had organized the vets' transportation, hotels, etc, flew in from the USA to make sure everything went well. After Puerto Maldonado they were returning to Lima, and then going on to other towns up north to continue their fabulous work helping the dogs of Peru.
Some bad news this week: Maisie, who I called Amazing Maisie, died early Saturday morning. She was her normal healthy self until Friday afternoon, then went down-hill very quickly and passed away at 3 am Saturday. I suspect that she was poisoned. Maisie was a sweet dog who I picked up off the pavement where she was lying at the door of a bank back in May. While I was trying to pick her up and push my way through a crowded footpath a young man pushing a cart ran over her paw and got an earful from me for doing so. Maisie had the most beautiful black and white makings on her fur, just like one of those lovely Holstein Friesian cows.
Maisie in May this year when I first found her
Maisie was buried in my garden along with Gringita, my friend's cat who was run over by a tuk tuk, and a puppy who was abandoned in a heavy rain storm and had to be euthanized after we found she was extremely anemic and couldn't open her eyes. Not a happy day.
And so the days pass in Puerto Maldonado, some good and some bad. I'm counting down the days until I go home to Australia to see my family at Christmas. I hope to catch up with friends there who support my work and the dogs, especially Samira (who keeps us supplied with medicines), Cathy (the vet who came to Peru in June/July 2012), Tate and Mieke (who sponsor Pinkie Dog), Pamela and Theresa (whose donations have been very very generous) and Ange Black (who is planning to come over to Peru and volunteer next year). It's going to be a great trip home this year!!!
There will be no Shack Chronicle published here next week whilst our 'webmaster' Maxine takes a trip to Mexico. Maxine will be back early in December when normal service will be resumed!
Much excitement in the New Shack this past week when the local TV channel turned up to film my dogs! They were part of a news article about our campaign to sterilize/castrate street dogs which is happening this weekend.
The dogs got a little over-excited when the cameraman filmed their beds (all clean and neatly made!) and when he bent down to get a dog's-eye view he almost disappeared from sight in the chaos. It all got too much for Yacka, who, being a dog permanently on the edge of hysteria, started shrieking and running in circles and had to have a massage to calm him down.
Milagro was the star of the show. Being fairly oblivious as to what's going on around him, (he's blind) he wandered up the street to check out some smells, then was filmed strolling back in his casual way.
And so the sterilization campaign kicks off this Saturday and one of the first to be operated on will be Mimi. She has been with us since she was only 6 weeks old when her owner didn't want her. Her sister, who lives down the road from us, is also on the list to be sterilized.
Mimi at 6 weeks
The four vets are arriving from Lima tomorrow and they hope to operate on 70 dogs per day. The heat in Puerto Maldonado and apathy of the dog owners here might mean that they don't reach their goal but we'll do our best to keep patients coming in.
Check out this page next Thursday to see how it all went !
This week I have been in a reflective mood and thought I'd look back over some very early articles of mine, and photos of the dogs who are gone but not forgotten.
When I first found Key Hole I couldn't believe that a dog could be so thin and still be alive. A man told me that she was so thin because a truck had run over her. Of course that's not the reason: the real reason is because Key Hole had reached that stage in starvation in which she had no energy to go searching for food.
As well as mange and sores all over her body she had key hole shapes cut out of both her ears. She was living in a parking area for huge logging trucks waiting to be ferried across the river Madre de Dios in Peru. She was not alone: with her was Sweetie, a completely hairless and mange-covered starving male dog. Sweetie is still with us, nearly 4 years on, and he's still as sweet.
Sweetie getting a cuddle, possibly the first in his sad life
Mama Jaw was also starving, toothless, and had no bone in her lower jaw, making eating a slow and very messy business. She ate so slowly that other dogs took her food before she could finish it.
There were others: Puppy Face, Baby Baby, Captain (so named because I found her living in an old boat), Radar who had the world’s biggest ears and a litter of puppies; and then there are those who don’t have a name yet, who were so scared of humans that they'd watch me from a distance but didn't yet have the courage to come forward for food yet. Bit by bit I started to make and see a difference... some of the dogs had a visit to the vet and within a few weeks two had put on enough weight to be sterilized; and so every morning I would cross the river on a barge and give the dogs their daily meal. The locals went from from laughing at me to pointing out where the dogs were, and even started asking my advice on health problems with their own dogs. I knew life here wasn't going to be easy but for me it was, and is, very fulfilling.
Look at Sweetie now
My search for a new place to live is in the middle of negotiations at present: some work needs to be done on the huge room that is for rent, like a new tank stand and a water pump installed. It badly needs to be painted too, but I can do that after we move in. It's right beside the Madre de Dios river with lots of lovely space for my dogs to run and play. Not a tree in sight which will be a new experience for them as where we are at present is a jungle of trees, so many that it's not possible to see the sky from the garden.
Guty, the dog that was picked up with part of his head and neck eaten by maggots, was well enough to go to be castrated today. I wasn't going to bother as he's very old and senile but he's turned out to be aggressive to the other dogs who are afraid of him. I don't know if castrating such an old dog will make a difference to his aggression, but if it doesn't I don't think I'll be able to keep him much longer.
The star of the show this week is a dear little dog that I met while out looking for another dog who had been reported to me. Princesa is owned by a Brasilian man who had no idea that there are vets to treat dogs just like there are doctors to treat humans!
Princesa would win a prize for being cute, if there was such a prize! She is cute as, but being white, she is far more susceptible to mange that other coloured dogs. According to Dr Boris, white skinned people are more susceptible to getting mange too! Princesa also has a bladder infection, as I noticed when she wee'd all over my clean shorts. She will be going to the clinic once a week for a month until her various aliments are sorted out. Her owner is so grateful that we are able to help Princesa as he really cares about her.
Charley, my gay dog is everybody's favourite here in the New Shack. He gets on with all the other dogs and is just so sweet and gentle. I just have to proudly post some before and after photos of him: before, as he was when Dr Boris found him abandoned at the market and brought him to me, and as he is today.
Anyone who would like to sponsor Charley can do so through this web page.
A busy week that started with a trip to Tres Islas, a community about 30 kilometers from Puerto Maldonado, to do follow-up treatments on dogs that Dr Boris and I treated in June this year. This time we had help from two members of our new Animal Protection Group which made my job less hands-on and more holding hands! I got ambushed by some little girls who wanted to hang off me all the time, and even said that they preferred my long straggly grey hair to their sleek and beautiful thick black tresses.
Bringing her dog for treatment
We based ourselves first in the school yard where a few people turned up to get mange treatment for their dogs, and then we went house-to-house through the town and down to the tiny port. There we found a dog with a type of leprosy disease attacking his nose, and another poor dear little dog almost bald with mange and sores all over his body.
Poor little dog with extreme mange
In all we had around 30 patients who we were able to help. Your donations paid for all the medications used, and also the taxi fares for Dr Boris and me and I thank you for that.
Dr Boris with one of the day's patients
Valiente went to her new home this week, and I hear that typical princess that she is, she's now bossing round the two big dogs who share her new home.
That just leaves 9 dogs at the New Shack: Vincent, Yacka, Maisie, Charley, Mimi, Pinkie, Milagro, Guty and Wendy. Sweetie comes and goes as he likes: he shows up about every 2 days, comes in covered in ticks then after I've de-ticked him he flops down and falls asleep. Such a hard life!
We had a shock on Tuesday night when a man arrived at the New Shack telling me that it is for sale and wanting to see through. I haven't been told by the owner that the place is for sale! So now I'm busy searching for somewhere that I can rent that will take the dogs. It's going to be a difficult few weeks but I'm very hopeful that there is a place for us out there, it's just a case of talking to as many people as possible to get the word out. I've been offered land but when I go to see it, it always turns out to be in the middle of the jungle, with no electricity nor water.
My fellow dog carer Paulina was rushed to hospital Monday night with appendicitis and was operated on the next morning. Apparently there is only one doctor who does surgery and if he's not available patients just have to wait; no matter that there is an emergency. According to Paulina, a girl died a few days ago after her appendix burst while the doctor was on his day off. However, Paulina is safe and recovering well and hopes to be able to return home next Monday. Meanwhile, once again with the help of your donations, we are supplying her 6 dogs with food until she is able to go back to work.
Late last year one of my dogs, Machito, went through several months of not being able to/wanting to open his eyes. No-one knew why. When finally he did open his eyes again he had lost the will to live, he crawled into a dark corner and just wasted away. He stopped eating and wouldn't respond to being spoken to nor touched.
Then a few months ago the same thing happened to my dear red-head Lulu: she too seemed to lose any interest in life; after being a playful, normal young dog, within a week she was hiding under a table, not wanting to do anything but lie there with her eyes shut. One day when I pulled her out to see what was going on with her, I found that she had chewed her leg down to the bone.
Now the same thing is happening to Maisie, the dog who has beautiful white and black markings like a cow. From being a car chaser and general juvenile delinquent, in a matter of weeks Maisie has changed completely. She too now won't/can't open her eyes. She hasn't got off her mattress for days except to eat. Maisie used to jump on my back when I came home from work, leap around, play with the other dogs, run up and down the street and drive everyone crazy with her excess energy. Now she just lies with her eyes closed.
Maisie the day that I found her.
I'm at my wits end to know what is going on; my dogs are free to come and go as they want, they are well cared for, get good food and the majority of them are very happy. But something is going wrong. Perhaps they have a reaction to the huge number of ticks here, perhaps it's some sort of sleeping sickness that the ticks pass on. I don't know. All I know is that Maisie has lost all will to live and it breaks my heart to know that she is going the same way as Machito and Lulu.
Maisie getting cuddles from a friend
For those who have been following the progress of Valiente (and that includes those generous people who donated for her) the news is that unfortunately she had to have her arm amputated after it continued not to heal and became badly twisted inside the plaster. She then had to wear a muzzle, to stop her chewing the stump, until it caused wounds on her face. At last she has started to heal and doesn't have a problem walking because her arm was broken and flopping loosely for 2 months before all this started. Poor dog has been through hell and back, but like her name, she has been valiant through it all. She continues to live at the New Shack because the people who promised they would take her when she was healed are dragging their feet.
Little Rolly has now been rejected by 2 forever homes, the first because he was too small, the second because the day before I delivered him to a family who were saying for a week that they wanted him, they went to the market and bought a puppy. I was so upset. The puppies sold in the market are bussed in from other cities in apple boxes. And as Puerto Maldonado is 10 hours by bus from the nearest big town, these poor little babies are at least 10 hours squashed into boxes, far too many to a box, with no food or water, and of course they try to get out, causing trapped limbs and wounds. The town council refuse to do anything about it, saying that if the practice stops people won't be able to make money to feed their families. What rot.
Well, we have a new member of the family! Guty was picked up outside a sports stadium with his head, neck and one ear covered in maggots that had burrowed in and made 2 big wounds. After 10 days with Dr Boris, where he had first-class treatment every day and his special food delivered by caring volunteers, he has now come to the New Shack. Guty is very old and quite senile: he goes out into the garden then turns to me as if to ask 'What did I come out here for?' He will end his days in comfort with cuddles and a soft bed in the safety of our house.
We are up and running again after a two-week break with the Chronicle. The weather has been dreadful, just unrelenting heat for days and days and with 13 dogs to care for in the New Shack (5 need special meals prepared twice a day), the heat, the fact that I'm covered in mange again (thank you Rolly!) and a total lack of energy, it was beyond me to write a word last week. None of the dogs who were supposed to be adopted last week have gone: this is Peru, and nothing here happens when it's expected. A lot of time is spent waiting for things that might take a month to happen.
Breakfast plates waiting to be filled for hungry dogs
But one very positive thing has happened: a couple from Lima has arrived in town, full of energy and the experience to get things done. They have already started a group to help the dogs here and I am proud to say that I'm part of that group. Although I don't have the time and energy to take on more work, Eri and Paul are already arranging to visit with the town council over questions such as a donation of land as a refuge for dogs; a law banning the importing of puppies from other regions, and the subsequent selling of these puppies in the markets. I know that they have more success than me in these matters as being a foreigner, some people didn't take me very seriously.
The miners are on the march again and it makes life difficult for shop owners and market stall holders (not to mention shoppers) when we get caught up in the strike. The level of panic on the streets is palpable when word gets round that the miners are coming. Police arrive by the truck-load in full riot gear and shop keepers hurriedly pull down metal doors, while shoppers try to find somewhere to shelter until the miners have passed by.
Police tank outside the market
One dog who ran into trouble on Sunday had to have an emergency operation: Louise (twin to Thelma) who I found a great home for last year, met a native porcupine and ended up a terrible mess with spines in her mouth, nose, tongue and both paws. This normally friendly and gentle dog was in so much pain she was trying to bite anyone who got near her, which caused the spines to become even more embedded. We managed to get her onto the floor of a tuk tuk taxi and to Dr Boris's clinic where she was operated on immediately. Each spine has barbs on the end so getting them out was a very bloody business and left many wounds. I'm happy to say that 2 days later Louise was back to her normal lovely calm self, and I hope she has learnt that porcupines are better left alone.
A house in my neighbourhood. That's life in a poor country.
The Shack is now bursting at the seams (again!) as we have a new arrival: A sweet little ball of fur who I've named Rolly was found wandering along a highway just out of town, as taxis sped past, missing him by centimeters. At only about 5 weeks old he is having to wean himself in a hurry and is taking a small amount of canned puppy food as well as cow milk. He is in quite good condition except for fleas, and had his first lot of vaccinations yesterday. When he's strong enough he'll be adopted, and I think he'll go very quickly as he's very attractive. Not like poor Wendy who still is a wall-flower.
Charley was supposed to go to his new home this week but the woman who said she wanted him changed her mind after she found a sick and mangy puppy in the Plaza and has taken that home instead. I'm so happy that she chose to help an abandoned puppy: one less suffering dog on the streets of Puerto Maldonado!
Valiente isn't doing so well. Her broken arm isn't mending the way it should. She keeps walking on it and the bones are bowed. Yesterday Dr Boris came round and put her arm in plaster but today it's bent again and also her pads are swollen to double their size. I'm sick with worry that she's going to have to have her arm amputated. At the moment that seems to be the only solution to the problem. Dr Boris has been coming to the Shack twice everyday to treat Valiente and is as concerned as I am as to the way things are going.
On a happier note, my friend and fellow dog-carer Paulina had a wonderful surprise this week when her son phoned to say that he had seen her missing dog Apache, at a small town called La Joya. Apache ran away just over a year ago after being treated for a foot infection. There had been sightings of him at La Joya but we'd never been able to find him. Turns out Apache had been living in a school yard there all this time! Paulina phoned me as he saw her for the first time in over a year, and we both laughed and cried at the howls of delight coming from him. Welcome home Apache, you have been very very missed.
Reunited at last, Paulina with Apache
Things still haven't fallen into place yet so I'm still waiting for Maisie and Vincent to be adopted, and for the new dog to arrive. Wendy is still with us too... all the prettier puppies are grabbed first and poor Miss Wendy, who wouldn't win a beauty pageant, is left behind. I'm happy: I don't like to think about having to part with her!
The big news of this week has been that Valiente finally has had her operation. I brought her home this morning with her arm in a splint and she's been sleeping ever since. She has a screw in her bone holding the two pieces in place; now we have to guard against infections, and Boris the vet is visiting the Shack every 8 hours to give her an antibiotic injection and to check on her progress. With the tremendous heat of these months infection in her wound is a possibility, and if the worst should happen Valiente would have to loose her arm.
Valiente at home after surgery
Our huge thanks to Dr Boris who really is an amazingly caring vet, and congratulations on his new teaching job at the University.
On the subject of the heat, the town's dogs sleep all day when the heat is worst, then when things cool down at night suddenly they all wake up and decide it's play time! All night long they bark and fight and bark some more. Including my lot who don't fight but do bark. If this was Australia someone would be phoning the police or the ranger to complain; here it's just normal and no-one even seems to notice that a zillion dogs have barked ALL NIGHT!
The mini hurricane that we had earlier in the week blew over part of my fence so I don't mind the dogs barking because it keeps away naughty people.
Well that's it for this week... there won't be a new Chronicle published on this page next week because Maxine, who updates this website for me, is away on holiday. Maxine returns towards the end of this month when normal service will be resumed!
The Sterilization program that didn't happen: After weeks of planning by the Puerto Maldonado Town Council, a sterilization program was launched in August 19th, to run until Sept. 6th. It was going to be the answer to the street dog problem! TV and radio were going to run adverts, micro-chips and registration of dogs was going to be introduced, and of course, 100's of dogs were going to be sterilized! Sounds really good doesn't it?
The reality is that there was no TV and radio advertising, in fact the only advertising was a poster in front of the council building in a part of town where not that many people visit. The idea of dog owners paying to register dogs and micro-chip them is downright laughable; no-one I spoke to (including some vets ) know what a micro-chip for a dog is. And why should people want to register their dogs when the dogs live in the streets, roam freely and eat garbage anyway? And so only one dog has been sterilized and the campaign ends tomorrow. What a wasted opportunity. Last year a group of us dog carers got together and ran a highly successful sterilization program, managing to operate on approx. 30 dogs over 2 days on the first program, and approx. 40 dogs over 2 and a half days on the second program.
The only advertising for the program
We are now into one of the hottest months in this part of Peru. Every day is sweltering, and from around 10am it is too hot to be in the street. Once the sun goes down I collect up a group of 5 or so of my dogs and we go for a little walk along a road under construction near the New Shack. I'm trying to get the 2 babies Mimi and Charley used to traffic and also (in the case of Mimi) to stop being scared when other dogs come out and bark at them. Charley barks right back, but Mimi runs and hides so much of our walk is spent either looking for her, or coaxing her out from her hiding place. At home she's a toughie but away from the Shack it's another story.
Wendy is still with us. Her mange hasn't completely healed up yet, and the man who said he wants her has gone away for two weeks, so I'm looking for another person to adopt her. The longer I have her the harder it'll be to give her away but I must be strong and do it!
Charley and Wendy cuddling
Maisie and Vincent are waiting to be adopted, hopefully they will go together to their new home next week. Dr Boris is moving into a new house and wants two adult dogs to guard it while he's a work. I'm so pleased that Vincent and Maisie won't be separated because they are best friends and spend a lot of the day playing together.
So if Wendy, Vincent and Maisie go, there will be a space in the house for one more dog and already there is one waiting to move in! She has been left behind when her owner moved to Lima and didn't take her along. Watch this space for the full story and photos in new week's Chronicle.
Another week dominated by the health of Miss Valiente. She's doing much better but if only she would eat something different, rather than chicken livers twice a day. She turns her nose up at all other food. Which means a) I have to shop and cook for her every day; and b) no-one, but no-one here is going to want to adopt a dog who is so high-maintenance! As soon as she puts on a kilo in weight she will be able to have her operation to fix her broken arm. At the rate she's going it could be months and the site of the break has become infected. Another small set-back in her recovery but each day I'm hopeful that things will improve.
Meanwhile, I've just this minute had some good news about the baby of the gang: Wendy has someone ready to adopt her! Her mange is clearing up well and she had her second bath this morning so she smells and looks clean and sweet.
We had a surprise with Lulu who went on heat 4 days ago, in spite of being sterilized last March. She's in a really bad mood and getting pretty upset at all the attention from boy dogs who wait at the front door for her. It seems her hormones are all over the place so she is having treatments as well. The taxi drivers know me well now as I visit one vet or the other sometimes 3 times a day, and they ask after my dogs or tell me of some problem they have with theirs.
It is now 2 months since my family were in Peru and we visited Machu Picchu. Such a happy time together and I miss them very much. We were lucky enough to see llamas roaming around this amazing site, quite unphased about all the humans wanting to take their photos.
Llama at Machu Picchu
Next week: the sterilization program that didn't happen...................
This week has been dominated by Valiente's health. It has been a hard time for her, me, and Dr Ricardo who is treating her. Three long days on a drip to try to control the stomach infection which is causing Valiente to vomit constantly and get thinner day by day. Her one good arm has had so many needles stuck in it that she's in pain from that as well as from her broken arm.
The first day on the drip she got fed up and bit through 2 drip lines and the cord that was tying her down, so she had to be tranquilized from then on. I don't blame her: I would have done the same! When I bring her home at night she goes and hides under the table. The other dogs say hello to her and some touch noses but really, Valiente is going through so much that she doesn't have a lot of interest in what is going on around her.
Valiente trying to get comfortable with sore arms and pain in her tummy.
Just in case the gods of small dogs thought I might have space in my house and heart for yet another, they placed a tiny mangy puppy on the short-cut I took while carrying Valiente home last night. None of the people on the street claimed this scrap of life, and so somehow I got both Valiente and the puppy home, sweating and trying not to bump either of them on the way.
She has been named Wendy by Brenda, a wonderful young woman who I called on for help. Brenda cleaned Wendy, picked off her ticks and the worms in her pads and gave her a bath. She still needs to have treatment for the mange. When Wendy is well enough she'll go up for adoption, but meanwhile she's safe here in a soft bed with hourly meals and lots of cuddles. During the night she was crying so I picked her up and put her in the hammock with me. She thanked me by peeing all over me!
I wonder who the callous and cruel person was who dumped this dear little baby, she/he must have know that a puppy so young has no chance of survival on her own. And no-one wants female dogs either.
Wendy after her first ever bath.
Sometimes a dog comes into your life and just grabs your heart and doesn't let go. This week it happened to me when I met a street dog who we have named Valiente because that's just what she is. Tiny, extremely under-weight, her back and groin covered in huge worms that had burrowed into her skin, and with a very badly broken and twisted arm, this little girl was struggling to survive but due to her arm, she wasn't doing too well.
Liset and Valiente going to the vet
Enter Liset and her family who took Valiente into their home and alerted me as to her plight. The worms were removed in an operation that took more that an hour, then the next day she had her arm x-rayed. As there are no facilities for x-raying animals in Puerto Maldonado we took her to a human unit and no-one thought there was anything strange in that! In fact the radiologist was very gentle and caring with her.
Because Valiente's arm is so badly broken she needs to have a cage affair fitted, with screws and metal rods and all sorts of ghastly things and her after-care will be crucial to how the bones set and to make sure there's no infections. But believe me, at less than one year old and after the start in life that she's had, she deserves the best possible treatment. We hope she will be strong enough to withstand the operation early next week.
If anyone feels that they would like to help with the cost of the operation (each screw, for example, costs $35au and she will need at least 4) you can make a donation on this web site. Be sure to mark the donation For Valiente. Thank you. She really is an extraordinary little dog.
Some good news and bad this week, and something bordering on the insane! The good news is that I now have a helper: Maria is 13 and lives in my street and is as crazy about dogs as I am. She enthusiastically looks out for dogs in need of help for me, and as it's school holidays here and Maria is working at the market, she's in the best place to find abandoned and sick dogs.
Maria with Maisie
The news that's bordering on the insane (one that I put under the heading: Only in Peru) was my planned trip to Puerto Maldonado's town garbage dump last night. Like all town dumps in 3rd world countries this one, I have been told, is covered in dogs scrounging food. My idea was to treat odgs for any health problems, and so we left town in a proper taxi (a car no less!), 2 vets (Boris and Larry), me, and Boris's one year old son who is currently suffering seperation anxiety. We got only 2 kilometers along the road and already we had had a near colision with a motorbike that came hurtling towards my door in a huge skid as his brakes failed. 50 metres further on a tyre on the taxi suddenly blew out but the driver seemed not to be bothered and we drove on the rim until the 2 vets yelled at him to pull over. On transfering to a tuk tuk we discovered that no-one actually knew where the garbage dump is..........I had assumed that one of the vets knew as he'd been there before, but he couldn't remember where to go! So we drove along for a while and then the tuk tuk driver turned down a dusty track alsolutely piled up with rubbish and said this is where it is. It so clearly was not: for one thing, we knew the dump is 30 kilometers from town and we'd gone only around 5 k's. We did see a few dogs and lot of rubbish but by now it was getting dark so we headed back to town laughing hysterically. We'll find out exactly where to go and try again next week!
The bad news is that the strange and fast-growing lumps on Finn's chest are cancerous so this darling boy's days are numbered. I shall make sure that he is comfortable and happy for the rest of his life.
Finn taken 2nd Feb 2013
Finn taken 8th August 2013
So now I'm into my fourth year in Peru! To be honest, I never thought I'd be here this long: in the beginning I had thought 6 months of treating dogs and getting a refuge set up with someone capable running it. But things didn't work out that way. I never took into account that street dogs would be so overlooked as regards social problems are concerned; that they had no-one looking out for them. They were ABANDONED, completely ABANDONED. The only time they were noticed it was to throw stones at them. A handful of people in town tried to help them but were hampered by lack of time and money. So this job of mine has filled a void but still I'm working with no back-up from the town council, and with 12 dogs in the New Shack the neighbours aren't too happy about us either! Not only that... as I realised this week when both vets I work with went away, I am completely on my own in emergencies - two in particular: Vincent's leg swelled up to twice its normal size, and Charley's pneumonia became worse. All I could do was give them antibiotics until yesterday when Dr Ricardo got back from Arequipa and took over their treatment.
One day there was a march of women and children though town and I went over to see what it was about. I got so excited as I read the banners: Thank you Town Council for vaccinating dogs against Rabies. Wow I thought, at last people are happy that the dogs will be healthy. But no, when I read on I realised that these women and kids were marching and thanking the Council for improving THEIR lives by keeping THEM safe from Rabies: It had nothing to do with the health of the dogs.
If anyone is interested in volunteering to work with street dogs in Peru please could you contact me. Even if you are planning a visit to the jungle, a week or even a few days volunteering here would be wonderful and my dogs would love to meet you. Puerto Maldonado is the place where boats leave to take travellers to the jungle and indeed the town is surrounded by jungle and huge rivers that are part of the Peruvian Amazon. You can email me through this web site. Thank you.
This last week has been an incredibly busy one and with Dr Boris away I've been searching round for another vet who I could trust with my dogs. Enter Dr Ricardo: he is wonderful! Clean, attentive, uses gloves when treating the dogs, and he even asked their names! In Australia or England these are things that are taken for granted, I know, but believe me, in Peru no such niceties exist.
Dr Ricardo has been treating Vincent who was castrated last week but all his stitches came out the next day, leaving a gaping wound. Everyday Vincent and I catch a MotorKar (tuk-tuk) to visit Dr Ricardo and Vincent has been incredibly brave while getting his wound washed out and then sewn up a second time. Now he's on a course of antibiotics.
Charley, the puppy who came to stay in May (see Chronicle of 23/05/2013) has had a rough time too. Never in very good health, Charley had started sleeping all day and night, and was listless and floppy. During the very cold nights that we've had this week he's been sleeping in the hammock with me but had just got worse, with no energy to even lift his head. Today he was diagnosed with pnuemonia. At last I know what is wrong with him, thanks to Dr Ricardo who owns a stethescope and actually uses it!!!
So now both Vincent and Charley must visit the vet everyday and as I can't carry them both at once, it involves 2 trips out, then another one later in the day to buy the dogs' food.
Once again the circus is in Puerto Maldonado and despite the previous President of Peru, Alan Garcia, pledging to ban circuses with wild animals, this circus has a performing lion. Anyone who would like to email the current President Ollanta to complain about this breach of promise, please do . The lion is kept alone in an empty cage and is fed unwanted dogs which people sell to the circus owner for 10 soles ($3.70 australian) each. Emails in English or Spanish are fine, thank you.
I've returned to Puerto Maldonado now after 2 wonderful weeks in Sydney and one week in Cusco visiting many of the famous tourist places with my daughter Jessica, grand-son Robbie and son-in-law Stuart. While in Sydney, as I was walking along Glebe Point Road a lovely person named Theresa Schwark handed me a big bag of toys for my dogs, and also, what a surprise under the toys I found a donation of $200! Thank you very much Theresa. I'm sorry that you disappeared so quickly, I would have liked to spend some time chatting.
Thanks also to Germania who looked after my dogs so well while I was away and left the Shack in such a clean and orderly condition and the dogs happy. Germania, feel free to come and clean again any time you want!
While in Cusco we visited Machu Picchu, along with thousands of tourists that day; with so many people all clambouring to get photos and getting in each other's way it was more like Disneyland than an ancient Inca site but we did manage to find a spot below the ruins to lie around on the grass away from the crowds.
Llama at Machu Picchu
While I was in Sydney something happened to one of my dogs: my dear Puppy Face (so named because even as a senior citizen he still had a puppyish face) disappeared. He has simply vanished off the face of the earth. There are two possibilities as to what happened to him: the first that he was hit by a car and killed; and the second that he was picked up by a vet student, spent the day being practised on at the university here, then killed when he was of no further use. This is normal practise in Peru: vet students are sent out early morning to collect their victims for the day.
Puppy Face had been with me for three years; he and Sweetie were the first dogs I adopted, along with Key Hole who died later of cancer. Puppy Face was a skinny sick mess with bloody sores over one side of his face at first, then as he got his strength back his intelligence shone through, as well as his patience with the younger members of the dog pack. He always backed away from any fights, preferring to sit in his special corner on his special mattress and meditate. We miss you Puppy Face. I hope you didn't suffer.
The one thing that has cast a shadow over this week was the murder of Miss Piggie. Miss Piggie was my street's resident pig, and I call her death murder because she was a very intelligent and sweet-natured friend to the people and dogs of Inca Street. She wandered through gardens as if she owned them. She used to come into the New Shack garden and dig for yucca and I'd give her the occasional papaya. When hungry Miss Piggie would cry like a baby and on very hot days she would go lie under a dripping tap. Kids used to write signs on Miss Piggie's huge sides. One day someone wrote: 'I'm a happy pig' on her in charcoal.
On Saturday morning after hearing Miss Piggie yelling I grabbed my camera and ran over to her yard. There she was the poor animal, lying on her side with her back legs tied tightly to a post. Near her 2 pots of water were heating over fires. A man with a long knife rubbed his hand over her throat and then started slashing at her skin. When he'd made a long cut he plunged the knife in so far that his hand disappeared inside Miss Piggie's neck, and he turned and twisted his arm until the blood gushed. Miss Piggie screamed like I've never heard an animal scream before until her blood flowed away and gradually her screams got weaker until with one final attempt to stand up, she died.
I videoed Miss Piggie's death but it is so horrific that I can't watch it. I wish that everyone who has eaten pig meat in the past could see this video, because it isn't just Miss Piggie who suffered this death, but all pigs who are killed to be eaten die in the same way. We inflict horror and torture on animals just for the sake of the taste.
RIP Miss Piggie, We miss you.
Miss Piggie outside the New Shack
There won't be a Chronicle for the next 3 weeks as tomorrow I fly home to Australia for some R and R. When I return to Puerto Maldonado on 28th June I'll have with me my grandson Robbie who is coming to learn about what I'm doing here for the dogs, and also to experience life in the Third World.
The highlight of this week was when Dr Boris and I took a trip to the community of Tres Islas. We had been told of the terrible state of the dogs by a teacher at the Tres Islas school so we planned to spend a morning there. Tres Islas is a community 45 minutes drive from Puerto over a horrible clay and gravel road; the road ends at a port used by gold miners on the Madre de Dios river.
Dog with leprosy on the nose
When we got there we set up a table on the school playing field, then left it and went immediately to the port where it was reported that the worst of the worst cases were hanging out. Mange, mange and more mange; a mammary tumour and a type of dog leprosy is what we treated there. Then back to the school and people started turning up with their dogs, although some dogs were less happy than others to come for treatment.
The teacher trying to convince a dog that he needed treatment for his advanced mange.
As I was going house-to-house I inadvertently blundered into a scene that I won't easily forget: the body of a man lying on a veranda and surrounded by candles. He had been bitten by a snake the day before and had died. So there I was talking loudly to these women about our anti-mange program, and wondering why they just stared at me!
The one dog that we really wanted to catch and treat was one whose tail was rotting, but he caught on fast what was happening and took off to hide. Next time, brother, next time.
Two dogs arrived in a sack on the back of a trailer
Coming back to Puerto Maldonado the taxi driver had a toddler sitting on his knee while driving with one hand on the wheel at speeds far higher than the road justified, so I asked if we could take the little boy into the back seat. But the driver didn't seem to think there was a problem and continued his break-neck, white-knuckle speeding. Next time we'll go by motorbike, it might be safer!
Dr Boris treating a dog for mange
My favourite photo of all is shown below... a mother dog who had made a cave beside the road and was raising her puppies there.
We have two new dogs at the New Shack, two new members of the Shack Family! The first to arrive was Charley: he was picked up at the market where someone had dumped him last Friday. Poor Charley, he looks dreadful. He is extremely malnourished, mangey and has a strange bent spine with a lump beside it. He looked miserable! Mimi of course thought it was Christmas and jumped all over him which, while seeming to be annoying, actually brought Charley out of his depression and now they romp, fight over food, and sleep curled up together.
Our second new dog I have named Maisie (a name suggested in the Name the Puppy contest on the Peru Street Dogs Facebook page). Dear Maisie; I picked her up at the market earlier this week and rushed her straight to Dr Boris. She is very young, less than a year old, but her mange is infected and she's pregnant. Dr Boris treated her mange, and then, thinking that her unborn pups were still young enough to be aborted, opened her up to sterilise her. Unfortunately Maisie's pregnancy is far more advanced than we thought so she was stitched up and Tuesday I brought her home to the New Shack. Since then she has slept; she hasn't even come into the kitchen at meal times so she's been treated to meals in bed. I'm so looking forward to seeing her give birth!
On Sunday night a very kind and caring guy found 3 tiny pups out on the highway and brought them to me. They were starving and thick with fleas.
My gas tank sprung a leak so was useless for warming milk; there I was at 11pm knocking on a neighbour's door begging for them to warm milk on their stove for the babies, but their gas tank was empty! I managed to heat the milk by balancing a saucepan on the top of an old electric kettle and the 3 babies had a drink then settled down for the night. A million thanks to Hans who brought me the puppies. I'm happy to say that all 3 were adopted last night.
Hans and the puppies he saved
I'm very happy to say that in the past few months we have sterilized more than 60 cats and dogs, ensuring that they won't suffer from one pregnancy after another and many puppies won't be killed by drowning or being thrown in the rubbish, as is what happens here to female pups and/or any unwanted males.
Although this number might sound not very much, it is quite a lot when you think that first I must find the owner of the dog, talk them into letting me take her to be sterilised, and then find a tuk tuk taxi who will allow a dog on board. Depending on the personality of the dog in question, some must be tranquilised before they will let me pick them up. Many owners say no straight off, giving reasons such as: "We want her to have pups so that we can sell them"; "We don't have time to look after her after the operation";"It will hurt her"; or a simple "Why bother?"
Then there is the timing factor. Operations are done only after 9pm when Dr Boris closes the clinic and if he has no emergencies, and then it also depends on if he goes out socialising. If that's the case, sometimes a dog is waiting in a cage 2 or 3 days for surgery. No operations are done on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. But we must be making a difference to puppy numbers as last week I wanted to get a little puppy friend for Mimi who needs someone her size to play with. Although I went all over the lower part of town, there was not one puppy to be had. I'm sad for Mimi as she's quite lonely, but glad that we really are making a difference in Puerto Maldonado... and now a photo of some of my dogs taking a nap in the garden, the coolest place they could find in this hot climate.
Left to right: Yacka, Sweetie, Puppy Face, Jose Jose, Finn and Lulu chewing her leg!
Tiny Mimi, my baby puppy turned 7 weeks old today so she and her two siblings were due their anti-parvo shots.They had their first ever ride in a tuk tuk taxi, and off we went to visit Dr Boris. Sam and Lila, Mimi's brother and sister are much bigger and stronger than she is, and Sam, typical boy is very adventurous so it was difficult stopping him from climbing onto the engine of the taxi; but the girls behaved like little angels. Mimi was the only one of the three who cried while getting her shots but she got lots a kisses and some milk when we got home. In three weeks they'll go back to have their Distemper shots as well. Parvo virus and Distemper are 2 diseases that are out of control here in Puerto and I don't want to loose these three to such painful and terrible killers.
Mimi, her sister Lila and her brother Sam
Last week I was invited to a dance recital at a primary school here so along with around 500 parents we all gathered at Colegio Dos de Mayo. It was standing room only in the playground, with food hawkers, parents, kids running riot, dancers getting changed and getting their final instuctions; then on ran the youngest dancers who stole the show and I think were the best of all.
The gorgeous brightly coloured costumes had been hired from Cusco in the highlands, and were the kind of clothes that you can still see being worn in some villages. The dances too were with a rural mountain theme: all the movements sybolized planting potatoes and corn, then the harvesting of the crops. The night was chaotic but really fun, and the children did really well. I left at about 10pm, and I hear that the recital went on until after midnight.
Seeing those costumes so different from anything you see here in Puerto Maldonado made me keen to revisit some of the villages in the Sacred Valley: Pisca, Urubamba, Chinchero, and my very favourite place in all of Peru, Ollantaytambo.
This week I'm going to celebrate the life of Milagro, my dear old man who has been with us for 2 and a half years. This has truly been a rags to riches story. We found Milagro in November 2010 in the middle of a busy road during a tropical rain storm. Bad enough as that is for any dog, for Milagro it was hell... because Milagro is blind. His owner didn't want him anymore after Milagro was shaken by a big dog, causing damage to his eyes and dislocating his jaw. This soaking wet and trembling bundle was covered in mange, terribly underweight, and had over 200 ticks on his emaciated body.
Milagro after his first bath
After bathing him and removing the ticks, feeding him and cutting his claws that had grown so long they had entered his pads, Milagro took up residence behind a door at the Shack from where he learned to trust the world again. Little by little this darling boy became a 'normal' dog and started to take his place with the other dogs.
Milagro isn't the most handsome dog in the world, with his milky eyes and tongue that perturbs from the side of his mouth, so when I heard there was going to be a competition to find the ugliest dog in Puerto Maldonado I decided to enter him. Of course I didn't tell him what category he was in; he thought he was in the Best and most Handsome category! The prize was a hamper of dog products, which Milagro won!! He was so proud and so was I.
Winner of The Ugliest Dog !!
Since then Milagro has retired from the limelight; he is showing his age and spends most of the time sleeping. His eyesight has deteriorated: he used to be able to see shadows but now is completely blind. He gets a fright when he runs into the other dogs who don't understand what is going on and sometimes growl at him; but as long as he has 2 good meals a day and lots of cuddles (and the occasional siesta with me in my hammock) Milagro is happy to grow old gracefully. We all love you Milagro x
Well, following on from last week's chronicle about Eva, my dear baby was euthanased on Friday. Her last hours were very stressfull for her as she became completely blind. As a result of not being able to see, terror showed in all her body language and we very quickly put her to sleep. We really have no idea what was going on in her brain, and for a puppy who had survived being abandonded merely weeks old, having a negative reaction to her vaccinations, loosing her fur and having open and weeping sores, this last problem was just too much for her to bear. Rest in Peace dear Eva.
The New Shack is looking pretty empty now as Tolstoy, Puppy Face and Jose Jose have decided they like Paulina's cooking better than mine! And so they eat at her house and return here only to sleep, as we have comfortable beds for all the dogs, whereas at Paulina's house the dogs sleep on concrete. Talk about the best of both worlds!
And so at dinner time at the New Shack there are Finn, Yacka, Lulu, Pinkie, Milagro, Dulce and Mimi. Oh and Leika who waits in our street for her food. Mimi's ringworm is healing well and when the hair grows back over her bald patches there is a list of people who want to adopt her. I just have to check them out to find the best possible home for her.
One man wants her for his farm, but she's much too small for that. And a boy came to see her and shock/horror lifted her up by her neck; now I don't mean the way a mother dog lifts her baby, but this kid put both hands round her neck and lifted her. OMG I thought her head was going to come off in his hands! So he is off the list too. Mimi was the runt of the litter and hasn't yet caught up. A friend has her 2 siblings and they are twice the size of little Mimi, who also is a very fussy eater. I will keep her until she's bigger, but at the same time she must be adopted while she still looks cute.
Please continue to suggest names for the puppy on the Peru Street Dogs Facebook page: no prizes, but the winner will have the satisfaction of knowing there is a beutiful little puppy in Peru that has a perfect name.
Several people have asked me to give an idea of what a vet charges for treatments here in Puerto Maldonado; the prices I'm quoting are in soles. There are 2.75 soles to an Australian and Canadian $ dollar, and 3.97 soles to a British £ pound.
Sterilization: 180 soles
Castration: 90 soles
Vaccinations against Parvo and Distemper: 50 soles
Treatment for mange (2 treatments, one week apart): 40 soles
Euthanasia: 50 soles
Treatment for vaginal tumours: 90 soles
X-rays (done at a humans' place; there are no facilities here for animal xrays): 40 soles
Overnight stay in a cage: 15 soles
All other charges seem to be invented as they are needed and vary wildly.
There are no facilities for blood testing anywhere in Puerto and this is something I'm looking into: the possibility of setting up a laboratory in Dr Boris's clinic. We are working with a vet in Lima to try to thrash out what we will need, the availability of equipment, and the costs. So far Dr Boris and I have one big disagreement: he insists on green curtains and I am determined the curtains will be pink !
Eva when she first came to live at the New Shack
On a less positive note, this week has been very very difficult for little Eva, the puppy who was dumped at the slaughterhouse where I found her and brought her to the New Shack seven weeks ago. She thrived on good food and heaps of love, until one day last week when she came in contact with a poisonous animal, possibly a toad. Since then Eva has been having seizures, frothing at the mouth, unable to control her legs, unable to respond to her name, and she also seems to have a problem with her eyesight.
Despite Dr Boris's on-going care the future for Eva looks very grim. I am having to tell myself to think of her future and not what my heart is saying, because I don't know how much longer her little body will be able to cope with these seizures. If I'm not home to hold her she gets hurt as she falls to the concrete floor. The fact that she continues to have a ravenous appetite is positive; I'll keep you up-dated as to her health.
Eva in happier times, with her new toy
Another sad story of a puppy who didn't make it, due to general vet mis-management. Hercules, aka Rex, was a dear little boy who was left with Dr Boris and his owner never returned for him. After 15 days in a cage I took him home to socialize him and give him a chance to run around. I also found an excellent permanent home for him with my friend Germania. First this handsome boy was named Rex, then it changed to Hercules (an amusing name for a puppy who was part Chiuahuahua and very small). He did really well until last weekend when he developed a blockage in his stomach. He was taken to a vet who gave him antibiotics but nothing to ease the blockage and the accompanying hiccups.
Poor Hercules spent a painful night crying and hiccuping, then on Sunday morning we made an appoinment for Dr Boris to visit Germania's house to treat the pup. Boris never turned up, nor did he phone, and so we were left all Sunday with no help. Monday morning again no vets were available, and little Hercules died Monday afternoon, after suffering for three days. I prefer to remember this darling full of life and energy, a very beautiful little boy.
On a lighter note, almost everyday huge trucks roll up our street loaded with sacks of brasil nuts, locally known as castanas. These trucks come from all over this region and as far away as Brasil (which is actually only 3 hours by road from Puerto Maldonado). The crews speak Brazilian Portugese: they are generaly taller and lighter-skinned than the locals and the music blaring out of their trucks has wild rhythm. There is something very exotic about Brazilians and many locals turn up to watch the trucks being unloaded and listen to the music. I just had to take a photo of the flags painted on one truck, and the foreign number plate. One day I'll try to get to Brasil, I know my dogs would enjoy the outing!
I mentioned last week about my neighbour's dog and her seven puppies: I had been keeping an eye on them and waiting until they were weaned so they could be treated for mange and then adopted. Well, sometime between Easter Saturday and the following Tuesday five of these babies either died or wandered away, with no-one bothering to look for them. I almost cried when I went to check on them on the Tuesday but was told that they all had gone except two and of those two, one was missing. So I took the last surviving female; poor little thing was barely weaned, wormy and mangey. She had also been hit by a motorbike and one of her back legs is damaged. Her huge dark eyes looked into mine before she buried her face in my arm as if the world was just too much to cope with.
The last surviving female puppy
In the afternoon I returned to the neighbour and we found the second pup, a little boy who is far more out-going but whose mange is far worse. As well as being almost hairless he also has big blisters on his bottom and genitals; and so these babies will stay with me until they are in a fit state to be adopted. Eva, who I've had with me for a month now, at last has someone to play with who is alsmost her size and she jumps all over them, until I take her away so that they can get some peace and a nap.
Due to very generous donations in the last month I was able to ask Dr Boris for a list of medicines he needs to continue the sterilization program (which will include the two puppies' mother). We are now all set up. I also bought a pair of rubber gloves for his assistant who was mopping the floor then squeezing out the mop filled with the mess of operations, urine etc with her bare hands, a job which makes me squirm every time I see her do it. She is very happy.
With Dr Boris - all set for another treatment programme
This week I've been almost drowning in puppies! Which brings to my attention that while we humans have been sheltering from the unceasing rain, dogs have been having some fun... and that there is still a lot more work to be done here in Puerto Maldonado! Yesterday while walking home I removed a puppy from the middle of the road just as a van was bearing down on him; I got peed on and bitten for my trouble as he struggled to get away from me. Then I found another puppy following a male dog along the road. The male dog was trying to get away from the puppy who was chasing him, I could almost hear her calling "Are you my Dad?" And so I returned the puppy to my neighbour and the puppy's mother who had a snarl at me as she thought I was stealing one of her seven children. The mother and all the pups have mange but we must wait until they are weaned before they can be treated.
A little further on and I was approached by a young boy who had just found 2 puppies in a bag of rubbish; Could I take them? Yes of course, so off we went to the vet, collecting some cans of milk on the way as the pups were very tiny and in need of a bottle feed. Today I am going to the free hospital where a little mother dog has given birth (not in the Maternity Unit but behind a food stall). She is being fed by a doctor there but I want to move her and her three babies to a safer place away from rain and where she can some peace and health care. She's a good mother and very stressed out by trying to keep her babies out of the bad weather.
At the New Shack Lulu (I call her Lulu Bell) is recovering well from her surgery on both ends: sterilization as well as the removal of many, many warts on her mouth. Poor darling has had a rough time but now she's fine and she won't be one of the abandonded female dogs giving birth year after year until her body is so worn out that she drops dead in some ditch.
Lulu and me
Yacka's story (the small part that I know of it) is pitiful. His life was utterly miserable; all street dogs suffer but what Yacka endured was extreme. As I walked to and from town I sometimes would catch a glimse of an alien-looking creature who roamed the street near a busy inter-section. As humans approached him he would run into the weeds by the road and disappear. One day I went over to see where he had gone and found that he was living in a storm-water culvert under the road. I tried unsuccessfully to coax him out but he was too scared.
A few weeks passed, and this creature must have been driven by hunger to be more adventurous, because he started showing up in other streets some way from his hide-out. The thing about the way he looked was that he was really quite scarey, and sometimes I would find kids throwing stones at him. His whole body was hairless and covered in a thick scab, grey and bumpy and partly obscuring his eyes. He was extrememly thin and also smelled bad.
After putting down food for him for a few weeks, one day he actually let me touch his poor head, before running off again. Then one Sunday, as I came out of the swimming pool about 2 kilometers away from the culvert, there he was, sitting on the road watching me. I phoned for help and in minutes a friend and her husband arrived on a motorbike, with a blanket which I threw over the dog, thinking I could grab him safely and load him onto the bike. He was quicker than me and bit my hand right to the bone! But the blanket stayed on his head and we managed to wrestle him onto the bike and back to the Shack, with me dripping blood all over the place.
This was Yacka's introduction to his new life; he sat outside on an old mattress and watched everything going on with the other dogs until after a few days he felt safe enough to come inside. High protein food, gentle skin peels, antiseptic creams, a soft bed in a safe environment, and of course lots of cuddles, all played a part in Yacka's progress. His skin will never be normal though. All over his body are black sores and even a slight bump breaks his skin and causes a new sore that needs treatment His hair grows in uneven blond clumps.
I had wanted him to be named Jack but somehow with Spanish pronunciation, he ended up Yacka and it suits him down to the ground. Yacka is probably the most difficult dog I've ever had at the Shack. He has panic attacks; he starts barking at nothing then seems unable to stop himself until I hold him and talk quietly in his ear. This happens around 4-5 times a day and is quite upsetting to watch as he rushes from wall to wall as his inner truama takes a hold. But the really incredible thing and the thing that people always comment on now about Yacka is his eyes. He has HUGE brown expressive eyes, spookily human eyes that I look into, seeing the troubled thoughts going on inside this darling dog's mind.
The dogs I have living with me, and those who I have for a short time until they are adopted, come to me with no past .Of the many dogs who have been at the Shack, and the New Shack, Pinkie and Tolstoy are the only ones who I know anything of their previous lives. Pinkie was covered in infected mange when I first started treating her; she was only 2 months old. I used to take her to the vet every week but she never got any better.
Pinkie was covered in sores when Cristina first took her in
Now Pinkie is a little girl who thrives on love, she will do anything for attention. One day as I passed her house I saw her, 2 months young, being kicked in the stomach as a way to get her out of the house. When I intervened and asked why she wasn't allowed in the house (which was no more than a concrete bunker) I was told it was because she weed on the floor. So the next day, after finding Pinkie hiding and shaking on the other side of the street, I scooped her up and brought her home. Yes,I admit it, I stole Pinkie; but her owner knew where I lived and could have come for her at any time. I have now had Pinkie with me for 2 years and no, she has not ONCE weed on the floor. My gain, their loss.
Just look at Pinkie now enjoying herself at the river
Tolstoy was originally found by Cathy Brown, a vet who looked after my dogs while I was in Australia last June. He was roaming a busy road near a hospital and several people were able to say where his owner lived. When I returned to Peru Cathy and I went and spoke to the owner who admitted she had put Tolstoy out in the street when her baby was born four months before. She didn't want Tolstoy to pass germs to the baby. But she had also stopped feeding the dog in an effort to get rid of him! Such cruelty and ignorance; I had to bite my tongue not to abuse her. Cathy just stood and cried.
Cathy named him and is sponsoring him, and today Tolstoy is a dream: he's intelligent, healthy, he shakes hands, is very well behaved, hardly ever barks, and I always have the feeling that he understands English perfectly too.
Here's Tolstoy now - waiting for his dinner!
Next week: Yacka's story.
Dogs continue to disappear in Puerto Maldonado. As I mentioned last year, veterinary students are sent out early mornings to collect dogs to practice on during the day; and then the dogs are killed when they no longer are useful. On my wall I chalk up the names of all the dogs I've heard about that went out in the morning and never re-appeared: Apache, Gracia, Zen, Atun, Toro, Victorino (who was having treatment for a venerial tumour) Paris, Solita ( who I had living with me for months until she was adopted), Osa, Lady Blackie, Pelusa (who had just been sterilized) and now Aron, a rottie, a huge dog and hard to miss. All have vanished. I have spoken to students who told me they hate doing this but it is done all over Peru and if they don't have a dog to practise on they don't pass their exams. To me it seems to be contrary to what vets are supposed to do: save lives and help animals have their health - but in this country where vets run dog fighting rings and hold cock fights in stadiums owned by the vets who patch up the animals the next day, ears and tails are cut off, numerous other horrendous treatments like castration of dogs with no pain relief, animals have few rights. In fact the police think it is funny if I report any acts of cruelty to them. Stop wasting our time!!!
One incident brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago was a dog close to death from starvation, mange and numerous infections on his poor body. The men in the street where this dog was hanging out had decided to kill him by hitting him over the head with a tree branch. Dr Boris was able to persuade the men to let him gently euthanise the animal and he, Paul, was given a respectful burial.
There is still so much work to do here, education of the people being a big part. Sometimes it all gets overwhelming, and then I come back to the New Shack to my beautiful babies and look into their trusting eyes and it makes my job really worthwhile.
This week it's all about puppies, one of my favourite things in the whole world! First of all there is Eva, a darling little girl who was dumped at the slaughterhouse about two weeks ago. She was then aged just 6 weeks: tiny, sick, mangy, she was fed occasionally by people living around there. Then came the phone call: I and the dogs depend on phone calls advising me where the dog in distress is, and I respond immediately, what ever the hour. In Eva's case it was 12 noon on Sunday. I rushed down and after about half an hour searching we found her hiding in some long grass. She was taken first to Dr Boris, who treated Eva for mange, parasites and vaccinated her against Parvo.
And so Eva began her new life at the New Shack, where I will keep her until she's well enough to be adopted. Unfortunately she has had a big set-back as she was allergic to one of the treatments she was given, and a few hours later her temperature soared and she came up in huge weeping sores which she scratched all day. So it has been a terrible time for her but Dr Boris has been great; he even came to the Shack late last night as Eva was too weak to be moved, especially not on a motorbike on a muddy and rutted track. We are keeping her sedated to stop the scratching and giving her anti-histamines as well. I long for her to feel well enough to start enjoying her new life, in fact there is a bag of squeaky toys beside her bed for when she starts being her puppyness again.
The other puppy story is about Brad Pitt (named by Dr Boris, not by me!!) He is a white labrador cross with blue eyes and a winning personality who turned up outside a store in my barrio. He had been scrounging food around there for a few days, but because he was being teased and abused by kids, was starting to become aggressive towards them. Can you blame him, 10 weeks old and left to fend for himself on the street? And so the kids' mother told a neighbour that she was planning to poison Brad Pitt. Thankfully the neighbour contacted me and I was able to get to him before something dreadful happened, and now this gorgeous little boy has been adopted into a caring family. The family already have two female dogs (who we have sterilized) and they were wanting a male dogs as well.
I will end this chronicle with a photo of the slaughterhouse: the last animals were killed noon on Friday, but at noon on Sunday in 30 degree celsius heat the meat was still lying on the floor, left there for street dogs to eat. Scroll down at your peril !!
El Camal slaughterhouse
Things have started to move again now that Boris is back at work: Although he has gout he is able to hobble around. He has been told by his doctor to loose 15 kilos to help improve his circulation.
This week we have (as well as day-to-day treatments such as a puppy who fell from a second story balcony) castrated a little black cat with only one eye; my dog Jose Jose; and managed to separate a dog from her owner who runs a bar and took a bit of sobering up and coaxing to part with Cara long enough to remove a tumour on her head. Cara also suffered separation anxiety and had to be returned to the bar within hours of her surgery.
Late last night I got a call about a dog in the street in town; luckily for me I didn’t have to get out of bed and go running to collect him: the kind person delivered him to Dr Boris where I collected him this morning. I’ve named him Stan. He is old, almost toothless, blind and filthy. He also has mange and appears to be senile, although it’s hard to tell with all the upheaval and trauma he has gone through.
Good news about my water situation: on Monday some men arrived and connected the water from the street to just outside my fence. The job of bringing a pipe into the back yard is now up to my landlady, but as it has taken her 8 months to get this far I’ve decided not to wait another 8 months. So next Tuesday with any luck a friend will lay a pipe, put in a tap and a shower and build me a shower enclosure. Oh what joy that will be! My own water supply, something most people take for granted but is a luxury in this part of the world.
Watch out in the next chronicle for photos of me taking my first shower in my very own shower in the middle of the garden!
I haven't been able to do a lot of work this week due to having eight out of my eleven dogs unwell for one reason or another, and also because of almost unceasing rain. It is terribly hard to wade out in the streets through calf-deep mud, and when the weather is so bad there isn't a tuk tuk taxi in sight.
Puppy Face, who was hit by a car last Saturday and dragged under it for several metres, was recovering well until his leg became infected and has swollen up hugely, causing poor Puppy Face to hobble painfully around the Shack.
Dulce is hobbling too, in his case it is a fungal infection in one paw. With the ground being permanently wet there's not much chance of the paw healing until after the rainy season finishes. I had the same problem last year, the skin on one of my feet was literally rotting in the wet conditions.
The two new arrivals, Mack and Finn, have settled in well and Mack isn't being so agressive now that he understands he will get fed twice a day, the same as all the others. He was so bad before that at one time I thought I wouldn't be able to keep him; and so he and I had a long talk and he agreed to behave and I agreed to give him a second chance.
Some un-doggy news is that it is now the Brazil nut harvesting season, (they are called Castanas here) and any sheltered spot in town has them lying out on the ground, suposedly drying. Across the road from the New Shack is a drying place: huge trucks arrive all the time loaded with the nuts that have come down the Madre de Dios river in canoes. This region is one of the very few in the world where castana trees grow wild in the jungle.
Please check out my Facebook page for more news from Puerto Maldonado, and also a photo of Puppy Face just after he had his accident.
Our big news this week (bigger even than a pig getting into my garden and digging up all the yucca plants then moving on to the dogs' graves, and my long-drop toilet caving in) is that we have two new members to our family! On Saturday I had a call from a woman who said that two dogs have been dumped on her road about a week ago and although she was feeding them when she could, they were in bad need of vet care and more regular meals, as well as shelter from almost unceasing rain. And so we went out of town on a jungle road, and there they were, Mack and Finn. Ancient darlings, almost hairless with mange, and most of their teeth either worn down or broken. They also are starving. We gently picked them up and carried them to a waiting tuk tuk and brought them home. The first thing they did when they got inside was drink about 2 litres of water each! Then they fell asleep on perhaps the first soft beds they had ever had in their lives, poor things.
I decided that they needed a day or so to acclimatise to their new home before treatment began: Finn has a sore leg and a fever, his body is burning hot so the next day he had a sponge bath then started on a course of antibiotics. Vampire bats have also been eating his ears: they have chunks taken out of them and are bloody and sore. All he wants to do is sleep and eat, so he's been having all his meals in bed.
Mack, who seems to be the older of the two, is far more alert and is also very food agressive. Heaven help any of the other dogs who get near his plate. He also tries to steal my food off the table. He wanders around, seemingly always hungry even after a big meal. He has less hair on his body than Finn and is being treated for mange; he comes to me when I talk to him and also shakes hands.
Bringing a new dog into the family always needs a lot of management. I have to watch how the others react, and how the new arrival reacts to them. With Mack being so jealous of his food, some of the more timid dogs have to be fed seperately or they run and hide if he tries to get their food as well as his own.
As I take only the worst cases, each time a new dog arrives new diseases arrive with him/her and at the moment we are all suffering from mange (including me). Those little buggers spread like wild fire, within hours we all were scratching, so we all (including me) got covered in the mange-killing cream but it takes a while for the itching to die down. A while being about 2 days!
And so life goes on at the New Shack. Water isn't such a problem now with the constant rain: I have buckets lined up along the roof line and that supplies the dogs' water and clothes washing water. I am buying drinking water for myself and my dishes. I shower at the local pool now that it's open again. Life is as good at it can be in a country like Peru.
Happy news this week (for a change!) We were able to change for the better a puppy's life, and make a little girl's birthday wish come true. All Justina wanted for her birthday was her own puppy, and although I did the rounds of the new puppies in town, there wasn't one who was old enough nor well enough to be given to her. I was running out of time and ideas, I mean I could have gone to the market and bought one of the poor little creatures that are bused in overnight from Cusco in wooden crates, but I'm trying to get that stopped: a lot of these puppies die shortly after arriving in Puerto Maldonado. The ones who survive just add to the numbers of dogs living in the streets.
The birthday girl Justina with her new puppy Tomas
And so, with no idea what I was going to do, the night before Justina's birthday I had a call from a woman who had found a small puppy in a rubbish can. She brought him to me and we spent ages picking all the ticks off him (mainly in both ears) and giving him a bath. In the morning, proudly wearing his new collar, he was delivered to the Birthday Girl where it was love at first sight. The family didn't have enough money even to make her a birthday cake, so I will be supplying puppy food to Tomas, as he has been named, for the first six months.
This week, even though I have been sick, we have still managed to take a cat to Dr Boris to be sterilised, a dog to have a tumour on her leg removed, another dog with a tumour on his penis for chemotherapy. As well, my dog Lulu woke up a week ago unable to use her back legs so she has to be carried outside and back, but slowly she's getting better and now has a bit of movment in her back legs. I have no idea what causes this but it's not uncommon here.
The swimming pool is open again after 6 days! The reason it was shut was that someone forgot to pay the electricity bill, so the pump wouldn't work. Only in Peru!!
I’ve been back in Peru for 10 days and in that time we’ve added another member to our family in the New Shack. Jose Jose (so sweet we named him twice!) is not the worst case I’ve ever seen, but he was not doing well on the streets. I picked him up from outside a bank in town: he had dropped down on a busy pavement with people treading over him, sometimes trying to kick him out of the way, all unconcerned about this old and mangy boy. What I first noticed about Jose Jose was his complete trust in me. Many street dogs don’t like to be touched and will snap at my hand; he just lay back and went to sleep. After a check-over, treatment for his mange and vaccinations from Boris, he moved into the New Shack.
Jose Jose seems to think he’s in a 5-star hotel! He stays in bed all day, even at meal times when he wakes up and is served in bed. The only time he gets out of bed is to go toilet, which thank goodness he does outside (not like someone else I could name, thanks very much Lulu!) He has fitted in so well with the family, and now I’ve put the word round the vets in town that I have room for one more dog. This time I’m hoping it’s a female as we girls are quite out-numbered by males.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is now the rainy season, although so far it’s been quite a dry January. Muggy and hot, perfect for growing, and my garden has become a jungle. If there’s too much under-growth the dogs won’t play; they just stick to the paths, not much fun at all. So every day when I have time I put on insect repellent, get the machete and start hacking. I’ve discovered lots of yucca plants and Aguaje palms. Aguaje is a fruit that is said to have a lot of female hormones. It is made into a yellow, sweet and rather floury drink that is very popular with women. My friend Paulina is sure it helps her as she goes into menopause. If Aguaje could be grown commercially and exported I’m sure it would be hugely successful in the First World.
After 3 heavenly weeks in Sydney I'm back in the New Shack with my eight remaining dogs. Germania, Liset and Jesus did an amazing job taking care of them all, and I'm so sorry that they had to cope with three deaths, two weeks of non-stop rain, a vet who made appointments and then broke them, a collapsed long-drop toilet, and another collapse: about 4 metres of fencing that fell over in the heavy rain, enabling the dogs to get out and cause havoc in the neighbourhood.
On the way from the airport I stopped in to the vet's and collected Patti, who had been in a cage there for a week, with what Boris first said was a broncial infection, then changed the diagnosis to a muscular problem. Poor Patti was unable to stand up and her beautiful sad brown eyes were sunken into her head. Her fur had a strange green tinge to it and I'm quite sure, despite what Boris said, that she was suffering from Distemper. Patti died the next day.
All the remaining dogs who live with me: Puppy Face, Dulce, Milagro, Pinki, Tolstoy, Yacka and Nacho are thriving, except Lulu who has lost a heap of weight and has teeth and gum infections. She is now on a special soft diet and I brush her teeth twice a day.
The rain has made the already miserable life of the people here in Puerto Maldonado even worse, with houses and land washed into gullies. It is school holidays until the beginning of February and kids are taking advantage of the mud to build dams, sail boats made from plastic bottles, even make the old-time mud pies that my sisters and I used to make decades ago. Yesterday 2 boys in my street were using a xylophone with wheels as a skate board, taking turns sitting on it and hurtling down the track through rivers of mud and rain. It is pointless to wash clothes as they don't dry so we just wear the same clothes every day.
This month Boris and I will be interviewed on television about our sterilisation program; hopefully we will be able to persuade more dog owners to have their dogs sterilised. Our dream is to have all the female dogs sterilised, thereby decreasing the number of unwanted and abandonded dogs roaming the streets and living in terrible conditions in the rain.
I shall end on a sad note with a photo of the late Luna, who was always happy and ready to play, and little Patti who, in spite of her sad expression, joined in all the games and didn't mind when the bigger dogs jumped on her. They are buried together in my garden beneath a guava tree. Adios mis nenes.
Well, this is the last Chronicle of the year as on Sunday I leave for Australia to spend Christmas with my family. According to the newspapers here it's very doubtful that we will actually have a Christmas, as the world is supposed to end on 21st Dec. Some papers say that the world will end, others that there will be three days with no water, light, sun. Sales of candles, batteries, bottled water and food have increased and at the market stalls have sprung up with salesmen hoping to make a sol or two out of the panic. I'm just happy that if the world does end on the 21st, I'll be at home with my family!
As I write this Chronicle, and as I prepare to leave my dogs for 3 weeks, things couldn't be much worse health wise. Pinkie, Tolstoy and Luna all have a cough, and Patti has a bronchial infection. On top of this, tonight Yacka was hit by a tuk tuk taxi that came up the road with no lights, and of course didn't stop even when Yacka screamed in pain. His wounds are superficial but there was a lot of blood shed and poor Yacka, who is a tiny bit senile, is lying in bed looking totally bewildered.
Today I buried Corazon, one of the puppies that I had with me for the past 2 weeks. Corazon was the only one not adopted, and she caught Parvo 2 days ago. There have been a lot of dogs that didn't make it in 2012 and are Gone but not Forgotten. Sasha, my dear baby ball of fluff whose kidneys stopped working; Bart Simpson who caught Distemper and crawled under the Shack when he felt sick; Machito Gomez, my darling Machito who couldn't open his eyes for a month, then faded away in a dark corner as he gave up the will to live; Whisper, the poor creature who we found paralized on the side of the road one Sunday; Paul the old darling who someone dumped across the road from the market, in the worst state I've ever seen an animal to be in; and so the list goes on. Many of these Gone but not Forgotten dogs are buried in the garden here at the New Shack. All were wrapped in white sheets and had a funeral with flowers and tears. All the dogs who pass away here are given a name, a photo is taken and they are buried with the dignity that they weren't shown during their sad lives.
Neighbour's pig in front of the New Shack
During 2012 I have been so overwhelmed by the kindness of so many of my Facebook and personal friends. I want to thank you all, and especially Maxine Heasman for keeping my website going; Sandie Cunningham for all the donation boxes that she made and put in shops etc. around where she lives; Cathy Brown for coming to the great unknown Peru and minding my dogs so well, and then giving me back-up on health issues and for adopting Tolstoy; Tanya and Blanka Tomasch who always manage to send me a donation for the dogs, even though I know money is tight for students like Tanya; Greg White and his baby daughter Aja for their regular and very generous donations to the dogs. Meike and Tate Fairhusrt who adopted Pinkie as their on-line dog as they aren't able to keep a real dog where they are living; Dirdy Birdy who sends me her birthday money each year: thank you very much Dirdy! Samira, Dawn, Carol, Carlos, all of you: I thank you all and hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Much love from the Dogs of Peru xx
School children visiting Dr Boris the vet
I have been working with street dogs for two and a half years now and up until now I have said with certainty that ignorance, not cruelty, is the cause of the condition of dogs here in Peru; but then an incident happened yesterday which made me re-think many things. Up until yesterday I had thought that feeding a dog poison was an action of ignorance in that the killer didn't realise the terrible suffering they caused - but what happened yesterday was blatant and terrible torture: three dogs were fed meat containing small pieces of glass. As each dog was operated on by Dr Boris in an attempt to save their lives, from the state of their internal shredding of stomachs and intestines he realized there was nothing he could do but euthanize the 3 dogs. This murder was a calculated act and the person responsible was completely aware of what he/she was doing. Which leads me to think that, with the poisoning of dogs becoming more prevalent, people must know what the effect will be. While there are so many unwanted dogs roaming the streets, particularly at night, this method of disposal will continue until we can educate owners to have their dogs sterilized. It is an up-hill battle.
As other countries are are restricting the breeds Pit Bulls and Rottweillers, suddenly in Puerto Maldonado they have become the breed of choice. Thank goodness that the price for a pure bred dog is so high that most people can't afford them; otherwise everyone would own a Pit Bull or Rottie and while I know that these breeds can grow up to be brilliant family members, here they would be used for dog fights and guard dogs and would be mistreated to provoke aggressive behaviour and characteristics. A Rottweiller puppy sells for around 300 soles, nore than a third of the average monthly wage.
At the New Shack I've been caring for 6 Rottweiller cross puppies for 10 days. Along with the nine dogs who live here permanently I've been rushed off my feet. Feeds every 4 hours, endless puddles to clean up, as well as a group of us spending most of Sunday afternoon de-fleaing and de-ticking the pups and bathing them. They arrived here covered in dry mud, some with numerous small wounds, and all with mange on their throats. Five have now gone to good and kind homes but we did have to refuse several men who wanted a male and female, obviously to breed from and to sell the off-spring. My favourite puppy was (of course) the smallest, a tiny black ball of fur with bright blue baby eyes. He looked at me with such a lost expression on his little face and he cried when he couldn't keep up with his stronger siblings who always ended a play session crashed out asleep on top of the smallest one, who one of my helpers named Samson. I would have named him Osito (Little Bear).
Ticks in the puppies' ears
The other dog who makes the news this week is Tolstoy, who was rescued from a sad life when he was kicked out of his home with the arrival of a new baby.. Tolstoy has discovered his lost puppy-hood! At around one year old he has started his new career in earnest: destruction! While I was out he tore apart two dog beds and although I was a bit cross I also found a cause for celebration that he at last had the energy to be a dog. That celebration lasted one day! The next day I bought a new dog bed but he also ripped that apart, so Tolstoy and I had some discussions about his behavior and he has now promised that the only things he will destroy in the future will be his toys. I hope!
Like any town in the world, Puerto Maldonado has its fair share of homeless/drunken men. They live in the street across the road from the market, 20 or so of them, sitting in the gutters or lying on the footpath drinking. One of them gets up periodically to direct the traffic!
There are a large number of dogs who also hang out in the market, and sometimes the dogs end up living with the men. Last year I had the amusing and slightly scary job of removing a dog from the men living on the pavement. The dog, who I named Boracho (Drunk) had been in an accident a few days before and was still dripping blood from his missing eye and damaged face. The men were quite aggressive, thinking that I wanted to kill the dog, and they formed a circle around me, all of them in the positions of boxers, even though they were a bit unsteady on their feet. After trying to reason with them and getting nowhere, finally I just had to jump in a passing tuk tuk and get Boracho to the vet.
This week another dog in need of help was spotted with the men. This time, luckily for me, the dog crossed the road and lay down outside a bank where I was able to pick him up with no drunks to intervene.
This little darling, who at first we thought was very young due to his puppyish face, is actually ancient. I have named him Nacho (short for Ignacio) and he now lives in the New Shack with all the other dogs and me. Nacho’s skin is thick and rough and hangs loosely on his little body. He’s had a bath, vitamin injections and treatment for mange and now is quite happy to sleep on a soft bed beside all the other dogs, instead of a hard pavement in a rough part of town.
Up the track from the New Shack a house is under construction and last Saturday the concrete slab was laid for the second story. All day from very early men laboured in extremely hot temperatures to lug buckets of cement up a narrow plank to the new roof. No modern machinery here, everything was done using only man power and it was terribly hard work. As the sun went down finally they finished, celebrating with fireworks, shouts of relief, and then a huge bunch of flowers from the building’s owner arrived, as well as two clay bulls which were hauled up onto the roof and set above where the new door will go. I don’t know what the symbolism of this is, but it is a practice than can be seen all over Peru and Bolivia. One day if I build a house I’d like to continue this custom: only in my case, they would have to be two clay dogs.
New roof adornments
I have had an email complaining that I always write about bad things here in Puerto Maldonado. I don’t intentionally do this, what I do is write each week about the work I’ve done that week, and unfortunately when you’re working to help street dogs, then things can seem pretty grim. Some dogs just aren’t cut out to be street dogs: they are either too young (like dumped puppies), or don’t have the personalities to cope. Zen was one of those who couldn’t cope: Zen was so laid-back that he just couldn’t be bothered looking for food. He’d rather sleep or play with his friends. When we moved house from the Old Shack to the New Shack, while all my other dogs leaped around and got excited about riding in a tuk tuk taxi, Zen fell asleep in the taxi!
And so this week I’ve had the sad experience of finding 2 street dogs who couldn’t survive living rough. The first was on Saturday when, as I was walking up a dirt track to the swimming pool I found a dog lying in some long grass. He had had some sort of trauma: his back legs were paralysed and his stomach bloated with blood. He was very cold and wet from overnight rain. Some kind person ran to get a taxi and we took Whisper (as I named him) to Dr Boris to be euthanized.
The second dog I found lying on the footpath in a very busy part of town, right by the market where literally hundreds of people pass by every day. I myself walk there every day, but had never seen this dog before. People were walking round where he lay, looking at him with shocked expressions. How did he get there? He was in the worst state of any dogs I’ve ever seen. Unable to stand up, hairless, with a gaping wound on his bottom, he didn’t even have the energy to complain when I lifted up his poor body. I named him Paul and held him as he was put to sleep. I was wondering when was the last time anyone had touched him or even spoken kindly to him.
Back at the New Shack I’m babysitting a tiny puppy who I’ve named Janis Joplin. She was in a cage at Dr Boris’s surgery, waiting to be adopted along with her brother; but he is showing signs of having Parvo, so Boris asked if I could take Janis home so that she won’t catch it. She is such a darling little thing, she walks with a little bounce like a greyhound and when her mange is cured someone will want to give her a forever home, I’m sure. I really hope so as once again we have an over-full house!
At present I'm feeding 12 dogs twice a day at the Shack, and another 7 at a feeding centre. We go through 15 kilos of dry dog food every few days, as well as litres of milk and cans of fish. Malnourished dogs need high protein food to get them on their feet again. As well as that expense, I also take at least 3/4 dogs/cats to Dr Boris to be sterilized each week.
Earlier this year Dr Boris and I removed 3 puppies from a woman who had kept them in her back yard, in filthy conditions with very little food and no vet attention. There had been 6 puppies in total but the others had all died. After the three were removed, one more died; the 2 survivors have been adopted and are now living good lives with caring families. Each time Boris and I went back to sterilize the mother dog she couldn’t be found - and so it was no surprise that this week we got a call about 8 more puppies at the same property, only this time the mother has been poisoned! So we removed the 8 puppies, all in a very bad condition and living in rubbish that had been tossed into the yard. They all have big raw patches on their poor little bodies, as well as being covered in fleas. All of them seem to be afraid of being handled, and except for 2, are extremely underweight.
It is hard for me to speak with this woman without insulting her: she is quite well off, has her own shop, a husband who is employed, a well-dressed and well looked-after little daughter. She just doesn’t care about animals. I wish there was a law that would ban people like her from owning dogs, but unfortunately there is not. In fact, she has recently bought an expensive pure bred dog and already we have had to treat him for mange. He’s covered in it.
Two of the eight puppies
Another way of disposing of unwanted dogs here, besides feeding them poison, is to put them in the street and just stop feeding them. This is what has happened to a poor old dog in my street. She was mangy until we started treating her and her fur is growing back. Unfortunately she is still terribly thin but is now confident enough to wait at my door every morning for a meal. Her name is Leika and she is such a sweetie with her Panda eyes and white eye-lashes. Little by little she is letting me get closer and occasionally I’ve been able to pat her neck without her running away. How I wish she would be sure enough of me to actually want to come and live in the New Shack and get the cuddles, a soft bed and all the food she can eat.
Leika waiting for her breakfast
Tonight little Patti is going to be sterilized and then she will be adopted. Her owner left her alone aged 5 months and has gone to Lima until Christmas. Because Patti is so attractive there is no shortage of people wanting her; it’s up to me to find the best possible family and future for this most gentle baby.
Dr Boris had a long weekend away visiting his mother in Puno, so I had a long weekend also here in Puerto Maldonado; but I used the time to compile a list of street dogs who still need to be sterilized and Dr Boris is going to be busy!
Misti was returned to her owner Sunday, fit and fat and happy; the owner said Yes, she was happy to have Misti and Misti’s daughter Chocolate sterilized, but when I returned to take them to the surgery Tuesday she had changed her mind. It took a lot of persuasion to get her to let me take Misti but she wouldn’t budge on Chocolate. Her reasons varied from "It will hurt" to "They never go on heat" (of course they didn’t because they were too thin, she never fed them), to "I can’t look after them I have to work" (she never looked after them anyway, Misti was starving and covered in lice). Well, Misti was operated on and is back at the New Shack with me until she’s healed up enough to go home again. Chocolate will just have to have a 6-monthly anti-conception injection until her owner changes her mind again.
Misti when she first arrived at the New Shack
Yesterday (Wednesday) was a day of disasters. How could so much go wrong in the space of only 12 hours? My dear Yacka got bitten in his side by a neighbour’s dog: there is a dog on heat across the road and the street is full of male dogs all causing a riot with their fighting and barking and poor old Yacka go in the way of them. Then tiny Sasha (see the photo of him last week, asleep on my bag) had his second epileptic seizure in 4 days. It was frightening for me to watch, and frightening for him to experience; it left him lying exhausted on his side, staring straight ahead, seemingly unable to respond to me calling his name.
Half an hour later there was a tearful phone call from Paulina: she had just found one of her rescued kittens, who we had removed 6 months ago from some kids who were using the kitten as a racing car, zooming her down a pile of sand and stones, dead on the patio. Paulina and a small group of boys arrived at the New Shack with the kitten wrapped in an old skirt, one of the boys carrying a big bunch of flowers. We had a funeral but as we were standing at the grave 2 fire ants dropped from the tree above, one bit me on the chest and the other landed on Paulina’s neck and bit her. I have never felt such pain! It was like someone was holding a cigarette lighter to my skin and it burnt for about 3 hours. Paulina and I were in the Shack screaming in pain as red lumps appeared on our skin. So today a man is coming here with a petrol-soaked rag on a stick to get rid of the huge fire ant nest that we found in a tree, before the dogs or anyone else gets bitten.
Sasha will have to go to the vet today to see what is going on; if he is epileptic the future isn’t very positive because there isn’t the medicine available to treat dogs with this problem, and no-one will want to adopt him. I have my fingers crossed that he’ll grow out of it, but at this stage I don’t know. Things can only get better. Watch this space for a more positive Chronicle next week.
Typical house on the Tambopata River
It has been a week of good things and bad: the good is that the massive and massively handsome Blind Fredi, who moved into the New Shack on Saturday, has settled well and has shown himself to be incredibly intelligent. Although his name is new to him he answered to it within 24 hours. Fredi came from a school where he had been hanging round scrounging food from the students and the rubbish bins. As he got sicker and started displaying signs of failing eyesight the Head Teacher asked if I would remove him. He has found a permanent home here at the New Shack, because nobody will want to adopt a blind dog.
Other good news is that Yacka has been sterilized, and is healing well. The operation was carried out on my small plastic kitchen table late at night and Dr Boris was the height of efficiency, even after working a 13 hour day at the surgery.
The bad news is that there was an outbreak of Parvo at the surgery, so Dr Boris asked if I could take 2 puppies to stop them being contaminated. Unfortunately, after only 24 hours little Bart showed all the symptoms of Distemper and passed away yesterday. He is buried in the garden next to Toffee and Machito, under a guava tree.
Vaccinations against Parvo and Distemper are so important: 90% of all puppies born here in Puerto Maldonado die of these diseases as people are either ignorant of the destruction they cause, or don’t have the 30 soles it costs to vaccinate.
Here I just have to include a photo of Sasha who is still with me: several people had expressed an interest in adopting him but none have been suitable: well, that’s my excuse! Truth is he’s just too cute for words and I hate to think of someone not giving him the care that he needs. In this photo I think he’s hoping to get inside my bag and travel with me to Australia!
Sasha wants to travel
It’s been like a hospital ward in the New Shack lately. First Tolstoy got sick with a cold that got worse and turned into an upper respiratory infection. At night his nose ran, he wheezed and snuffled and seemed really miserable, so is now on antibiotics. Then Yacka got laryngitis. Now, Yacka loves to bark. He sometimes barks all day; the slightest sound sets him off and he hysterically runs from room to room getting louder until I tell him to calm down, which he does briefly until the next noise sets him off again. So I’ve enjoyed the relative quiet of his laryngitis: he still barks but it comes out as a squeak which makes me laugh as he’s a big dog and the squeak just sounds so incongruous. It even seems to startle him.
Misti is also sick. She’s so thin and her health so fragile that for a couple of nights I thought that I was loosing her. The antibiotics I gave her had no effect and she was vomiting up her saliva. Dr Boris found that Misti has a very swollen neck and glands so she was given a huge dose of some other antibiotic and she’s started to get better, thank goodness.
As for the other dogs, it’s the tick season now and they all are covered in the little pests. Every night before bed it takes about an hour to pick them all off. Ears and between claws are their favourite hiding places. I notice that they are also taking up residence in the cracks in the walls so I’ll be getting the New Shack fumigated this weekend. Having nine dogs in the house is a blessing but the wildlife they bring in with them can be a curse.
On my kitchen wall in chalk I have written the names of dogs that I and my friends know have gone missing. Disappeared without a trace would be a more exact way of putting it. Apache, Gracia, Zen, Atun, Toro, Victorino, Paris, Solita, Osa, the Christian man’s dog, Lady Blacky, Pelusa: all have vanished. And those are just the dogs from around here. If the situation is the same all over Puerto Maldonado then hundreds of dogs must go missing every year.
I have two theories as to what happens to these dogs: The first is that when a circus containing a tiger or lion comes to town stray or unwanted dogs are sold for food to the circus that pays 10 soles ($3.70au) per dog. People who are short of money and who don’t have any liking for dogs take along any they can catch.
The second theory is that the dogs are used by students studying to be vets. In fact I have been told this by some students: they are told by their professor (who is a practising vet here in town) to go out early in the morning and catch their dog victim for that day’s class. The dogs are operated on and at the end of the day they are killed. Last year one whole street was cleared of street dogs in just one hour by the students.
Zen as he looked when I first saw him
It makes me sick to think of my beautiful helpless Zen and little Gracia, as well as all the others, being used and abused like this. Until people here learn to respect and love their dogs this situation will continue. We have a lot of work still to do.
Zen as he looked just before he went missing
This week I experienced something that I’ve never seen nor heard of before: An Invasion. Because there has been a huge influx of people into Puerto Maldonado since the bridge opened a year ago and gold mines became big business, land has become scare. So the local council have opened up tracts of the jungle, pegged out small plots and eventually there will be a lottery for the people who want the land. There are so many people wanting a plot that they are squatting on the land because if they don’t stay there someone else will come and stake a claim to it.
On Monday I was taken to see this Invasion: several hectares of rough clay land dotted with green stagnant pools of stinking water containing mosquito lava and human waste. Row upon row of blue plastic sheeting under which whole families sat on the damp ground. No electricity, no water, nothing except a mattress, a few plastic chairs, a small stove under each ‘tent’. I’ve never seen such terrible conditions in my life. These people have nothing, and have been living like this for 3 months now, waiting for the lottery to change their futures so they can win a tiny parcel of land.
Even after the lottery and the land is theirs, for up to a year there will not be any running water, apart from rainfall, no power, no toilets, no roads in to service the land. They will be living on a big building site for the next few years. I was not allowed to take photos of this camp city but it shocked me, it really did. As well as families with babies and small kids crawling in the mud, there are also a large number of dogs who have moved in with the families. I promised the people there that as soon as they have built a communal area Dr Boris and I will have a regular free clinic to treat and even sterilize the dogs.
Eugenio and Luna
During the week I was also privileged to meet an extraordinary man: Eugenio is caretaker and guard at the local Sports Stadium where, as at all hospitals, schools, places where there is the chance for food, street dogs gather and some even live permanently. Eugenio not only feeds these dogs but really cares for them: he moves any mothers with puppies into the shed where he lives; he seeks vet help for any who need it even though his lives on a pittance; and so we were able to help by taking one dog and her puppies to Dr Boris. The mother, who Eugenio has named Luna, was sterilized on Tuesday and her puppies are safe in a cage awaiting adoption. Thanks to your donations all puppies that end up for adoption with Dr Boris are vaccinated before they go to their new homes. I look forward to working more with Eugenio who is the first person that I’ve met here in Puerto Maldonado who talks with love in his voice to and about the dogs in his care. He is a truly caring man.
So much has changed since I wrote last week: the 3 puppies Thelma, Louise and Africa have all been adopted and gone to good homes. I miss their dear little faces and beautiful sleek black bodies around the Shack. Pia also has been adopted, for the second time and this time it’s working out very well. She hasn’t disgraced herself, and is even allowed to sleep inside the house on a bed ! When I went to visit her although she jumped all over me, when I left to walk home she just stood at the gate, smiling. That’s my Pia, always with her mischievous grin.
I have another puppy with me at the moment, a tiny tiny ball of fluff who I’ve named Sasha. He was dumped at the vet, unwanted after his owner went into hospital. He is only about 5 weeks old, has mange on his face and ear, and has some problems walking. He’ll stay at the Shack until he's well enough to go to a forever home. My dogs think he’s a toy (they have a toy cow that squeaks like Sasha does) so I have to watch that they don’t start playing roughly with him, and when I go out he goes onto a carry case for his own protection.
Back at the surgery at the weekend we made a cage especially for kittens and puppies, with fine wire that they can’t get through. Previously small animals had to be kept in carrying cases until they were adopted, which was completely unsatisfactory for the animal, and also made it very difficult for them to be seen, therefore increasing the time they spent waiting to be adopted. It soon became a joint effort as 3 kids turned up to help and amused us with their running commentaries about their pets. The boy in the centre has very unusual colouring for this part of Peru: he told me his Grandfather is German.
Children helping Boris
Street dogs and cats are pretty smart in knowing where to go to find a food source: many live permanently in school grounds, hospitals, even sports stadiums. There’s a stadium near the Shack where a litter of puppies was born last week. A kind man is feeding their mother and keeping an eye on them until they are old enough to be adopted and the mother to be sterilized; and Paulina and I took some orphaned kittens from a school last night: their mother had fallen off a balcony and died, leaving 4 little babies. We managed to find homes for 3 of the babies immediately; the last one is raising a riot of noise at Boris’s surgery, hopefully he’ll be going to a good home today.
At the Shack now that the rainy season has begun both Tolstoy and Misti have caught colds and due to their fragile state of health, both are on antibiotics.
There was a huge storm last night, it started with wind roaring in from the jungle and brought down some big branches in the garden; then torrential tropical rain poured down and guess what? The roof in this New Shack leaks! Only in 2 places thank goodness, not like at the Old Shack where I lost count of the leaks, just put out every container I could find when the rain came. Both Pinkie (who is afraid of loud noises) and Sasha slept in the hammock with me. Kind of smelly but we kept each other warm!
Well, the joke’s on me! Pia lasted exactly 25 hours in her new ‘for-ever’ home. As I wrote last week, the family who took her didn’t have any hens or ducks so I thought, finally Pia will stay out of trouble. But! The neighbours keep hens and the first night Pia was with her new family she killed a neighbour’s hen. So back she came, dumped at my door by the woman while the husband sat with motor running, shouting “come on, come on!”
It’s October and the start of the rainy season. On 1st October it started to rain and all the streets overnight turned from dust bowls to calf-deep mud slides. On Sunday Boris and I did the rounds of some houses where I had noticed dogs with mange and Boris, bravely struggling along in flip-flops, treated a heap of dogs and we even managed between us to lug a huge and heavy mother dog back to the surgery to be sterilized.
Sunday we also removed 3 puppies from a woman who didn’t want them so she had put them out in the road. Yes, actually on the road as motorbikes and cars rushed by: her solution to unwanted dogs! These three darlings who are big-boned gals but who are incredibly malnourished are now with me while they put on some weight and I find someone to adopt them. I’ve named them Thelma, Louise and Africa. Africa, the biggest of the three, is having some problems in that she won’t eat so has been on a drip off and on for 2 days. I love having puppies around, love the dear noises they make but I could do without the constant puddles! Oh, and Thelma got stuck in a gap between the wall and floor in the kitchen so I put a big water bottle there to block it off. When I came home I found the puppies had chewed the stopper off the water bottle and 20 litres of my precious water had dribbled onto the floor.
Thelma and Louise
Of course, need I write, I still don’t have water connected to the Shack. I’ve got to the stage now where I couldn’t care if the water was connected or not, as the lawyer has told me not to pay rent until it is connected: the landlady has broken the contract by not supplying water so I don’t have to pay rent. Suits me, as long as my kind neighbour at the back continues to give us water via a hose from his tap.
The teachers are still on strike and money is becoming tight. My friend Paulina is a teacher, and as well as her three children and one grandchild she also had 6 street dogs living with her. Thanks to your donations we are now supplying food for the 6 dogs who all are large breeds and go through a lot of food. Paulina goes to the market everyday and buys bags of soup bones and vegetables and makes big pots of soup with rice for her dogs. The strike is in its 5th week; these children have missed so much schooling this year it worries me. There is nothing for them to do here, no cinema, no parks, most of the kids have no toys apart from what they make themselves. The mums who work at the market have their kids with them and they play in the mud, opening up drains and sailing plastic bottle ‘boats’ in the storm water that, along with rats, runs through the market.
Meanwhile, back at the New Shack, fingers crossed, I think I have someone happy to look after my dogs so that I can return to Australia at Christmas!
Good news this week! No I don’t have water connected yet, and yes, the teachers are still on strike, But PIA HAS BEEN ADOPTED! My naughty little Pia who I found in the market just over one year ago, unable to open her eyes, covered in mange and lumps of chewing gum, blindly running after people, this tiny smiling dog who caused havoc from day one has now found a forever home.
Pia when I first found her
Pia’s energy and love of running, her speed and exuberance often got her into trouble, as when a neighbour came after her with a hammer, fully intent on killing Pia after she killed one of his chicks. When we moved to the new Shack the street which had previously been full of hens with their babies, ducks and ducklings, suddenly emptied as word went round that Pia had arrived! She has been adopted by a family with children but luckily no hens nor ducks.
Pia's naughty grin
Now with Boris the Dog and Pia gone, Toffee passed away, Sweetie and Machito living with a friend, and Gracia still missing, we are down to seven dogs. And so this morning I was able to bring home Misti. I had collected her Tuesday from a woman who didn’t want her so had stopped feeding her. Poor Misti, she is in a very bad condition with her bones sticking out all over her poor wasted body, and with fleas and lice running through her fur. She spent a night at the surgery with Dr Boris who said she has no major illnesses, and with some good food she should recover although she’s very anaemic. She is now wrapped in a blanket and sleeping on a soft mattress at home with me. I’ll report on her progress in the coming weeks.
When I see dogs like Misti, whose owners just don’t care whether their dog lives or dies, I get very angry and often have to bite my tongue to not abuse the owner. The standard response to any criticism here in Puerto Maldonado is a smile and a shrug. As there are almost no animal rights here, there is no-one to call: the police also smile and shrug, and there are no animal welfare groups. Even if there was, they could do nothing; and so people continue to mistreat their animals, discard them when they get too big, and then turn around and buy another cute puppy.
Feeding dogs meat laced with rat poison, or even leaving rat poison around where it can be eaten is quite normal behaviour here. Even stopping feeding a dog you no longer can be bothered with, as in Misti’s case is regarded as a solution to the problem of an unwanted dog. Neighbours don’t speak out, no-one thinks to take over the care of an abandoned animal. He or she is just that, totally abandoned.
I shall be very glad when this month is over. The heat is oppressive and the month in general has been dreadful. The worst possible news is about Toffee: she lost her fight for life early on Wednesday, 19th. This darling little scrap of life was with us for 11 days, and tiny that she was, she joined in playing with Pinkie and Luna until her energy ran out. Then she would throw herself down where-ever she happened to be, and rest. I was always saying ‘where’s Toffee?’ and I’d find her lying in the sand or on the path or under a table; but she just had too many health problems and her swollen tummy and protruding ribs told us there was a whole lot going on inside that wasn’t right. She was very very anaemic too. We wrapped Toffee in a white blanket donated by Dori Kiss and buried her under an orange tree in the garden.
I have had no response to my call for a volunteer to mind the dogs for me when I go back to Australia for Christmas. Anyone thinking about coming to Peru at that time, please note that Puerto Maldonado is only 35 minutes from Cusco and Machu Picchu by plane, and it is the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. The town is surrounded by jungle and rivers, which makes it a very interesting place to visit. And the town is not full of tourists by any means. In December the heat will be far less intense; it is a very pleasant month in which to visit.
One piece of good news is that Boris the Dog has been adopted and has gone to a life of adventure with 2 other dogs on a farm. When Boris first moved in with us about 2 months ago one of his legs was infected and twice the size that it should have been. He was almost bald and dreadfully thin. Boris the Vet had found him at the market and asked if I could take him as he wasn’t settling in a cage. The man who has adopted Boris said that he’ll be living beside the river with a small beach to play on and lots of space to run around. Boris, who spent his days barking at the neighbours until he drove everyone crazy with his noise, will now come into his own as a guard dog and I’m sure he’ll do his job with gusto.
And the news in Puerto Maldonado is that once again the teachers are on strike. The kids have already missed so much school this year, around 5 weeks due to strikes, and of course the teachers aren’t getting paid. Hopefully things will improve all round next week.
For quite a while now I've been wanting to write a small article entitled A Day in the Life of a Peruvian Vet. I'd planned to spend a day with Dr Boris and photograph him at work. Dr Boris starts each day at el camal, the slaughterhouse here in Puerto Maldonado and I thought: I can do that, as long as I don't see a cow being killed I can handle it. And so off I went this morning with my gumboots and camera, trying to feel brave. Dr Boris was 45 minutes late, and as the men at the slaughterhouse can't work until he arrives to check on the animals, they all went across the road to a bar and got on the beer. By the time Boris got there the men were pretty tanked up, and as I followed them into the building I thought, I can't do this. The stench of blood, of animals waiting to be killed by a group of drunks, it was too much for me. The place was filthy. The yard was inches deep in dung and rubbish and the... well, you can imagine the rest.
One of the jobs Dr Boris has to do there is monitor what waste gets thrown into the Tambopata river at the back of the building. If unsupervised the men throw all contaminated body parts straight into the river, causing huge pollution. People swim, fish, drink water from that river which is already polluted with mercury from the gold mines. And so I have shelved my idea, or rather changed it to just following Dr Boris as he goes about his work at the surgery. Watch this space next week.
At the New Shack we are still anxiously waiting for our water to be connected. The dogs are in for a shock as they will all be bathed when there is water, it will be their first bath in 2 months. With temperatures in the 40's Celsius for a week or so, all I've been able to do to keep them cool is wipe them down with a wet cloth and put ice cubes in their water bowl.
Our newest arrival at the New Shack I've named Toffee. She is tiny, only a few weeks old. She had so many ticks in her ears that it wasn't possible to see the opening to her ears, and after the ticks were removed her ears bled and became infected. She was picked up in the street with her mother, who is going to be sterilised later this week, after her tick wounds have healed.
Toffee is a sweetheart, I keep telling myself: Don't fall in love with her, you can't keep her. But it's hard. She has long skinny legs, her ribs stick out but her tummy is huge, and her pads are all infected with worms. At first all she wanted to do was sleep and eat, but yesterday she started playing with the other baby of the group, Luna and chasing toys around the floor. I have a possible home for Toffee but the people are going to have to prove to me that she'll get the care she needs.
It has been a quiet week this week in Puerto Maldonado due to the intense heat. Dogs that usually are seen scavenging in the streets are hiding away in any cool spot they can find. The pavements are too hot to walk on. One favourite cool, if very smelly place where dogs hang out is the meat department at the market. Although there's no refrigeration it is still shady and many dogs live there, some even get in behind the counters to clean up anything that falls on the floor, and frequently they fall asleep there, along with babies and small children. The stench makes me gag but of course it is heaven for the dogs who are well fed there.
On Monday when I was doing my usual walk through some of the poorer barrios I was approached by a man who has 8 dogs, one female and 7 males. He was desperate that his female dog doesn't get pregnant again so asked if I could help. After a call to Dr Boris we walked the dog Lassie up the hill and caught a tuk tuk to the surgery where Lassie was sterilised that night. Thanks to your donations we can give practical and instant help to dogs such as Lassie. The man was so happy walking his dog to the vet that I had to get a photo.
Taking Lassie to be sterilised
One dog who I've had my eye on for a while is Salmo, a street dog who isn't coping very well due to infected eyes, mange and the heat. We managed to pick him up on Tuesday and while I was waiting for Dr Boris to arrive to help me lift Salmo, an idiot with a hand cart came by and ran over his paw. Salmo has been in a cage since then, getting treatment for his many problems which included fly-blown ears and of course a squashed paw. Due to lack of space here at the New Shack, Salmo will have to be put back on the street when he is healed but I'll be able to take him food every day and keep an eye on his progress. Dr Boris gave him the name Salmo (salmon) due to his bright pink skin that Boris said reminds him of a salmon!
Salmo before treatment
Back at the New Shack we have at last been given a date when the water supply will be connected: 15th Sept ! I'm soooo looking forward to that. I've been showering at the local swimming pool but as there are no doors on the showers I haven't been able to shower without a swim suit for a couple of months now. And I'll be able to wash the dogs, Hallelujah to that, no more stinky dogs!
It has been a trying week as the night time temperatures plummeted to 12 degrees Celsius and in a shack that is fairly open to the weather the dogs and I have been shivering and then I caught a cold. The dogs also have a mystery illness: Machito has not been able to open his eyes for the last 3 days, and today I noticed that Boris the Dog and Pia are starting to have the same problem. Boris the Vet thought it is an allergic reaction to an insect bite but the dogs haven't responded to antihistamine so we're quite unsure now. And Yacka has stopped eating and just looks at me with his big sad eyes when I try to tempt him with his favourite snacks.
Machito when his eyes were normal
Monday was the Day of the Child in Peru and I went to Paulina's school to help her serve the children morning tea. All the parents had contributed some treat, mainly sweets, Coca Cola and Inka Cola which is an over-sweet and over-coloured yellow soft drink. One of the boys had brought a tiny puppy to school in his bag and the puppy raced around eating totally inappropriate food for a 4 week old dog then threw up on the classroom floor. We had just cleaned that up when one of the boys brought up his treats too..............more mess to clean up and a very pale little boy who was sent home to recover.
Classroom on the Day of the Child
The water problem in the New Shack continues to drag on and I have started looking for somewhere else to live. Wish I could wave a magic wand and whoosh! A large block of land, fully fenced, a nice big house with electricity, water and no neighbours, just waiting for eleven dogs and me to move in!
We never did get out to the community of La Cachuela to treat the mangy dogs (see Chronicle for 9th August) because Dr Boris is still waiting on a spare part for his motorbike so we were without transport. But there were plenty of other calls coming in about sick dogs and unwanted puppies. This week Dr Boris is babysitting 2 litters of puppies as I chase around contacting people who have expressed an interest in adopting a puppy.
Last Friday I was in town when a man told me about a dog that was living in his compound: she was sick and would I take her to the vet? When I went to see her what I found was a young, skinny, dirty, tick and fleas infested girl in desperate need of help. Her owner told me he didn’t have time to bath and take care of her, even though when I spoke to him he was sitting watching TV. Pelusa’s face, ears and neck were thick with ticks; they covered every millimetre of her skin, leaving her severely anaemic and malnourished.
I took her to Dr Boris who treated her for the ticks and gave her a dose of vitamins, but Pelusa wouldn’t settle in a cage so we decided to let her return home and we would continue her treatment there. Two days later Pelusa was dead. Her owner decided he didn’t want her around anymore and fed her poison. This despite the fact that the man knew we were going to take care of her and restore her to health, at no expense to him. RIP dear Pelusa.
Now I have dog number 11 at the New Shack! Meet Luna, a 3 month old little female who we removed from her owner due to severe neglect. Luna has mange, bare patches on her bottom, and a back leg that was broken but has knitted together, leaving one bone sticking out of her thigh. She still has some baby teeth and her short life has been full of pain but not anymore! Never again will this dear little dog be kicked around and mistreated: she now has a soft bed to sleep in, any number of playmates and toys, and 4 meals a day with calcium supplements. Oh, just between you and me, she actually sleeps in the hammock with me!
We have been in the New Shack for just over a week and we’re loving it! So much space inside and out: three rooms with lots of fresh air when the shutters are open and outside a huge garden with lots of shade trees; right by the back door two enormous avocado trees, then there is a small citrus grove and even a pineapple bush with fruit almost ready to eat. We still don’t have any water and still the owner of the New Shack hasn’t done the paperwork to get us connected, but we’re getting by with the help of a neighbour and a 30 metre hose!
The dogs are having a great time! When we first moved in they all ran laps around the garden from the sheer joy of having so much space. Now that they’re got used to it the younger dogs are delighting in digging holes in the sandy soil. Milagro, who I was worried as to how he would adapt to the new place as he’s blind, has done his fair share of walking into walls and not being able to find his bed. Sometimes he just stands very still with his head on one side and I can tell he doesn’t know where he is, so I talk to him and he perks up and runs to me for a cuddle. Outside is a different matter: the people who cut down all the undergrowth left it lying where it fell and when Milagro goes outside he frequently gets tangled up in piles of vines/dead plants. The worst thing that could happen to him is that he should fall down the long-drop! It doesn’t bear thinking about! But he’s such a brave little dog and little by little he’ll work out a map of the New Shack in his head and be right on track again.
Milagro in the tuk tuk
Today is Cathy’s last day here in Puerto Maldonado, and tomorrow she leaves for Lima and then Australia and home. She has truly been the most wonderful friend to me and the dogs. Whatever we ask her to do, be it track down dogs in need of help in the streets or even to castrate Tolstoy, Zen and Boris the Dog, Cathy does everything with grace and humour. She has coped with the lack of water, extreme temperatures, dog fights, plagues of ticks and mange, the Peruvian disregard for time, and even a zillion mosquito bites with her natural tolerance and at the end of the day when I am boiling over with frustration, Cathy is calm and smiling, laughing at the incongruity of it all. She is also an excellent artist and has done sketches of the late Petalo surrounded by flowers, and Dulce, one of my first rescues. For me it has also been refreshing to be able to have the services of a vet who is completely up to date with advances in treatments and new improved medicines, something lacking here in Puerto Maldonado. I shall miss her tremendously. Even being able to speak English everyday has been a bonus for me. Cathy, please return to Peru, the dogs and I need you here.
We have just spent our first night in the New Shack , so exciting and such an adventure for the dogs! After moving the big stuff like a table and my gas tank, a friend with a tuk tuk taxi helped load three dogs at a time into the taxi for the short but incredibly bumpy ride up the hill to the New Shack. Zen is so laid-back that he actually lay down and went to sleep whilst we bounced (and sometimes got a wheel stuck) in pot holes. The only problem was lifting Yacka into the tuk tuk: whatever way I picked him up he cried in pain and today his back leg is even more bent than usual. He is spending the day in bed today. The other dogs were fine; Puppy Face ran alongside the tuk tuk as we shuttled the dogs in. At 33 degrees Celsius and up-hill all the way, the oldest dog in the gang showed everyone that a good diet is all that´s needed to keep an old dog fit. But then he disgraced us all by chasing a small girl along the street. Bad Puppy Face.
Yacka was found lying near the middle of a very busy road, the vehicles were almost touching his poor body as they went by.
We woke this morning to find two neighbours´dogs in the garden so my lot went into battle, except Pinkie who as usual fluttered her eye lashes at them. There is also a pig who visits which has uprooted all the young coconut seedlings so I´m going to have to have the fence mended: one expense I hadn´t budgeted for. And still the owner of the New Shack hasn´t done the paperwork to get water connected (she has had 6 weeks to do this). A kind neighbour has let me run a hose from his tap to the middle of my yard, but when I need water I have to call out to him and he turns his tap on! And so we will get by. With a repaired fence and our own water supply life will be easier. But then, very few people in Puerto Maldonado have an easy life. Most people just get by day-to-day. Thanks to generous donations the dogs have what they need and a little left over for anti-mange and sterilization programmes. This Saturday Dr Boris and I will be going out to a community called La Cachuela to treat mangy dogs there. Be sure to read next week´s Chronicle to find out how it went.
Yacka enjoying a bit of luxury
As I mentioned in last week's Chronicle, I've now been in Peru for 2 years, working to ease the lives of street dogs here. The one who started it all, the one who I promised I would come back and help, has gone now to that great Doggie Place in the Sky. That was Key Hole, who I first saw lying in dust and rubbish in a truck parking place. She was the same colour as the dust she lay in, and so thin that it was quite hard to see her. As I held out food to her she raised her head and looked me straight in the eye. From that moment there was no going back: I could no longer look the other way when I saw such suffering. She was joined by Sweetie who had not a hair on his poor skinny body, a badly sun burnt back and sores that were attracting flies.
I was living in a hostel at the time so couldn't have them with me, but everyday I would take a barge across the river Madre de Dios with food for the dogs, and gradually we were joined by more dogs. A regular was Puppy Face, so named because although he is quite old he still has the face of a sweet puppy. When I found a room to rent at the back of a family home I was able to move Key Hole, Sweetie and Puppy Face in with me. The family said there was no problem with the dogs, but then would complain every time there was dog droppings on the path so after a month I had to look for another place.
Sweetie and Key Hole after 2 months of living their new life of luxury!
A friend offered me the Shack, which at the time was being used to store bags of cement and workmens' tools. Although it needed a lot of work and cleaning, it was perfect! A little wooden shack along a quiet jungle track right beside the Tambopata river. The dogs had somewhere safe to live, and I brought Frida home, and then Angelita, and then... one after another the dogs were taken from their wretched life on the streets to a safe haven. There are now so many dogs here that I have to do a head count at meal times to know how many bowls to set out, as, as well as the permanents, there are also those who just turn up when they are hungry. Sweetie lives part of the time with me, and part of the time with my friend and fellow dog carer Paulina. Puppy Face is always with me, but Key Hole, the dog who started it all, passed away last year after suffering for several months with a venereal tumour that didn't respond to chemotherapy.
And so this Saturday we move to a new Shack: a bigger Shack (3 rooms instead of one!) and a huge block of land on a track with no traffic. Moving with me will be Puppy Face, Zen, Tolstoy, Milagro, Pinkie, Boris the Dog, Sweetie (if he decides it's my turn to have him), Pia and Yacka; and Blanka if she gets hungry and turns up in time. I haven't yet worked out how I'll get all the dogs there, whether I'll be able to entice them to follow me on the 10 minute walk to the new Shack, or hire a taxi and get them there one at a time. Yacka, Boris the Dog and Tolstoy won't be able to walk so they will have to be taxied and then carried. Look out for next week's Chronicle to find out how it all goes!
Puppy Face the first time, in July 2010
As I sit here in the sweltering heat in Puerto Maldonado I've been reflecting on the last 2 years: yes it's 2 years this week since I moved to Peru and started the huge job of trying to save street dogs. I must admit the job hasn't really got any easier, except that I am now working with a fully trained vet who really cares about animals. And people have stopped laughing at me as I do the rounds of places where dogs in need of help hang out. But understanding the Peruvian people is still a dark area for me, as was illustrated just this morning:
I had a call that a dog with a broken spine was in the street outside a college. I rushed there and the poor dog was dragging himself along the road, passing students entering the school, parents, teachers, even 3 trucks of police guarding the school. Everyone stopped and stared at this animal with looks of horror on their faces but not one person tried to help. Dr Boris arrived and we managed to get a towel over the dog's head and he stopped trying to escape. Only then did one kind soul, a road worker, come forward with a piece of sandwich for Billy, as I named him.
If this had happened in Australia there would have been a hundred people all wanting to help; but I can't compare Peru with Australia. They might as well be on different planets. The people here are so poor that just getting by from one day to the next is a struggle and I guess it doesn't leave much energy over for the 100's and 100's of dogs living rough. Billy was euthanized in the street where he lay, and we had a small ceremony for him as he was buried in front of the Tambopata river.
Last Saturday we started a free anti-mange programme in one of the most under-privileged neighbourhoods of Puerto. It is an area that is underwater for most of the rainy season, and the damp combined with the heat means that mange spreads like a plague. 90% of the dogs have mange in one degree or another.
Children from the flood-prone neighbourhood
Dr Boris and I went house to house treating the dogs; After we have treated one dog I always ask: How many dogs do you have? Can we see them all please. And skinny mangy creatures are brought out, most of them cowering away from human contact. Then I ask: Are there any other dogs with mange in this street? and we go on from there.
The mange programme - Boris injecting a dog
We managed to inject 18 dogs before I received an urgent call from a woman who had found a dog stuck in a sewage drain. We rushed over there and by the time we got to the dog the owner had arrived. He said the dog has been missing for 3 days. Due to our lack of suitable clothing for getting into sewage it was a difficult rescue but we managed to get a lasso round the dog and pull him out. Even then my legs and feet were covered in filth after the dog shook himself! So that put an end to the mange programme for the day: we will be out there again next Saturday and hopefully be able to treat up to 30 dogs then.
Rescuing the dog from the sewer pipe
The new shack is coming along nicely and I've actually started moving a few things in. The carpenter still hasn't finished one single job that he started! The wiring is hanging off the wall, the mosquito netting has to be properly installed or it's a waste of time; he hasn't finished painting and he keeps taking things of mine home with him!! On top of that he has run up a bill at the local shop and told the owner that I will pay it. In your dreams mate! And the water situation still hasn't been resolved as the owner of the property has to prove she's the owner before the water company will connect the pipes; but she has lost the paperwork so can't prove she is the owner. As I mentioned before, Peru could easily be on another planet from Australia.
This past week while Cathy Brown has been enjoying some sightseeing in Cusco, I´ve been busy getting the new Shack into a habitable condition. My carpenter has a short attention span so there are a mountain of jobs that he has started but not yet finished. He also wants to re-wire the Shack and put in a water supply (I wasn´t told when I rented the place that water has never been connected). We have put bars on all the windows, a new lock on the front door, mosquito netting over everything possible, and started painting. Unfortunately Joel the carpenter thought the acrylic paint looked too thick so he added water half and half. When we came to paint, the paint ran straight off the walls and 4 litres of paint had to be thrown out. We´ll get there eventually, but my idea of moving into the new Shack this week is just a dream not a reality.
Meanwhile, in the neighbourhood where the dogs and I live a new dog has appeared. He is in the same condition as Tolstoy; hairless, starving, covered with sores. I´ve tried several times to catch him but he´s afraid of humans and runs away. I´ll try again when Cathy gets back; I´ll distract the dog with food while she quickly injects tranquilizer into his back. Then off to the Shack he´ll go for a bath, some good food and lots of TLC.
Tolstoy has been with us for 8 days and at last he has got out of bed and is taking an interest in life. He´s proving to be a really sweet-natured dog. His owner kicked him out when she had a baby in case he passed germs to the baby, and Tolstoy has been living rough for 3 months. How could this woman see his suffering yet continue to ignore him?
Cathy has been quite vocal in her disgust at the way dogs are treated/mistreated in Peru. Broken bones are ignored, vet care is rarely sought for anything however grave. I constantly am told: Oh, my dog hasn´t been eating for 2 weeks, that´s why he´s so thin. So why wasn´t he taken to a vet ????? Many many people in Puerto Maldonado are grossly overweight but many many dogs are just skin and bone. The human diet here is white rice and fried chicken but all the dogs are fed is left-over rice and chicken bones; not enough to keep a dog healthy and certainly not enough protein for a growing puppy.
And there`s another strike on here in Peru: the Post Office went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday, just moments after I mailed an important parcel to Canada!
I'm back!!! Thanks to Cathy Brown for writing the Chronicles while I was in Australia, and of course for looking after some very naughty dogs. I really hit the ground running as, after 36 hours travelling, a shower and change of clothes I went straight out to look for the 2 missing dogs Gracia and Pinkie. Walked for hours looking in all the places I thought they might be, such as schools, the hospital, anywhere where food is easily found, but no luck. The next day out I went again, and late afternoon there she was, my baby Pinkie! She must have got well and truly lost but had managed to find her way back to the street where I first found her 9 months ago. Dear little girl is thinner and her pads and nails are very worn, but after 31 days on the street she is in very good condition. She had a very happy homecoming. Still no sign of Gracia unfortunately.
While I was in Australia Cathy had seen and photographed a very sick dog, so Tuesday we armed ourselves with tranquilizer, a towel, food and rubber gloves and went off to get him. Tolstoy, as Cathy named him, is only one year old and had an owner, but the owner told us she has a 2 month old baby and "doesn't want the dog to pass germs on to the baby". So she had chased Tolstoy out... she had stopped feeding him or even giving him water and he is very very sick.
Today is Tolstoy's third day in the Shack and he has spent all the time asleep except for meals and a bath. He's a lovely boy, he has a very sweet temperament and I look forward to posting photos of his progress.
Tolstoy gets his first bath
And so the hunt for Gracia will go on, and as I walk the streets looking for her I'm almost overwhelmed at the huge number of dogs who are suffering from mange. My next 'Programme' will be a mange attack! I've bought a litre of medication and so with the help of Boris and Cathy we will beat the little horrors!
MY LAST DAYS AT THE SHACK by Cathy Brown
Sat 07/07/12: The final few days at the Shack were much like any others - busy schedule of feeding and major cleaning during the mornings, with downtime in the afternoons, followed by feeding again and some minor cleaning in the evenings. At first I found everything here very confronting and overwhelming. Being here in a foreign country without knowing the language or the traditions of the people in Puerto Maldonado, in addition to being without Cristina, was rather scary. Besides, missing my family and friends in Australia didn’t help.
The work of looking after the dogs was not easy, sometimes very hard due to the harsh living conditions and the punishing elements of nature like stormy weather, myriads of vicious mosquitoes and pesky insects, etc. But I retained an air of positivity and a sense of humour. Despite my terrible allergy to mosquito bites, I wore my bite marks with honour on both legs and feet!!! But as the four weeks went by, I steadily settled into the routine of caring for the dogs, as well as adapted to living at the Shack and in Puerto Maldonado. The dogs at the Shack, despite their former history of abuse/neglect, still trust and believe in humans, showering me with endless friendliness and affection. My experience of working with these dogs brought out the strength in me. It has shown me that despite adverse conditions our animal’s instinct to survive can still triumph. It made me realise that sometimes stepping out from our comfort zone can make us more resilient. I’ve learned also to appreciate what I have back home which I previously took for granted. In the end, my experience at the Shack is not only rewarding but a great learning curve, and an exercise in self-development.
Living and working at the Shack has given me an insight into Cristina’s work here with rescuing and helping dogs. I’ve never seen so many dogs, some relatively healthy but a lot very sick and diseased living on the streets. Most have been very sadly neglected while others badly abused. It’s understandable that if the populace is poor, they are unable to look after their animals. But there is no excuse for neglect arising from ignorance, cruelty or lack of compassion. Gandhi once said that a society is judged by the way it treat its animaIs.
A lot of people in First World countries are starting to care how we are really treating our animals. But very few care enough to make sacrifices of going into a Third World country to rescue and care for its stray dogs. These people are indeed very rare, and Cristina is certainly one of them. How we wish Cristina can rescue a lot more dogs here but she needs funding and donations to help keep her program going. What Cristina is doing is just denting the surface, hopefully, in time more people will become involved in giving these street dogs a better life. A stream can someday become a river.
I’m really looking forward to Cristina returning from her break. There’s still a lot to be done. She’ll be back tomorrow to continue with her fantastic work here. I will let her have her Shack back!
WELCOME BACK, Cristina!!!
WEEK FOUR AT THE SHACK by Cathy Brown
Wed 27/06/12: The weather had been great, blue skies and increasing temperatures. There was less mud around. But the best news was that Gaby had found a home with the lovely lady, Idoya from next door who wanted another dog to keep Petalo company. Now the two pups can be together. I was informed by Idoya that Petalo is now called “ Colleta” by her small daughter. Cristina, though still feeling very sad about losing Pinkie and Gracia will be pleased that all the puppies at the Shack had now been adopted. Damian told me he was very happy with Negrito when I checked on the pup’s progress.
Gaby & Petalo with their new family
Thurs 28/06/12: I went to see Boris at his new clinic. He had been away in Arequipa for a few days and had just returned. The shutters at the clinic were down when I got there, and Boris was just getting on his motorbike. From what I could gather from our conversation, Boris was still setting up the place and would be happy for me to view it once completed. I took a photo of a woman drying out some variety of grains on the ground outside her property near the Shack. To be friendly, I asked her if it was OK to have taken her photo. Without acknowledging me, the woman got up and walked away back into her house. How strange! Maybe she couldn’t understand me and was too embarrassed to say so.
I admit I’m very linguistically challenged in Spanish. Without the help of Google Translate, my survival rate here would have been poor. Spanish is a beautiful romantic language if one knows how to speak it properly. Being a new beginner to the language, I find the verb and grammar a bit daunting. One word can change into many forms depending on the context of the sentence. Try as I may, I can’t seem to come to terms with the gender used for the nouns – female for some, male for others. The questions are asked back to front compared to English. In addition, all the rolling of the tongue with the “rrr” proves difficult for me. Genetically, having a problem with just saying “R” without it sounding like an “L”, just imagine how much more difficulty I have in pronouncing those Spanish words with loads of r’s in them. I tend to confuse not only myself, but also my listeners aka taxi-drivers. Due to that part of my brain being linguistically under-developed, I’ve now decided to make it easier for both myself and the locals by being polite and looking intelligent, just nodding my head and smiling at the end of every sentence in a conversation. It seems easier even though I wouldn’t have a clue what they are talking about! They might even be swearing at me for all I know!!!
Fri 29/06/12: Today was a national public holiday in honour of the Amazonian fishing and agricultural industries. What an appreciation from the Government. The schools and most of the bigger shops were closed for the day. Paulina and I went for a ride around town on her motorbike after lunch. We were in hope of maybe finding Pinkie or Gracia. Paulina took me past a private hospital. Nearby, we saw the saddest case of a mangiest looking dog roaming nearby. From a conversation with a store owner and a passer-by, Paulina found that the dog didn’t belong to anyone, that it came from a group of stray dogs that live around the area. He was friendly and allowed me to go near him. He was also a very young dog judging by his teeth. After eating an egg and a fried potato scallop from us, he went on his way. I was thinking how good would it be if we have some form of a rescue vehicle then and there to take the dog back to the Shack. It’s on Cristina’s wish-list.
Pitiful stray dog
Sat 30/06/12: This morning while in the backyard, I could hear whining and crying coming from next door. I thought it was Gaby suffering from separation anxiety as her family had gone out. I tried reassuring her across the concrete wall separating both properties, but the more I tried, the louder she got. It was so heart-rending I was tempted to bring her back here. Next moment the family came home, and owner Idoya was knocking on the front gate. In her arms was Zen!!! He was found over in her yard when she got home. So all the while it had been Zen crying!!! We eventually discovered how the little Houdini had got next door. There was a very narrow passage between the concrete wall and the partially completed house in front of the Shack. Somehow, Zen had managed to squeeze himself between the walls down the passage into the neighbour’s yard. Thank goodness, he didn’t get stuck!!! Both ends of the escape route had now been blocked. Zen wasn’t happy he couldn’t get out anymore that way, and showed his displeasure by sitting and howling near the site periodically through the rest of the day.
Another week or so, Cristina would be back. She must be so excited. Cristina would also be drawing the winner of the hamper donated for the fund-raising at her daughter’s new Cruelty-free shop in Sydney the next day. Good luck to the winner! I hoped the fund-raising was a resounding success.
Sun 01/07/12: It had not rained since early Monday. Today was very hot and humid. I went to the market to get another pair of rubber sandals since the last pair was demolished by one of the dogs. I looked for the poor female dog with the nasty skin problem I had spotted the previous Saturday, but she wasn’t there. Paulina’s sister Germania visited with her son this afternoon. As I hadn’t done much exploration since I arrived, we decided to go for a walk along the river edge near the Shack. The river embankments were muddy and slippery. The vegetation was thick and difficult to negotiate. After nearly slipping down a few times, sweating and nearly collapsing from the heat, we did not even complete a couple of hundred metres before heading back to the Shack. Luke-warm Coca-cola had never tasted so good!!!
Magdalena had promised to meet me at the Shack towards evening to show me Cristina’s new rented house. She rang me midweek apologising for not turning up last Sunday as she had too much work. She insisted in showing me the property this weekend. But once again, she failed to turn up. There was no phone-call from her to say why it was cancelled. From personal experience, I find that the people here never show up on time for appointments. They are always up to an hour late at least. They seldom ring beforehand to say cancel an appointment, they just never show up. Most times, they would call a few days later to apologise. Frustrating it is, but I heard it is a “customary thing” among the locals.
Mon 02/07/12: The days remain sunny, without a drop of rain. The grounds are getting less boggy and the grass is growing tall in the yards and need trimming. Using a lawn-mover wasn’t an option, so I decided to try a machete to hopefully pare back some. Never been trained in any form of martial-arts, especially one using a long sharp object, handling a machete would prove very challenging if not dangerous. My inner wisdom told me not to try it as I might do myself some serious damage but my outer determination was to do battle with the long grass. After a couple of unsuccessful rounds, I surrendered. It wasn’t as easy as I thought!!! Greens =1, Me=0.
The new system of feeding the dogs was working like a dream. Everyone seemed a lot happier. Each dog had learned to eat its own allocation, even incorrigible Machito had learned to sit waiting for his to be given. There was still some conflict but only over the empty bowls at the end of feed. Dogs will always be dogs. And just like naughty children, they still needed to be supervised very closely.
Feeding time at the Shack
Tues 03/07/12: Since I arrived, I’ve been interested in the neighbourhood of Puerto Capitania which I first saw during my walk from the Tambopata Hostel. Cristina had informed me about the very poor condition of the street dogs there. So my curiosity was roused. As it was a fine and relatively cool day, I decided to go and visit this place. It sadly reminded me of an old frontier town that the past century had gladly left behind. After walking down some side streets, the depressing conditions of the houses and dogs convinced me why so few tourists visit. Any tour agencies would prefer to keep this part of town hidden away…..forever.
The dogs at the Shack are indeed fortunate to be rescued by Cristina. They were once very badly neglected or abused, but now dearly loved and well cared for. Not to make their stories any less important, there are still hundreds of dogs out there waiting to be saved from a miserable existence. Cristina’s dogs also live happily as a cohesive social group here only until there was food. Then it was a free for all. Being pack/social animals, they tend to suffer from separation anxiety just like humans. It was a reason why they always tried to escape through the gate every time Cristina or I left the property. This also occurred when there were visitors and the path to freedom was open. It was an all or nothing principle for these dogs. Being street dogs they were used to roaming freely, not given to any rules or commands. They were not used to and hated being restrained. Besides, being cruel, it was logistically difficult to chain up all the six dogs each time one wishes to go out.
I was having constant stress and fear of the dogs escaping, having to bring/lure them back and facing the potential of some running way not returning. After the incident with Pinkie and Gracia, I wasn’t prepared to risk any dogs while Cristina was away. Therefore, I’d implemented a plan of reducing/minimising the amount of high anxiety to me and the dogs when leaving the house. Dogs are uncanny in sensing when the owners are getting ready to go out. This plan of mine involved the conditioning of all the dogs to stay inside the house by my securing the doors, and leaving them there for a few minutes, rewarding them with some titbits for being good when I came back in. I kept increasing the time away from them till they started getting conditioned to my being away. At first, I could hear them barking and whining, but they soon settled when they knew I was still there. It was a matter of trying to trick the doggies’ brains into thinking I was there all the time when I wasn’t!!! It took time and lots patience of course, but at least I knew the dogs would be safe within the house when I was out. Man considers the dog to be a best friend. To the dog, food is very important. It loves food as much as its human companion, sometimes the two are interchangeable depending on the situation. But what the dog will always attempt to show you when treated right is that: Give a dog an ounce of love, it will give you back a pound of affection. Ask our Shack’s dogs, they will tell you!!!
WEEK THREE AT THE SHACK by Cathy Brown
Wed 20/06/12: Hot and sweaty after all the cleaning during the morning, I was looking forward to a nice cold refreshing shower. The workmen working on the roof next door, however, were looking directly into the open-top shower/cleaning cubicle. Damn it! I really needed that shower, should have brought a swim-suit along... but then I didn’t want anyone falling off the roof either! Never mind, I would just have to wait until they finished, which was a greater part of the day. Then all of a sudden, the water supply went off! When I did finally have my next shower, I enjoyed it twice as much! Sweetie had gone off his food, and had that extra hangdog look. I tried him with an egg in milk for morning feed, which he slowly lapped up. I didn’t want to see him sick.
Great news! The house that Cristina has been interested in has finally become vacant and for rent. When I messaged Cristina she was so excited she felt like coming back straight away. I notified the friend to inform the landlord that Cristina would rent the house which is close by. I was so happy for Cristina. Boris would be moving into his new clinic the next day. I looked forward to bringing the two puppies home. Hopefully, it might change the dynamics within the social group at the Shack. The other dogs might stop hassling poor Petalo. Boris asked me to meet him at his old clinic at noon the following day to collect the pups.
Plaza de Armas (town centre)
Thurs 21/06/12: Sweetie was eating again this morning. What a relief! However Petalo was still hiding under the stove from the others, only coming out for her feeds. It was heartbreaking to see her cowering every time the other dogs came near her. I accidently set Cristina’s stove cloth cover on fire while trying to rescue her the evening before.
I went to meet Boris at his clinic as arranged. The store was already vacant inside with a couple of empty carry-cages. No Boris or pups there. I asked his receptionist where Boris or the two pups were. She started talking really fast, and of course I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. I was starting to feel really frustrated when, thank goodness, Paulina came by on an errand from school. We learned that both pups had escaped, and the receptionist didn’t know where Boris was either. We couldn’t contact him on his mobile. Since, the clinic was situated on a very busy main street, I started panicking. I didn’t want the puppies to get run over. Paulina and I searched for them in the nearby areas, and eventually, hallelujah, found both pups hiding together in the restaurant next door to the clinic. We were delirious with joy to see them. Then Boris turned up. He knew I wasn’t happy! Puppies got a lovely bath, and their nails clipped back at the Shack. They both really enjoyed the attention, afterwards looking and feeling a million dollars, I bet. I also started them on Revolution for worms and mange. I named the female pup “Gaby” after Paulina’s little grandson Gabriel Juan. Her much smaller brother became “Negrito”. His name was a combination of “negri”, which means 9 in Malay as he was going to be the 9th addition to the number of dogs at the Shack, and “negro” as he was black in colour.
One of the young workmen had decided to adopt Negrito on a trial basis, and was taking him this evening. I told him about the harmless fatty lump I found on Negrito’s back. The new owner was given firm instructions to bring Negrito back if the adoption didn’twork out, and not to give the pup to someone else. Late in the afternoon, Leroy from the Tambopata Hostel brought over the dog he had rescued from his aunt. Poor Ruby was so badly treated and neglected, she was in extremely poor condition and had lost most of her hair from mange. She was really timid and in a bad state. She was only 7 years old but had lost most of her teeth. I started her on mange treatment at once, and asked Leroy to help me bathe her with some special medicated shampoo once she was more settled. Leroy promised to return on the following Monday.
This evening, Ruby wouldn’t eat and kept going to the gate. I finally brought her in from the dark, settling her into a corner away from the other dogs. Hopefully, she would settle overnight and become more confident towards me. How heartbreaking!!!
Gaby and Negrito
Fri 22/06/12: Morning – sad news! Ruby had a quiet night, but still wouldn’t eat. While I was cleaning at the back, she escaped by digging underneath the gate and squeezing through. Poor baby!!! I hoped she had gone home to her owner however miserable an existence she was having there, rather than getting lost. I was concerned and went to the Hostel to tell Leroy what happened. I asked Leroy to check at his aunt’s place to see if Ruby was there. We discussed to leave Ruby there for the time being until Cristina has moved into her new property where it might be more secure.
Afternoon – good news! The owner of the new house next door wanted a dog. Little Petalo had a new home to go to!!! YeeHaa! She looked healthy enough to go, her skin having cleared up well, and she was fast turning into a cute little fat pup. It was also heaven-sent, as the other dogs still wouldn’t leave her alone despite having another pup Gaby around. Now Petalo can be free of her persecutors!!! It had been fine for a few days but it started raining during the afternoon which lasted through the evening.
Puppy Petalo in her new home
Sat 23/06/12: Gaby was doing well. She had regained her puppy confidence, following me around. She even wanted to sleep with Zen and me in our hammock. I supposed the more the merrier even though it was starting to get a bit crowded. The other dogs seemed to be leaving her alone. Maybe being older than Petalo, she had the sense to defend herself and/or how to follow a pack’s social order. I was positive Gaby would find a good home eventually. I sent a text message to Leroy’s mobile to see if Ruby was found, but there was reply from him.
It was overcast and looking like rain again, but I decided to venture out to the markets. I noticed more stores were open today being the weekend. The crowds and dust were also much heavier. There were a few dogs hanging around, but I noticed a particularly sad looking, very mangy female dog with pendulous teats. She was wearing a blue collar. If she had an owner, I wasn’t impressed. She became wary as I tried to approach her. I wasn’t sure how she would react if I were to handle her, so I backed off. Maybe I could keep an eye out for her every time I went to the markets. Cristina, on her return, might be able to assist me in giving her a sedative or tranquilliser, if required, during the rescue as she badly needed treatment. I wondered if Cristina had seen her around at the markets. I nearly kicked myself for not taking a photo of that dog. She reminded me of how Sweetie might have looked before he was rescued, treated and growing hair again.
On the way back to the Shack, I checked on Petalo at her new home. I was glad the owner was feeding her puppy food. The new owner was obviously following my instructions on Petalo’s care.
Sun 24/06/12: It started out a good morning. All the cleaning was done, the washing was drying beautifully outside. Then suddenly down came a torrential downpour. Everything got wet again! There was mud galore, little footprints all over the clean floor. The floor looked worse than ever before. Hey, I thought this was supposed to be the dry season here! I had never seen so much rain since I arrived.
Leroy still hadn’t responded to my text. Magdalena, who was supposed to meet me at the Shack this morning to show me Cristina’s new rental house never turned up. I messaged her to find out what was happening but she did not reply. I really needed that extra cup of tea. I watched some episodes of the hilarious “Big Bang Theory” from my hard-drive just to unwind. I realised it was only a matter of relativity when it came to stress. Nothing could be as stressful as that Sheldon’s character in the show! I also took the time to finally reply to some emails from friends and family inquiring how I was surviving in this part of the world.
Gaby was responding well to all the love and attention but I noticed she had started jumping up at the table, especially towards feeding time. Not wanting Gaby to pick up that bad habit, plus pulling anything that resembled food off the table, like our Machito, I tried training her on some “sit” and “stay” commands. It was a virtually impossible exercise. All the other dogs were crowding around wanting their share of titbit rewards, and wouldn’t leave us alone. Keeping the dogs inside the house, and training Gaby outside was not an option as the grounds were muddy. So it was time for another cuppa.
Mon 25/06/12: I woke up this morning to Machito’s chewing away at one of my rubber thong sandals. Oh, no... not my favourite pair; but it was completely ruined. Well, it looked like I would have to buy another pair at the markets. This time I would hide them. Machito would chew anything!!! It was however going to be a sunny day. With a renewed burst of energy, I wanted to re-wash the floor, even though I was realistic in that the muddy paw-prints would return. But Alas! The water supply got turned off without any warning!!! It had been happening nearly every day, a sheer nuisance. Today it was off for over 7 hours. What was happening? Water restriction? If so, it was ironical, so much rain, yet no water!!! Paulina called by with some more milk and bread for the dogs. When I told her there was no water, she just pointed to the river and laughed. What a comedian, Paulina our god-send!!!
Government building - Ministry of the Interior
Tues 26/06/12: The dogs had been very restless in the night, they would not settle down, and were barking intermittently. Zen was continually getting out of the hammock, then wanting to get back in again. He was getting so heavy, I had some trouble trying to get him up. While doing so, I nearly fell out of the hammock twice. So in the end, he got evicted. Dear sweet Gaby slept through it all. Then the thunderstorm came! No wonder the dogs were acting strangely. Talk about them having a sixth-sense!!! With the disturbed sleep and noises, my allergy to mosquito bites came back with a vengeance. I started scratching both my feet like crazy. Though I was using protection every night I somehow still got bitten. This night was terrible, and truly itchy.
With all the chores done, I headed off into town to re-stock some supplies. There were many men digging and excavating nearby alongside the roads. Several large holes were present in just one area. It might the reason why the water supply was off yesterday. The Peruvians must do hell of a lot of excavation for the frequent disruption of water supply. Maybe, just maybe….the Council or Local Government should send some of these men to do some cleaning up of all the mess and littering seen everywhere. It was a depressing sight to be surrounded by so much rubbish. It would be so fantastic to have a “Clean Peru Day” like in Australia. Or am I dreaming??? I headed straight over on the back of my favourite transport (yes, you guessed it) to see Leroy who informed me that Ruby had indeed gone back home and was alright. Thank goodness for that! What a feeling of relief... but walking in the main centre of town later, I heard a loudspeaker blaring away. There were some men on top of a truck towing a small open cage with some lions in it. The circus was in Puerto Maldonado. What a pitiful sight to see such magnificent animals caged up against what Mother Nature had intended. If there was ever a case of blatant cruelty on show, this was it!!! I felt very sad for the rest of the day. Arriving home this afternoon, I gave all the dogs some extra titbits to show them how much they were being loved and protected at the Shack. And getting so spoiled!
Zen in my hammock
Even though Pinkie and Gracia have been missing for nearly 3 weeks, I won't give up hope that one day we will see them again.
WEEK TWO AT THE SHACK by Cathy Brown
Wed 13/06/12: The shack is situated very close to the large Tambopata River. Early every morning I can hear boat engines going along the river. After very heavy rains, the muddy looking water looks even muddier. The river boats are the only mode of transport for both people and also agricultural products, like bananas and other fruits, from further up river to bring to the markets. After the day’s cleaning, and as the weather was sunny and warm, which I like, I decided to visit and learn more about the town of Puerto Maldonado. It’s good to learn about the lifestyle and local culture although not knowing the language poses some problem. But that’s what travelling is all about. Besides, it gave me another chance to ride on one of those fantastic taxi-motorcycles. It was rather addictive. But, hey, it only costs one sol (less than 1 Aussie dollar) for any distance into town, what a value!!!
Boats on the Tambopata River
Finding an exercise book for my Spanish lessons proved much more difficult. I just couldn’t find any stationary store in town. The only art supply shop near the Plaza does not carry any. After walking several blocks, I finally bought a children’s writing or calligrafic book, as the locals call it here, at a printing/fax store. Better than none, I suppose. Another thing about Puerto Maldonado that surprises me is the large number of small chemists or pharmacies (botticas) and mobile recharge stores here. Nearly every other store is one of these. And not forgetting, heaps of bars!!! Yet, green leafy vegetables are hard to come by at both the local markets and the two supermarkets in town. Whatever greens are available, they look so wilted and sad like the street dogs around. As for any frozen or canned vegetables, a real big NADA! None available, whatsoever. But fruits are plentiful, relatively cheap as well. The Peruvians here are fairly poor and subsist on a staple diet of rice, mainly chicken for meat, and some root vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are obviously not on their menu.
Back at the Shack: When I was leaving for town today, Sweetie and Machito escaped through the gate (ongoing problem). Of course, open to freedom, they refused to get back in. However, as always, they would eventually return on their own. But while waiting for a taxi at the local store, I spotted a dog that looked very much like Pinkie. So I carried it back to the Shack. Pinkie, you’re finally found!!! I was really over the moon. Cristina would be so relieved as she was really worried about poor nervous, non-streetwise Pinkie, and also Gracia.
Thurs 14/06/12: Quiet day, usual routine of feeding and cleaning. I caught up with some computer work and Spanish learning. But guess what? I found out today that the dog I brought back to the Shack yesterday was actually Machito, not Pinkie as I thought!!! A case of mistaken identity? Both dogs look quite similar, except that Machito is a male, and Pinkie a girl. What a gaffe!!! At least Machito was back. Not being able to speak much Spanish, and certainly unfamiliar with the neighbourhood or surrounding areas, I was feeling totally helpless in looking for Pinkie and Gracia. When Paulina came over this evening with some more milk and bread for the Shack (the dogs just love their bread), she and I discussed, through Google Translate of course, how we could go looking for the dogs. Paulina offered to help me find them the next day. She said she knew them, also where they might possibly be. Meanwhile, Sweetie was over at her house. He often wanders over to her place for a few days. Good news from Paulina that puppy Jesus has now found a new owner through one of her students. She took him back to her house.
Fri 15/06/12: Cloudy day. It had been drizzling rain on and off. I visited the two pups at Boris’ clinic. The female pup’s mange has nearly gone, but the infection is still a problem for her smaller brother. Both, previously so abused and neglected, are now getting some loving and attention. While at the clinic, one of Boris’ clients came in with a problem about his dog’s sore leg at home. So Boris hopped onto the back of his client’s motorbike, and off they went on his house call. This is vetting in Peru!!! After work this evening, Paulina took me on her bike around town. We paid particular attention to the areas around the Santa Rosa Hospital that Paulina suspected Gracia and Pinkie might be hanging out. But we could not see them. Though disappointed, we were able to salvage the trip by Paulina showing me some sight-seeing in PM. We went over the Puenta Continental, the new bridge linking Peru to Brazil, and also visiting some of the outer villages. Later on, we had a meal, surprisingly, at a Chinese restaurant. Ahhh… how I enjoyed that food!!! I’ve been craving for some Chinese cuisine since arriving. I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
Puenta Continental Bridge
Sat 16/06/12: Sweetie came home during the morning. The sun was out but the low clouds looked threatening. As it had rained yesterday, I decided to do the major weekly cleaning and washing this morning instead of tomorrow. Why wait? Everything dries fast here if it’s not raining. Alas, during the afternoon, there was a massive thunderstorm and heavy torrential rains!!! The roof of the shack started leaking, leaving some very big puddles on the kitchen/food preparation floor. Thank goodness, the sleeping area and dogs’ beddings were spared. The power supply also went off. The backyard got flooded out again. There were fallen branches and leaves everywhere in both yards. It was an experience I did not need!!! Cleaning to be done once the storm passed.
Planks across the flooded back yard
Sun 17/06/12: It was going to be a sunny day but the backyard was still partially under water. Hopefully, most of it would dry out enough for me to continue removing the litter from the storm. The dogs did not want to go outdoors due to the wet grounds. Smart doggies!!! My pre-emptive action yesterday was proven correct. I was invited to Paulina for lunch, and met her family. The meal was lovely – fried vegetarian rice with lemony lettuce and big ears of corns. As for her four-month old grandson Gabriel Juan, what a real cutie-pie. The rescued dogs at Paulina are looking healthy and contented, having free access in out of the yard. Little Jesus will be going to his new home tomorrow morning. His hair had all grown back, and what a healthy handsome pup he has become!!!
Dogs on the patio
Mon 18/06/12: The main area around the back door and the pathway to the cleaning/showering cubicle were still submerged today. I’ve noticed that the water has not been draining away. The slope of the ground, and the new retaining wall from the house being built next door, are stopping the runoff from the cubicle and any rains from draining away properly. It will only get worse with the summer rains. Mosquitos and flies are very bad here in this region of the Amazon. I’ve been scooping up the water from around the back entrance every day to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. I’m also trying to reduce the amount of run-off by recycling the “grey water” from washing, using it daily to flush and clean out the concrete block the dogs use for their toileting. Hopefully, this will also keep the number of flies and other insects down. Leaking roof, continually flooded yard, no proper bathroom or toilet. From my experience here, I can honestly say that conditions at the Shack are very harsh and unacceptable, really. Without doubts, Cristina is doing it very tough. Like her, why don’t we try to make a difference, by donating what we can towards “Peru Street Dogs”, and urging all our friends to do likewise? Please help Cristina move to a much better property where she can continue with her great work.
Tues 19/06/12: Meantime life continues at the Shack. The dogs are doing well though still no news/sightings on Pinkie and Gracia. Puppy Petalo is putting on some weight and body condition, her ringworm almost gone. The puppies at Boris are slowly getting over their mange but still need a lot of attention and socialisation. I hope to fetch them back here very soon. Sweetie had some ticks on him when he returned from Paulina... they were rapidly removed. I’ve noticed he has been refusing his morning feeds, only eating at night. Otherwise, he is bright and relatively active. Like Puppyface, he just likes lying on his bed, only joining in when the others bark. Some of the dogs are more active, just like Machito, especially at the sight or sound of food. Dogs are pack animals, the dominant ones getting more food, the submissive ones usually missing out. As expected, feeding time at the Shack is often chaotic and frantic, if not downright frustrating and stressful. Dogs being intelligent, can usually be trained or managed through positive reinforcement with food. Therefore, I’m trying out a new system/routine at feeding time by using food itself as a reward to modify behaviour. By feeding the most submissive one aka puppy Petalo first, I try to train the more dominant dogs, like Machito and Zen, to wait. So far it is working, I’m glad to say. The dogs are now learning to be more patient when given their food, each starting to eat from their own food bowl, without trying to steal from the others or fight. However, I’m also noticing that some of the other dogs are now picking on puppy Petalo, the biggest culprit being Pia! She often tries to attack the pup, so much so that Petalo has taken to hiding behind the stove. Could it possibly be that the dogs here are getting confused about their pack order? In the canine kingdom, according to their social order, the dominant ones always feed first, not the more submissive. It’s an interesting thought anyhow.
Petalo hiding under the stove
MY FIRST WEEK AT THE SHACK IN PUERTO MALDONADO by Cathy Brown
Wed 06/06/12: The day I finally arrived. After a long gruelling 36 hours’ trip from Australia, it was a delight and a half to see Cristina waiting patiently for me at the airport. I’m so very glad to be able to help Cristina while she goes home to have some badly-needed and well deserved R & R. Only three days before Cristina leaves. With a feeling of trepidation, I also felt excited at the challenge facing me in the next four weeks. Cristina took me back to the Shack for an introduction to her 9 dogs present – Milagro, Sweetie, Puppyface, Pia, Pinkie, Machito, Zen, Gracia and Petalo. She has done a wonderful job looking after them. Except for little puppy Petalo, all the dogs look healthy and very active. The poor baby, recently rescued from a schoolyard, however, looked runty and timid. Sweetie’s hair is slowly growing back. Another dog, Blanka went AWOL a few days ago, yet to return. Yes, life at the Shack will be interesting. Later on, following a delicious local cuisine of fried plaintain, omelette and rice at a restaurant which Cristina took me to, I checked into the Tambopata Hostel which Cristina has kindly booked so I can get some proper rest. Cristina told me it rained heavily the day before, and the weather had suddenly turned exceptionally cold. I was so looking forward to a lovely warm shower, but alas there was no supply of any hot water in the whole town!!! So I took a quick cold shower and jumped into bed for some long overdue sleep. The bed felt so comfortable, it was total bliss!!!
Beautiful Andes near Cusco
Thurs 07/06/12: After a good night of sleep I was served a lovely breakfast at the hostel, cooked by Leroy. However, the weather was still cold and damp. I did some exploration along the riverside of the Rio Madre de Dios where the hostel is situated. Interestingly, in a village by the river I could see many street/stray dogs hanging around and scrounging for food. Later on that morning I officially moved into the Shack. Cristina and I then went to Dr. Boris’ clinic to see how the puppies were doing from a neglected case. We were very shocked to see Petalo’s brother, Jesus, still in a cage when he should have been rehomed the day before. Dr.Boris explained that the new owner had brought Jesus back that morning as the pup, when left alone, had cried all night. So we decided to take Jesus back with us to the Shack. He sure was happy to be reunited with his sister. Unfortunately, both of the pups have come down with ringworm, so we went and bought treatment from a pharmacy which we commenced straight away.
Near the Rio Madre de Dios
Friday 08/06/12: Cristina and I went to check on the pups at the clinic today. Both are very scrawny, needing treatment and lots of TLC and extra nutrition. Cristina brought them eggs and also some newspaper to line their cold cages. Meanwhile, new homes are being sought for them. Cristina also took me to a primary school to give out some animal stickers and lollies to the students. The children there are all so affectionate and loving, they could not stop hugging us. They presented Cristina with some lovely gifts they had made. Earlier on when we were leaving the Shack for the school, six of Cristina’s dogs escaped while we were at the gate. They tried to follow us in our motortaxi, despite all attempts to lure them back to the Shack. Four of the dogs returned later that day, but two were still missing - Pinkie and Gracia. We hoped they would come back on their own, although Pinkie has no road/street sense whatsoever. That evening, Cristina and I had a farewell dinner with her friends, Paulina and Germania, and their kids at the El Hornico Restaurant. The Lonely Planet’s Guide is right. The vegetarian pizza we ate there was just so yummy!!!
Sat 09/06/12: Finally the day when Cristina was due to leave. Feeling both excited at going, as well as worried for her missing dogs, poor Cristina went looking for them at the nearby markets. However her search was unsuccessful. During the morning, I went into town with some more eggs for the pups at the vet clinic, sitting back-pillon on a taxi motorcycle. The ride was both hair-raising and fun, zipping in and out of traffic. Thank goodness I did not fall off. Hardly any cars here in Puerto Maldonado, but gazillions of motorbikes everywhere!!! Cristina left for the airport that afternoon. I wished her all the very best for her trip.
Cristina accepting her gifts from the children
Sun 10/06/12: My first day without Cristina. Got up very early, had loads to do – usual feeding and cleaning, but also weekly sanitising of floors and washing of all the dogs’ beddings. Being muddy outside after the recent rains, the dogs, especially the pups, all had a wonderful time walking onto the washed floors leaving their little paw-prints everywhere! Trying to negotiate the wooden planks to get to the water-tap in the boggy backyard after the very recent rains, was another challenge. With the energising music coming from a nearby dance-club/hotel, doing the Macarena on the planks would have been downright hazardous! Fortunately, the weather had fined up to become gloriously sunny. The washing got dried in no time and the doggies were back comfortably on their beds by early afternoon. The day passed quickly. That night Cristina, while in transit, rang for news on the still missing dogs. By then, I was thoroughly exhausted after the day’s work. Constantly cleaning up after the pups was so physically tiring, I literally fell into my hammock. Not being used to sleeping in one, sharing a hammock with a dog (Zen) and the two pups definitely took some skill! But at midnight, the loud Macarena music was still in full swing, keeping me awake. Eventually, I managed to doze off, preparing for the next day.
Back yard at the Shack
Mon 11/06/12: Woke up at 5.30am by the neighbourhood roosters, and attended to the mess made by the dogs from the night before. Fed the pups their first meal of the day around 6.15am ( they were just starving ) and preparing the older dogs’ food which was given around 7am. Then I had a cup of tea and some soya porridge while waiting for their post-meal ablution, before getting stuck into the sweeping and cleaning. Having all that accomplished by mid–morning, I decided to have a shower. It was going to be another sunny day but the morning was still cold. The water was freezing. I will never take running hot water for granted, ever again!!! Late morning, I headed into town, once again on a taxi motorbike. It was starting to be fun! Had a nice lunch in a cafeteria near the main town centre, only after some painful ordering from a menu-board. I must definitely improve on my ultra-limited Spanish vocabulary!!! I then went to the vet clinic with some eggs from a supermarket for the pups. One of them was supposed to be rehomed the previous day but was still there. It seemed the potential owner never turned up. It was distressing as those pups really need some loving homes and plenty of love and cuddles. Dr. Boris indicated he will continue looking for their new homes. This evening was quiet. All the dogs, except for wayward Machito, had been fed and settled by 6pm. He escaped again while I was leaving for town today. Still hadn’t returned. There were also no signs of the other missing dogs. I relaxed back with my Kindle. The night sleep however was being disrupted by continual distance barking, which somehow unsettled the dogs, and setting up our own chorus at the Shack!!!
Puppy Jesus loves his food bowl
Tues 12/06/12: Another glorious day, and getting hotter. Machito came back early this morning and was waiting at the gate to be let in. Routine chores and shower taken care of, I decided to stay home today. Managed to do a physical examination on the dogs. They were de-wormed again on Sunday. So far, I haven’t noticed any worm eggs in their poo. The two pups, Jesus and Petalo are constantly wanting and looking for food despite getting fed 4–5 times a day. Their poos were starting to get loose from too much milk, so I had cut back on their milk intake and started them on some calcium supplement. There was no change in their skin infection with the new treatment. As for Sweetie, his hair continues to be growing back although he’s still scratching at times. Clean bill of health on the others, although little Milagro, for some reason, keeps staring at the walls with his tongue hanging out (how cute)!!! Following a good feed, Machito had been curled up in a corner asleep. Puppyface is as sweet as ever. Pia enjoys being the boss on my chair at the table. Playful little Zen is getting real close and personal wanting to share my hammock with me every night. I hoped the night was going to be much quieter. The end of my first week settling into the Shack.
Being puppies is such hard work!
After a week of stiflingly hot weather, today it turned cold, just as my replacement arrived from Australia to care for the dogs while I go home for some R and R with my family. Cathy Brown is a vet from Sydney, and she has brought over to Peru some great new medicines for the dogs; the best being pain relief for dogs after they have surgery. I was at the airport to meet Cathy as she came off the plane exhaustedbut smiling from a 36 hour trip. We went straight home to the Shack where the dogs jumped all over her, leaving mud on her light coloured jacket. Bad dogs! They were so excited that they almost knocked Cathy over with their welcome. She has gone to a hostel for the night and will move in with us tomorrow.
Cathy arriving in Puerto Maldonado
The littlest member of the dog family is Petal, and Cathy and I have decided she is MUCH too small to be adopted yet, that she MUST stay here for at least another month. Ha Ha, any excuse to have the baby around for longer.
During this week I removed 2 puppies from a yard where they have been living in filth and disease all of their poor lives. There were 3 puppies when I first was shown them, but in the 15 hours between seeing them and returning with a cage, sadly one puppy died. The woman who had them is quite well-off and there is no excuse for the state the pups were in. Shut in a dirty yard with no human contact, only 8 weeks old, starving, infected mange and possible Parvovirus, these poor little creatures tried to bite me as I put them in a cage. They are now with Dr Boris who is treating them for parasites, giving them their first ever bath, and some much needed vitamins. They had never even been given a name. Already I've found a home for the male: when he's well enough he will go to be the playmate of a Chihuahua. I'll let you know how the female gets on.
The next few Chronicles will come from Cathy who has kindly agreed to write about what she'll be doing and her impressions of Puerto Maldonado.
On Monday Boris the vet and I had a long discussion about the need for an ambulance here in Puerto Maldonado. He thought it was a good idea, I have serious doubts. When a car or motorbike hits a dog here the driver doesn't bother to stop. The animal is left to survive or die, depending on how severely injured s/he is. Therefore I can't see anyone bothering to phone for an ambulance. That night I canvassed friends as to their opinion and the result was 100% saying No, the people wouldn't use it.. and so I went back to Boris and we talked some more, this time I put forward the idea of a mobile clinic. A van set up to handle operations, treatments, consultations, and Boris could go to all the communities on a regular basis with on-going treatments for mange, contraception injections, etc.
The idea of the ambulance is a good one in a place where dogs are valued. Sadly that is not the case in P.M. This was born out on Tuesday afternoon when a taxi driver noticed a dog lying beside a busy road. He asked around and was told the dog had been run over 2 days before. Noboby had done a thing to help this poor animal who had been left in full sun for 2 days in around 34 deg. Celcius heat with no water, no food, no shade, unable to move. This kind and caring man called me and then took the dog straight to Dr Boris, where I met up with him. We named the dog Moreno. He was a mess: covered in mange, his pelvis shattered and one leg broken. He had been so long without help that infections had set in and his leg was gangreneous. While I held Moreno and the taxi driver cried, he was euthanized.
Alison with Willie
Meanwhile, the 3 puppies I have had with me for 9 days are growing up fast, although little Petal is lagging behind her brothers. Willie went to his forever home today and I think he will be much loved by Alison and her mother. The family have one puppy who is lonely so Willie will be his little friend. It was really sad saying goodbye to him, I thought I wasn't so attached to him but as soon as he went out of sight I had to wipe away a few tears. But I'm happy for him. Really I am. The tears are happy tears. That's what I keep telling people.
Just when I thought no way can I fit another dog in the Shack without building more rooms, I get landed with 3 tiny puppies! Their mother gave birth in a school yard, and these three are the survivors of 8. We had to remove them from the school as the children were treating them as toys and at only 4 weeks old the puppies were having a hard time. My goodness, they are so sweet! I've never had much to do with puppies before as the dogs I take in are all adults. These little darlings have won my heart; I have named them Petal, Jesus and Willie. Petal because she is delicate and pretty, and Jesus and Willie are the names of 2 boys who study English with me... but of course they will have to be adopted out. In fact, there is a person willing to take 2 of them when they are old enough, and their mother is going to be sterilised on Saturday.
Petal, Jesus and Willie
The rest of the week has been busy: I have painted the two rooms of the Shack ready for Cathy Brown who is coming to Peru from Australia to care for the dogs while I go home for some R and R. As well, I now have 2 Face Book pages, thanks to Maxine Heasman from England, and Nic Brown (daughter of Cathy) from Sydney. On Facebook check out Peru Street Dogs, and Help Cristina and the Peru Street Dogs. Both pages are amazing and I'm so grateful to these 2 wonderful people for their help in increasing awareness by giving publicity to the plight of street dogs.
It has been raining all week - so much for it now being the dry season! Boris the vet came to my barrio to treat some of the local street dogs and I took him to the Tambopata River as he'd never seen it before. Unfortunately he slipped and fell into the river! The river is in flood and I was very scared he would be washed away so I was screaming at him to give me his hand. Thankfully Boris has a sense on humour, and although he was wet up to his chest and covered in mud when he managed to get out we almost collapsed laughing. Poor thing had to go home and change before he could go back to work.
What is very sad about abandoned dogs is that when they were sweet looking babies they were loved, played with, fed regularly. Then suddenly when they grew up the door was shut in their faces and they were on their own in the street: unloved, unwanted, left to scrounge food from garbage. Street dogs are forced to live the rest of their lives like this... fighting other dogs over a bag of mouldy bread or the contents of a baby's nappy; getting food any way they can; always being yelled at to get away or having stones thrown at them, and they become afraid of humans.
When I bring these poor sick dogs home to the Shack they usually spend the first week hiding behind a door, but within a short time they start to relax. Their personalities revert to being just like 'normal' dogs. They stop fighting over food when they realise that they will be fed regularly twice a day. No longer do they cower at the sight of the broom or run and hide if I throw a ball anywhere near them. It is truly wonderful to watch the dogs' transformation. Playful, relaxed, fun-loving creatures again, they race round and round the Shack, roll in the long grass, play chasing, act like regular happy dogs. Which makes me want to rescue ALL the street dogs who have had to learn to ignore their need for love and instead to put all their energy into survival, bring them all home and make them happy again.
Sweetie was one of these abandoned dogs. The first week that I was in Puerto Maldonado I found him living on waste land and he has been with me now for almost 2 years. He is an extraordinary dog in that he senses my feelings and tries to 'put things right'. If the other dogs are sick he stays with them, sleeps by their side. He breaks up fights and keeps control over the younger dogs. Just yesterday I saw Sweetie in action: one of the young dogs, Machito, escaped when I opened the gate to go to work. Machito ran up and down in front of me, ducking away everytime I tried to grab him and I was getting more and more stressed. Sweetie wandered up to Machito, bowled him over and kept a paw on him until I could pick him up and put him inside the gate! Sweetie was a street dog, he was in the most awful state when I first saw him, and although his health will never be very good due to his hard years he is quite the most intelligent and wonderful dog. He stares into my eyes as if trying to read my mind. I hope he can see there the love that I have for him.
Puerto Maldonado is in the grip of more unrest: the miners'strike is over, but now it's the turn of the teachers. The government has decided to close many country schools as they say there is no money to pay for teachers, and so all the public schools in the Madre de Dios area have closed as a protest against the government. The strike is now in its third week and things are grim. Parents are arriving in Puerto Maldonado, most with babies/small children in tow; they join the teachers and march with banners during the day and sleep on classroom floors at night. They arrive after hours of standing up in cattle trucks and go home at the weekends the same way. The Teachers Union is feeding them twice a day but it is unsure how long this can continue as they are also having to pay the teachers. The market and many shops in town are closed in solidarity with the strike.
Mothers and babies beside a cattle truck
In every school yard in this part of Peru dogs scavenge through rubbish bins and are fed by the children. The dogs live their lives at the schools. The strike has affected the school yard dogs badly; their food source has dried up and many of the dogs are starving. In the school where my friend is a teacher, one of the resident dogs gave birth a week ago to 8 puppies. She has them hidden under some plywood at the back of a garden. With no food in the bins she is starving, and so we are feeding her daily and keeping an eye on the health of her babies. They are truly a small miracle in the midst of political unrest and chaos.
Puppies in the school yard
I would like to thank the very kind and generous people of the UK for their donations through this web page. It is with your help that we can make sure these poor unfortunate dogs are fed regularly and get veterinary care when they need it. Thank you
Part of my work here in Peru is to talk to people who want their dogs or cats sterilized, I explain about our programme, tell them where to take their animal, at what time, and what to expect with after-care. I even supply a map of where to find Boris the vet. They listen, nod, agree, smile and then do... nothing. This happens time and time again. I've got to the stage now when I don't bother with all the details: I just say: OK I shall be here at 1pm, I'll take your dog to be sterilized and return her tomorrow. It saves a lot of time, and frustration on my part.
This happened with Inocente, a dog that has taken up residence in the doorway of the Police Station. She was clever as this is no ordinary Police Station: it is specially for women who are victims of domestic violence. Yes, they wanted her sterilized, yes they will take her tomorrow. Always tomorrow. And so I took matters into my own hands and picked up Inocente myself. BUT! Immediately the Police Chief came forward and ushered Inocente and me to a Police car, and so we drove across town in the back of the car, with a 2-man escort, in uniform and with guns. I was hoping that someone I know would see me!
Not only do they want her sterilized, but also shampooed, treated for fleas, nails cut, the works. AND they have promised to pick her up and take her back to the Station tomorrow, once again in the Police car. It was my first ever ride in a cop car and while it was fun I kind of hope it was my last.
Estrella is my darling miracle girl. She was totally abandoned by her owner: Kill her! he told Boris the vet, She's too old!
Boris refused to kill this sweet 8 year old dog whose body is worn out from years and years of having puppies so he called me and of course I couldn't say no, even though we are at bursting point here in the Shack. We discovered that as well as rotting teeth and lice Estrella also had a venereal tumour. During the day before her chemotherapy she spent the whole time jumping at a concrete wall, trying to get back to the family who wanted her dead. Poor Estrella, she was heartbroken to be separated from them.
Estrella is sick
Then she had chemo and the following days were just awful as her temperature soared and she vomited all day and night. She looked miserable. She stopped eating and her eyes sunk into her head. Gradually she stopped vomiting, but after 8 days of not eating a thing she was put on a drip. What a difference that made! When I brought her home from the vet her tail was wagging and when I presented her with her dinner she ate the lot!!
Estrella has stopped trying to jump the wall and has joined the other dogs in their play time. She waits at the gate for me to come home and wags her tail happily. Now she just needs to put on all the weight she lost. She and Puppy Face are the oldies here and they sleep together in a corner away from the rowdy younger dogs.
The girl trying to give away the puppies is a normal sight here in Puerto, and I'm trying to do something about it. So far we have sterilised 62 dogs and still have a long list to go. Unfortunately puppies are bussed in from Cusco and sold in the market, a practise that I want the town council to stop but they are reluctant to as they say that people need the money. With an estimated 5,000 street dogs roaming the streets and living on garbage I think the council including the Minister of Health is not facing up to their responsiblities to the dogs and to the health of the town in general.
This week has been difficult. The number of dogs I have with me at the moment is 12, too many for this small house, and as well, 2 of them are very sick. Poor Estrella, who I mentioned last week, has given up the will to live now that she has stopped trying to jump over the wall and return to a home that wants her killed. She won’t eat and won’t even get off her bed despite cuddles and heaps of attention; and little Toro, whose owner adores him, is sick and the owner asked if I could take him until he is well again as they are worried that Toro will pass on some disease to their baby. Toro now has movement in his previously paralysed legs, but his stomach problem has got worse and he isn’t eating either.
On top of all that, Dr Boris the best vet in all Peru went AWOL for 3 days: I had a list of patients for him to treat but his surgery was shut and no-one knew where he was. No reply from his cell phone either. Today I finally tracked him down: he is in hospital and someone there has stolen his cell phone. I'm so relieved to know where he is but also wish he wasn't sick too.
Sunday after work I went up the Tambopata river to a community to check on some dogs there. I love getting the canoe and heading on up this wide and peaceful river with jungle on both sides. The community is small, 32 people all members of an extended family. Once there we had a real Amazon experience: all of a sudden a huge swarm of ants came out of the jungle and made straight for an old and very run-down kitchen. Kids were following, shouting with delight at this strange spectacle. When the ants arrived at the kitchen they disappeared inside and seconds later out ran piles of cockroaches, with the ants giving chase. Ants covered the cockroaches, pinning them down and sucking them dry. Any who managed to escape were flicked back into the swarm of ants by the kids who were now armed with sticks. This spectacle takes place once a year according to the community. Only in the Amazon!
This is the kitchen the ants invaded
This past week I have called The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Little Torro, the adored puppy of Leo, a young guy who lives with his wife, his brother and his baby in a space smaller than a tiny garage, has had an accident and is paralysed in his back legs. Leo has absolutely no money but is determined that Torro has the best vet care possible. So I am taking Torro for his daily pain relief and injections to help his back. Only time will tell as to what the outcome will be, but this dog is wanted, loved and cared for. His treatment is paid for from donations from generous caring people in the UK, Australia and Canada. That is the Good.
Torro is paralysed
The Bad is dear gentle Estrella (Star) eight years young, whose family don't want an old dog! They took Estrella to Boris the vet and said "Kill her"! Boris refused, so now I have Estrella living with me. She is number 11! She has a venereal tumour that has to be treated, then she'll be sterilized and she'll be able to grow old with someone who loves her (me). She is a real sweetheart but still has a lost expression in her eyes. I can't blame her. We don't give away our children when they grow up, although I know some people who wish they could, but here people think nothing of putting a dog in the street and closing the door.
The Ugly is very ugly. The poor Mama Dog in the photo below was left in labour too long, her owner didn't bother to go for help, and she died. The puppies had died several days before and had poisoned her. If the owner had thought to call the vet, this would never have happened and this lovely dog would not have suffered an agonizing death. I was present at the autopsy and it was very unpleasant. I admire Boris for being able to do it.
Mama died giving birth
And so another week has flown by, so much work still to be done with the Sterilizing Programme, and it has rained heavily for the last three days. That means trudging through mud, sliding around while carrying dogs and cats to and from the surgery.
I now have a full house, with 10 dogs in my small shack. Each dog has a story, and each story is one of neglect, abandonment, illness and starvation.
This is the story of Pia:
I was in the town market one night and noticed a puppy following people as if she was lost. A little while later as I was leaving the market, there she was again, this mangy little thing curled up on the footpath. I picked her up, along with the fruit and vegetables I'd bought and flagged down a taxi. I was so excited telling the taxi driver what I had found and I asked him to suggest a name for her. He came up with Pia, and it so suited her, a small name for a small puppy.
When I got her home and had a good look at her I felt sick with sorrow that a puppy could be in such an appalling state. She was mangy, starving, dehydrated. She had chewing gum stuck to her back. She was unable to open her eyes.
The next morning the vet prised open one of her eyes as I was unsure that there was actually an eye ball in there, it was so firmly closed.
Pia started her life with me living, eating, sleeping on my small table, not the most hygienic of places but she felt secure there and it gave her a chance to get to know the other dogs without having to be in the thick of them. She quickly gained weight, her mange cleared up and she became sleek and a bit tubby!
Pia today is a darling. She's extremely fast on her feet, in fact she does a little dance sometimes, sort of an imitation of Michael Jackson's moon walk. If any food falls on the floor Pia always gets to it first. She gobbles down her food and I have to hold her or she would rush over and start eating everyone else's.
I hate to think what would have happened to her if we had not found each other. With her eyes so firmly closed of course she couldn't have scavenged for food. She would have starved to death in some corner of the town.
Pia in her new collar
When I first came to Puerto Maldonado 2 years ago the road from Cusco was still being built through the jungle. The bus travelled at night, when the road workers had finished for the day. It was a very dangerous journey, especially during the rainy season as we were crossing fast-flowing rivers and making detours into rough-cut jungle tracks. But less than 4 years ago there were no buses coming here. The journey was by truck and it took around 7 days in the dry season. In the wet season the road was closed. It took a strong person to make the trip.
Then in September the last stretch of the Pan Pacific Highway was finished, linking the east coast of Brasil with the west coast of Peru. This last section was the bridge spanning the Madre de Dios river. It and the new road have changed completely the face and the lives of the people of Puerto Maldonado. There used to be almost no cars here. All traffic was either motor bikes or tuk tuks, called Motorcars. Now the streets are jammed with huge 4 wheel drives coming from Brasil. They are huge tanks of vehicles and they travel very fast on streets used to a more slow pace. Pedestrians and dogs who used to amble across the streets now have to run for their lives. There has been an enormous increase in accidents and deaths among the dog population.
One death that affected me deeply was my dear dog Maxine, who was adopted last year and went to live on a chacra (farm). She must have gone walk-about or perhaps she tried to find her way back to us, because she was found dead on the road. Maxine was a funny girl, she always made me smile with her facial expressions. She was alarmed at the camera and would stare into the lens as if it was going to bite her. She would click her teeth at me if the food was slow being served up.
When I first found Maxine she was living rough, had sores all over her body, and had a flea nest on her back. The fleas had eaten a hole in her back!
Gradually she got better and her true beauty showed: her perfect thick white coat, her strong little body despite signs that she had given birth many times. And so another street dog has departed this life. Maxine is gone but I will never forget her.
The market here in Puerto Maldonado is smack in the middle of town, and it is always crowded with people. It is the best place to buy fruit and vegetables; there is a very smelly meat section, hardware, clothes, shoes, fruit juice stalls, even cell phones and cameras. There are also about 30 stalls serving lunches. Because of the likelihood of dogs being able to find food in the market, it is a favourite spot for people to dump their unwanted dogs.
These poor abandonded animals are left to fend for themselves, begging at the meat section, hanging round the lunch stalls, going through the garbage in search of food. They quickly catch mange, get sick, pregnant, and the slower ones starve. Three of my dogs came from the market: Pia who was covered in mange and chewing gum and couldn't open her eyes; Oscar who was mangy and is unable to use one of his back legs; and baby Blanka who was just too young to survive on her own. She also had mange.
Last week I got a call about a dog there: the caller said the dog appeared to have been burnt and was hairless. I rushed there and found this poor old thing, he hasn't been burnt thank goodness, he just has such bad mange that his skin pigmentation is showing. There is nothing I can do for him except take him food every so often as old dogs do not rehome easily. They suffer from being fenced in and don't like mixing with other younger dogs. There are many dogs here like this one, dogs that once were someone's sweet puppy and when they grew up were dumped or else wandered off and nobody bothered to look for them.
Doctor Boris is continuing to help us with the Sterilizing Programme. I in turn have been able to help him by buying a special spot-light bulb that recharges itself as it is being used, so that when there is a power cut (as there is at least 4 times a week) he can continue operating. And thanks to donations we are also buying a cat carrying cage, and having a door put on the surgery so animals can't run out onto a very busy road. As happened on Saturday when a naughty dog slipped his collar and ran past us and straight onto the street. Such basic things that a struggling young vet just can't afford.
The Sterilizing Programme is now underway, we are so lucky to have found a vet who is clean, caring and insists on silence while he is operating! Believe me, this is very rare. I have been in vet surgeries here in Peru where people come and go, drink, fool round, and play loud music: so loud it was impossible to hear what the vet was saying. All this while animals are being treated/operated on. The worst example of this complete lack of caring happened on several occasions in one vet's that I no longer use and now urge people not to use either: I had to take a dog to be euthanized due to her having distemper. She was my baby and as I held her and cried a group of youths came in, talking and laughing. They stood with their backs to me, laughing and pushing each other around. Nobody told them to be quiet. In fact, the vet joined in. And so now I've found Boris and he is a saint in this crazy world of false vets, bad vets, dirty vets, vets in it only for the money.
This week's update from the Shack must now include a tribute to a brave and sweet dog named Rose who died on 13th March. When I first saw Rose in the street I was horrified at the state she was in. She was a walking skeleton, the only remaining fur was a small strip along her back. She was searching through rubbish for food. I tracked down her family and took over the care of Rose. Everyday she had a high protein meal with vitamin supplements, but she didn't improve and was diagnosed with a haemorrhage in her intestine. Despite Boris the vet's best efforts Rose passed away at home, in her soft clean bed, on the evening of 13th March. There are some dogs that really touch my heart for their sweetness and Rose was one. The family had a funeral for her, with flowers and candles, the first funeral for a dog that I've ever been to or even heard about in Peru, so I hope that in a small way Rose and I have changed for the better their thinking about dogs.
It has been a crazy week in Puerto Maldonado. All along the banks of the river Madre de Dios are gold mines; thousands of young men, mainly from other areas in Peru, come here and cut tracks through the jungle then set up camp and mine the banks of the rivers. They cut down trees, pollute the river, don't pay taxes, then when they've made enough money they leave. Periodically the army are called in to bomb the gold mines, after giving the miners 12 hours notice. That's when the miners come to town. They block the streets with rocks and rubbish and stage sit-ins. The town goes into lock-down and the riot police are everywhere. Helicopters buzz over and things get quite tense. The market can't open and so the stall holders, and the shops of course, aren't making any money, which is a tragedy in a hand-to-mouth economy. For me it means I have to stay away from town, so I've discovered many alternative ways of getting to the dogs on the feeding program. I'm just hoping that I don't run out of dog food before the miners all go home!
Not all my work involves feeding dogs, taking them to the vet, etc. Sometimes I have to do things like crawl under a house and spray for fleas... which is what I was doing 10 seconds before taking this photo; this girl and I crawled under her house, through the rubbish and both of us came out covered in fleas. We couldn't stop laughing as we did a little 'flea dance'.
Here is Rose on her new bedding [donated by Dori Kiss] - the old bedding had to be destroyed due to the flea infestatoin.
Rose is continuing to get her protein-rich meal every day: puppy kibble, an egg, special puppy milk and vitamin powder. She hasn’t started putting on weight yet, but she certainly has more energy. She can actually run a little way without having to rest; she runs towards me if she sees me coming along the street. We have cuddle sessions but her family still won’t touch her; they are scared of catching mange. I noticed today that Rose has an infected eye and claws. So many hurdles to overcome before she regains her health.
At the market here in Puerto Maldonado suddenly the fruit stalls have become even more colourful than ever with the harvesting of PIJUAYO, the fruit of a palm tree. It has to be boiled in salted water like you boil potatoes, then peel and eat. Or it is used to make a thick and fruity jam. I just love the variety of fruit here, most of which I don’t know the names of and quite a few are only made into drinks. The apples come from Chile, grapes from Argentina, all have much more flavour than fruit in Australian supermarkets, and even though it isn’t so perfect I like a few blemishes, they make it look more real and less like plastic.
I'll be so glad when the rainy season finishes, in a couple of weeks. The back garden is a mud quagmire with part of it underwater, but most of the land near the Tambopata River is the same; people are wading through mud and knee deep water to get to their houses.
This weather has a devastating effect on the health of the dogs. Mange runs rampant; those horrible little mites seem to love wet, warm weather and the dogs rapidly loose weight as all their energy is used up by the constant scratching, until sores get infected and the dog is in serious danger of septicemia. Even dogs who have owners are affected as they live in the streets alongside 'street dogs'. Rose is such a case. I first noticed her on Monday (20th February), hobbling along a street looking for something to eat in the rubbish that is everywhere. Rose's owner has absolutely no idea how to look after her, and had in fact given up on her. But in his favour, he is delighted that she is now on my feeding programme and I am looking forward to the difference I hope we'll see in a few weeks.
Rose lives under the blue tarpaulin. Today she got some cardboard and a blanket to sleep on to ease her poor bones.
Back in the Shack, our newest arrival, Oscar, is so much better. He still has a puppy personality and plays with Gracia and baby Blanka as if he is their age. He does have some problems with his back legs: when he walks they are too close together and his hips are very narrow. The vet said it was due to lack of calcium but I tend to think it could be genetic. When he has put on some weight I'll take him for an x-ray. Woofs from the Dogs of Peru.
Well, it has been raining cats and dogs this week. Literally! As well as heavy tropical rain almost non-stop for 4 days, I also have dog number 9! Poor Oscar, I kept getting phone calls about this sick dog hanging round the market but despite looking for him for days and nights, I never could find him. Until yesterday when Oscar and I got lucky. He is a sweetie, very young, scared of everything especially the broom (how come almost all my dogs are scared silly by the broom? Have they been hit with one in the past?)
You can see in the photo that the vet has wrapped tape round his mouth while bathing Oscar; he does this to all dogs as he seems to be scared of them. Soon as I took the photo the tape came off.
Oscar having mange treatment
Yesterday I also had a call about a cat who had been savaged by a dog the night before. The owner did not have a clue what to do, so we took Blanco to the vet where, as soon as he was turned onto his back we could see that his stomach was full of blood. He was bleeding internally. As I was holding him so the vet could prepare the euthanazia injection Blanco suddenly turned round and bit me on the hand, which is now infected.
About 6 a.m. this morning the person who had lent me a lovely wooden table and 3 chairs arrived, needing them back. I have had the use of this furniture for more than a year and had actually forgotten it wasn't mine! So it's off to the market today to look for some replacements. Something in red plastic to brighten up the shack.
Everyday I wake up with absolutely no idea what the day will bring. I try to plan my days the night before but then the phone rings and all is thrown into chaos. We all are just hanging out for the day the rain stops, the clothes and bedding dry out and the floor can be de-mudded. That's life in the jungle.
I have now been back in Peru for 3 weeks after my wonderful Christmas break (thanks to for caring for my dogs so well, they were spoiled rotten!) Right from the first day back I've been incredibly busy, I didn't even have time for jet lag. I'd like to introduce 2 new members of my dog family, firstly little Blanka who is around 3 months old, still with her baby teeth.
She was living rough near the market; when I saw her she was searching through garbage for food. A woman there told me Blanka had been hanging round for a few weeks and she begged me to take her. She had a big tummy full of worms and also has mange but not badly: just on her legs,tummy and ears. She has settled in very well with the others and actually has all the dogs running round like puppies!
The second new member is Gracia. Poor Gracia, she is tiny, the size of a Chihuahua but without the Chihuahua features. She had been living on garbage in a flooded and muddy street in an area that is mostly under water every rainy season. It took 3 days to be able to catch her as she was terrified of humans; thank goodness she's used to me now,and the only thing that scares her now is the broom and the thought that one of the other dogs will steal her food.
I have had her at home with me for 1 week and her infected sores are starting to heal and she has also put on weight. She is an absolutely gorgeous dog with the sweetest personality. We think she is around 5 months old. How could anyone throw these beautiful puppies out to fend for themselves? That is the fate of so many female dogs here in Peru; they are killed at birth or abandoned when they get near their first heat.
Cristina with Angelita