It is clear from our web page photographs that we love animals yet in 36 countries we have stopped ourselves from going any further than feeding or cleaning animals in need. I can’t say why this particular puppy made us take a step further - whatever the reason, something had to be done....
The vets were horrified at his condition - pus was pouring from his nose and eyes, he had distemper, a severe lung infection, was starved, badly dehydrated and was full of fleas and worms. We paid for him to stay in the hospital for 4 days receiving IV fluids and antibiotics - every day he lived was a bonus. After this we took him ‘home’ to where our truck was parked - a cosy bed was made in a cardboard box outside and we lavished him with food, comfort and love.
Eventually we take puppy back to the mechanics street where he receives a very happy welcome from his street dog family, we suspect his mum and dad are amongst them, but it is clear he has a lot of growing to do before he will survive in this group.
It’s now Easter weekend and our town is full of people having a seaside break. Puppy and I (Rose) walk the streets sticking up posters and making introductions to try and find a new home for our little lad - no luck yet.
Our emotions swing wildly - one minute we talk about keeping the pup and discuss what paperwork we need to do so, the next minute we agree that it is a stupid plan and that we do not want to have such a commitment. We email Lorraine Chittock (www.onamissionfromdog.com) a amazing woman who we ask for advice. She sends us a copy of one of her articles where she explains that not all humans or their pets are suited to the stresses of overland travel. We realise that we cannot keep our puppy - he gets very stressed being moved.
Up at the mechanics area again and puppy’s parents rush over to clean and fuss him, the change in puppy is amazing - his tail goes up, he becomes vocal and enjoys the attention. This is where our wee guy belongs.
Over several visits puppy learns how to survive in the gang - the most important lesson we teach him is how to grab food before the other dogs get it. He learns quickly and develops a role within the group.
After some time we decide that puppy is ready to be with his family. We’ve given him a helping hand in life, reunited him with his doggy family and arranged for him to be regularly fed until he is stronger. At the last minute our luck changes - one of our mechanics dogs has died so there is now a ‘vacancy’ - puppy is named Claxon and he is introduced to his new home at the workshop and a 18kg bag of dog food is donated by us.
It may not be the conventional European ‘happy ending’ but for a Chilean street dog it’s a very good deal.
Two weeks later we drive back to revisit Claxon. He runs over with his mum (a good sign) : he will not let us hold him (proof that he is still stressed about being moved) : and he has grown immensely - he is now all legs and attitude! Oh - and he has whiskers - a sure sign of good health and regular feeding.
We are reassured that our decision was the right one and we are sure to visit again in a year or so.......
First night with us, first bath and big meal.
Going out for a check up at the vets and to meet his ‘family’ of street dogs.
But there is a problem - we can’t keep him. If we were in Asia or Africa it would not be such a problem but in South America it is a issue.
There are 4 problems -
The America’s are sea locked, which means expensive flights to get puppy from A to B.
Taking puppy into some of the other S.A countries (Chile and Argentina) means lots of paperwork and a vet visit in each country which is only valid for a short time. It can add up to a lot of money and hassle - we know a German family who had to miss out on a visit to Torres Del Paine because the nearest ‘official’ vet was ALL the way over in Rio Gallegos, Argentina!
Dogs are forbidden entry to most of the National Parks.
What do we do with the puppy when we fly to the Galapagos Islands or back to the UK for a holiday?
We have to find a balance between getting him well and becoming attached. Our plan is to find him a new home but Chileans who love dogs already have homes full of rescued pets. The other option is to put him back where we found him - the mechanics area of town already has 5 healthy, well fed street dogs living there - if we can feed him up and get him healthy he will at least have a good chance of survival with them.
After one week puppy has gained 25% body mass weight, his appetite is superb, but his lungs remain a big problem - he coughs and wheezes regularly and I have give him daily physiotherapy to help with this. It seems a crazy amount of effort for a street dog that we have no intention of keeping but the results are rewarding.
On the road puppy finally meets his parents and all the ‘gang’.
A happy, healthy little boy!
Our little rescue kitten adapts to life as a traveller very quickly - in Carrefour supermarket she is placed in a open topped canvas bag and taken in with me - she sleeps through the whole event. She takes to life as a overlander immediately - she loves to travel in the truck with the air rushing in through the window and cooling her hairy tummy and arriving at a new place is a huge fun filled adventure for her. Suddenly our lives have changed - feeding, playing, cuddles and hole digging for toilet time with paw and bum checking after.
But within 2 days of us rescuing her she is very ill and we soon discover why - she vomits a one inch tightly rolled piece of plastic that we assume the children forced down her throat. For 24 hours we wait to see if she will survive and the next morning she explodes out of the bathroom - a fur ball of raw energy and mischief.
When it becomes clear that we cannot re-home her we visit a local vet for her to get her rabies vaccine and some official paperwork so that we can cross the border into Venezuela.
Here are photographs of some of our kitten’s adventures. We had to name her for the paperwork - kitten’s name is now Shakira - appropriate for a Colombian cat we thought.
A KITTEN RESCUE STORY...........
Breakfast, a toilet hole digging lesson and then a quick play in her ‘command centre’ before driving into town to go Mall shopping.
Mealtimes can be interesting....
Meeting some of the other beach residents.
Our two week old, blue eyed kitten is now a green eyed 3 month old cat. She had all her whiskers cut off hunting crabs on the Colombian beaches and she now hunts dogs to then chase them away growling and hissing at them! Like a dog, she rolls in the dirt, comes when whistled and chases sticks - it’s no wonder the locals call her the dogcat. She is now old enough to hunt and bring her catch into the truck as a gift for us - standing watching a detached lizard tail wiggle for a full 3 minutes was one of the stranger moments I must admit.
We built a driving platform for her to have somewhere to safely sit/sleep in the shade - it’s made of old fishing net found on a Venezuelan beach, plywood from Ecuador and metal from Brasil, so it’s a real travellers item.
Entering Venezuela was easy as she slept in her bag, but entering Brasil and the Guyana’s is another problem altogether - every time we ask what necessary paperwork we need, we are told different information. So our hopes are still to re-home her in Venezuela and we have found some great options but either the people do not want her or the family love her but we feel we cannot leave her because she is still too young to be neutered and we do not want to leave a kitten making machine with a low income family.
So, for now, our travel plans are unknown - if Guyana refuses entry then we will return to Brasil and decide from there where to go next. This is exactly the reason why we decided not to have a pet - they seriously complicate any journey. Even though Dave complained about the inconvenience of having a cat, especially when she climbed a palm tree and we had to reverse the truck up to it so that we could rescue her, he still would wake her at 5am - when I asked why he would say, ‘She’s so soft and fluffy - I just have to pick her up!’
And I really enjoy my morning wake up calls of Dave’s ‘Ooh’s’ and ‘Aargh’s’, as she bites his nipple and then pounces on his ‘wiggly worm’ - so all is not lost!
Some of Shakira’s more favourite sleeping positions....
Finally Shakira is old enough to be neutered and she has this done in Venezuela - now our options are more open. We begin to seriously search for a new family for her but we both agree that if one cannot be found, and if we cannot enter the Guyana’s with her, then we will not be so disappointed - we will take the river barge south to Porto Velho in Brasil and plan from there.
One day after getting her stitches removed Shakira’s wound burst completely open! We were shocked. The nearest vet was now a 200 mile drive away, so we spent a sleepless night watching her until we could drive safely the next day toward the Brasilian border and a vet.
Fortunately we found a very good vet - he had been the president of Venezuela’s Veterinary Association. He was shocked to see the vet had not operated on a cat from the abdomen, but from her side and that the wound was un-necessarily long and that the vet had forgotten to stitch her muscle closed - this was why the wound opened so easily.
I was furious. I had questioned the vet when I collected Shakira from her surgery about a bulge - ‘It’s only inflammation’ I was told. After one week and returning to get her stitches out, I once again queried her bulge asking if it was a hernia. ‘No, no - it’s only swelling from her internal stitches.’ ASSHOLE!
Our poor little cat. We bush camp by a river for her recovery and I catch tadpoles and put them in a container for her entertainment. She recovers quickly and very well - her new stitches are removed in Brasil with success.
First operation recovery, a emergency vet visit and a non energetic sport for a recovering cat.
Our little cat who has ‘slept’ during her entry into 3 new countries has found a new family in Guyana. We are incredibly upset about parting with her but we know it is the right decision for her and for us. We had the great fortune to find a animal loving family whose cat had just died but they still had a dog for Shakira to play with and children for her to chase. Perfect.
Three months later we sit laughing at some of the precious memories our little rescue gave us -
The time she climbed to the top of a palm tree and we had to reverse the truck to the tree to rescue her.
The time when we were parked on a beach in Venezuela - we looked out of the door only to find Shakira had dominated a passing street dog - the poor thing was terrorised by her into lying down. Shakira then jumped up and down on top of the dog like he was a trampoline before sitting on the dogs stomach to swat his tail and his ears with her paws!
You will be my slave!
BYE BYE SHAKIRA.