We drove all over the eastern 2/3 of the island, traversing many windy little roads. And on pretty much all of them, we saw dogs. Most of these strays--satos, as they are called--once belonged to a family, many have been on their own for a long time.
Most were on roads with some houses, and those taco stands you see everywhere. Apparently a lot of people just leave their dogs in those places thinking that they can scrounge from the trash piles.
But some were on roads with very little human habitation. I don't know how they survived. Fortunately there were lots of streams everywhere we went, and maybe other wacky tourists stopped and fed them.
All of them were really hungry, and a few were friendly, cuddly, and waggy!
We quickly realized we couldn't go anywhere without dog snacks so we stocked up.
It felt good to feed and cuddle with them, but it would have felt a lot better to load them all up in the rental car and take them to a better place.
We did that with one. I was napping as Florian drove back from the caves, and he woke me up at the sight of a black and white dog by the side of the road. Skittish at first, after I put down the rest of our food he started to change his mind. Two friendly officers were on the roadside and came to help; they said he'd been there all day and was following them around. They thought he was probably abandoned because of the bit of mange on his face.
This was a big road with no houses or water anywhere and I knew this pup needed help. Florian wasn't sure we should do it but when I went around behind the dog and lifted him up to put him in the car, there wasn't much else to be said.
That picture is from before two slices of pizza, this picture is from after.
He was pretty much on my lap the rest of that trip. I named him Papi.
I really wanted to sleep with him that night but the hotel wouldn't let him in, so we got him 3 cans of food and some mixed veggies and yucca, which he devoured, and I stayed out in the car with him all night.
When I walked him, he kept stopping to jump up on my legs and hug me.
In the morning, we brought him to the Humane Society of Puerto Rico in San Juan, where we were devastated to leave him but encouraged by the assurance that they are no-kill and by the evident kindness of their staff.
That was at the beginning of our trip, and the next few days we traveled around and saw all those other dogs, and some goats.
I was happy to learn that there is a proliferation of rescue groups on Puerto Rico and that they frequent some of the roads we traveled feeding and picking up satos like the ones we saw.
There are also groups dedicated to rescuing dogs from the beaches, which is another place where many get dropped.
But I could not stop thinking about Papi.
Fortunately Florian's rubber arm was easily twisted to go back to the shelter on our last day, which was an opportunity to meet some of the other babies up for adoption there
and to have a somewhat deeper connection with one of them.
And we got to take Papi for a walk!
He was so happy to see us. Hard to leave him again but I felt much better.
When we returned from our trip, I set about right away researching what help exists for the satos of Puerto Rico. After emailing about five organizations that rescue, feed, spay and neuter, and arrange for the travel of the island's strays, I heard back from the amazing people at Island Dog.
And a few emails and Paypal transactions later, and Papi was out of the shelter and romping around with his rescuer's six dogs.
Not long after that, he was on a United flight bound for New Jersey and the Humane Society of Atlantic County. And just days after that, he was adopted!
I hope he is eating lots of pizza and having the best time ever. I have no doubt that he is cuddling and jumping up to hug his adopter at every opportunity.
One down, 199,999 to go. Who wants to help?