August 9, 2012

Talking the Talk, Walking the Dog.

Photo: Tierre De Animales

In Japan, monks are often paid to pray.

Businessmen who don’t have the time for that sort of thing simply write a check, and thereby accrue merit. The execs practice what they’re good at, and the monks are freed up to do their thing. I’m given to understand that harmony results.

Recently, someone asked if I’ve ever saved a cow. Literally. It was in the comments on my fire-and-brimstone vegan article, “It’s Not You, It’s Meat.” Have I rescued a single pig, or am I merely hanging my dusty derby on the smoke and mirrors of market forces, and supply and demand? Does life care if one random guy stops eating meat? What was I really doing for animals?

Know what? Nothing.

The places where I send money leapt to mind. Mercy for Animals, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, and my favorite, Tierra De Animals. But point blank, have I saved an animal on my own? No.

Maru knows a guy, Ricardo, who has. In his jungle sanctuary, there are a couple of hundred dogs, all rescued. Not street dogs. Street dogs have it better than these guys. These are abused animals. When he hears of dogs being bred to fight, or neglected and chained 24/7, Ricardo will quietly nod. Soon after, said dogs will randomly break free of their fences or chains, usually late at night, and make their way to his place, Tierra Des Animals. Ricardo is doing it.

It started, as do many good stories, with a trip to jail.

(Disclaimer: This is a third hand re-telling of Ricardo’s tale. He’s not big on talking. He’d rather feed, de-flea, and hang with the pups.)

Photo: Tierre De Animales

Here’s what went down.

Ricardo loved to save dogs. Dogs in dire straits, like at the pound in death row cages. Dogs in real trouble. So he did that. A lot.

At storytime, he had around 60 dogs at his place. The neighbors frowned on this, and one day, Ricardo heard the knock at the door. He soon found himself in handcuffs, taking an all-expenses-paid trip to his own little cage at the police station. That was bad. But they took all the dogs, too, and that was horrific. All his work to save the doggies was ruined.

Knowing his dogs had all been gathered up and were at the tender mercies of the local pound was killing him. (Pounds in Mexico are so, well, they’re not operated by a kind sister in vet studies at university, with a nose ring and a big heart for puppies, feel me?) So we leave him, in his cell, dying.

Photo: Tierra de Animales

Meanwhile, out in the world, some good person heard this tale of woe and strife. This same person, we still do not know who it was, bought Ricardo some jungle acreage outright, so he could keep doing his work. They even hired a lawyer for him. (More power to you, invisible Japanese Businessmen!)

So Ricardo finds the jailer opening his steel door one morning. Suddenly he is free, with the legal right to go get his dogs, and a safe quiet place for them! At the pound, his memory somewhat enlivened by the jail time, he pointed out the dogs who had been taken. Their number had grown to 100.

Tierra de Animales was born. Dear awesome anonymous angel: High Five! Dear Ricardo: High Five! And dear reader who is thinking, “Can I do something to help?” High Five!

Photo: Tierra de Animales

Tierre De Animals buys food, medicines, and vet care from donations, and yeah, they take Paypal. They are building a cinder block structure which will become a clinic. This will save them long drives to vets, and will also provide low-cost vet care for local dogs.

They are making a world of difference, one pup at a time.

Does sharing money with these groups count? Is it directly helping an animal?  Don’t know. I travel all over the place, can’t keep a dog. My cat, the Minx, is a rescue who survives quite easily my long departures. She barely lifted an eyebrow on our reunion Friday. Maru has given everything she has and more to feed and repair Cacao, a stray dog who walked in and drank her coffee at work one day. I admire her, and Ricardo, and Nicole Ganas from Community Cat Coalition.

These three are just people who saw a problem, and then bent over backwards to do something about it.

Photo: Archives of Maru Garcia

Am I doing something about it, when I buy a bag of dry food for these guys? Does it make a difference when I send Mercy For Animals some cash to print up their most excellent (free downloadable) flyers?

Yes and no. I’m not breaking into death row dogpounds to free puppies.

I’m not spending a month’s wages on vet care and food to rehab a stray. I am doing way, way less. But it matters, knowing that I’m doing something. Because there are realities, laws, etc.

Because you know one of them as well as me.

Something is way more than nothing. They did studies.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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