The hardest thing about island animal rescue…
I had a friend visiting once who told me, “I’m very glad that I don’t live here, as I’d end up picking up every animal I see on the streets.” But, while they were joking, he hit on a fact that is at the heart of the most challenging part of rescue in a developing country like the Dominican Republic for those of us who dedicate ourselves to helping the dogs and cats of the island.
We have 1.2 million dogs here on the island, with tens and tens of thousands of those living on the streets. The luckier ones live there and are supported by the restaurants and people in their neighborhoods. Some live on the beaches gathering affection and food from tourists. Some scrounge through garbage cans, often under cover of night, to survive. Some are “owned” but wander the streets during the day and go back “home” at night. Some are dumped there by people who no longer want them, or they dump unwanted puppies and kittens who are left to die or to try to find a way to survive on their own.
Each of these street animals has figured out how to survive to a greater or lesser degree. And those who struggle the most are the ones we try to concentrate our efforts on. However, even focusing our efforts on the neediest of the needy is a massive undertaking for our dedicated-but-limited number of volunteers in a surprisingly large island country.
Sadly, we would love to help them all, but to maintain our sanity, we have to figure out how much we can do and, more importantly, what we can’t do.
The hardest thing in island rescue is not treating the animals we see that come to us in horrible shape, but instead having to say no to those requests or animals that are not in a crisis that we don’t have the resources to help. It hurts us on an emotional level every time; we have to decide that we don’t have space, the animal is too far away from where we volunteer to help, an animal is reported to us that is surviving, and others losing that battle, are in more need for the resources we have. Helping the animals is therapeutic for us; seeing those we can’t help is what drags us down.
We have many amazing volunteers who have dedicated much of their lives to helping the island animals, yet there is so much more need than we can handle. We hope tourists understand when we can’t take in that dog or cat living a good life on the beach at their hotel as we don’t have room. We hope people understand who reach out to us about an animal 2 hours away from our nearest volunteer that we are overwhelmed just helping the animals in our area and don’t have the time to make a special trip to help. We hope that those who reach out to us about the box of kittens dumped at their house understand that our fosters are always beyond full, and we rarely have space to take in any new animals unless in extreme emergencies.
In that spirit, we ask that anyone and everyone who has any capacity to help does. Take a needy dog or cat in. Better yet, take in two or three. Also, make sure to spread the word about the critical importance of neutering and spaying all animals. Many volunteers have paid the cost of spaying and neutering street animals out of their own pockets. And DCDR holds regular clinics where this is done free of charge for animals brought in.
We live for every success story. We shed tears with every loss. We hurt for those we have to drive by that my friend said would fill his house if he lived here. Our houses are full, yet sadly there are still more out there. We’ll keep trying to help as many as we can and urge everyone else who is able to consider doing the same.
The next clinic will be next Sunday, March 27th at The DREAM Project School in Cabarete. The clinic is for stray and locally owned animals. If someone is in need, they need to e-mail [email protected] to be added to a waiting list for a clinic spot. For all animals, please designate dog or cat and male or female if possible.