Todos Santos, Guatemala - May 2018
Our trip to Guatemala has come and gone. It was a very successful year. The group did 249 spays and neuters. Which is the most we have ever done! We also gave 613 rabies vaccines and 100 canine and feline distemper vaccines. Once again, there was a school day, a community day, and a movie night. These events were enjoyed by children and adults alike. We also had the opportunity to drive up into the mountains on two occasions. One evening, we just drove around looking for children and passing out toys.
I am sure that years from now they will tell the story of the crazy “gringas” that appeared out of nowhere to hand out toys. As usual, a few elderly ladies wanted a toy as well. Someone explained to us that often this is the only toy they have ever had in their lifetime, so it is as precious to them as it is to a child. Another evening we travelled up the mountain to a school where the children and others were waiting. They were so excited! The mothers were so grateful that they sent us away with cooked chicken and tamales.
On a positive note, there seemed to be fewer dogs just running around on the streets. The people seem to be doing their best to care for their dogs and cats. They were keen to have surgery to prevent more animals and were anxious to make sure their pets were vaccinated. Unfortunately, poverty is still an issue for many and affects the condition of the humans and their pets. We saw many dogs that were very thin, but obviously well loved; and in turn, they loved their owners. The dogs were always so excited to see their owners as they woke up from anesthetic!
Many of the human population only have meat a few times per year, so their pets definitely do not get meat or commercial pet food. This results in a strange phenomenon that causes the adult cats to be the size of 12-week-old kittens! We spayed several cats that weighed less than four pounds. The children and young adults that are supported through the GAAP are flourishing. Mario and Cristino are going to school to become teachers. Roberto remains number one in his class. His goal is to go to school to be a baker, then to start his own business in Todos Santos.
Roxanna and Talia are continuing with their education as well. As successful as this year was, it was very bittersweet. This is our last trip to Todos Santos. The GAAP has now finished training Andres (our translator) as a Para veterinarian. Using telemedicine and the skills he has learned, he will provide basic care to the pets of Todos Santos. He will act as a liaison with Dr. Adriana and transfer pets to her that require a veterinarian. In addition, Dr. Adriana will visit Todos Santos every few months to continue providing vaccines and surgeries. The ultimate goal has always been for this project to sustain itself without active yearly participation from outsiders. The project will still be supported and monitored by the GAAP, but with less direct involvement. Since this was our last year, the week ended with a very special surprise celebration. Three gentlemen from the village came with their xylophone to play traditional music. The children that we sponsor did several traditional dances in the most amazing costumes. Then we all danced the night away to the xylophone music. At the end of the evening, there were many tears as we said goodbye to the people of Todos Santos and those that we have been closest to. We will continue to provide the monetary support for our families, but the thought of possibly never seeing them again is very difficult to face. We had a wonderful group from Allandale this year. Melissa who works so hard all year-round on fundraising and organizing supplies; Natalie who also works year-round on fundraising and who is the ultimate packer; Avery who joined us for the first time but jumped right in like an old pro; Shawnah who organized the many bath-a-thons throughout the year; Jonathan who was very helpful in many ways, but especially as a Spanish speaker; Josh who is everyone’s favourite animal restrainer and cat whisperer; Dr. Manesis who always had a positive attitude, worked hard, and became an honorary “Todos Santarian”; Dr.Murphy who jumped right into surgery, vaccines, and everything else while baffling the locals with her Irish accent; Sheri Hall who contributes in so many ways as a restrainer, cleaner, and all-around helpful person.
The Guatemala project may be winding down, but we are in the planning stages for new projects. The GAAP Canada is planning to visit a shelter in Jamaica in the fall to provide care. We are also looking for a town in northern Ontario to work with on a regular basis. The GAAP organizers are going to look for a new Latin American project, possibly in Peru. We appreciate everyone that supports our work and will keep you informed of upcoming projects!