If you read our previous blog, you will know that initially, our plan was to move to Belize in January of 2024. We had it all mapped out to start the process of opening up a new humane society and beginning the scholarship program in what felt like the distant future. However, true to form, God had other plans! After evaluating our personal finances, Rob and I came to realize very quickly that we would not be able to purchase the land and begin building our Belizean home, while still carrying a mortgage on our Colorado house.
Our first move was to PURGE! When I say purge I mean sell everything we own. The rescue has been in a financial crisis this year, and we had sold off many of our investments in order to keep MAMCO afloat, so we were coming up very short on the finances we needed to purchase the property.
We had garage sales, sold items on Ebay, and even went as far as consigning many of our things. This allowed us to raise enough money to purchase the property and also helped MAMCO through the tight summer months. Next, we met with a realtor and listed our Colorado home for sale. This was TERRIFYING to say the least, because in order to build a Belizean home we had to sell our current home. This could potentially leave us homeless for several months to a year. Nonetheless we listed our house, and let faith guide our path!
Belizean Baptism by Fire
In mid-August Rob and I visited Hopkins, Belize in order to begin the process of building our home. As naive newcomers, we failed to realize that our attempts to build during the rainiest wet season ever, would come with some challenges. On our first day in Belize, before even arriving in Hopkins, we were informed that the toilet at the Airbnb we were renting had stopped working. Since it was just Rob and I and we were trying to save money, I had booked a one bedroom, one bathroom home to stay in during our time there. Our initial reaction to the broken toilet was pretty relaxed. The people managing the property told us it would be fixed by the next day, so we just made due for the first night and made frequent visits to the Italian Restaurant down the road to use the bathroom.
One thing to know about Belize is that most businesses do not have public restrooms, so we were thrilled the next day when the septic system was pumped and the toilet began flushing again. We were back on track and met with the contractor who would be building our home. During our visit with the contractor we explained our desire to bring in a new humane society to help the people of Hopkins. He told us about a young female pit bull that he had taken in who was having some issues gaining weight, so I agreed to come to his house to look her over.
I need to preface the next part of this story by explaining that the culture in Belize is not one that places a high value on the health and wellbeing of dogs. That being said, the people who own dogs in the country do genuinely love their pets, but in a poverty filled country, veterinary visits, special diets, and preventative medicine are not considered priorities. So many of the dogs are dirty, malnourished, and have a myriad of parasites. Daisy was no different. As we approached the small dog house she was chained to in the back of the yard, we could see the green film covering her eyes, the ticks who were sucking the life from her, and each of her ribs which protruded remarkably from her sides.
When we reached Daisy’s house she rolled over and showed us her tummy. It was clear that she had delivered more than a few litters in her lifetime. We gave her some love and pulled the ticks from her body and agreed to get her into the veterinarian within the next few days.
Along with Daisy, there were five other dogs chained in the yard. There was a Corgi mix and a male Staffordshire Terrier, each tied to their own personal dog houses. In the back corner of the yard there was a large pen that held two Rottweiler puppies and an enormous Doberman.
I of course had to pet each of the other dogs, and I will say that for all intents and purposes they appeared to be well cared for and loved, but as I approached the Doberman, I noticed a huge, infected hole in his rear left flank. Our contractor told us that he hadn’t noticed the wound, but that he assumed that he had gotten into a fight with one of the other dogs. In Belize, dogs are typically chained up during the day, and then are allowed to roam free at night, so this explanation made sense. I told him I would also get Zack the Doberman a veterinary appointment as well, and we headed home.
We got Daisy and Zack veterinary appointments the next day! I was told prior that Zack had bitten a number of people, but the behavior I saw in him was not aggression, it was fear. I assured everyone that he wouldn’t bite me and I loaded them both in the car. They sat in the back and we headed to the vet.
In case anyone is wondering, it is never a good idea to rent a vehicle to me or any other dog rescuer. On our way to the veterinary clinic, Daisy vomited at least three times. It wasn’t simple dog food vomit however; it appeared as if she had eaten Italian – Asian Fusion the night before, and now this mess was all over the back of the rental car. When we arrived at the veterinary clinic, Zack got out and acted like he knew exactly what he was expected to do, but Daisy was timid and unsure of the situation. When the veterinarian came into the exam room, she immediately recognized Zack. She explained that he and his brother were previously owned by an American couple who lived in the village. They decided to move back to the United States, and took his brother Zeus with them, but left Zack behind. Zack had grown up as an indoor dog, and was treated like one of their children, so it wasn’t unusual to assume that he was terrified when he was left in a pen outdoors with strangers. My heart immediately broke for the gigantic growling horse that was standing before me. He was so confused and had no ability to comprehend his new circumstances. He had lost 15 lbs. in the three weeks since his people abandoned him, and he was anemic. The bite he sustained on his flank exposed his muscle underneath, so he was given antibiotics and we were instructed to flush out the wound daily.
Daisy had never been in to see the veterinarian, so she was given a full work up, and got all of her required vaccinations and preventatives. She was immediately diagnosed with Heartworm and Tick Borne Illnesses, in addition to the extreme anemia she was experiencing. She was also going home with several medications that would need to be administered daily. This was concerning to Rob and I because we were not confident that their owner would administer the medications. Nonetheless, we headed back to his house to return the dogs.
Whether you believe in a higher power or not, does not matter to me, but I am going to say that I believe that in this situation God stepped in for these dogs. As we turned onto the street that enters the village a huge storm hit. It began to rain more than I had ever seen in my life, and within a matter of minutes the flooding began. We were within 100 yards of the owner’s home when I noticed a mom and her puppies running in the street. One of the puppies had stayed with mom, but the other puppy had become stranded on the other side of a flooded area. There was no way that he could make it back to his mom, so I made Rob stop the car.
I am not sure my story telling abilities will do this tale justice, but I will do my best. I jumped out of the car and began making my way to the stranded puppy. At this point, the water on the street was about 18′ deep and rose up to just above my knee, so I was extremely surprised when I fell into a pool that rose over my chest. Apparently there are drainage ditches on the side of the road that I was unaware of, but in my haste reach the puppy I failed to notice, and found myself neck deep in muddy pool. For those who know me, know that this did not stop me. I came out the other side and went to grab the stranded puppy. He bit me and began to panic, so I tucked him under my arm and began making my way to a less flooded area of the road. During this process I had attracted quite the crowd. Locals had stopped in their cars to watch the crazy, wet, white woman swimming through the drainage ditches to save a puppy. This scared the other puppy, who then ran to an area where he was now stranded. The mom had run to high land without her puppies. As I went to hand the first puppy to Rob, he said he would get the second puppy. I got in the car with the puppy and waited for him to return. He grabbed the puppy quickly and went to grab mom. Mom was not having it, and she jumped inside a fenced area that we could not access. We made the executive decision to put the puppies on the other side of the fence with their mom. The area was high and not flooded, and we did not want to separate them.
This ordeal took quite a bit of time and the rain just kept pouring down. As we were approaching the owner’s house he messaged us and asked us to hold onto the dogs until the flooding had subsided. We agreed and were thrilled that they would be with us so we could ensure they would receive their medications. When we arrived back at our Airbnb, we brought the dogs inside and planned to bathe them, but before we could act we lost all power. So there we were, sitting in the dark with two dirty dogs. We realized at that time that our elation over the flushing toilet was premature. The rain and flooding had caused the septic system to fill back up, and nothing could be done to fix it. The next day I reached out to local friends in order to find another Airbnb to stay in. This was a little tricky because now I had two dogs with me, but luckily we were able to find a place to stay and could give the Italian Restaurant’s plumbing a break!
I have never been so happy to have a toilet in my life! We learned that it is 100% necessary to have a pump installed in the septic system for times when flooding is prevalent.
We got settled into our new house, and the dogs were beyond thrilled to have an ocean to play in. We decided at that time that we would keep them with us until the owner decided to ask for them. That way they would get their medications regularly and we could make sure they were recovering. With the exception of having to clean Zack’s blood off of everything, they adapted quite well. Daisy began to relax and both were very content to live indoors. After about a week with us it became clear to me that I could not, and would not, be sending them back to their owner. It was time to devise a plan……
Stay tuned for the next blog!