Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

Reducing the world’s supply of puppy poop

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Alison on puppy poop patrol
“She’s over there.”  A young woman points into an obscure corner of the large room, towards a tall blonde-haired woman who is cleaning up puppy poop, a whole lot of puppy poop. 

“Yep!  That’s Alison.”  I agree, walking towards her.  

Alison grins at the dozen or so puppies as they tumble around her feet. “Okay, now, no more poop!”  She admonishes them with a lighthearted laugh.  

Nice try, Alison. Feed a puppy; it poops.

VIDAS clinic this week in Mexico
Today is the sixth and final day of the free spay and neuter clinic being held in the Alfredo V. Bonfil neighbourhood near Cancun.  The VIDAS (Veterinarios Internacionales Dedicados an Animales Sanos) organization is sponsoring the surgery encouraging residents to bring in family pets or street strays.  Hundreds of people responded, bringing in dogs and cats.  Fifteen veterinarians, local and American, were on duty to operate on the animals.  

The final total was over 1200 animals spayed or neutered.  Impressive.

Recovering strays and sick animals
A long-time resident on Isla Mujeres, Alison Sawyer Current began helping stray dogs over fourteen years ago.  She and husband Jeff Current share their home and yard with dozens of dogs as they convalesce from illnesses, or injuries.  

The dedicated volunteers of Isla Animals organization have succeeded in placing over 5000 dogs into happier homes in Mexico, Canada and the USA.  The organization has also sponsored a number of spay and neuter clinics on Isla Mujeres working towards curbing the overpopulation of cats and dogs on the island.  It’s an endless job.  Not a thankless job, but endless. 

Nelly Cortes and Trina Noakes
Walking me around the VIDAS treatment area, Alison gave me a quick biography on some of the folks who volunteer their time, year after year for these events.  I met so many talented people; people like Nelly Cortes who owns a company in Cancun called Storm Catchers specializing in hurricane shutters. She is adept at gathering up strays, and helping owners get to and from the clinics.  Nelly and Jesika, founder of Animalistas rescue society in Cancun, make a formidable team, searching the neighbourhoods for more patients for the doctors.

Gillian Pultz – with messy toes

Then there is Gillian Pultz who competently handles the post-op recovery area, ensuring the dogs and cats are safe while they slowly start to regain consciousness.  

I watched in amusement as Gillian quickly pulled a large dog’s head and shoulders over the side of a table, while the dog vomited on her toes.  She never flinched, just carried on ensuring the dog was safe and breathing well.  

Once the dog had stabilized she grinned ruefully, saying: “I have to wash my feet.  It’s a bit gross.”

Owners helping pets with recovery
An important part of the surgery is the recovery process that is very hands-on for the owners.  The owners lovingly pat and rub the animal, stimulating them back to consciousness while the disoriented animals swivel their heads back and forth in confusion: Where am I?  What happened?  

Alison with her quick sense of humour likened it to being abducted by aliens and returned to earth – after someone messed around with your reproductive organs. 
I watched as Lisa Edwards and Vanessa Hill knelt on the floor beside each recovering pet, patiently explaining to the owners how to care for their animal post-surgery. Fluently bi-lingual they recited the instructions as if it was the first time that day, not the hundredth time.  Keep the animal quiet, calm, dry.  Don’t wash them or the incisions, no ointments, once they can walk on their own give them a small amount of food and water, check the wound for signs of infection.  Over and over and over again.  Always smiling and empathetic.

Tony Ikonen – post op instructions
As with every job, there is always someone who does the heavy lifting. Tony Ikonen is the musclefor the group; lifting and carrying the large dogs from the surgery tables, to the cleanup area, and then to the recovery floor to be with their owners. 
He also spent time with the owners explaining the post-surgery care procedures, and reassuring them that help is only a phone call away if any problems develop.

Gillian Pultz and Leasa Newlin cleaning up animals
Next Alison introduced me to Leasa Newlin, with her lovely French polish manicure.  Alison laughed as she recounted meeting Lisa a dozen or so years ago.  “She arrived with these beautifully well-manicured nails, and I thought to myself, she’ll only last a day or two at most.  And here she is all these years later still helping and still falling in love with strays.”  Today Leasa was assisting with deworming, tick and flea removal, ear cleaning, removing matted hair and clipping nails. “This is a full service clinic.” Alison says with a grin.

Doctor Lesli Groshong and her daughter
The veterinaries are fast, experienced, and accustomed to treating local diseases and specialized problems.  Lisa McCarthyreturns year after year, managing what is referred to as The Super Hero Team.  In the operating area the doctors were concentrating on their work, so the only one I was able to chat with was Doctor Lesli Groshong, one of the original organizers of the free clinics.  Lesli started in 1998 but by 2002 when she was pregnant with her second child, her daughter, she was unable to be the main coordinator.  The veterinary college students, under the guidance of Doctor Claudia Lewy, took over the management of the events.  Lesli has continued to assist in every way possible.  Her two pre-teen children are immersed as well in her work, her passion, contributing wherever they can. 

Keeping track of the pets
Between helping out and checking on the volunteers Alison continued to chat with me about her personal passion, Isla Animals.  Anytime that Alison and Jeff are involved with the larger spay and neuter clinics in other mainland cities, it directly benefits the animals of Isla Mujeres.  How?  Most of the supplies for the island clinics come from the leftovers from a bigger event, and every year her list of helpful contacts increases. 

Jeff!  Go-for-more-puppies!
She and Jeff have recently rented a small house in Cancun close to the passenger ferries that travel between Isla and the mainland.  

The new location will help relieve some of the pressure on their personal home on the island, giving them time to refurbish and repaint.  A mainland facility will also give them easier access to more veterinary services in Cancun without the back and forth shuffle on the passenger ferries.  

In the meantime, Jeff is the main gopher-guy for the organization: Jeff go-for-this, Jeff go-for-that.  And sometimes he’ll arrive back at the treatment area with tasty reward for the group – Krispy Kreme donuts – to be devoured between tasks.  My kind of man!

As a last comment, before I headed back to Isla Mujeres, Alison said she has two rescue organizations in New York City that can help out with adoptions.  All she needs are human escorts who are travelling to nearby locations.  If you are able and willing, send a message to Alison via the Isla Animals Org. FaceBook page. 

Hard working doctors!

Thanks to Alison and Jeff, for an insider’s peek into their world.  I know I missed mentioning a number of hardworking doctors and volunteers, but I didn’t have a chance to speak with everyone.  You were all so darn busy improving the lives of so many animals. 

“Oops, better check the bottom of my shoes before I get a ride with Jeff.  I think I stepped in puppy poop!”

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

(All errors and omissions are mine. Please be gentle with me.)

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