Rather than focus on a specific rescue group, I want to talk to you about the Satos of Puerto Rico.
It is estimated that 100,000 stray dogs, called Satos, roam the tiny island of Puerto Rico. These dogs face unrelenting hardship: starvation, disease, neglect and abuse. They die on the beaches, along roadways and in shelters every day. They are poisoned by business owners and tortured by bored and apathetic youth.
Bella is a Sato.
In writing Bella's story, I worry that I am doing a disservice to these wonderful dogs and their terrible plight. It's very important to me that people understand, while Bella is a Sato, not all Satos are Bella.
When Jan and I were first considering adopting Bella, we met another young dog, let's call him Henry. Henry was also a scared-y dog and when we met him at his foster family's home that first time, neither Jan nor I were able to touch him. Henry was an adorable dog but, while Jan and I knew we wanted a special needs dog, we opted for Bella instead of Henry.
A couple of years later, we met Henry again at our trainer's studio where his owners (now failed fosters) were also getting help. In fact, our trainer said we were lucky to have Bella because Henry was "a mess".
Ha! Has she met Bella? Oh wait, actually, yeah, that's right: she had.
My point is that Henry was not a Sato. He was just another fearful dog who needed special people to take care of him.
Bella's not crazy because she's a Sato. Bella's crazy because she's Bella. Just like Henry's not crazy because he was a Boxer-mix from the south. He was just Henry - a damaged dog.
Satos are good dogs
Satos in general are known to make wonderful household companions. They are often described as tough and resilient but so very sweet and loving. They are always described as incredibly smart and quick to learn.
"Living with a Sato often means an element of surprise, but they are almost always loving, affectionate dogs who are good with all family members." -- Dogster.com
I want to write today about the many lovely Satos I've met and of their owners who love them to pieces. I want to talk about their amazing ability to love even though they've lived with and seen the worst in us. I want to just post pictures of rescued Satos and their adoring families.
Why should you care about Satos?
I know there's controversy in some parts of the animal welfare community about saving dogs from areas that are not your own.
Some of the things that have been said to my face about Bella would make your hair turn grey. Some of the things I've read online about saving the Satos has reduced me to tears. And some of the lies being told about them and the efforts to rescue them have made me so angry I can barely speak.
But I don't understand how anyone can dismiss the value of a life based simply on where that life happened to begin.
Some facts about Puerto Rico:
- Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory.
- Residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. Citizens and have been since 1917.
- In 2011, Puerto Rico's ranking on the Animal Legal Defense Fund's list of animal protection laws improved by 91%. -- Source: 2011 U.S. Animal Protection Laws Ranking
- In New York, the euthanasia rate of shelter animals has decreased to "33%, down from 69% in 2003."
- In Los Angelos, the kill rate is 30%.
- In the shelters in Puerto Rico, it is 99%.
Of course, saving the dogs of Puerto Rico requires more than just moving them from there to here.
It requires humane education that begins with school children who will grow up to change their world. It requires access to low-cost spay/neuter programs as well as sterilization of the dogs on the streets. It requires continued improvement in the laws as well as strict enforcement of them. And it requires many hands and many hearts working together to improve the lives of these wonderful little dogs.
Jan and I have pledged to help Satos in many small and various ways. We hope the people who learn about them through us will be inspired to do something, however small, to help as well.
Share their story. Buy a t-shirt. Write the Puerto Rican government or better yet, the board of tourism and urge them to enforce their animal protection laws.
But most of all, if you ever get the chance to adopt a Sato, please don't hesitate to do so.
|All we really want is a warm bed and someone to snuggle with...|
Rescuing Bella did little to help the Satos of Puerto Rico. But telling her story shouldn't hurt them either.