In 2007, I sold everything I owned (except my collection of books) and moved to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. My parents and brother were already living in PDC, and Godless Dad was to join me soon after I got there. I packed up my pup in a giant crate, and bit my nails through a flight with him in the cargo. This was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It had been me and him vs. the world for so long. We were an inseparable pair – we still are going on 14 years – and putting him in cargo churned my stomach. When I landed in Cancun, I sprinted to the baggage area and followed the thump, thump, thump of his tail hitting the inside of his crate until I saw his smiling brown eyes. I was so relieved to see him. My parents met my best buddy and I outside and we drove an hour in the muggy night to Playa Del Carmen.
I lived in a condo that was so close to the beach, that the road it was on was a sand road:
Road outside our condo
Iguanas and geckos frolicked on the fence and walls around our building, and there was always someone in the pool or grilling arrachera under the palapa. I took my work breaks here, where I lay in the powdery fine sand reading Neil Gaiman books:
My life was pretty uncomplicated. I rode my bike or walked everywhere. I worked at my computer until I couldn’t stay away from the beach anymore. We’d take day trips to Akumal and swim with sea turtles, to Cozumel and snorkel amongst brightly coloured fish. We’d drink beer on the beach for pennies and dive into the refreshing cenotes down the Carretera Federal.
The one thing that bothered me about Playa Del Carmen, though, was the feral dog situation. Not a day would go by where I wouldn’t see a sick or injured dog, or even a dead one lying alongside the highway. I’d hear them whimper in pain while hiding in bushes, and be sitting in the back of a cab that nearly missed hitting one. I’d see them missing legs and eyes and even parts of their heads, still walking around, picking food from the trash. It was heartbreaking and devastating and it nearly made me want to pack my bags and leave.
When my Mom told me she’d met a couple who run a dog shelter, I was eager to get involved. I asked them how, and they explained that the best thing anyone could do, was to join them every week for their dog washes. Every Saturday, tourists, locals and ex-pats alike were invited to the shelter to help bathe and de-tick all the dogs. It wasn’t necessarily that the dogs needed to be bathed weekly, it was more about the potential for adoption and raising awareness. So, I decided to go. Here are a few of my favourite pics from the dog wash days:
Happy to see us arrive:
Godless Dad cuddling a freshly washed fella:
GM’s gigantic prego boobs make for a comfy puppy bed:
De-ticking a newborn:
During the two years I spent living in Playa Del Carmen, this shelter, along with several others, rolled out a campaign to educate local families about pets. They taught care programs in schools and invited local families to come and learn how to care for animals. Another shelter began an annual clinic in which volunteer veterinarians would come from the US and Canada for a week and spay and neuter as many street animals as they could. They would get through thousands and thousands during each clinic.
I’m happy to say that when I visited last year, I was there for two weeks and I only saw one feral dog the entire time. When I was first living in Playa, I couldn’t go a day without seeing at least a dozen.
If you ever visit Playa Del Carmen, and you aren’t forced to witness animals suffering, you can thank these organizations. What they’ve accomplished in just a few short years is awe-inspiring.
If you love pups, and you appreciate the type of work organizations like this do, consider donating to Playa Animal Rescue by clicking here.
Have you ever or would you ever volunteer at a pet shelter?