The Covid-19 pandemic has shed a light on the great number of vulnerable people here in the Baja. Working people, who often have only enough to sustain themselves and their families from one payday to another. When the work stopped, people worried. It was stressful not knowing how they would feed their families until the work started again.
Many grass roots organizations stepped up to raise funds and prepare food hampers or dispensas that were delivered to communities in need. Baja Dogs La Paz worked with many of these organizations to provide dog food.
Helping to deliver food, both people and dog food, to families so they could keep their pets is something that will leave an indelible mark on me.
We saw immensely proud people who accepted our help with gratitude.
We saw kids who ran out of the house to help carry the packages for their mothers.
We saw dogs getting a good meal.
We also saw people who could barely sustain themselves and their beloved pets.
These people were on the fringes, sometimes homeless or sometimes living in a collection of discarded items cobbled together to offer a bit of shelter.
These were the truly vulnerable.
The people who barely noticed that there was a pandemic going on because for them life was a day to day struggle.
We visited an older woman who lives in squalor next to a garbage dump. Her house consisted of a mishmash of discarded items. Everything from baby strollers to grocery carts were pushed together to form a framework. She lived inside with no power, no running water, no lavatory. And very little to ward off the elements.
Yet she has her two dogs with her. She absolutely loves her dogs and it is understandable. They are constant companions who never let her down.
There is no judgement, no demands, only loyalty and love coming from them. She shares her meager rations with them because they are her family.
Another grandmother gladly accepted food for herself but was overwhelmed when we offered her dog food too. All five dogs were there eager to greet me as I stopped to drop off the food. They had ticks on them and looked like they could use a good meal. She pleaded with me to adopt one or two of her puppies.
This grandma didn’t have the means to take her dogs in for sterilization even though the service is offered for free. She had no transportation and of course she couldn’t take them on the bus.
She did what she could for her dogs because she loved them, and she wanted to do the best for them.
We drove down this road towards the beach along a newly built wall to the end of the road which was blocked. I couldn’t see around the corner and I wondered who could be living out this far.
Shortly a woman and her young son came around the corner. I looked around to see what they were living in. Again a make-shift “house” with tarps and pallets cobbled together offering little protection from the sun and wind. She asked if we had diapers for the baby.
Here was a family with young kids and a baby living hand to mouth and yet they offered us their smiles and heart-felt gratitude. They too had dogs whom the kids adored. Somehow, they managed to share what they had with the dogs.
There is a homeless man, “Abram”, who walks the streets of central La Paz. You know it is him because he has at least six dogs travelling with him. The dogs are all different sizes and ages. Most of them are not leashed but they don’t stray far from him.
In normal times, he survives on the generosity of tourists and people in the neighborhood who give him food or money. Some of the stores leave the water tap open for him to wash up and give the dogs a drink.
The pandemic really affected Abram and his dogs because stores were closed and there were no people on the streets. He is another example of how people with little or no means still find a way to keep their animals.
He loves all his dogs and does everything he can to keep them healthy and safe often at the expense of his own health. We make sure he has food for himself and his dogs.
Sometimes we rescuers get accused of caring more for dogs then we do for the people. I guess in some cases that might be true since dogs are vulnerable and we feel the need to give them a voice.
The fallout from this pandemic has opened my eyes to see how many people in our own community who are vulnerable and who also have no voice. At least not a voice that is heard.
Dogs offer so much to people who have so little. They provide love and companionship, security and warmth, loyalty and devotion. Things that are scarce when you are living on the fringe of society.
We at Baja Dogs La Paz are so fortunate that we have generous donors who allow us to help ease the burden for people so they can feed their dogs and keep them close.
Our Covid-19 Dog Food program is on-going and is designed to feed community dogs. If you would like to help, your donation is very much appreciated.
Of course, we continue to work with our rescuers to rehabilitate and re-home dogs even with this pandemic. Here are just some of the dogs looking for new homes. Check out the “Impossible Mission” blog post where you can read about us delivering 16 dogs to their waiting families.