Today is my birthday and to celebrate this day I would like to share a story of my time so far as a volunteer with New Life For Paws Foundation.
I moved to Aruba in 2008 and immediately I was shocked by the number of stray dogs roaming the streets. It was a complete contrast to the glitzy hotels, white sand beaches, the vacay vibes and "One Happy Island" motto. It saddened me to see the dogs suffering and I wanted to help them.
Together with my boyfriend we would feed the dogs, leave them fresh water.... Then we began to RESCUE them... Taking them in off the streets, paying for the veterinary care, and helping to find them homes.
At this time I had no idea that animal charities and rescue groups even existed on the island.
I didn't have a clue that there was so many ex-pats on their own "mission" to save the dogs.
Until one day in October 2015 I saw a video of a dog named Lucky on Facebook... There was an English girl in the video... And being a Brit girl born and raised in Manchester I immediately recognised her English accent and it got my attention. There was this English girl, living in Aruba and saving a dog... WOW! Just like me I thought. All these years on the island and I had never met and English girl living here... And now she is rescuing a dog and bringing attention to the island and the dog problem... I truly admired her and wanted to know more... How could I help? I wanted to get more involved.
Watch Lucky's Rescue Video here.
I found out who she was, Kim Burnell, from the South of England... I looked her up on Facebook and reached out to her... Little did I know that this message would change everything!
She told me how she was helping two ladies named Natalya and Roxanna, from New Life For Paws Foundation. She explained to me a little bit about what they did here in Aruba and I was completely impressed. I had nothing but admiration for these powerful women who are so passionate about saving the dogs and campaigning to make a difference!
I did some research... There are many, many, many animal rescue groups in Aruba... I honestly had no idea! Each one has their own ways of rescuing the dogs but all with the same common goal.
I felt like New Life For Paws had a good work ethic, was truly "in it for the dogs", and was actually making a difference. I still wanted to get more information about the team and reached out to Wendy Gibbons... I actually found/rescued her dog named Deano a couple of years ago... And somehow, without knowing about Aruba Flight Volunteers, managed to help co-ordinate the transportation of Deano from Aruba to Boston... We even got an ad campaign going in the local papers and on the radio pleading for a chaperone (the things we do for dogs!).
It turned out that Wendy, knew Natalya, they had lived on the same street and never knew each other but through Deano and the dogs in Aruba they had come together. Wendy told me a little more about Natalya's story and the goals of New Life For Paws and I knew that this was the right team for me...
So... I contacted Natalya and offered my help... By help I wasn't entirely sure what I even meant... As at that time I was in Canada... What could I do to help the dogs in Aruba a million miles away?... I decided to put my skills as a designer to good use. I offered to design and build them a website for free.... Well that quickly escalated and if any of you reading this have offered to help the dogs in Aruba before, you will know that there is always a GAZILLION more things to do. It's not just as simple as "rescuing" a dog or puppy!
You have to catch the puppy... Most people think you hold your hand out with a piece of meat and the dog/puppy just walks right over to you and jumps in your car.... Nope! Not even close!
I have personal experience of this... Take for example the KIA PUPPIES..... I sat for 4 days in the scorching hot sun for hours and hours, climbing through the cactus bushes, getting scratched and scraped, bleeding knees, to capture 5 tiny puppies!
Then what do you do once you have safely captured/rescued the puppy.... Well you have to get them to the vets... Now... Generally if we are rescuing a puppy... That will mean more than one... Aruban Cunucu dogs often have big litters 6 -10 pups each time... So a vet visit will often mean multiple puppies at one time with only one pair of hands... I did this myself when Natalya was in hospital... Me and 8 puppies... Alto, Bubali, Baby, Arikok, Butucu, Balashi, Ayo, Arashi.... Let me tell you.... It was NOT easy!!! The stress I had that day, on my own, with 8 small pups, full of energy, just picked up from the make shift shelter, pooping and peeing in the back of my car, all eight having to be registered, vaccinated, and microchipped... All at the same time... I have no idea how Natalya does this day in, day out.
Once the vet trips are done... Then where do we put the dogs/puppies... Unfortunately we only have a limited amount of foster families in Aruba... Too many dogs and not enough suitable homes. This is something that Team Paws struggles with every day. I have had puppies for weeks, waiting for a foster family to become available, during those weeks some of them needed bottle feeding every two hours, sleepless nights just became the "norm".
I do feel very fortunate that through Team Paws I have met some awesome people. Decent human beings who are dedicated to the dogs of Aruba and passionate about giving them a better life.
My neighbour Jet Higgins and her husband Jimmy are a prime example. They have hearts as big as the ocean and will do anything to help the animals on the island. The amount of time they have come to my rescue and New Life For Paws rescue is countless!!! They have rescued dogs for years, paying vet bills, feeding the strays in our neighbourhood, spaying and neutering the street dogs, fostering for us.... Truly amazing people that I am proud to know and call my friends.
Eunice, Nabhilach, Lupe, Zoraida, Elizabeth and Leo... A small tiny team of fosters that I am privileged to know. These people really are making a difference for the dogs on One Happy Island. Their dedication, compassion and hard work is unbelievable.
It's not just the volunteers that I know personally or have had the privilege of meeting.
Sherry... Always there at times of need, behind the scenes, coming up with great ideas, doing airport runs and all kinds of stuff to help the dogs of Aruba. Valerie... Who flies to Aruba for one night just to transport and save a dog? Valerie does! Roxanna... My Foxy Roxy... Big heart, feisty Latina, Miss OCD (which I love), a super fun person to be around. DeeDee... Vlog Queen and animal advocate! Then there is Nancy who I had the pleasure of meeting... transporter turned adopter turned foster mom!!!! Jeanie and Megan for finding awesome homes for my colony pups!
Bilhah... A dedicated, sweet, and compassionate vet who has now become a great friend... All through a dog I rescued! Patricia... From LANA Foundation... Happened to be in the vet waiting room at the same time as me one day... We just clicked!
The dogs of Aruba have brought me heartache but also so much joy, love and new friendships.
When I first joined Team Paws I got introduced to Marie from Aruba Flight Volunteers.... WHAT A WOMAN!
I hadn't even met her yet but I already knew I loved her! I remember being invited to the whatsapp group chat so I could see, read, and listen to the messages between our team... Her voice... Softly spoken, that New York accent... I loved it... And when we finally all met at Aruba airport. It was like meeting up with a long lost friend. We hugged, we cried, we laughed and hugged some more. What this lady does for the dogs of Aruba would blow your mind. She has dedicated her adult life to saving them, finding them amazing homes and campaigning to make a better future for the Aruban Cunucu Dogs.
It's been a whirlwind and a rollercoaster of emotions since joining TEAMPAWS but I know what we are doing is changing Aruba one dog at a time!
My last Aruban rescue story was the Colony puppies... That took me two weeks to rescue each one of the 8 puppies born under that abandoned house in Seroe Colorado... I couldn't give up on them and knew I had to get every last one. And I did. Thankfully they all survived. Each one got adopted and are now living the good life.
Sol, Sunny, Shelly, Happy, Reef, Chill, Coral... And last but certainly not least... Moomba...
My little Moomba. The tiny 0.6kg puppy dog who completely stole my heart after the first 24hrs.
He was rejected by his mother and left behind when she moved her pups... I had already been feeding the mother on behalf of Jet Higgins who had to return to Holland so we knew she had given birth to puppies but we wasn't sure where she was hiding them.
This one particular evening... I was just about to meet some friends at the Summer Splash beach party at Moomba Beach Bar... For some reason, before I set off, I decided to leave a little more food for the Mama dog...
So there I was, in my little party dress, make up on, hair do done... And my Timberland boots to climb over the cactus and thorn bushes! I had just put some food in the bowl when I heard a very faint whimper... I looked down and right there at my feet in a pile of old leaves was Moomba... I scooped him up and looked at his tiny little face... His eyes were a bit wonky looking but he looked back at me and I knew my party night at Moomba Beach Bar was no more... So I took him home and nursed him through the night... In fact I nursed him for the next 3 weeks. He never left my side. He slept on the pillow next to my head, he came for car rides with me, to the supermarket, the gas station. What a guy! A little trooper. The odds were against him but he made it.
I knew Moomba was special from day one. He walked a little crazy, never in a straight line, his eyes looked weird, and he would have these slight tremors.
We took him to several different vets both here in Aruba and also in Canada... But without an MRI scan they cannot give an absolute definitive diagnosis but they have all said a similar thing...
"Hydrocephalus, which literally means “water on the brain,” is a buildup of fluid inside the skull. This accumulation puts pressure on the brain, causing signs such as an enlarged, dome-shaped head, seizures, blindness, and behavioral changes. Affected animals will typically begin showing signs of head enlargement in the first weeks after birth. This is because the bones of the skull have not yet fused, making enlargement possible. Once the skull reaches its growth limit, the fluid continues to build, causing pressure on the brain and leading to neurological symptoms, which usually start around eight to twelve weeks. Young animals with hydrocephalus are often the “runt” of the litter, being smaller in size than littermates and slower to learn. Approximately 75 percent of diagnosed canines were reportedly impossible to housebreak. Other signs can include seizures, head pressing, eyes that gaze downward and outward (called ventrolateral strabismus), gait abnormalities and blindness."
He does have difficulty with his balance and can walk like a wonky donkey at times, his eye/paw co-ordination is not the best, but it is improving. His tremors have weakened and are less often now. So we are hopeful that it is only a mild case.
For now we take each day as it comes. We give him lots of love. Every adventure we go on he comes with us. Where ever we go he is a little superstar and everyone falls in love with him. We promise to give him the best life, however long or short that life is. He is our furry family member who we bonded with right from the start, so we will never give up on him and make sure he has a happy life... You can follow Moomba's adventures with his sister Scooby on Instagram @mascotmoomba
So as today is my birthday I have just a few wishes...
I would love for everyone to share this blog and to raise awareness for the dogs in Aruba.
To tell your friends about the amazing work that New Life for Paws does each day.
Join our team and contribute in some way... Whether it's to become a foster family, to donate some dog food, adopt an Aruban Cunucu dog, chaperone a puppy on their freedom flight via Aruba Flight Volunteers, or donate to our Spay a Day fundraiser: www.paypal.me/NewLife4Paws to help Team Paws sterilise more strays on the island.
And lastly do one small act of kindness today for a dog or puppy... Maybe you could give a street dog some food, or leave a bowl of fresh water out for them to drink, or even club together with your neighbours and all chip in 5 florin each to spay/neuter the neighbourhood street dog. One small act of kindness will make a BIG difference.... And you will make this birthday girl very HAPPY!!!!
Thank you for taking the time to read my story on my special day.
Lots of Love
Team Paws Volunteer