Heroes Oaxaqueños: A Message from the Dog Man

Heroes Oaxaqueños: A Message from the Dog Man

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” – Cesar Chavez

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The name Alejandro had come up many times before meeting him since I first moved to Pto. It is a small place, yes, but Alejandro I discovered is actually a low key local hero. In the cliche sense, we could say he’s the dog man here in town, but this guy has dedicated his life to his passion for helping animals. And, even cooler, he has understood on a broad level that the way to do this with efficacy is by educating people.

So, amongst my time spent here in one of México’s gems, I’ve connected with the tatted up Oaxacan dog man, also a generational coffee rancher. We are off the Pacific coast in a small town, Puerto Escondido, meaning Hidden Port. It feels ironic, teetering on taboo, to write about a place with hidden as part of its name, but I’d like to think Alejandro is one in which to pay homage. He is the true epitome of nonprofit service. So often we hear or say terms like “nonprofit” that we almost become auto-piloted and numb to the meaning of what we are even saying. Let’s put it this way, this man is a coffee rancher by day and a man of community social work 24/7. This is not his business; this is his blood, his heart, his life. He helped me during a crisis with my own dog, and I soon learned that for so many here, he is all they have. I was able to sit down with Alejandro over a cup of coffee, claro, as a muffled Rolling Stones jammed in the distance. I listened as he shared his story, his message, his dream.

His Puerto journey began eleven years ago, a move well-made for the heat and warm water to heal some of his ill perros. His attention quickly took to the surplus in ubiquitous grim conditions of the local animals. After attempts to create an organization to help the animals — but with interference from differing views on how to actually do so — his experience has instilled strong belief in prevention. He believes the only realistic way to stop the overpopulation of neglected, malnourished animals that run rampant is by educating people about sterilization. But, also providing healthcare for a multitude of reasons and needs, such as for animals of people that care, yet the so many that can not afford it. So, around five years ago was the birth of his clinic, Esteriliza y Educa, a nonprofit organization centered around donation-based campaigns with its message of prevention & accessibility.

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The planning and logistics of the campaigns are arduous. The volunteer’s time, knowledge, and space are all available to the community. Donations from the community, and from the pockets of the volunteers themselves, are the only way this clinic stays alive. Alejandro affirmed, “People think because it’s free that we have everything, but we need to buy everything. So, it’s not that easy. We are not rich people.”

As he also insisted several times, none of this would exist without the help of a divinely ordered team. He said, “You can’t do this work alone, and that’s something very important to say… It is very difficult to find the right people to work with… It takes time, but animals are very smart. Somehow they introduce you to the right people.”

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This small team of heroes opens up shop to sterilize and treat animals in need on Sundays, as long as supplies allow it. We’re talkin’ 25–40 surgeries in a day. I spent one afternoon observing the surgeries at Alejandro’s house. There was a line of people outside with an array of dogs and cats needing various attention. There were scheduled surgeries for sterilization, and walk-ins such as a street dog whose tail had been run over, amid others. A prevalent issue is often poisoning. Rescuing a small, helpless dog as it stumbled cross-eyed in the street one day was a hard memory to knock. Alejandro and I had also discussed unethical campaigns by the government. Unfortunately, a cat came in need of treatment for this reason. It was suffering from an infection from the use of cheap supplies and botched internal work. This is a large reason why trust has been crucial to establish within the community. These government campaigns have battered the locals’ trust. Through word of mouth, awareness about the clinic and its accessibility has spread, in turn providing opportunity and movement for their underlying message of prevention.

Alejandro pointed out, “It’s not only the street dogs that need help. We need to educate the people to stop this problem. So, for me, it’s always been in the prevention area. The main goal is to stop the overpopulation. We do this by educating people to be sensitive, to respect, to love and care for the animals.

We have to make them understand [sterilization] doesn’t change the character of the animal… some understand, some don’t. But more male dogs are coming than before, so it is changing. But, this is with ten years of work.”

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It did not take long to realize that this man’s daily life has been completely bombarded by his sacrificial service. Sundays are for surgery, but it never stops there. The Rolling Stones and our conversation were interrupted three times in an hour by unannounced visitors asking for his help. So I, of course, had to inquire, “How do you sustain? Where do you draw the line? Or, do you ever say no? (We both laughed).”

Alejandro cool and calmly declared, “It’s hard to say no. I mean, I have a life… I use to have a sign, ‘from this time to this time’, but people show up anytime. People don’t read. If I put up a sign that says no service, they still come. But, it’s really hard to say no… I need to get out of my house; that’s the only way.”

“So, where did this begin for you? What’s the early memory?”

“I just love the animals. I don’t like them suffering… if I have the ability, the knowledge, the heart, and if I don’t do it… I would not go to sleep in peace… the payment is the satisfaction of doing something good for an animal who can’t talk, can’t express, who can’t ask…”

“And the balance is…?”

“I don’t have the economy, the tools to help them all… I have to be clear about this,” he said, “I have to keep focused on what I can actually do to help. And, it’s hard because you always want to help all of them. But there has to be a balance… so, I love the Stones (as they play in the background and we laugh again), that’s why I listen to the Stones everyday… and I like coffee.”

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During my short time spent with Alejandro, it seems he relates to animals because he relates to the art of energy, or to nature rather. As hectic as it seemed from my perspective for a day in the life of the dog man, Alejandro seemed right in his element. On his off days, he drives through the winding roads of Oaxaca, always ready with a bag of food and water which, by the way, likely means several stops. If that’s all he can do for the day, then so be it… until tomorrow, claro.

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  • You can help by donating to fund supplies for sterilization & an array of treatments for street animals & families of animals in need.

 

  • A year’s worth of supplies is typically arranged into four campaigns a year with a goal of 75,000 MXN Pesos per campaign (= around $3,600 USD).

 

  • That is less than $15,000 USD to cover a year’s worth of supplies.

 

  • $12 USD = sterilization for an animal 

>>>>> DONATE <<<<<

ESTERILIZA Y EDUCA FACEBOOK

esterilizayeduca.com/

Muchas gracias por tus ojos, tus oídos, tu corazón ❤

 

 

*Shout out to Ashlea at BreakLooseJournal for my initial introduction to The Dog Man, big ups chica

It’s Not Goodbye, It’s Hello.  

It’s Not Goodbye, It’s Hello.  

A few months ago when my brother Patrick died, somewhere in the midst of the funeral haze, I drifted off by myself to collapse on a bed and sob. My eyelids lifted to watch my consoling cousin pull back the tear-drenched hair off of my face. I recall my faint, yet bitter voice emphatically saying to her, “You know, I could be standing in the most exotic, stunning place in the world right now and I’d see no beauty. I’d feel nothing.”

I meant that. Much of the declaration was because world travel has become an invigorating passion of mine. But, sadly, it’s because this is not my first rodeo of tragic death. I lost my oldest brother Aaron when I was a teenager. After a decade of soul-searching and finally feeling at a pinnacle, losing both of my brothers has been a bizarre actuality to wrap my head around.

To say this year was one of the most formative years of my life would be an understatement. Then again, it has been so transitional that I am not sure taking form is even the right description. As per usual with the ever-flowing tide of life, it has been accompanied by soaring highs, followed by one of the greatest lows. It was a year in which I left behind my California identity of the last decade to embark on a new story. I confronted changes occurring within me while adapting to those outside of me. It was a year where I went to the other side of the world to feel back in the world. An excursion to the magical island of Bah-lee completely changed and redirected my life. I had never felt more alive than traveling solo in such a foreign land, and I had never felt more dead shortly thereafter.

As days have gone by, each one feeling as though there’s a little more life inside of me, I reminisce back to what I said to my cousin that day. I recognize it as a reflection of my internal experience at that moment in time. My apathy towards the aesthetics of the external solely mirrored that I felt dead inside. My reality was a belief I created based off of the numb feeling that nothing could make me feel alive again. Of course with good ole time, this experience has shifted. Since the loss of Patrick, I’ve returned once again from traveling. My thoughts have centered around a prevalent theme that emerged — an embrace of transitions.

In retrospect, there are so many chapters in my life that were remarkable periods of transition. Yet, if each changing moment is one transition to the next, then isn’t everything a transition? Reminded by all chapters left to the past, one final page after another, it got me thinking about my perception of goodbye. As someone who has long struggled with goodbyes, I’ve come to discover why traveling has been healing for me. The temporal experiences that unfold, only to fade, have been a powerful teacher. It fascinates me, really, the incredible forces at work when I step into the unknown to allow the divine to intervene. In my experience it has been one of the greatest agents of change, accelerating rapid growth and bringing forth much clarity. The big picture, so to speak, becomes a lot clearer.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is always the people I meet and connect to along the way. It’s interesting, being the person that’s never liked goodbyes. There’s an inherent understanding when traveling that while I may meet others on the journey, there’s no guarantee for anything further. In fact, there’s more the likeliness we won’t see each other again than there is otherwise. The respect of the present moment and allowing it to be is the lesson. It is recognition of a willingness to embrace the new moment and the ability to gracefully let go of the last. The beautiful temporal qualities of life teach us that there’s no way to foresee that which is to stay or go. It’s a hard thing to master, letting go, especially when shocked or traumatized. The go-to of fight-or-flight is to clench with all one’s power. Yet, we fail to realize the giveaway of power when struggling to make something stay that is to end. Things forever continue to strip away in life. The more I’ve grown and the more goodbyes I’ve had to say — I’m learning to consider a new perspective. I’m learning that maybe it’s not goodbye, it’s hello.

It’s been a year of many goodbyes and many hellos. As my various grief becomes interwoven, all I can do is stand in it. Feel it. Face it. Loosen my grip, and let go.

Endings are hard, but as it is often practiced in yoga — the transition between each pose can be the most enlightening of all. It is the power in awareness of each transition. How do I respond to the changing moment? Am I present? Is my ego holding onto something that happened in the last that no longer serves me? Am I moving forward into the next with total embrace of the new? Can I trust that what is gone is as it should be? Can I be content with the plan that is out of my control? Can I trust myself to be okay? Can I have compassion for my grief along the way?

So, life is one transition after another. It is a transition from one moment into the next, a city or career to the next, a profound love, or from one dimension into the next.

It is challenging to accept both of my brothers’ fate and their transitions from birth to death in this lifetime. Still, I ponder my own transitions of grief and have learned something. In one moment I thought I could see no beauty in the world, that I was dead inside. A few months later I was on a gorgeous beach in Mexico, and I was feeling things; I was feeling a lot. As the lucid, turquoise water slipped between my ankles, and the warm wind danced on my skin, there I stood in my grief. And, even as much ache as I may still feel in my heart, I was able to look around and feel some peace that day. I could acknowledge gratitude for the new because I could see my progression. So, I was able to accept goodbye a tiny bit more, and this time I could say, hello.

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Tulum, Quintana Roo, México

#Grief&Glory