Dr. Ropski traveled to Puerto Rico with other volunteers from the Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. Lucky Dog is a foster based rescue organization in the DC area that brings animals from Florence SC, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico for adoption.
During this yearly trip to the island Team Lucky Dog has the opportunity to observe and assist other animal rescue’s efforts, understand the street dog population and difficult situations they are faced with, and the people that give everything to these animals.
In conjunction with PR Animals, a local rescue organization in Puerto Rico, time is spent at the Pet Village to help clean kennels in addition to exercising and socializing the dogs living there until they can be transported for adoption. These animals enter a medical and socialization protocol as most come from the streets or homes devastated by Hurricane Maria where they can no longer be cared for. All are spay/neutered, vaccinated and 4Dx tested. Additional opportunities include observing local feeding routes, visiting homes of rescuers, and rescuing street dogs.
Dr. Ropski spends her time performing exams on potential animals for adoption, reviewing medical records, and performing preliminary behavioral evaluations. Once animals are cleared for transport the process begins to determine their transport timeline, compile their adoption profile and determine availability of fosters or potential for an adopter.
Puerto Rico has a substantial street dog or Sato population. A Sato is a term for a mixed breed dog from the island of Puerto Rico. These may have once been owned but the family could no longer take care of them or they were born in the street due to lack of spaying/neutering. One particularly humbling experience is observing the living conditions the families taking care of these animals. They dedicate their lives and finances to these dogs, no matter the cost to themselves. We try to rescue these streets dogs when possible to remove them from the population, to provide them with veterinary care and the opportunity for adoption whenever possible.
This trip a sweet black dog stole Dr. Ropski’s heart. He was found under a car and the group was concerned that he wasn’t moving. His eyes were crusted shut due to discharge from infection, his hair coat was sparse but he was covered in fleas and ticks, and he had multiple masses on his body (some open and infected). While attempting to rescue other dogs of the pack, the affectionately named Rhino, stood within the volunteer group and gently took treats (based solely on smell as he could not see). When leashed, he stood shaking and was obviously terrified of this strange item around his neck. Dr. Ropski carried him to the van to transport to a local veterinary clinic. Initially timid but by the end of the ride he was looking out the window and snuggling on the seat. He will be treated for his eye infection and his sparse hair coat, fleas and ticks as well as be vaccinated. His masses will be monitored and potentially removed during his neuter surgery. Good Luck Rhino!
This opportunity is life changing as it not only shows the perseverance of a culture after a disaster but also the resilience of the people and animals. It also reminds us that each rescue animal has a story and some have a longer road than others.