Sylvia works for Rescatame – an animal rescue in Punta Cana
Who do you call when you see a stray dog limping on the side of the road in Punta Cana. Or when a dog is lying on the street after being hit by car? There is an organization that helps in cases like this. Rescatame (rescue me) is a foundation, set up by 3 ladies in Punta Cana, to help dogs that need care. In this edition of BOP faces, one of the founding member Sylvia Mendez speaks about her passion for rescuing dogs and finding them a home.
A bottle of chlorine, towels, a big blanket, dog food and bowls are packed in the back of her car. Sylvia Mendez (47) is always prepared to help a stray dog in need. “Today I am passing by some of the places where we feed dogs. One place is between the Ocean Blue Sand hotel and the Bahia Principe, the other at Macao, and I pass by our patients at the veterinarian,” Sylvia explains.
Searching for dogs in need is a daily task for her. Every day between 8 and 10 in the morning before work she does her puppy round as she calls it. Visiting dogs that are at the vet and bringing food around. When an emergency call comes in, she tries to respond to the situation in her lunchbreak.
“When I come at the scene, I sometimes find a dog bleeding. My car is prepared for those emergencies. I have towels a big blanket and at times a crate in my car, so I can bring them to the vet.”
Uruguayan Sylvia moved to the Dominican Republic with her husband 13 years ago, to work in the tourist sector. “When I came here, I was not rescuing dogs right away. First you start living here everything is nice, the beach, and the tropical surroundings. After a while you start seeing more of the poverty of people and dogs on the street.”
Start of Rescatame
“7 years ago, I started rescuing dogs from the street here and there. When I saw a sick stray dog on the street, I used to bring it to the veterinarian,” Sylvia says. It was through this lifestyle that she met Christina and Viviana, two Italian ladies who also picked up dogs in need from the street. Christina, came with the plan to start an organization and called Sylvia and Viviane to participate. That’s how Rescatame was born in 2012.
With Rescatame Sylvia takes sick dogs from the street and brings them to a veterinarian for care. When they are better, the stray dog is placed in their FaceBook group to see if anyone is interested in adopting this dog. “We do not have our own shelter. Luckily the veterinarian who we work with, lets our dogs recover in his clinic for a reduced price. Everything we do is with the donations we get. We also use our own money to provide for the animals.”
Rescatame only rescues dogs that are ill. “Because of the hot and humid weather here, a stray dog that has a cut can be infected fast. Flies lay eggs in the cut and the dog is full of maggots, because of this.”
“Not everyone understands what we do. Sometimes we get calls of people saying that we should pick up a dog in the street that bothers them, or they get angry that we do not have a shelter for more dogs. We just do what we can.”
Adoption of a stray dog
“Most of our dogs are adopted by families in Canada and the United States. People who were here on vacation or through an organization that we work with in Canada that find foster homes for the animals. The dogs are adopted less locally. In Canada and the USA, people really feel that they rescue a life and the new pet is part of their family. Here it is different in a lot of cases. Some people live in poverty and cannot take care of themselves, why put all that care into a dog? I do not judge them. Sometimes we come into poor communities, where we take malnourished dogs with us. Afterwards we come back for the people to help them too. We give them secondhand clothing, donated bedlinen, towels and other things to help them. Others want pure breed dogs, like chihuahuas.”
“This dog is adopted by a family in Canada.” Sylvia has a light brown-haired puppy on her lap. “She will get her rabies injection first. 30 days after this injection she can fly. Those are the rules.”
Spay and neuter
“Do you know that a female dog can have 24 puppies a year? Punta Cana would have so many stray dogs on the streets. That is why we organize our spay and neuter clinics. Every 2 months we work with veterinarians from Santiago to sterilize dogs. To stop the overpopulation of stray animals on the street. People can bring their dogs for free. We helped around 3300 dogs and cats. Once a year we team up with organizations in Canada or the USA and vets come here from those countries. We look for a place where the surgeries can be performed. Sometimes in a community center.”
“At the moment, I would not think of anywhere else to live than in Punta Cana. It is beautiful. I have my family circle here. My husband and our 8 dogs. All dogs are from the streets, they are my kids. I do feel you can have your home wherever you go, you just need to make it work.
We (3 founding members Rescatame) are from foreign countries. This country has been good to us. That is why we want to make it a little better by giving back.”
“My favorite spot in Punta Cana is the beach at Macao. Especially the area where it is quiet. I like quiet places,” a laughing Sylvia says.
Rescatame gets help from 10 committed animal-loving volunteers in Punta Cana.
Photo: founding members Rescatame. Sylvia, Viviana and Christina