Numerous times over the course of a year the streets of Panajachel become plagued by large packs of roaming dogs. Somewhere at the front of the steadily moving pack there is almost always a female in heat. She may be trying to break away from the pursuing males, or she may be inviting them to have sex with her.
During these times it is very common to encounter a pack with as many as 15 or more dogs who have thrown caution to the wind. Vicious fighting among the males is also common as they move carelessly through the streets, contending to be the next in line, and often intimidating humans they encounter along their way.
When conditions have permitted, Ayuda volunteers have managed to grab a female and make an escape in a fast moving vehicle. However, many times conditions are not safe to do this. Even if a female is willing to be removed from a gang bang, it is not uncommon for the sex-crazed males to restrict her exit.
When unable to perform a capture safely, our standard practice has been to get as much information as possible about the female (ideally, a photo), and then try to track her down for her spay/neuter at a safer time. Unfortunately, many of these females go under cover and are not seen again until they are weeks into pregnancy. And as a further obstacle, sometimes a pack dog has a human family who, for various reasons, does not believe in having their animals sterilized and may even want their females in a constant state of pregnancy.
Yesterday, Selaine was walking up a busy side street when she was approached by an unusually large pack of dogs. The street was busy with honking buses and trucks during rush hour traffic. Annoyed business owners and frightened pedestrians tried to shoo away the dogs by throwing water and other things at them. But the crazed dogs refused to cooperate.
Running directly towards Selaine in front of the pack was a little female whom we have named Feathers.
Feathers is not an unfamiliar face to Ayuda. We have seen her many times around town, but never before in heat and being pursued. When observed, Feathers consistently appears to be on the move and as if she has a purposed destination to get to. Judging from her breed and general condition, we have always assumed that Feathers most likely has a human family.
As Selaine continued up the street she quickly came to realize that Feathers was in a state of terror. In desperation, the frightened dog went under a parked car seeking sanctuary, but still crying out for help, while a male dog also crawled under the car in hot pursuit.
Pushing the stubborn male suitors aside, Selaine tried unsuccessfully to reach far enough under the sheltering car and grab hold of Feathers. At this same time, one of the Ayuda volunteers who watch over the church courtyard dogs arrived on the scene. Rudy was able to crawl under the parked car and pull Feathers out to safety. As he handed the little dog over to Selaine, Feathers wrapped her paws around Selaine’s neck and clung to her for dear life.
Selaine then carried Feathers through the neighborhood, pushing away the anxious males at her feet, and asking business owners and residents if they knew if Feathers had a family. As she received steady replies of “no” she briefly explained that she runs a program for street dogs and that Feathers was going to Zoo Mascota to be sterilized. To which all gave her replies of support, ranging from “Good!” to blessings and pats on her back.
However, the journey to safety was not yet complete.
With Feathers still clinging to her and surrounded by the males, Selaine jumped into a tuk tuk taxi. But one persistent big boy would not give up. He too climbed into the tuk tuk trying to introduce himself to Feathers. Using her feet, Selaine was able to push him out. But then he chased them the entire way to the clinic, continuously jumping in and getting kicked out each time the tuk tuk had to stop.
Finally, Feathers and Selaine made it inside Zoo Mascota, but so did the pursuing male. He followed them in the front door. As soon as Feathers was secure, efforts were made to capture the male and sterilize him too. But he slipped away. This time.
By the end of the day, Feathers and another female who was captured from a different pack that same morning had both been successfully treated.
Photos of Feathers have been omitted from this publication.
However, on the left is an “after” picture of another female who was also saved from a pack of males a couple of months ago.
Since her operation, Xela has put on a good deal of weight. With her keen sense of street smarts, we are very happy to say that Xela is doing very well in all ways.
Always a pleasure when we see each other, we have come to discover that Xela loves to show appreciation for the help she has received, including a daily meal of healthy food. We often encounter Xela if we are out in the evenings and she very dutifully accompanies us safely to our gate. Click here if you would like to read the original article about Xela.