Chelsea and her 5 puppies were found trying to survive on their own during one very hot summer in La Paz, BCS, Mexico.
Read about the impact sterilization can have on animal welfare in La Paz, BCS, Mexico
By Rebecca MacDonald, President
Baja Dogs Sterilizations
This is a story about one stray dog, named Chelsea, who was rescued in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. It is part of a series of stories we are writing to help illustrate why pet sterilization is so important to the health and wellness of our pets, our families, and our community.
Summers are tough on dog rescuers here in La Paz, BCS, Mexico. While puppy litters are born throughout the year, spring is when we start to get calls about multiple litters of puppies found abandoned, with or without their mamas. At the same time, most of our winter residents go back north to escape the heat by the end of April. That means fewer foster homes for those litters, so the people who remain here often end up with multiple litters they are trying to rescue. In 2022, we rescued 5 litters of puppies throughout the year. In 2023, we had already rescued 5 litters between the months of March and June.
We got the call about Chelsea in July of 2020 from our friend, Agustin, a local neighbor and contractor who is also a dog lover. He told us about a mama dog and her six puppies who were hiding under a bunch of picnic tables piled up in a courtyard at a school in El Centenario, not far from where we live. It was 2019, at the beginning of Covid, and the school and almost everything else was shut down for the summer.
July in La Paz is hot. Really hot. Daily temps rise to the high 90s Fahrenheit, sometimes breaking 100 degrees. This day was no different: hot, dusty, and still. Agustin said the puppies were sick, and in fact one had already died from dehydration. I loaded a crate into the back of our truck and headed over to the school, where Agustin was waiting.
There was Chelsea, a beautiful, small redheaded collie/spaniel mix, trying to shelter in the shade under the picnic tables, nursing the 5 puppies that were left. Agustin helped me move the tables to get to the puppies. We estimated they were about 4 weeks old. One by one we picked them up and loaded them into the crate in the back of my car. When the last one was in, I headed back towards the picnic tables where Chelsea was cowering, afraid and unsure why we were taking her puppies.
“Oh, are you taking her, too?” Agustin asked, sounding surprised. “Of course,” I answered. “Those puppies need their mama.”
In went Chelsea into the crate with her puppies. She was visibly relieved to be going with them, wherever we were headed. When we got them home, we set up Chelsea in a pen in our garage with a crate, soft blankets and, of course, her puppies.
Rescuing any dog here in La Paz is a commitment. We make sure that every puppy we rescue is healthy, fully vaccinated, and sterilized before offering them up for adoption. An adult dog requires 2 vaccines given 2 weeks apart. Once they are ready, we sterilize them, and wait another week to 10 days while they recover. It’s a process. For puppies, the process is longer, as they require a series of 4 vaccines given every 2 weeks.
However, the dogs we rescue are often sick and starving from living on the street, and subject to diseases like erlichiosis, distemper and parvovirus. When we rescue them, it’s often weeks before we can even begin their vaccines. That means that before they can be adopted, we often have them in our home for 2-4 months.
As it turned out, Chelsea’s puppies had parvovirus, an often fatal disease in puppies. Luckily, our veterinarian has a very successful rate of treating parvo. However, he cautioned that with a litter of five or six, it’s often considered lucky if we can save 2 or three. The puppy that didn’t make it before we found them had already succumbed to the virus. The remaining puppies had to be hospitalized for several days, but we are happy to report that, with excellent vet care, all survived.
Chelsea, too, had parvo, and had to be treated, but she rebounded quickly. A small, sweet and furry spaniel mix, she quickly became a favorite around our house. It’s amazing how fast these rescue dogs turn around, forget their past, and become playful, joyful dogs. They are the very definition of resilience. As much as we loved her, we knew Chelsea needed a home of her own where she could get all the attention and love she deserved. Fortunately, a friend helped us find her the perfect home, and she is now happily living her best life in the Pacific Northwest.
Chelsea’s remaining puppies: Bobo, Bandit, Benson, Bubba, and Barkley, all survived and grew into robust, healthy, happy pups. All were also adopted to wonderful homes, one here in Mexico, and the rest were adopted by loving families in the US and Canada.
We are so grateful to all the people who help us rescue, foster and find homes for these pups. Chelsea’s story has a happy ending. But there are far too people willing and able to provide foster homes to the thousands of stray dogs in La Paz, and so many stories like these end in tragedy.
That’s why the work that Baja Dogs Sterilizations is doing is so important to us. By preventing unwanted litters from being born, these campaigns give us hope that we can continue to help the ones like Chelsea and her pups survive, and give them a chance at a better life. Chelsea was one of the lucky ones. But too many others don’t have such good outcomes.
Pet sterilization saves lives. Local families want to get their pets sterilized. They simply do not have the means to take them to a vet and pay for the surgery. Baja Dogs Sterilizations addresses that need by bringing free sterilization campaigns to underserved neighborhoods throughout La Paz. Please join us, and help us help them. You can donate here.