Don’t bother buying any guide books for San Miguel De Allende, we have found the best thing to do here, by a million miles!
It’s a charity that provides shelter for animals, which would otherwise be homeless, or put down by the Ecologia (within 5 days) if found roaming the streets.
Each time we go we get huge thanks from all the other volunteers and staff, as if we are some kind of heroes. It’s a lovely team, but to be honest I feel like we should be thanking them, it’s such a rewarding place.
A nervous wreck
All the dogs have their own tale to tell, but one experience that sticks with me is Güera (or Blondie).
When I first met her she was a bag of nerves. As I stepped into her cage, she was frozen to the spot unable to move, except for her entire body shaking uncontrollably. Her vulnerable brown eyes looked like they might pop out.
I tried to bribe Güera with treats. Like humans, the way to a dog’s heart seems to be through its stomach.
She wasn’t going for it though. As I slowly moved the treats to her mouth, she licked them a little and then simply let them fall to the floor. I have never seen a dog so scared that it is unable to eat.
I was smitten. I love a challenge.
Over the next few weeks I became set on winning her over, and putting her at ease.
The first walk was a nervy one, with Güera using the full length of the lead to keep her distance from me. Every time I got too near, she adopted her frozen panicked look. So we found a nice quiet spot in the field where I just sat with her, giving her time to get used to me.
There was no miracle transformation that day, but I was shocked over the next few weeks how quickly I gained her affection and trust.
Each day I would walk Güera, and each day I would run to Kellie happily babbling about the new thing my four-legged friend and me had achieved.
“Today she let me pat her head”
“Today she ate treats from my hand and didn’t spit them out!”
“She does a funny little dance before I come into the cage!!”
“She just snuggled into me and put her paws on my leg!!”
And on it went like this… Every single achievement to me felt like a momentous step. Now when we walk she bounds along with her tail wagging, the lead is always slack. We find a nice shady spot under a tree where we observe the distant hills and lizards scurrying in the long grass. It’s peaceful.
Sadly Güera has been at the SPA since 2009 when she was 2 years old, they never put a healthy dog or cat to sleep. Her shyness means she gets overlooked, but I remain hopeful that someone will see through it and discover her full potential.
The animals get lots of love, affection and exercise here, which is great, but obviously the goal is adoption. The shelter runs at full capacity of around 100+ dogs and cats, and in Mexico there are always more to take on board, as well as limited funds of a charity.
Initially Kellie and me thought we’d pop down occasionally just to help out a bit and get a spot of exercise, but very quickly we became attached to the place and all the wonderful dogs that call it their (hopefully temporary) home. I try and get there 4 times a week, and really miss the place if I can’t make it.
For me it’s good to have an external focus and a purpose. Travelling can often feel like a selfish pursuit, where you constantly thinking about your next adventure. Always taking and never giving back.
I would be lying to say this is purely selfless as I look forward to every moment of it, but I’d like to think it does some good for the dogs, giving them exercise and getting them used to new people, ready for them to be adopted to a new home.
I speak to the other volunteers, many who have been there for years and come every single day. They share their stories with me and you can instantly sense the warmth they have for all the dogs. They are a huge part of their lives.
Harry has been volunteering for 3 years and sits on the board of directors for the shelter. The volunteers are mainly expats and the staff locals, which is great to see.
Harry told me about his experience with Molly, a large black lab.
“For ten months, Molly and I walked together. When something frightened her, I was like a rodeo performer, holding on as best I could as she bolted down a hill. Molly was agile, powerful, and intelligent. She absorbed affection and returned it in kind.”
“No one expressed interest in adopting Molly. Then one day a man named Carlos asked about medium-large dogs. I showed him five. Four were great with him, affectionate and responsive. Molly, though, did not leave my side and even growled at him. When I asked which he liked, he replied, “The black one.” He said he valued Molly’s loyalty to me. I assured him that once she knew him and his kindness, Molly would be loyal to him too.”
“I encountered Carlos’s wife twice. With a smile, she told me that she’s jealous of Molly because she thinks her husband cares more for Molly than he cares for her.”
“I didn’t lose Molly. I miss her greatly, but I am happy for her new life. I will never forget her mesmerizing eyes and her wonderful personality. We each have a piece of each other that will always exist.”
The funny thing is Harry says he didn’t used to be a dog person, and initially only came to do an hour a week under slight duress from Megan, his wife who also volunteers here. These canines have a funny effect though and now he can’t keep away.
I know exactly where he is coming from. I can honestly say volunteering here has really MADE our 3 month stay in San Miguel. I shall miss it by the bucket load when we depart next week.
They are always open to new volunteers; you can donate time, money and supplies, or give a loving dog/cat a new home. You can volunteer as often or as little as you want Monday to Saturday between 11am and 2pm. Find out more here (Plus you can see heaps more cute dog pics and videos to awwww at)
Dog walking and a cute puppy area = happy us