“No kill” is one of those terms bandied about in the U.S. animal shelter community, and it’s sometimes controversial. But that’s not the case at the SPCA Puerto Vallarta. They just do it.
Here’s what I mean: A dog named Carmen was hit by a car and left for dead at the side of the road not far from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Finally, someone finds the dog and offers some water, but the dog languishes for days without eating before the SPCA Puerto Vallarta was notified. The organization’s founder, Janice Chatterton, decides that Carmen wants to live, and that she will be given every chance possible—every chance that medicine can provide—and money isn’t an issue. It’s the SPCA Puerto Vallarta’s definition of “no kill.”
Here’s a description of Carmen at that time (warning: The description is graphic):
In order not to die from infection, Carmen ate her own rotting flesh to stay alive when she was stuck for no one knows how many days at the side of the road. Her instinct to stay alive was just THAT strong. This poor angel has been through hell! She is spoiled at the sanctuary and she couldn’t possibly be receiving more love and care than she is but she is deeply wounded. There is a terror that keeps her awake. We are working with her every minute of every day and will never give up on her, but we wanted you to know that her heart and her soul have been broken. We know she will be ok, but for now, please send her your loving thoughts. We have also learned that there was a witness to the accident. It was a red car driven by a man who knew he hit her. How did he know? Well, he stopped his car to get out and see if there was damage to his vehicle, and then he left Carmen there to die. Carmen is a survivor. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers for Carmen.”
Because gangrene was setting in, both of Carmen’s back legs had to be amputated, one leg at a time. Amputating both legs at the same time was not an option because being under surgery for that long would be dangerous for her in her precarious position. Would she make it through surgery? No one knew.
Not only did Carmen survive both surgeries, she was eating nearly immediately after and expressing her joy. Excellent veterinary care and nearly around-the-clock cuddling—you read that right, this organization has cuddlers who talk to dogs, sing to dogs, pet dogs, and watch over dogs in need—helped, but, in the end, it was Carmen who saved Carmen.
Carmen suffered from night terrors. Dogs do dream about more than squirrels, and she required medication for some time. But even though all this, Carmen always seemed happy to be alive.
Some might suggest she was destined to live her life out at the SPCA Puerto Vallarta as no one would adopt a dog missing two legs. And that would be fine with the SPCA and with Carmen. It’s not a horrible place to live; her needs are met, she is still kissed and doted upon by volunteers and staff, and obviously there’s canine company. But it’s still not the same as a loving forever home.
When Kathy Mackel walked into the facility for the first time, Carmen was there to greet her. Kathy came to the SPCA several times in 2016 to deliver wheelchairs for dogs, including Carmen, from Eddie’s Wheels. Each time she departed, Kathy went home thinking about Carmen. She was sad to leave all the dogs, but particularly Carmen. They had formed a bond. A bond that proved inseparable in the end.
And, that worked both ways, as at the time—unbeknownst to Kathy—staff would report that whenever she didn’t return the next day (because she was on her way home to Oregon), Carmen would act “depressed.” They pined to be with each other.
Months later, when Kathy returned, Sabrina Leyva, director of SPCA Puerto Vallarta, says, “Carmen acted as if she was waiting for Kathy.”
Finally, Kathy (and her husband Jeffray Lewis) made the decision to return in 2018 for Carmen. However, when Kathy departed in November, Carmen acted so distraught that Kathy was asked if she could have Carmen flown to her in Oregon sooner than planned.
They are inseparable. Somehow Carmen rolled right off the plane into the family as if it were meant to be all along…that someone had written this love story.
Kathy insists that Carmen is saving her as much as she saved Carmen. And Carmen’s story isn’t unique. The SPCA Puerto Vallarta has changed so many lives, human and canine alike. But they can’t continue to do their amazing work without your help.
When the founder of the SPCA Puerto Vallarta, Janice Chatterton, began her mission, too many dogs were still tied on rooftops in and around Puerto Vallarta. Dog were tied up in yards without food and water, or wandered the streets and beaches, homeless. While all these problems still exist, locals suggest Chatterton has single-handedly changed the culture. No doubt expectations of the growing number of U.S. and Canadian nationals has made a difference as well.
In Puerto Vallarta, Chatterton has helped establish the concept of “voluntourism.” The SPCA Puerto Vallarta Sanctuary welcomes tourists willing to spend a good part of a day volunteering at the facility. Many wind up adopting a new BFF. Chatterton is now an expert at the process of transporting animals to the U.S. and Canada. However, not even every U.S.or Canadian home is good enough. Chatterton has standards. “My goal isn’t only to find these animals a home, it’s to find a good home,” she says. “Many have had rough lives, and they flourish with love.”
Love should not have borders or boundaries. SPCA Puerto Vallarta is a nonprofit, and contributions from the U.S. and Canada are tax deductible.