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  • Writer's pictureAnimal-Kind International

Helping Hands for Hounds of Honduras: running an animal shelter in a pandemic and a hurricane

This is Pilar’s daily routine: 6am dogs, birds, cats, and raccoon get their food and water; then clean up front and back yards, cat rooms, bird cages, and raccoon cage. This usually takes until about 8am or later. Next, cook rice and chicken for the dogs to mix with their food for the next day. About 3pm, check all the food and water and fill up bowls and clean up yards again. And that takes up to around 6pm. In between there’s lots of petting cats and dogs, giving meds, giving massages. Sometimes there’s visits to the vet office, there are volunteers to train and watch over (although they are far fewer these days of covid-19).

During breaks in feeding, cooking, cleaning, and petting, Pilar wrote the following:

As of November 9, there have been 101,000 cases of coronavirus in Honduras with 2,750 deaths. Due to covid-19, people could not leave their houses except on the day allowed according to the last digit of their ID, first every 10 days, then, as of about three weeks ago, every 5 days. Police threatened with taking away car or license or both along with hefty fines. As of today, lock down has ended and everyone was allowed to be out. This is due to the disaster caused by the government opening then closing everything for Morazanic Week from Nov. 4th to the 8th to promote tourism and recover the economy (this led to lots of destruction). [Morazanic Week is a public holiday in Honduras and celebrates Francisco Morazán, the 2nd president of Central America (1830s).]

Things have gotten much worse now, especially on the North coast with the arrival of hurricane Eta last week. The hurricane resulted in many deaths around the country due to drownings and landslides. Besides people, many animals have died, including horses, cattle, pigs, dogs, and cats and many more. Water is still being rationed. Although it’s a very sad situation, one of the heartening things is that many Hondurans tried to rescue their dogs from the floods. In the 3rd photo, there is a fireman doing the rescue. The firemen (bomberos) saved lots of people and animals on the North coast. That is something that wouldn’t have happened in years past-it’s a sign of positive change.

The video shows Pulhapanzak, the famous waterfall, near Lake Yojoa, two days ago during the hurricane:

Since August, there have been many tears and heartbreaks at HHHH’s Nereida Montes de Oca shelter. On September 2nd, the longest HHHH resident, Suyapa, my heart and sidekick, died at my feet after a long bout with kidney failure complicated by ehrlichia. Then 4 days later, sweet tripod Chingo died of ehrlichia also (2nd picture below). He was being treated by the vet as was Suyapa but his platelets were too low.

3 dogs at the Helping Hands for Hounds of Honduras shelter
Beto, Dobie, Suyapa (left to right)
Helping Hands for Hounds of Honduras shelter
Chingo, 2 days before he died

As a result of these deaths, I started taking all the remaining 16 dogs to the vet to be tested for ehrlichia. Having to coordinate with the schedule to be on the road and with the vet's surgery schedule, I started taking 1 or 2 dogs/day between September 7th and October 13th. Of the 11, I have taken up to now, 7 tested positive for ehrlichia. That resulted in 30 days of treatment with doxycicline, amount determined by weight, for each dog that tested positive.

Ash at the vet's office for an ehrlichia test

On October 7th, Rocky the raccoon arrived, rescued by one of the vet's clients. He was only a month or so old, needed a bottle with warm milk and rice cereal every 4 or 5 hours. This continued until last week when he started eating canned cat food, fruits, and vegetables, and cooked chicken along with milk and water to drink. He is very messy and requires lots of work and time!

As you know, I have a soft spot for birds and since I am an ornithologist, I end up with many injured birds that I try to rehabilitate. Gray (picture below) has laid 8 eggs during the last 3 months, 2 at a time. She sat on the first 6 eggs for 60 days, each pair of eggs for 18 to 21 days. She abandoned the last 2 after 4 days. The two white-winged doves also laid 6 eggs, 2 at a time, but only incubated for a few days before abandoning the eggs. None of them had a mate.

We are no longer getting the visiting school groups here, who walked and bathed the dogs and cleaned the yards. We all miss them. The two guys who were helping me at the shelter and with errands are now working in other jobs and are not helping anymore.

So it was a nice break to have two of my ex-students come over with their two children and the woman's mom on October 10th. My female student is a biology teacher at a local high school and her husband is a field biologist working for the government in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in La Mosquitia. They brought over about 100 semitas (sweet bread) for the dogs. They come over about every two months.

They volunteered again on October 31st along with their two children (picture below). They brought brooms, shovels, an electric saw, and other cleaning supplies. Besides bathing the dogs and brushing them, they moved their beds to clean and then cut down 4 dead trees with the electric saw. They took turns holding back 90 lb Thor so he didn't jump on anybody. They also washed all the dog dishes. All 4 family members carried cut branches and loaded it in their pickup truck until nothing else fit!

Ana Maria, who is a well-known cat rescuer, who I often team with to help unwanted cats, found these 2 kitties obviously abandoned, close to where she lives. She brought them into her home and I had the female spayed (1st picture) and the male neutered (2nd picture)-thank you AKI.

Ana Maria, is also a 1st class seamstress and she has made a total of 12 masks for me and for people who come here to volunteer. --One nice thing that has come out of the covid-19 pandemic:


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