Downeast Dog News
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Puerto Rican Rescues Call Maine Home

By Susan Spisak | Dec 01, 2017

They were rescued from Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria left the island devastated--and now many fortunate dogs are going to be enjoying the holidays in their new homes here in Maine.

All Sato Rescue (ASR) in Puerto Rico organized the efforts and worked with New England rescues to take in about 200 dogs, including Maine’s Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland (ARLGP) and Coastal Humane Society/Lincoln County Animal Shelter. They were flown to the states by a private charter plane with the pilot donating his time. Thanks to these big-hearted people, these Puerto Rican “satos” (meaning mutts), have found safety.

Jeana Roth, Director of Community Engagement at ARLGP, said they were happy to be one of the Maine rescues to help All Sato post-hurricanes. “They’re foster-based…these families can barely take care of themselves let alone a pet.” But ARLGP is not new to rehoming dogs from ASR--they’ve taken hundreds of rescues from them for a few years now.

How Maine Mission Began

Years ago, Massachusetts resident Twig Mowatt, co-founder and secretary of ASR, a foster-based rescue dedicated to reducing the numbers of abandoned, neglected, and owner relinquished dogs in Puerto Rico, reached out to ARLGP to see if there were interest in a partnership. They couldn’t do it then, but three years ago ARLGP knocked on ASR’s proverbial door. This lifesaving partnership bloomed and is especially vital in light of this year’s horrific hurricanes.

Why did she contact this rescue in Maine? “I love Portland,” replied Mowatt. She was born in the city and raised in Buxton. And as a volunteer with ASR, she felt ARLGP could help her organization rehome their needy dogs. (ASR doesn’t adopt out the dogs, rather they transfer them to the mainland and rely on shelters across the country to rehome their satos.) She explained that their mandate is to help as many Puerto Rican fosters, rescues, and individual rescuers as possible. They also partner with the Humane Society of Puerto Rico.

Mowatt said they “love [ARLGP] to pieces.” She’s especially appreciative because they often take the special needs and older dogs, and she added that they’ve been an amazing partner. She acknowledged other Maine rescues such as Coastal Humane Society who followed suit and is grateful to them.

Roth agreed that their partnership is terrific, “It’s pretty important work.” She explained that Puerto Rican shelters have a 99% euthanasia rate, while ARLGP has a 99% placement rate. “It’s the polar opposite of sheltering and animal care.” She said they’re proud to work with ASR to rehome these pets in greater Portland and across the state. They have so many lifesaving success stories, pre- and post-hurricanes. Both Roth and Mowatt talked about little Yuko who now is living the dream here in Maine.

Meet Yuko, aka Jax

He was rescued by ASR with his young siblings from a remote area of Puerto Rico in early 2017. The dogs were placed in a foster home, so they could receive much needed medical care, attention, and love. But Yuko’s foster mom noticed that he wasn’t as bubbly as the other dogs, so when his siblings eventually flew to shelter partners, little Yuko had to stay behind.

You see, upon vet examination, it was discovered that this special boy had a birth defect in his heart, and without surgery, he probably wouldn’t survive. A GoFundMe page was set up and thanks to ASR supporters, the necessary $5,000 was raised. Roth indicated that most of those donations came from the mainland, which she said speaks volumes to ASR’s reach.

Yuko had the surgery in Puerto Rico, and once healthy, he flew to the states and was picked up by ARLGP volunteers. His story was covered by a local TV station, and Tony Christensen of Portland saw the piece. He felt that pup looked like their dog, Bailey, another ASR sato that they had adopted from ARLGP in February of 2017. He told his wife Denielle about Yuko, and they decided to go have a peek.

They weren’t planning on adopting a second dog, but love, caring, and fate stepped in. They were told by a volunteer that a few families had visited him, but all were concerned about his medical history. “I got so worried. I got so worried that no one would adopt him,” explained Denielle. They had been told that Yuko was very shy, but they decided to test the waters and introduced him to their dog. Well that shy theory proved incorrect, at least in the case of Yuko with Bailey--they hit it off instantly. “To me, that meant it was meant to be,” said Denielle.

They adopted the Border Collie mix and changed his name to Jax because it means “God has been gracious.” That kind of says it all.

The Christensens now have a full house. In addition to their children, 13-year-old Aiden and 10-year-old twins Ava and Cole, they have the two social, family-friendly dogs. She added that it’s a good thing she has the three kids for exercising the dogs. Bailey and Jax are very active and require about four walks daily, with the first one in the morning being a few miles long. Denielle laughed and added that she’s not allowed near ARLGP--her family is afraid she’ll bring another dog home.

For the Christensens, life is good. Denielle works for a media firm in Portland and Tony owns an environmental company. The trustworthy dogs pal around ‘til the kids get back from school, which is fine with the dogs--Jax, aka “the little one,” adores Bailey, aka “the big one,” and follows her everywhere, and Jax settled in just fine ‘cause Bailey showed him all the ropes of being a family dog.

As far as his health, he’ll live a normal life although he does need medication daily and has to check in with a veterinarian cardiologist regularly.

Mowatt said dogs will continue to come to shelters in Maine, and there’s such a need for rehoming them especially in light of the situation in Puerto Rico, but she’s extremely pleased with the support of the Maine shelters helping these animals. She added, “Maine adopters are so great. They’re so good to the dogs.”