13,000 snips and tucks and still counting

Forty-five minutes before registration was to begin, at eight in the morning, dozens of patients of all sizes and fur shadings already were waiting in the front porch of the Independencia Dance Hall, located  in one of the outlying barrios of San Miguel.

Stew, our gardener Félix and I showed up around nine and set up our weighing station, a key measurement that determines how much anesthesia each patient gets. Too much and they may sleep for  hours. Not enough and one could awaken in the middle of the operation.

Accurate weighing requires the patient to stand still for about thirty seconds, all paws on the flat, two-by-three-foot panel of an electronic scale, preferably without peeing with fright or biting one of us. It can be tricky.

A doughy, wrinkled St. Bernard–later verified to weigh about ninety pounds–seemed to invite pats on the head but let out a less friendly, full-throated woof when someone tried to get too familiar.

A very pre-op male Chihuahua awaits his turn. 

Bug-eyed Chihuahuas, dozens of them, displayed many of the personality quirks typical of the breed. Some nervously accepted a friendly tickle under the chin but most cowered or bared their fangs with the ferocity of canines ten times their size. Looking and behaving incongruously seem to be salient characteristics among Chihuahuas.

In another weight category was a massive black mastiff–I couldn’t tell the specific sub-breed–which was a mountain of muscles and drool that frightened everyone yet rewarded less cowardly humans with frantic wagging of his stumpy tail and licking of any hand or face within reach of his tongue. This guy flunked aggressiveness training.

Not so visible but often heard were cats who arrived in nylon grocery bags or cardboard boxes with breathing holes cut out through which you could occasionally see a protruding pink nose and hear a faint meow.

The occasion was a three-day spay-and-neuter “blitz” sponsored by Amigos de Animales one of the most effective, bang-for-the-peso non-profits in San Miguel. By the end of the blitz, 184 cats and dogs had been sterilized. Stew and I have been volunteering and donating to this group since we moved to Mexico seven years ago.

Waiting and waiting: The man on the right, wearing the baseball
cap was carrying his cat in the shoe box. 

This time we brought Félix who had a grand time weighing dogs and cats, shaving and vacuuming their undersides after they had been anesthetized, carrying them to the operating table and to the recovery area afterward. Anything as long as it didn’t involve the sight of blood, which macho Félix seems to dread despite his protestations. He had so much fun that on the last day his wife and one-year-old Edgar came along to watch daddy in action.

Indeed, by ten o’clock on Sunday, Amigos had surpassed the 13,000 sterilization mark since the organization began its work eleven years ago.  If you figure each sterilization prevented the birth of four to six unwanted kittens or puppies, each of which likely would have had their own litters–and so on and on–pretty soon the arithmetic progression will exhaust the number of zeros in your pocket calculator.

Other animal welfare organizations in San Miguel run shelters and adoption programs and even facilitate adoptions from Mexico to the U.S., all of them worthy efforts. But after witnessing the mayhem of hundreds of homeless and abandoned dogs desperately foraging for food and often getting run over by cars or killed in fights with other dogs, Stew and I have settled on Amigos’ spaying-and-neutering campaigns as the most effective solution to this awful situation.

Rampant pet overpopulation is the central problem.

Two young customers at last weekend’s blitz. 

Over the years we’ve been volunteering with Amigos there has been a change is Mexican attitudes toward sterilization of pets. It is more generally accepted as a good and responsible thing to do for your pet. It’s encouraging too to see young kids bring their animals and understand the value of spaying and neutering. Also there are more pure-bred dogs showing up at blitzes–terriers, Dobermans, poodles and usual yappy crowd of Chihuahuas–in addition to the conga line of mutts resulting from endless breeding.

Curiously there are also many more male dogs coming in, a gradual–and significant–shift in the traditional sexist belief that pregnancy is primarily a female problem, even among pets. To this day some Mexican men recoil at the mention of castrating their dogs, as if that would violate the solemn pact of solidarity among all testicle-owners, human or animal.

At the blitzes, dogs showing up with ropes or wires around their necks get new collars and leashes, and a groomer cleans up the fur, trims the nails and cleans the teeth of some of the dogs while they are half-dazed after the operation, usually for an hour.

The actual operations are performed by two vets working for Amigos and a rotating number of volunteer vets from San Miguel, nearby Querétaro and even Mexico City. Donations go mostly for surgical and medical supplies and rental of the hall for the weekend.

If some readers feel one of their hands instinctively reaching for a checkbook or wallet to make a donation, please e-mail me at stewnal@gmail.com and I’ll give you the details. Hey, donations are even deductible from your U.S. taxes.

This Doberman flunked out of aggression school too. 
The weary expression on this
woman’s face seemed to say:
Enough puppies already

Dressed for the occasion: This guy showed up with a
bandanna that read “Hi Dude!”

Ya talking to me???
A candidate for the grooming station.

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