We gave this street puppy from Bolivia name Paz. Paz means peace in Spanish. It also means Paz was found in La Paz, more precisely in El Alto. We also related this name to prayer for peace that the cities of Bolivia were lacking so much at that time. Maybe that’s why we had to look for help in other countries. People in those times think about self-preservation primarily which is probably understandable. But still, would you suggest a rescuer to kill a puppy that’s practically out of the woods?
Let me tell you a story.
That early November we should have been on our way to Salar de Uyuni. We didn’t want to stay in La Paz that was boiling with protests against the government for too long. But then this little street puppy happened.
We planned to go downtown for one night to see the city and enjoy some nice food. But since that Thursday morning Tom was unwell so we cancelled our accommodation. Around 4pm we found a bleeding puppy opposite our airbnb in El Alto. Huge blood clots were coming out of her nose and mouth, her front legs covered in blood. Neighbourhood was living its usual life while this pup was terrified what’s going on and bleeding all over the place. Phoebe and Lolo were on the leashes and Lolo just did a poo. Tom was slowly approaching the puppy while a local señorita was only interested in me picking up Lolo’s shit (while I was already holding a bag with Phoebe’s poo). Not giving a damn thought about what’s going on at that corner of El Alto. Of El Alto covered with shit of poor fellows of this street puppy. Can you see the irony? I did and had to clench my teeth not to throw that bag on her.
After we took Phoebe and Lolo into the house, we returned to the puppy with our airbnb host Cinthya and some blankets. She wasn’t even fighting Tom when he slowly put the blankets around her and picked her up. Cinthya has called a local vet in the meantime. After taking a brief look at her, he suggested euthanasia. No X-ray, nothing. We looked at each other and we said “Absolutely not, not without knowing what’s going on!”. He advised us about a clinic that should have been able to examine her and even take her in.
Me and Cinthya ran back to the house to grab something to carry her. She had about 12 kilos and we knew we couldn’t take her on teleferico just like that. So we found a typical Bolivian scarf that people carry kids and loads in. Our journey started by taking a minivan to the teleferico and then smuggling her on the teleferico as a baby. Dogs can be transported there but in a kennel and it takes ages for the staff to send that kennel from the other station (that we later learned while travelling with our dogs). When we got of the cable car, the streets were covered with cars and protesters. It was around 6:30pm and the vet was closing at 7. We flagged down the taxi and followed the blue dot (as our taxi) that was sloooowly moving on the google map. We could see people walking around with huge Bolivian flags, calling for democracy, calling for transparency in the elections.
Finally we arrived and the vet was still there. But unfortunately, the advice from the previous vet was incorrect and he couldn’t keep Paz overnight. He sent us to the 24hr clinic that was about 1km away. It was already dark and we could see rows of people walking on the streets, blocking streets and chanting. Tom was carrying little pup all this time, since few hours when we found her. The clinic Semevet in La Paz finally looked like a proper animal hospital where you go when you’ve got a REAL problem.
They took care of us immediately. It reminded me a lot of my work at the neonatal intensive care unit. As here, we did everything ourselves. Taking history and obtaining vascular access of course but also doing x-rays and ultrasound, not calling a radiographer. That’s what I loved, getting the hands on. The young vet Diego with the assistance of his boss explained everything, also informed us of prices as this kind of care is costly. She had three fractures on the skull and was still bleeding from the nose and mouth. On the ultrasound they saw a haematoma in one of her kidneys. One of the pupil reflexes was very slow. We agreed that the CT of the brain will be done the next day to know the prognosis. If there’s a bleed, the prognosis would be very sad.
They put her on a drip and sent us to the treatment room where they had cages for hospitalisation as well. The news were on and I could hear them saying that police used the tear gas again. There were other people in the room with their pets and it felt like a family. We were in this together, being worried about our 4-legged friends. They heard the story from Cinthya and one of the families in the waiting room gave us 50 bolivianos to contribute to the treatment. I couldn’t hold tears anymore. In this horrible shitty situation when we were in the middle of political unrest, without clear understanding what will happen to the puppy if they’re able to save it, these little acts of kindness are irreplaceable.
“We will call you Paz.”
She couldn’t breathe properly with all the blood blocking the nose. Her head was falling from the fatigue but she always woke up. You could tell however, she’s getting more and more comfortable and trusting. She was on a drip constantly, they were administering drug to lower intracranial pressure and to control the bleeding. And as we were told also antibiotics.
That night we left the clinic around 11pm, incredibly grateful to Cinthya who went through all of this together with us and made especially the transport in the city far more efficient and fast.
Next morning we rushed back to the clinic because Paz was meant to have CT scan of the head. There was another doctor looking after her. This was the situation every day, there was hardly any continuity and I believe that also led to a situation/mistake, I will tell you about later. He gave Paz a mild sedative and Tom carried her in his arms again to a nearby human radiology clinic where they did the scan. We had to wait until the afternoon to see the results and the prognosis. Paz was slowly waking up and a lovely veterinary med student cleaned her nose from the old blood so she could breathe better. Finally a human being. Don’t misunderstand, we really appreciated the quality of the clinic in terms of facilities and speed how they acted. But it lacked the human mindset. It’s something that me and Tom as human doctors remind ourselves all the time. We heal not only with drugs, surgeries and interventions. We heal with words and touch, we heal with listening and understanding. It’s something that so many doctors especially in Slovakia and Czech Republic lack. In the UK it was different as the med students are taught how to communicate with the patient and it’s important part of the clinical exams too. I could now feel from the point of the patient or patient “parent” how important this skill really is.
We came back in the afternoon and the young doctor showed us the CT scans.
“There is no intracranial bleed and the fractures don’t require surgery. We need to be careful about this eye though as there’s a lot of swelling pushing on the optical nerve.”
She will be alright!
We’ve now got the green light to start looking for adoption or foster care. We definitely didn’t have place in our trailer to put the third dog and she also needed time to recover first before travelling anywhere. I made a video to help with her adoption. It was shared thousands of times, tens of thousands people have seen it. We contacted all the rescue organisations we could think of. We were in touch with the individuals, foster carers, people who had mini shelters in their homes. Our friend Jackson from the US who now lives in Costa Rica with his adopted dog Maggie offered to adopt her. But we needed to buy time before she was able to travel, healed and vaccinated.
The accident happened on Thursday. On Monday we took Paz from the clinic, in a carton box. Still no home. Cinthya agreed we can take her to her house and she didn’t want us to pay for accommodation. She let us stay there even though she was leaving for Brazil and Turkey the next day. We also realised when we took Paz home that Semevet hasn’t administered any antibiotics for five days of hospitalisation even though a nurse told us she’s on antibiotics and the clinic boss also confirmed that the first night. If you don’t have medical background, we’re talking about a dog who’s got huge blood clot in the nose – communicating with the environment and three skull fractures. Blood clot is an ideal place for the bacteria to start growing. They even dared to lie about and when Tom (as a surgeon dealing with similar situations in humans) challenged the boss about this, he was very, I mean VERY arrogant, not wanting to accept the mistake. We ended up giving Paz intramuscular injections of antibiotics for 5 days ourselves and you can imagine neither of the parties involved was happy about it. Paz because of the pain and us because causing it to her.
These days were really draining. You know I strongly believe in karma, in goodness. If you do good, it bounces back. But this time the bouncing back part was really late and with the protests worsening every day, we were getting worried. About Paz and about our dogs who had no clue what’s happening but they accepted the puppy somehow. And apart from Cinthya we really didn’t feel any interest from locals, sadly even from locals who were directly involved in rescuing animals.
Before you start judging me for judging and “expecting” something back, I’d like you to imagine this situation. You’ve got a dog you helped because you love animals from the bottom of your heart and you just can’t have left it on the street bleeding out. You paid for its treatment fully and now the dog is eating, walking, drinking, just needs time to recover. You even have got somebody to adopt it later. But the rescue organisation Animales SOS Bolivia tells you you should have killed the dog because that’s what they do with any dogs that have got fractures or were in a car accident. Without consideration that this dog is practically well now. Every day you get tens of messages saying somebody can help you and you should get in touch with them and then it turns out, they can only share it on facebook. And one of your insta followers tells you it’s your problem, you should deal with it and not bother him with your “feelings”…. Try this for few days in the middle of tear gas and protests and I guarantee you’ll get on the way to madhouse and you’ll lose all hope for humanity. We’re not superheroes and have got tough days, too.
Thankfully sun came out from behind the clouds. First of all, Paz was every day better and she even started playing with Phoebe and Lolo. Second of all, the community we’ve got around us on instagram and facebook supported us with nice messages. Some of these lovely people also offered to help us with the cost of the treatment, as well as one lady from La Paz contacted Cinthya to give her some money for Paz.
But every day we were painfully aware of the situation. As opposed to Chiqui when Oscar, her vet helped us immediately with fostering her and finding her family, this was so different. Nobody from the locals wanted to have anything to do with her, we felt very lost and insecure. We were still getting messages from local people full of false hope that just added to our anxiety.
Ok, this is bad, let’s think out of the box. I contacted Geovanni from Casa de Ciclista in Juliaca who already had two adopted dogs if he could help with foster care. His first response was negative so I left it. But then he probably re-thought it and got back to me with happy news. He would take Paz in and after few months she could travel to Costa Rica to Jackson.
Yesss, we had it sorted. Now only figure out how and when to get her there. Juliaca is a town at the northwestern side of Lago Titicaca in Peru and there were colectivos going to the border from El Alto. Then hopefully further transport… Our cyclist friends saved us again. Chris from Switzerland was coming back to La Paz and he agreed to look after Phoebe and Lolo while we were gone.
Sunday 5am. We crawled out of bed and packed a carton box for Paz as a “kennel”, her bed, food, medical paperwork and went to catch the colectivo. Two separate minivans took us to the terminal where we got on the thrid van heading to Puerto Acosta, the border town with Peru. She slept most of the way or looked out of the window. This street puppy who never travelled in a bus. In Puerto Acosta we ended up taking a taxi as there was no transport for 20 kilometres to Tilali, first Peruvian town where the immigration was. There we managed to get a direct bus to Juliaca.
Paz was just perfect throughout the whole day. I really wasn’t worried how she would take the potential flight to Costa Rica. She would be just fine 🙂
We arrived to Casa de Ciclista and it was full of cyclists as usual. We shared the room with Luna and Mauro from Colombia. Earlier that day they helped to build and decorate the house for Paz and Peque, little adopted perrita who already lived in the house. Paz though slept with us in the room as she was used to now to be close to people. Our last night with the little one ;(.
In the morning we went to the vet Cristian. I just wished we had met such a kind vet in La Paz. He didn’t take any money for examining her and we agreed on a plan for vaccinations. After that we said tearful goodbye to Paz but we knew that now, now it’s alright. She’s surrounded by the sweetest loving people who will take good care of her while waiting for her forever home.
3 weeks later
After amazing Ruta de las Vicuñas and crossing both Salar de Coipasa and Uyuni we arrived to Casa de Ciclista Pingui in Uyuni. We didn’t have internet for about a week before. Once we got wifi, I got this message from Luna.
Queríamos contarles que nos animamos a llevarnos a Paz…
We wanted to tell you we’re prone to take Paz with us… What, what? The best news ever! Jackson had been saying from the beginning if we found a better/simpler option for Paz, not to feel obliged to send her to Costa Rica. So I told him first about this and he was ecstatic. “Of course she should be a cycling dog :).” He cycled with his dog Maggie from LA to Costa Rica so totally understood this. Geovanni built a trailer for Paz together with Luna and Mauro and they set on the road some days later.
Paz has been loving the journey. Luna and Mauro can’t say if they’re happier or Paz is. She’s the star of the show in every pueblito they go through. Paz is very calm, loves to walk by the bicycles. They successfully crossed the border to Bolivia and in much calmer La Paz bought sunglasses for Paz so she can safely cross Salar de Uyuni without the risk of getting blind from the super strong sunlight. She received two doses of vaccinations. Right now they are crossing the Salar. We’re hoping to meet them again in Argentina and if not, then in Colombia… You can follow her adventures on @se_hacen_viajes.
So what do you think, would we do it again? I think the answer is clear :)! It was incredibly tough this time, nowhere near the circumstances we experienced with the puppy in Guatemala, Chiqui or Bici. But really if after all the worry and pain you get this kind of happy ending, I think it’s worth it. We could have never just turned our heads and walked away anyway. It’s just how we are, though some people think we’re crazy to complicate our lives like this. But at the end of this craziness there’s one happy soul, in this case actually three happy souls. We wish you lovely and peaceful advent (f*** the presents and tidy house) and want to thank everybody mentioned or not mentioned in this article who supported us in these times and gave us true hope in humanity. Merry Christmas!
As one person I can’t change the whole world but I can change the whole world of one person (or a dog :))