Human Interest

Mexican soldiers providing a home, second chance for stray dogs

By Cristina Sanchez Reyes

Santa Lucia, Mexico, Jul 14 (EFE).- A large number of malnourished, injured and/or abandoned dogs had been left to their devices until recently at the construction site for a new commercial airport serving Mexico’s capital.

But thanks to an initiative by the Mexican military, which is tasked with building and running that air facility, dozens of these canines have been rescued and given a temporary home at a newly outfitted shelter in this town in the central state of Mexico.

The goal of Los Perritos de Santa Lucia is to “provide care to all those dogs who need a temporary home before they find an ideal and perfect place to continue their lives,” 2nd Lt. Carla Medellin, the shelter’s veterinarian, told Efe on Wednesday.

A building that had served as a preschool prior to the start of work on the airport, it was adapted to receive the stray dogs thanks in part to the recycling of construction site material.

Two new runways for civil aviation use are being added to the existing one at the Santa Lucia military air base, located about 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Mexico City.

Work on the future Mexico City airport began in October 2019 at the instruction of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who anticipates it will be ready for commercial use by March 2022 and operate in tandem with the current Mexico City International Airport and another nearby airport in Toluca, Mexico state’s capital.

Once completed, the total number of runways available for commercial flights arriving in and departing from Mexico City will climb to six.

Amid the construction work in Santa Lucia, a group of around 30 army soldiers and civilian personnel earlier this year conceived the idea of rehabilitating the stray dogs and offering them a better life.

Although some of the animals were aggressive or bashful when they first arrived at the shelter, they have since adapted and now feel at home.

“The right word is recovery. We don’t know what their circumstances were. They start trusting you and that’s where we start working with them, socializing them,” one of the soldiers, Diana Lucia Ramos, told Efe.

Ramos took on this responsibility as part of her work as a Military Police special services dog trainer in the army’s 37th zone in Santa Lucia.

She said the key to rehabilitating such a large number of dogs, most of them now ready to be adopted, is the loving care they have received.

“What we’re looking to do is provide them with a better life, a home, above all a lot of love and affection, a family that loves them,” Ramos said.

Pamela Diaz, coordinator of the shelter, said the canines housed there not only enjoy a better quality of life but also can have a purpose, “whether it’s being a pet, or a therapy or service dog.”

In fact, two of the 58 initial resident dogs have been designated for work at a government agency, while one of the others will serve as a therapy dog for an autistic boy.

“They’re our three stars,” Diaz said.

Medellin said arriving dogs must remain in quarantine until they are vaccinated and, in the case of the adult animals, sterilized; they then are trained by the shelter’s staff.

One of the trainers, soldier Carlos Daniel Vega, said the only problem is that the troops can become very attached to dogs that are later adopted by families.

“There have been times that we’re moved to tears because you grow so fond of them. They leave very happy, with the hope that they’ll be better off, that they’ll have shelter, food. It’s nice because they transmit that,” Vega said.

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