How You Can Help the Stray Dogs of Panama City

I've just returned from a whirlwind trip to Ciudad de Panama, aka Panama City, the captivatingcapital of Panama. It was an altogether glamorous experience, and...


I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Ciudad de Panama, aka Panama City, the captivatingcapital of Panama. It was an altogether glamorous experience, and one I’ll never forget. The fascinating history of this place (especially the Casco Antiguo, or Old Quarter),its gorgeous colonial architecture, exalting churches, haute hotels (notablyCanal House, where a bust of Teddy Roosevelt presides over the stylish sitting room),mouthwatering food, andirresistiblehandicrafts — all will stay with me for a long time, as will my newly kindled crush on Simon Bolivar, so dashingly depicted in the statue pictured above.

Travel isvery emotional for me. As always when I undertake a voyage, I split my heart in two, leaving part of it at home with my beloved dogs and cats — and the other part in the place I’m visiting.

This trip was more emotional than most. Leaving my own doggie dearhearts behind was made a lot easier by the expert care I knew they’d receive at Unleash Brooklyn, my dogs’ favorite boarding facility. In fact, the force with which my K9 crew dragged me through the front door of this excellent establishment was the highest possible endorsement.

But almost immediately upon stepping out into the streets of Panama City,animal-lovingtravelers are confronted by a heartbreaking sight: Too many strays to count. Each cat issweeter, friendlier,and more beautiful than the last. And then there are the dogs.

There are strays everywhere: eagerly following people with food andexpertly dodging traffic on and off the narrow sidewalks. Needless to say, the part of my heart that I left in Panama City is broken, haunted by the image of a sweet, medium-size mutt dozing at dawn perilously close to the main highway.She’s the lastthing of beautyI sawen routetothe airport on my way out of town —and believe me, if I could’ve packed her in my bag and taken her with me, I would’ve.

Happily, there is hope, thanks to the many people in Panama who care. I sawa manlovinglydecanting the contents of kibblebags to feed strays; I saw a modista (tailor) who’d graciously opened herplace to several foundling felines. But asevery Dogster (and Catster)knows, feeding strays won’t solve the problem; only population control will. SoSPAYes— Spay Panama’s Animal’s Yes — deserves recognition and support. This nonprofit was started in 2001 by a small group of volunteers and vets working together to improve the welfare of Panama’s less-fortunate animals, making spay/neuter services available to everyone with a cat or dog.

Visit the group’ssite to see a video about the wonderful success story of Pinky, a sweet mutt who’s a ringer for the one I saw on my ride out of town. Readabout how your donations of money and/or medical and surgical supplies can help this group’s noble mission to make Panama a “No More Homeless Pets Country.”

Meanwhile, tourists may do their part easily and enjoyably by paying a visit to the Organic Chocolate Company, located right next door to a delightful destination called PanaArt, purveyors of Tagua (vegetable ivory) jewelry and genuine Panama hats. In addition to delicious treats for people, this exquisite cafe and shop sells “Drool and Devour” handmade doggie biscuits the store staff refers to as “crack for dogs.”

All proceeds from sales of these doggie biscuits go to support Spay the Strays, dedicated to providing low-cost sterilization for dogs and cats in nearby villages.

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