No place in the world is perfect. Every place has things that make it unappealing. While Cuenca is very close to perfect in my estimation, the one big thing that really bothers me is the large population of stray dogs. Being a dog lover and treating my dogs in the same manner that I treat people, it breaks my heart to see dogs wandering the streets, dirty and unwanted, having to scrounge for food. If I had the money, I would buy a large farm and welcome all of my stray four-legged friends.
One person here has done just that. In 2011, after the death of her husband, Trish Tiura moved to Cuenca with her son, Eamon. Being a dog lover, Trish decided to do something about the large number of homeless dogs and started Refugio Del Mejor, which became a safe haven for homeless dogs. As the number of dogs Trish rescued grew, so did the need for space so she purchased two adjoining pieces of property in Miraflores in 2012 and early 2013. This safe haven was named Refugio Del Mejor Amigo (a refuge for man’s best friend). Her property, which has become refuge to about 100 dogs, is now approximately one hectare in size (approximately 2.5 acres).
As anyone who has attempted it can attest to, starting a non-profit organization here in Ecuador is very difficult. For the last four years Refugio Del Mejor Amigo has operated as a private organization that has been funded primarily by Trish. Currently she employs three people full time to operate the Refugio. She also has a very generous veterinarian that she works with, Dr. William Palaguachi, who treats all the dogs at no charge.
Because the Refugio has been self-funded, Trish finds herself in a tough position – she has just about run out of money. Although the Refugio Del Mejor Amigo has started the paperwork to become a legal foundation in Ecuador, they have a long road ahead of them before they become recognized as such. In the meantime, Trish has actively started fund-raising initiatives to help cover the approximately $4,000 in monthly expenses.
It has always been my belief that you meet people at the exact moment time you are meant to. I met Trish completely by accident (if you believe in accidents). Because one of Cuenca Expats Magazine’s primary goals is to support as many philanthropic organizations as possible, we are committed to helping Trish (and all other Expat organized charitable organizations) raise awareness and promote her cause. Obviously, in the case of stray dogs, there is a tremendous need for organizations that offer services related to finding them quality homes and care. It is Trish’s and Refugio Del Mejor Amigo’s goal to lead the way in Ecuador and South America by establishing programs and standards for quality care of all dogs through the following programs:
- Care-Ensuring that the dogs are vaccinated, treated for parasites and have routine and quality care.
- Custody-Creating a responsible adoption program that helps find good homes for homeless dogs.
- Control-Reducing the number of homeless dogs through sterilization and licensing.
Currently all of their dogs are vaccinated and are in the process of sterilization. As of 9/15/15, all of our males have been neutered!! Refugio Del Mejor Amigo provides a safe, loving environment for all of their dogs with the hopes of finding all of them a loving, responsible, ‘forever’ home.
Like any charitable organization, Refugio Del Mejor Amigo is in need of money. They are in the process of creating an “Adopt a Pet” program that will work much in the same way that “Adopt a child” programs work. This program is perfect for those who cannot have or do not want to have a dog of their own. For a nominal monthly donation, it will provide the necessary resources to care for the “adopted” dog. It is Trish’s hope that this and other fund raising initiatives will provide the funds necessary for her to have a long-term sustainable organization that works toward the elimination of the ‘homeless dog’ challenge in Cuenca and the rest of Ecuador and South America.