Humane Society of Cozumel Island

Our “Pay-It-Forward” in Mexico: Coco’s

Ever since adopting Hogan and learning of his story and about the plight of other dogs back in his homeland of Mexico, I’ve done what I could to help Mexican rescues. Until now, all I could do was donate money or items through a wonderful person I’ve known mostly only on Facebook who visits Mexico several times a year, bringing down donations and bringing back dogs like Hogan every time.

CANDi arranged baggage waivers for us to bring down about 150 pounds of donated items, including dog crates, with Air Transat.

CANDi arranged baggage waivers for us to bring down more than 150 pounds of donated items, including dog crates, with Air Transat.

This winter, however, we decided we’d invest in a much-needed vacation. My husband isn’t the “sit on the beach” type, but we both wanted to escape winter and visit somewhere sunny and warm. I suggested we visit Mexico and volunteer at the Humane Society of Cozumel Island, where Hogan came from, for part of our vacation so we wouldn’t experience the boredom he associates with beach vacations. Win-win: pay it forward for Hogan’s rescue and get some fun in the sun!

Me with Janice, Hogan's first vet

Me with Janice, Hogan’s first vet

Before booking our vacation, I contacted Sandra, the Facebook friend who frequents Mexico to help several rescue organizations. She recommended a place to stay, an airline to book with (Air Transat or WestJet—we flew with Air Transat, and it was amazing!), donations to collect, ways to transport them all, and a whole lot more. She also supplied us with several crates to take down and connected us with other rescuers while we were down there. Sandra was leaving Playa Del Carmen the day after we arrived, so we met up with her and her rescue contacts for dinner our first night there. Among her contacts was Janice, who was the first vet Hogan ever saw and also the person who named him Gohan (see story here). I was so excited (and a little emotional) to meet Janice because she knew Hogan before we did, and she was one of the people responsible for saving him from the streets and getting him to a better life.

From left: Eric, Jan, Stephanie, Karina, Janice, Kelly, Sandra, Wes

From left: Eric, Jan, Stephanie, Karina, Janice, Kelly, Sandra, Wes

We also met Jan and Eric, who run Playa Animal Rescue, and Kelly, the founder of the Snoopi Project. These wonderful people all moved from the United States to Mexico and are devoting their time and resources to helping the vulnerable animals in the city, who are in such desperate need of help.

On our second day in Playa, Janice (Hogan’s first vet) and her co-worker Ulises picked us up with our big bag of donations for Coco’s Animal Welfare. It was very endearing when, on the ride over, I asked about the Christmas music playing (Frank Sinatra, no less) and was told they play it because it calms the animals. How sweet! Janice now works at Coco’s, which is an organization and clinic founded by Laura Raikes and named after her beloved cat. Laura, who moved to Mexico from Wales, began by rescuing cats but soon saw many other animals in need in the area, including wildlife such as raccoons and reptiles. The rescue became so much more than Laura ever imagined. Since 2009, Coco’s spay and neuter program has sterilized more than 18,500 animals, and more than 1,000 animals have been rescued and adopted out through the combined efforts of Coco’s volunteers and other rescue organizations.

Dogs in recovery after being sterilized.

Dogs in recovery after being sterilized.

As a testament to its great work, Coco’s has gained a lot of support over its seven years and, with the help of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and private donations (including a generous donation of land), is currently building a huge new facility that will give it room to help more animals. Currently, Coco’s isn’t a shelter, but it has developed a program for rehoming cats as well as Cachito’s Fund (named after Laura’s rescued dog), which is a foster-based program for dogs needing homes. Currently, there are five cats in residence who are up for adoption (plus Alice, the one-eyed staff cat, who isn’t going anywhere, according to Diana, the super-friendly office manager who is especially fond of sweet Alice). One of Coco’s primary missions is to spay and neuter animals to try to keep the population down, and the three vets on staff sterilize an average of 20 animals a day as well as participating in large-scale spay/neuter campaigns. Coco’s also offers sterilization and support services for local rescues, tends to sick or wounded strays and wildlife, educates the public (especially children) about animal welfare, and offers support to pet rescuers who need help caring for the animals they’ve taken in.


Cachito was in bad shape when Laura met him. He now lives a good life with her.


Alice, the office cat, lost sight in one eye when she was shot. She’s a very sweet girl.

When we visited Coco’s clinic, two veterinary technicians from the U.S. and Canada were on hand volunteering their services for a few weeks. Coco’s relies heavily on volunteers and donations to keep doing the great work it does. The new facility will offer a whole lot more, including residence rooms for visiting vets and vet techs; a conference room, equipped with video equipment and screen, largely for the purpose of educating school groups; separate cat and dog examination rooms; a catio; isolation rooms; and a laboratory. Unfortunately, Coco’s is a little short on funds to finish the new location. If you’d like to donate to this great cause, please click here.

Wes at the new Coco's facility. It's scheduled to be finished in May.

Wes at the new Coco’s facility. It’s scheduled to be finished in May.

The services that Coco’s provides are much needed in Playa Del Carmen and throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. If you love animals and want to help, please consider contributing to Coco’s or another local organization. And if you are travelling down south, you can collect and transport donated items (here’s Coco’s wish list). Before you travel, get more information from CANDi or by emailing Sandra. Air Transat, in particular, provides baggage waivers for humanitarian donations and allows dogs to be escorted to Canada free (more on that in my next post). In future, we’ll always fly Air Transat if we can to support its humanitarian efforts.

Our next day in Mexico was another dog-oriented one. We learned a lot more about where Hogan came from. I’ll write about that adventure soon!

It’s Hogan’s Fourth, Fifth, or Maybe Sixth Birthday–Kind Of!

Today, we celebrate Hogan’s second birthday with us. Since he’s a rescue, we don’t know his real birthday or his real age, but he was guessed to be two or three when we adopted him (although, judging by his energy level, he’s always seemed much older), and we decided, in honour of his Mexican homeland, his birthday would be Cinco de Mayo. (See last year’s celebration here.)

So to celebrate our littlest one’s special day, we went for a very long walk by the beautiful Pickering waterfront, where Hogan encountered many other dogs and yet was on his best behaviour ever. Normally reactive on-leash, Hogan did almost no growling, instead looking up to his dad for treats, the behaviour we’ve been encouraging since we first adopted him and hired an animal behaviourist to help us deal with his reactivity. It’s taken some time, but he’s finally mastered this behaviour!

Hogan thought that since it's his birthday, he should be allowed to drive today.

Hogan thought that since it’s his birthday, he should be allowed to drive today.



We stopped for pictures in a field of dandelions


Of course, the doggies got lots of treats.

And we had to have water breaks, too.

And we had to have water breaks, too.

One last picture of the birthday boy before leaving the lake

One last picture of the birthday boy before leaving the lake

Tired doggies ready to go home for the birthday treat.

Tired doggies ready to go home for the birthday treat.
































Back at home for their afternoon snack, I treated the dogs to tacos (unseasoned beef, cheese, lettuce, and a dab of sour cream inside tiny flour tortilla shells) in exchange for pictures in sombreros. They all really enjoyed this treat (the sombreros, less so)!


Cora was having a particularly tough time waiting to enjoy the birthday treat.

Cora was having a particularly tough time waiting to enjoy the birthday treat.

Whereas curious Dusty opened his taco, sniffed and then ate the bits separately, Hogan opted to put the entire thing in his mouth. Our little Mexican boy knows how it's done!

Whereas curious Dusty opened his taco, sniffed and then ate the bits separately, Hogan opted to put the entire thing in his mouth. Our little Mexican boy knows how it’s done!









And to top off Hogan’s birthday, we will end the day with a family agility lesson this evening! In the meantime, Hogan’s engaging in his favourite afternoon activity—napping.

All in all, I think Hogan is finding today to be the best birthday ever!

Our First Play Date with Misha

All the dogs welcoming Wes back into the house

Last week we took Cora, Dusty, and Hogan over to visit my mom and Misha. Misha seemed to love having other dogs over but wasn’t really sure what to do with them. When we took all four dogs for a walk, Misha kept nipping Cora’s and Hogan’s back legs. It was cute at first, but they got pretty annoyed!

Back in the house, Dusty and Hogan did their usual tug-of-war play thing after finding one of Misha’s toys. Misha kept trying to get in on the fun, but she wasn’t quite sure how. Dusty tried to include her, but Hogan wasn’t much liking that idea. (See video below.)

One of my goals for the evening was to get a good picture of Misha and Hogan, the two Mexican mutts. It was tough to do because Hogan didn’t really want anything to do with her (not unusual for Hogan, who is particular about the dogs he will get along with). But I did get a few shots. Here’s one:

The Mexi-mutts

All in all, our visit was fun. Hectic, but fun. I think they’ll all get along just fine.

Welcoming Misha to the Pack

After much coaxing from me—and some surprising advice from her doctor—my mom decided in June that, yes, she would seriously look at adopting a dog to keep her company. She decided then that she would adopt from The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS) because of its process, rather than from any other rescue. When adopting from TAGS, the prospective adopter gets to meet the dog, have the dog over for a home visit, and then “try the dog out” for a week before paying the adoption fee and signing the paperwork. That appealed to Mom since it has been so long since she’s had a dog and she wanted to be sure she was ready to do this again.

Princess is still hoping for a forever home after a hard, unhappy life in a puppy mill.

She met a couple of TAGS dogs, and one in particular appealed to her—Princess. Princess is a real sweetheart, and when meeting her, Mom thought she could be the one. She began the process with TAGS. At the home visit, Mom had second thoughts and ultimately decided to turn down Princess. Getting a dog was a big step for Mom, and a permanent one (as it should be for everyone!), so she had to be certain.

Her search for the perfect TAGS dog continued. And then one day, I saw a Facebook posting of an adorable five-year-old dog up for adoption through Loyal Rescue. Better yet, this Loyal dog had come to Canada via the Humane Society of Cozumel Island, just as Hogan had, plus she even looked somewhat like Hogan, curly tail, crazy hair, and all! I fell in love.

Misha’s adoption picture

Since I can’t have a fourth (according to our town’s bylaw) and since my mom was still looking, I pointed out Meche (pronounced “Mesh,” we learned) to my mom. She felt the same pull toward her as I had, and despite her adamant stance that she wouldn’t go through the lengthy adoption process without first meeting the dog, she filled out the Loyal application, went through a phone interview (while we were away on our vacation) and a home visit, and then waited to hear the news. (Like Rat Terrier Rescue Canada, through which we adopted Hogan, Loyal has a policy against the potential adopter meeting the dog until approved to adopt.)

She looks like a little lamb!

The day she got the email telling her that she had been approved to adopt Meche was like Christmas to Mom! (And to me!) However, she still had to wait nearly a week to meet Meche because her foster mom, Sharon, was away on vacation. That week felt terribly long, but Mom and I got together for a shopping trip at Petsmart halfway through the week to purchase all the necessities and then some—adorable little dog bowls; a leash, harness, collar, and seatbelt; a brush for that unruly hair; a bed; plenty of treats; toys; and so on—and to help make the week’s wait seem shorter.

Finally, on Monday, August 20, Mom and I drove to Stoney Creek to pick up Meche. A little voice in Mom’s head was trying to tell her she was first meeting Meche and then deciding whether or not to adopt her, while I well knew she wouldn’t be able to walk away—and if she could, I certainly wouldn’t, bylaw be damned!

As expected, it was love at first sight! Meche (now Misha) was just as adorable as her picture promised! She’s an excitable, bouncy, smart, happy eleven-pounder who has already won over the hearts of Mom, me, Wes, and all of Mom’s friends and neighbours.

So although we are still “Three-Dog Nights and Days,” there’s a special fourth in the mix that you can expect to hear plenty more about. Welcome to the pack, Misha! And congratulations on the new addition, Mom!

Happy Made-Up Birthday, Hogan!

The birthday boy

We adopted Hogan on July 1, 2011, but instead of celebrating that date as his “gotcha day,” as we did for Dusty and Cora on their adoption anniversary date (click here for more about that celebration), we decided to invent a birthday for Hogan—and what better day to celebrate our little dog from Mexico than Cinco de Mayo?

Enjoying the trails at Greenwood

So this past weekend, we dedicated a day to the dogs in honour of Hogan’s third (we’re guessing) birthday. We headed off in the morning to  Greenwood Conservation Area, only about a seven-minute drive from our house, for a nice long walk along the trails there. The dogs sniffed and peed and pooped to their hearts’ content! They really enjoy going there, but because of the bug population in the summer, we have a small window of time that we can visit Greenwood, so we’ve been taking advantage of it recently.

Hogan checking out the pinata

After many attempts, we finally got a decent shot of all three dogs with the sombreros, the cactus, and the pinata!





Later in the day, we brought out the inflatable cactus and the sombreros and went into party mode. Wes had bought a pinata, which I filled with doggy treats in hopes that Dusty and Hogan would play tug of war with it and open it. No such luck.

But we did get pictures! And, really, for us, it was all about the pictures. And they did get the treats after I opened the pinata—and for them (surprise, surprise), it was all about the treats! Everybody was happy! Happy birthday, Hogie Bear!