Sunday, March 9

in the time of los satos

I was not yet a year old when my parents first took me to Puerto Rico to visit our family there, many of whom still live in my father's hometown. Thirty years later, it is one of the trips I most look forward to and never tire of, although, very unfortunately, I no longer make it annually. Besides the occasional mosquito attack and the more common traffic jam, it's hard to complain about anything in PR. Yes, there are crime and poverty, but both are seemingly mild compared to the social strife in other Latin American countries. (Being bolstered by strong ties to the U.S. and Spain, and our status as U.S. citizens, helps.)

But there is one aspect of Puerto Rican life that has the power to shock us mainlanders out of our encanto (enchantment, from the island's nickname, "la isla del encanto"). They are called satos, street dogs, which are commonly also beach dogs, and over the past decade I would have sworn they weren't in as much of a crisis, but after reading today's Times piece, it's clear that I've simply become desensitized. (An audio slideshow is available as well.)

Growing up, the satos seemed ubiquitous, and my sister's sadness at not being able to bring them all back home caused real problems, mostly fights with my parents and endless tears. (If she lived on the island today, she would be the woman in the story who takes food and water to the beach dogs in Yabucoa.)

From here, where the affluence of Boulder (Jocelyn's home) and Larimer counties afford us the comfort of knowing that the majority of local pet owners are humane and the non-pet-owning others are largely sympathetic, we can at least donate to Save a Sato.

If every tourist and boricua mainlander commits funds to this nonprofit every time we finance a trip to the island, we can help a lot of dogs. That seems a more likely, or at least more immediate, solution than waiting for some educational (socio-economic) shift to occur.

What beach dogs should look like: Former satos,
in a much healthier state thanks to Save a Sato.

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