Four years ago, Santiago was a stray dog, roaming the streets of Sayulita, a small town in the state of Nayarit, located along the central western coast of Mexico.
Santiago had been hit by a car and his injuries healed poorly, since he had no one to care for him. He was fed by a kind local couple, Gabe and Wendy, affectionately known as Wendy, Gabe and the 6-pack, a reference to the half dozen or so dogs that they habitually have in their care, working to find them homes in conjunction with Sayulita Animal Rescue.
Santiago was independent, coming around mainly for meals and to sleep at night. During the day, he was out searching for his place in the world. That is how he came to meet Kai Roxburgh, son of John and Rebecca Roxburgh, who often visit Sayulita.
Nearly every day Santiago would find Kai—perhaps the family lounged in the sun on the beach, or dined at an outdoor restaurant, and Santiago would come.
They all became attached to this dog that limped, yet was unfailingly cheerful. At some point, an idea began to form. “We should take him home”.
It was a crazy idea, and, as Rebecca put it, “Who does that?!” But crazy as it seemed, the idea grew and became a plan.
The Roxburghs arranged for their friends, Wendy and Gabe, to keep Santiago for two months. They left money for his care and vaccinations and vowed to have him come home to Tahoe in May.
People from the town of Sayulita rallied together and made it happen. John and Rebecca bought Santiago a ticket and a crate and friends from the small town brought him to the airport.
Since these arrangements were made in advance, Kai had his first dance recital the night that Santiago was flying into San Francisco. Rebecca posted on Facebook that a huge favor was requested of anyone who was going to be in the city.
Another angel in this quest to bring Santiago home stepped forward. Myles Lewis and wife, Erin, of CrossFit Avalanche in Tahoe Vista volunteered, without knowing what this favor might entail.
So Myles and Erin were there to greet Santiago as he came through customs; they then drove the dog to Tahoe and delivered a weary but excited Santiago to the doorstep of his new home in Incline Village.
He adjusted well to the higher altitude but was still limping. John and Rebecca took him for acupuncture and physical therapy but finally a vet told them that he was in pain and the best thing to do would be to amputate his injured leg.
That was a difficult decision to make but off came the leg. Santiago accepted his tri-pawed status and was chasing rabbits and frolicking in the snow in record time—finally free from pain.
During a later visit to Sayulita, the Roxburghs offered to foster a dog for the Sayulita Animal Rescue so they were given a poodle mix named Pluma to care for.
Pluma was feral, frightened, and injured when she first arrived at the animal hospital. She had been hit by a car and had been on her own for some time. She had no idea what a leash was or what she was supposed to do.
This small dog was afraid of people but she took to Rebecca, who had nothing but patience and compassion for her.
Pluma was small enough to travel in a crate that would fit under an airplane seat so when the Roxburghs came home three weeks later, so did Pluma.
Santiago immediately loved and accepted Pluma and the two are fast friends. The pair of dogs often goes to work with John and Rebecca, and stands “guard” over the jewels at the family store, Forever Rox Jewelry and charms the shoppers at Rebecca’s fashion, home and gift store, Panache.
Pluma is frightened no more; she greets customers with reserve, dignity and grace—not a hint of shyness or fear, then retires to her plush dog bed near the sales counter. This little dog has come a long way since being plucked off the streets of Sayulita, Mexico, bringing nothing but love to the Roxburgh household.
Not everyone can bring animals home like this, for a variety of reasons. But, for those who can’t welcome animals into your homes, rescue facilities accept donations, not only of money but food, blankets or volunteer hours.
Anyone who has been inspired to rescue a homeless animal, I would love to hear from you and share your story.
Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. See the new website: saveourplanetearth.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.