We’re thirty minutes outside Merida, Mexico driving on a country road. Ahead I glimpse the yellow wall and a mass of bright pink bougainvillea. We’re almost there…


As I step out of the vehicle I hear the sound that immediately puts a smile on my face and head to the entrance gate. Once inside the double set of gates I’m immediately surrounded by the best welcoming committee ever. I have returned to the place that is very dear to my heart and it feels incredible. (Valiente, below…one of the many dogs up for adoption).


The place is Evolucion Animal A.C., a sanctuary for over 200 dogs and 30 cats. The welcoming committee is made up of a dozen or more of the happiest, friendliest, most exuberant dogs all vying for my attention. They crave human interaction and it is pure joy for them and for me. I start reaching out to the clamoring group trying to make contact with each and every furry head that bounces around me. Tails are wagging and the barking for attention makes me smile. I am made aware once again of why this place means so much to me. How can you not be affected by this group of lovely dogs who are so excited to see you?

Below, happy little Cahuito…


These dogs are happy, friendly, and they all look like healthy family pets. But through no fault of their own here they are in a dog shelter. Their stories vary, but all are sad. Taken from situations of abuse or neglect, or abandon, born on the streets, injured or ill….the reasons are endless. But here, they are safe. They are given medical treatment, they are fed and cared for, and most of all they are loved. Yes, every single one of them.

Below, Chance is looking for a new family some day!



As I make my way through the open air shelter, that is divided into sectors I see a few dogs that have dug holes under the low branches of a tree and are enjoying their nice spot in the cool shade. There are a few dogs who have taken shelter from the heat in one of the man-made niches that offer them some privacy. They are the shy, timid dogs that just aren’t ready to socialize.

Across the way is Cappucina, (pictured below), she is barking and howling just like she does each time I have visited and it never fails to make me laugh.


Beautiful Mika is hanging out with a group of dogs by the little galley clean-up area. She has been here for years. (Mika, below)


As I move to the back sector there is a familiar face, it’s Twist. His leg was broken long before he came to the shelter and it healed twisted backward. Funds were raised this past year to have his leg amputated on the recommendation of the veterinarian. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since his surgery and he is doing really well as a tripod. (Check out Twist below)!


I make my way to the front sector again and I notice all the single kennels are full. The dogs that are housed here are dogs that must be segregated due to aggression with other dogs. It is a must to keep them separate for their own safety and the safety of the other dogs.

As I leave this area to continue my walk to the group enclosures on the east side of the property I see a crate with a dog, two black and white pups, and one white and black pup. I am smitten! They are absolutely gorgeous and look in good health. New arrivals. I hear from a volunteer that there is another mother dog with three puppies that were rescued the evening before but they are at the vet clinic. Eight new arrivals in just one night. Many nights dogs are left tied to the entrance gates or left in a closed box. It never ends.

Below, Foxy has the cutest eyes…and a little sad…


The shelter population is consistently over 200 dogs and about 30 cats. There are many challenges to be faced by a shelter with such a large population. Food, water, medication, veterinary treatment, surgeries for injuries, amputations, skin afflictions, erlichia treatment, anoplasmosis, anemia, spay and neuter procedures, shelter repairs and improvements, staffing costs, and the list goes on. The plight of dogs and cats in Mexico is terrible and this shelter cannot possibly help them all, but for the 200+ in their care, this has become their sanctuary and being here will change their lives. One way this happens is the reason I am here.

Jasper, below, gets along with everyone and other dogs too…


Today is the day six dogs will leave this shelter. I have come from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada to take this group of lucky dogs back with me. There are several organizations in the Niagara area that have been working with Evolución for several years to re-home some of their dogs internationally. This all started due to a caring and dedicated volunteer who is from St. Catharines but now lives in Merida. She knew that the humane society in St. Catharines had a very successful adoption history and was often in the fortunate position of having many empty kennels. She also knew the need for medium and small sized family dogs was a need that was not being met. Many of the dogs in the humane society shelter are large breed dogs that have behaviour issues or are just too big and strong to fit the criteria for some families. (Below, lovely Gray is at the sanctuary)


The idea was to help the Lincoln County Humane Society by providing them with dogs that these families wanted and needed and at the same time helping Evolución to get some of their dogs adopted outside the country. Taking six dogs per flight and scheduling 6 – 8 flights each year allowed up to 48 dogs per year to be transferred out of Evolución which made room for more dogs to come into their care.

This plan has come together with the generous help of many people. The demand for Evolución dogs has grown as other rescue organizations such as Niagara Dog Rescue, Pets Alive Niagara and Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary have become involved. Some of these groups have been able to donate a portion of their adoption fees back to Evolución. This enables Evolución to ready more dogs for travel. Sponsors have paid for airfares and the cost of checking crates as luggage. Financial donors are always needed to contribute to the cost of sending the dogs to the vets for medical assessments, blood tests, medical treatments for various conditions that are prevalent due to tick-borne diseases, for prescriptions, for spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations, deworming, and flea treatment, for the cost of gas and road tolls to get the dogs to Cancun airport. The expenses are extensive and each trip requires an escort. (Below, young Fly)


That is where I come in. I have the great privilege of being an escort. This is the fifth trip to Mexico for me and today’s trip will take my personal dog transfer total to 29. Today, I am escorting Balin, Chanita, Kenda, Loui, Toby and Juanita. Yes, it is a happy day and I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing venture.

It is also a bittersweet day because I know how much these dogs are loved by the founder of Evolución, by the staff and the volunteers. Even though they know this is an amazing opportunity for these dogs to go to Canada, to be adopted by loving families, and go to wonderful homes, it is hard for them to say goodbye. I struggle to keep my tears in check as they say goodbye to these little dogs they have become attached to and love so much. Some of these dogs have lived at Evolución for less than a year others have been here for as long as five years. It is impossible not to bond with them.

Below, Cleo and Bess were abandoned at the shelter together as pups…


As I wipe away my tears and we get the dogs into their crates, our journey begins. We have a four hour drive ahead of us to Cancun Airport, we check-in, the dogs are security checked and dressed in coats to help make them feel secure while on the flight, but also to keep them warm when they arrive to a cold February night in Toronto. After the 4 hour flight there is another hour or two to get through Canada Customs and then another drive to St. Catharines.

It’s a long day for the Merida-Cancun-Merida driver, the escort, the dogs and the St. Catharines-Toronto-St. Catharines driver. But it is all worthwhile to know that within a few short weeks these dogs will have found their new homes with loving families and that it will be for the rest of their lives.


They say “it takes a village” and it truly does. I am so proud of all the people involved and I’m honoured to be a part of this endeavour. This is a heartfelt passion that has enriched my life and I truly can’t imagine it any other way.

To find out more about Evolucion and adoptable animals please visit their website: evolucionanimal.org.

This story was written by Jennette Riches





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