By Indra Lahiri on
This Dish Is
The hope of Acapulco has become the hope of Pennsylvania, too.
Señorita Marisol Esperanza de Acapulco y Pennsylvania journeyed for three weeks, over 3,000 miles, via three long car trips and two plane trips, while being housed, driven, and cared for by three different, devoted animal rescue workers (all of whom fell madly in love with her) only to arrive during the worst flood in NEPA history!
We watched dumbfounded as entire homes and dreams were swept away by the raging river. It was a time of deep devastation and despair for the good people of this region. These are people who have welcomed me and the sanctuary into their community. These are neighbors and friends who have repeatedly gone out of their way to help us and each other whenever they saw a need. These are hardworking people without the means to pay for flood insurance. My heart broke watching them lose everything to the river I loved dearly enough to move 100 miles to be near.
The sanctuary, blessed to be on high ground, escaped unscathed. But with Mehoopany, where the sanctuary is based, under 10 feet of water, I was landlocked. Roads and bridges were closed in every direction, and all that I could think of was, “How do I get my dog?”
Marisol’s flight was coming in to Philadelphia. They were not experiencing the flooding that we were, and her flight was scheduled to arrive on time. I had only hours to find a solution or Marisol would be stranded in the airport. Unthinkable for any dog, but after all Marisol had been through, it would have been unspeakable to abandon her in this way.
Once again, I called on Janice Preston, beloved sanctuary volunteer and friend. Janice and her husband Ed, with their big hearts and generous natures, had already decided to adopt another dog from Save a Mexican Mutt. Their dog Otto, a blind Dachshund found abandoned on the streets, was traveling with Señorita Marisol, so I knew they needed to get to the airport as well.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I learned that their roads were unaffected by flooding, and they agreed to pick her up. But there was yet another obstacle: the two dogs were traveling under my name, and the airline would not release them without my photo ID and signature.
Frantically, I called Kelly Karger, who was driving the dogs the 1500 miles from her home in Mexico to San Antonio and putting them on the plane. No luck. All I got was her voice mail. What now?
The rain was coming down fast, the river rising, and I was parked on the hill at the top of my road because my phone lines were down and I had no cell signal at my house. I could see that conditions were getting worse by the minute. I only had about 10 minutes before my road would be impassable, stranding me away from all the other animals that needed my care.
Thinking fast, Janice called the airline directly and simply requested that the “ship to” information be changed. They never even asked who she was or by whose authority she made the request. They just changed it for her. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I sat at home that night and wept for my neighbors and friends whose hopes had been drowned. And I wished beyond all wishes that I could be there to greet sweet Marisol, who has been through so much and has come so far.
I wasn’t the only one on tenterhooks until Marisol came home. Volunteers and friends of the sanctuary all waited with me, a community of baited breaths. I was able to send and receive text messages, despite having no ability to use the internet or phone, and so I tracked Marisol’s progress and texted updates to another remarkable volunteer, Michaela Moore. Michaela posted updates on the sanctuary’s Facebook page, and our many Facebook friends followed her progress eagerly. Time and again, people commented and sent private messages that Marisol’s arrival was renewing their hope and making the grief of the floods more bearable. Our little dog had become a beacon of light in our dark and rain-filled skies.
Finally, Janice and Ed made it to the airport and were able to pick up the two dogs. Of course my road was still closed, so they kept Marisol until Saturday, when some of the flood waters began to recede. They then embarked on a three and a half hour journey (which usually took a bit under an hour), navigating through flood ravaged countryside, around debris, closed roads and bridges, finally arriving here in the late afternoon.
When she saw me, Marisol wagged her tail so hard she shook. I felt the same way.
After six months, the connection between us remained palpable. Clearly, Dr. Gomez Duque took wonderful care of Marisol. I would not have recognized this shiny, healthy dog that can walk and run on all four legs but for the look in her eyes, which draws one straight to her unmistakable, wise, faithful, old soul.
Oh yes, this is the same feeling I had the first time we made eye contact, when we found each other by a six lane highway. Then, she was filthy, emaciated, and had two broken back legs. And even then all I could see was her wise old soul.
As I write, Marisol is sleeping soundly with the other dogs and two little foundling kittens. She has already settled in as if she always lived here, and seems to love farm life. In her blog, Jennifer Schmidt, who cared for Marisol for a week and took her on one leg of her journey through Mexico, commented that her dogs played with Marisol gently, “as if they knew she had been broken, and was put together piece by piece.” I noticed my dogs are doing the same, and the sweetness of it adds even more beauty to our happy little real life fairy tale.
My little beacon of faith, hope, and love couldn’t even be stopped by floods. This is why I do what I do.
Indra Lahiri is the founder of Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, an all-species safe haven for animals that would otherwise have been euthanized or slaughtered. Indraloka is founded on two principles: 1) the earth itself and all life are sacred and 2) we are all related. Indraloka supports animal rescue groups by providing a lifetime home for animals that are otherwise unadoptable, and also rescues farm animals from cruelty. Indra has dedicated her life to helping previously traumatized animals heal and rediscover joy, love, and trust. In the process, the animals she set out to help have become her greatest healers and teachers.