People! We can do better! Talking about dogs here.

My hat goes off to those active in dog rescue! And let me say, I am not one of them. But I had a chance over the weekend to play the part. See below for more about the really important individuals who stepped forward to help.

For my part, I saw that when you step in to help a dog in distress, you cannot predict how it will go down. Some big takeaways I got from my weekend experience are: how much time, money and stress could be saved if (a) people took responsibility for their own animals before rescue became necessary: and (b) there were a central phone number where dogs – both lost and found – could be reported. And always (c) if there were more communication between Ecuadorean and gringo dog rescue people. I’m still thinking about all this. I hope to be back with an update. Meantime, I invite your thoughts.

Here’s what happened. On Saturday afternoon in my El Vergel neighborhood, I saw any number of dogs wandering back and forth across busy Avenida de Francisco Moscoso. One of them crossed my path, literally. We posted about him Monday. Badly disabled, apparently dazed, it appeared he had been hit by a car. He was walking unsteadily into traffic.

What to do? The person with me said, don’t get involved. I understand. There are so many dogs. It’s all too much. But I wasn’t looking for this dog — this dog walked into me. This dog was mine to answer for.

We brought him to the nearest clinic. (Thank god there was a clinic! And open on Saturday afternoon.) There, we saw another lost dog who had been brought that morning, a strapping young female.

But what to do? In the case of the healthy young dog, who is going to pay for boarding her? Who is going to advertise that she is here and maybe find her owners? In the case of the aging old dog, what are the ethics involved in putting a dog down without first making an effort to find his people? Meantime, his costs are mounting. Who is going to pay? And after the dog has been held and/or treated, what happens next? Where does the dog spend the night? And the days and nights after that?

By day’s end, several people had involved themselves: The first doctor who examined him and gave comfort; a good Samaritan who provided a home for a few days while we sorted out what to do; a social media expert who spread the word; another doctor who provided further care and a place to stay on a rainy Saturday night. And I did what I could: I posted flyers around the neighborhood; I went to a pharmacy for meds; I paid — an open-ended bill? (how open?); and I’m writing you. Every one of us spent hours of our time. It is impossible to do this for every dog. You can really understand why a vet would be reluctant to get involved. There has to be a better way.

Meantime, we had several considerations.

Our social media expert, none other than Jo Austin (known to many), warned me that she posts up to 25 alerts a day about missing/injured dogs looking for owners and hardly anyone ever responds. She said it was unfortunate, but likely for the best to put the old, injured dog to sleep. But we agreed to make an effort to find the owner and keep the dog safe for up to a week before taking action to put him down. We didn’t know then how sick he was. Meantime, the costs were ticking up.

Against the odds, we scored. In the case of the first dog, an owner was identified and she came across town to collect her beautiful female from the foster home. Please, people! save many others the time and stress. Keep your dogs at home and when you go out, walk them on leash!

By the following morning, we also got word that the old dog had owners. But it took two more days to speak with them because the phone number we were given was wrong, because their address was wrong, because they were old and couldn’t agree to come to the clinic and give permission to put the dog down. There’s where we are today.

I said to Jo, Why can’t there be a central phone number to register all the dogs who are either lost or found? So people can find their animals or report them missing. She said that there are many dog rescue groups across town, both Ecuadorean and gringo, but that groups guard their privacy and are unwilling to share names. Personally, I don’t understand. We agreed to talk more about this.

I’m going to name names here of the unsung heroes from last Saturday.

First, Dr Diego Arciniegas, owner of the brand-spanking-new, state of the art Veterinaria Arciniegas: Clinica de Especialidades ( near the Botanical Garden. He received and held the first dog all day and promised a free sterilization to anyone who adopted her. He and his staff also gave four hours of their time to diagnose and comfort the old dog. Dr Diego administered a free ultrasound to him and I paid the tab for the medicines he recommended.

Second, well, I can’t name her because she’s underaged, but the citizen who agreed to provide shelter and comfort to both dogs while we sorted out what to do. It was a Saturday night and all the clinics were closed ‘til Monday. Or so it seemed. And it was raining.

Third, Jo Austin, one of the most important people involved in Cuenca dog rescue because, single-handedly it seems, she is the one who posts all the notices in all the social media about dogs (and cats) who need homes.

Fourth, Dr. Gallardo of Clínica Veterinaria Gallardo ( near Remigio Crespo who stepped in last Saturday night when it became clear the old dog was sicker than we thought. Dr Gallardo agreed to personally collect the aging dog (no taxis in the rain) and bring that dog to his clinic for more treatment and ongoing boarding. Take note! This clinic has 24 hour emergency service!

Heather Conley: 099 577 7459. Call after: 7 AM.

City: Cuenca