This month we have a very special edition of locals spotlight that focuses less on the person and shines the light on their very special efforts to make a difference here in Costa Maya. We have a lot of people that move here from all over to make a life and end up addressing a problem that helps make our community better and stronger. This is definitely the case with Heather and Gil Johnson.
Heather and Gill moved to Costa Maya around 2&1/2 years ago and, after seeing all of the street dogs that are sick, homeless, or undernourished around the area, started Costa Maya Beach Dog Rescue, a non-profit that provides shelter, food and medicine for sick dogs and helps find them foster homes locally and abroad. Their efforts are purely out of the kindness of their hearts and they are making an impact locally. Let’s see what they had to say…
CML: How did you get started with CMBDR?
Heather: Our first visit to Mahahaul was in 2004. There were a ton of street dogs and cats. It was incredibly sad. Most of my vacations were spent feeding as many strays as I could (which is nice but isn’t a solution). We always knew we wanted to help once we moved here but weren’t sure how to start or what to do. While our house was being built, I saw the saddest, skinniest homeless dog I’d ever seen wandering around our construction site looking for food. The sight of him really solidified my resolve to help. We spent our vacation taking him to the vet and trying to help him, but he was too far gone to save. His suffering and his death could have been prevented. I named him Pinto and vowed in that moment that my time here in this beautiful place would be spent helping all those like him. He broke my heart, but also inspired me to do something about it.
CML: How many dogs have you rescued thus far and how many adoptions have you done?
Heather: We currently have 16 street dogs in our house. Most come in sick & skinny, covered in fleas & ticks, patches of hair missing from mange. They are filled with worms and often anemic from tick diseases. At one point last year we had 32 street dogs living in our house. Right now we also have a medical foster puppy who we’re are treating for mange. He has a home, but his family doesn’t have the money to help him.
71 dogs have come through our front door.
42 have been adopted into permanent loving homes.
13 sweet souls have left this world – they were too sick to be saved.
141 dogs have been spayed/neutered through our rescue – most from the street – some from families who love them, but simply can’t afford it. We plan to take 11 more dogs and 5 cats to the upcoming clinic this weekend.
We also provide dog food and basic care to local dogs here on our coast. Our rescue is an hour north of the town of Mahahual, so many of the dogs here will never see a vet in their lifetime. When money permits, we treat fleas & ticks, parasites, mange and tick-borne illnesses. If a dog needs emergency treatment, we drive to the ER vet 2.5 hours from our house.
CML: Where do most of the adoptions go?
We have partnered with rescues in the US and Canada. Adoptions have been split equally between Mahahual and the US & Canada. Dogs go where the best homes are. If it’s here on our coast that’s perfect. If it’s in Canada or the US, then we fly them there.
CML: What is the hardest part of what you do? What is the best part?
Heather: It’s difficult for me not to feel overwhelmed by the size of the problem. Every time I leave the house, I see a dog I want to rescue. A dog that clearly needs rescuing, but I don’t have the space to help everyone. Last year we had 32 stray dogs living with us. That’s pretty much our limit. We don’t have a facility – just our house.
Another challenge is convincing people to spay and neuter their pets. Many dogs and cats have owners who let their pets roam the streets and refuse to have them sterilized. The cycle of birth and death seems never ending. A few groups of wonderful people in town organize spay/neuter clinics several times a year and have been doing so for a long time. That has drastically cut down on the homeless animal population. But still there are those people who refuse, so the cycle starts again.
By far the best part of rescue is when an adoptive puppy parent sends me an update with a picture of a happy, chubby, spoiled-silly dog. For a moment all seems right in the World. Dogs who once were filthy on the street are now curled up on couches. Puppies who were once covered in ticks are now going to dog parks and romping around with their friends. It’s incredible! It gives us hope and reminds us that anything is possible.
CML: Where do you see it going in the future?
Heather: I hope to rally the community to become more involved in rescue. Our greatest potential for lasting change is to teach children about animal issues. There are so many people who care about animal welfare, but maybe, like me a few years ago, don’t know how to help. I would like us all to work together to convince our friends and neighbors that this cause is worth our time. That animals deserve our help. That spaying & neutering is a good thing. Together we can fix this. We really can.
CML: How do you get funding?
Heather: We are very fortunate to have many generous supporters. I am beyond thankful for them. We do, however, always spend more than we take in. This summer we filed with the IRS to get our non-profit 501(c)(3) designation. My hope is that more people will contribute as a result and we can start to partner with local businesses. Rescue is expensive. Rewarding beyond belief, but expensive.
CML: Hand here is the BIG question: How can people help?
Well locally I hope to grow a network of fosters. i could save so many more if people would open their homes and let a dog crash at their place until a home is found.
For everybody else, we are always in desperate need of dog food, flea/tick meds, sponsors for spay/neuter surgeries so donate if you can.
To donate via PayPal – firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate via Gofund – https://www.gofundme.com/beach-dog-rescue-fall-fundraiser
Like my Facebook page and follow our journey.
CML: Thank you for your time and efforts! Changing the lives of these dogs is an amazing thing and the community AND DOGS surely appreciate it!
We are officially in the holiday season and it really is the season for giving. What you spend on a pumpkin spiced late can make a huge difference down here in the lives of these dogs and this wonderful couple who comes out of their own pocket to help these animals. Any size of donation helps so please contribute if you can. Your heart will swell like the Grinch in Whoville when you do!