Me and my Chihuahua-Labrador

Rico from Puerto Rico

Guest Post / September 24, 2019

4 min read

In September 2017, Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico were devastated by a deadly category 5 hurricane named Maria. At the time, Puerto Rico faced the ethical worriment of an overabundance of stray dogs invading their islands. One in particular known as “Dead Dog Beach” is located in one of their poorest communities, where abused and abandoned dogs are left to perish. Sadly enough, thousands of these malnourished, homeless pups were wiped off the beaches by the intense rains and floodings of Maria. Fortunately, the Sato Project was founded in 2011 to help provide veterinary services to the impoverished municipality’s stray dogs and evacuated over 1,600 dogs to safety. More information on the Sato Project can be found at

Where Can I Buy a Rescue Dog?

My little mixed breed furry friend was rescued from the aftermath of this storm and taken to my local ASPCA for veterinary care. He came to the United States weighing less than 19 lbs., wide eyed and frightened, but his adorable loving and cuddly nature was inextinguishable. It was easy to fall in love with his sweet snaggle-toothed grin and long spidery limbs. The ASPCA has a great deal of surrendered dogs and cats of every age and stage ready for adoption. They provide spay and neuter services and initial check-ups following the adoption of your new furry friend. There are a number of rescues, shelters, and organizations with adoptable dogs of all breeds. One popular organization is the Humane Society of the United States. Adopting a pup from an organization like the Humane Society helps keep our pooches out of puppy mills and research labs. 

Tips on Owning a Rescue Dog

Loving as Rico is, there is an underlying fear behind his perfect pout. It comes with the territory of owning a rescue with a traumatizing background. He is not only protective of me as his owner, but also territorial of his home, food, and toys. He has to be socialized with people and other dogs to reduce his anxiety and keep him from turning aggressive. He has frequent puppy play dates and walks with his best tail-wagging friend, Bo and is introduced to new dogs and people every week. Little as he may be, he is mighty; his bark gives even the toughest of tough guys a scare. On potty walks, he wears a reflective harness, and I keep him close to my side. When resting, Rico is easily irritated by noises outside, such as other people walking or children playing, and anxious over the booms of thunder, as many dogs are. I comfort my little grump with love and cuddles and doggy sweaters, or simply by moving to areas with less commotion. I am constantly reminded by his skittish behavior and older images of his physique that he is recovering.

Along with the responsibility of comforting Rico’s fears, came the responsibility of parenting my precious pup. Disciplining is difficult when even raising my voice makes him cower in the corner. I learned to use a reward system rather than a system of coercion. Instead of punishing him for chewing my bracelet, I take it away and replace it with something acceptable to chew on. He is treated for good behavior with treats and bones, but we have a “bark room” where he is left alone for bad behavior. He never likes to hear “go to the bark room” because there are no treats there. The concept is similar to sending him to “place” like a kennel or dog house. He stays for only a minute or two before he is reassured with a “sit” and hug. Dog’s memories are very short, so chances are he’s already forgotten why I sent him there.

Costs and Benefits of Owning a Rescue Dog

There are lopsided lists of expenses and earnings when it comes to adopting a rescue dog. As with parenting any dog comes the cost of licenses, food, treats, leashes (harnesses if you’ve got yourself a puller), toys, grooming, the pesky flea and tick battle, and of course, veterinary services (vaccinations, spay/neuter, surgeries, and procedures). Not to mention that savory and aromatic hoagie you only just stepped away from to add a little mustard to or that pair of socks or underwear you just bought that you threw right on top of the hamper! Your little companion just missed you so much that they had to burn all their energy destroying your favorite pair of shoes. I know Rico’s had an accident or two in the house, time for a carpet cleaner! But when he looks with sweet puppy innocence right into my eyes with pure apologies, I grab another pair of shoes and we head out for a walk.

All the care put into providing my fur-coated friend with a better life could never stack up to the number of kisses, hugs, cuddles, and snores we’ve shared. It has been a journey of love, fear, and discipline with Rico, but I could not be happier. He has taught me to make a routine and stick to it, and we have taught each other that loving and supporting one another is the most important thing.  Nothing compares to coming home to doggie hugs and kisses after a long day of missing each other!