I recently started volunteering for the Costa Ballena Domestic Animal Welfare Group, affectionately known as D.A.W.G. And although I knew what I was getting myself into emotionally, it got me considering our relationships with our furry friends.

Costa Rica is obviously a nation in which animals of all varieties are plentiful, but nothing can take the place of our pets. Most of us come from nations where we treat our animal companions like family, which I’m learning is not the world-wide standard. Domestic animals here play an important role in Costa Ricans’ lives, too, although the locals don’t always share our same attention to detail when it comes to food, shelter and the health of the animals. As a result, many domestic animals go unspayed and unneutered, leading to an overpopulation of strays in our village communities.

This is where organizations like D.A.W.G. pick up where others drop off, and unfortunately sometimes it is a literal drop off of a litter. It is heartbreaking to see so many animals go without homes and human friends, but D.A.W.G. volunteers selflessly to tend to their needs, providing food, shelter, vaccines and other clinical services. These are generously supported through community donations from regular fundraising events like this past weekend’s concert at Ballena Bistro, which featured local talent Lauren Carder and Tim Rath, or the library above the D.A.W.G. clinic, where charitable donations of books and DVDs are lent out for a small fee that goes a long way in helping to run this organization.

The expat communities in the Southern Zone areas of Ojochal, Uvita, and Dominical do a lot to support D.A.W.G., bringing in injured animals and helping to spay and neuter ones that are being neglected. I have never seen so many caring individuals, who offer their time in the service of animals, like taking in foster pets while they are waiting to be adopted into a forever home. Not everyone is living here full-time, meaning that they can not offer the loving attention for the rest of these animals lives. But being at D.A.W.G. this past Saturday and seeing four furry loves getting adopted, and four others being taken into foster care was a heart warming experience that gave me a renewed faith in humanity and the strength of our Costa Ballena communities.

When we take care of the most marginalized members of our societies, we show the strength of our character. The Southern Zone communities have proved over the years to have much integrity, and we do our best to keep ourselves and each other honest by putting our best foot forward and leading by example.

Come and see what our communities have to offer. You likely won’t find any place like this wherever you are in the world, which perhaps is why you are reading this article. This land is truly inspiring and brings out the best in those who come to visit and to live. And fear not, there is plenty of room for your own fur babies here, which happens to be a simple process. I know that our pets are the happiest they could be in this land of green landscape, fresh water and clean air. And in my group of ladies who walk together every morning with our dogs, we couldn’t be happier watching them enjoying this land that we all call home.


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