Rescuing Animals Left Behind by Snowbirds

There is a constant problem with a surplus of pets here in Mexico.  And although some snowbirds come and provide help by offering finances, food, even paying for medical attention for those animals that need it (particularly spay/neutering) it seems that others are part of the very problem.  Animals left abandoned on streets, and even in vacated condos and houses.  Realtors frequently enter a recently vacated resident to find a dog, cat or birds left behind by another seasonal gringo.

Spring time, the weeks right before and right after Easter, is the time that Snowbirds start heading back north.  And in their wake there is an increase in abandoned animals.  Likely very much like our own Epic.  Dropped off in the upperclass Racquet Ball community west of Ajijic she found refuge at a construction site.  Neighbours discovered her, looking healthy enough and checked daily for weeks that she had drinking water and food to eat, while they were attempting to locate an adoptive home for her via some online communities.  However, once somebody discovered that she had a gash in her leg that needed attending, John coaxed her into a vehicle and got her to the vet from whence we stepped into the story and decided to foster her until a fur-ever home was found for her.  But then besides opening up our home to her, we decided to open up our hearts to her, too.  And so she became family.  (Maret informs me that I never actually did an adoption story on our Epic.  Hmmm, we’ll have to see about correcting that)

Its fairly obvious when the animals have been taken care of, like they had their family until recently.  Then one day their family leaves them behind.  Alone.  What makes people do this?  Come for wintering in Mexico and serve themselves by getting a cute cuddly pet to feed some part of their ego or emotional need, to turn around and abandon them?  Cruel.

I’ll bet most of those people have mean$.  Yet they abandon creatures that then become a burden to those locals that are less fortunate.  Because many less-fortunate have bigger hearts than those with plenty.  Just seems the way it often is.  Those with less give more.

And so there is Alvaro, near Chapala MX.  He pours his money and love into caring for animals.  Doing the best he can for them, like many other people (both Mexican and northerners) do, too.

Tina here at Perico was made aware of Alvaro, of his struggle to provide some basic comforts for the animals he had rescued.  So her and her friends raised funds and accepted donations of things like mats for the dogs so that they wouldn’t have to sleep on the cold cement.

Everette volunteered (well, actually, our kids volunteered one of their parents and the van!) to drive the donations and a slew of kids along with Tina to deliver it all and get a little tour of his place.




I heard (I wasn’t there) that Alvaro was sooo moved by the generosity of strangers that he was teary-eyed when the kids unloaded our van of dog/cat food, beds, toys, etc.  Money was also available as Alvaro had made appointments to get some of the dogs spayed/neutered…a procedure often offered with a 40% discount by the local veterinarians.

Alvaro showed the group around to see all the animals he currently was taking care of.  And no, the possums weren’t previously somebody’s pets.  Their mama had been killed on the highway.  One of the babies is blind so he’ll keep that one long-term.  The other two he hopes to return to the wild.

Checkout Laars with a baby possum.

He has many varieties of birds and has a constant turn-over of cats, dogs and their offsprings.

Instead of embedding all the videos here I decided to just add links here so you can check them out on my YouTube if you want.

Big Heart

Holding a Possum

Anders gets peed on.



Oh Canada in Mexico


The largest flag we travel with.








July 1st is the day Canada celebrates what is commonly referred to as ‘her birthday’.  It actually is in recognition of the joining of the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada into a federation on July 1, 1867, becoming a kingdom called the Dominion of Canada. From that time until 1982, the British parliament and Cabinet slowly surrendered its limited political control over Canada.

Our family usually attended a Canada Day Parade, often dressing in red and white like our national flag, or wearing something with the maple leaf emblem.  Face painting or temporary tattoos of a maple leaf was commonly worn on cheeks and foreheads.  We were always proud to sport our patriotic Jeep.


Our proud Canadian Jeep out on a hike with Rauchelle and Everette (BC 2006)

In Mexico we don’t have much for Canadians around us, but we decided nonetheless people are more than willing to have a party.  And it just so happened to correspond with Creative Ice Cream Flavour Day…..good reason to celebrate.

So Maret took it upon herself to initiate a party.  The Johnson’s provided vanilla ice cream as the base and others brought toppings.  Typical sundae toppings (chocolate, butterscotch, strawberry syrups) along with chopped strawberries and mangoes.  There were Oreo and maple cookies, chopped nuts, bacon and maple syrup.  And cajeta, which is a Mexican topping made from sweetened & caramelized goat milk.Canada-Day-Celebration-in-Mexico

We invited my sister and brother-in-law up for the party (cuz their Canadians, too, eh!!) so Gatsby came along, always happy to saunter thru the grounds and take in the freedom he’s allowed here.

Bob (from USA) wanted us to sing the National Anthem that he initiated, looking at the lyrics on his phone, singing to a slightly different tune so none of us Canadians really sang along….then accused us that we don’t know our anthem.  Fair enough, Everette said we know how to bang our hockey sticks on the ice at the end of the anthem, and Game On!!

Instead, Mitchell, Gaelyn and Anders sang “Canada’s Really Big” which resulted in the usual chuckles and cheering from the audience.


Tina with puppies Edmund and Lucy

It seemed like it was actually a bit of a dog party.  Most of the residence here have their dogs, and Tina is usually fostering extras.  I think a lot of the residence recognize others by the dog that they have.

From my rough counting, there were about 7 dogs at least, only  2 of which were Canadian.  13 Canadian-humans out of about 25 of us (9 of them were our family, plus one Swiss/Cdn).  Not bad for being here in small-town Mexico.


Scooting Around

It’s not ours but we dream of having one.  BIGGER!!

BMW maybe.

We aren’t quite there in our lives yet.  In the meantime, Everette borrows Tom’s scooter for cheaper trips into town.  Each of the kids that have jumped on the back have LOVED it.  Nothing like Matt-the-Frenchman’s bike but nonetheless its enjoyable.

Collage Scooting

Some afternoons when we need a break we jump on and head to Chapala or along the lake just to feel the wind on our faces.  Perspective is different on here than it is from the comfy seat of the van.  I see so much more even though hubby blocks much of the forward view.

We feel FREE.

Even if its just for an hour.

One of our favorite places to go is a new restaurant in Chapala that we refer to as The Patio although its really called il Giardino.

There are four levels (patios) to this restaurant tucked discretely off the sidewalk of the main street.  We can sit up at the highest level amongst the palm trees and fountain like we did with Dee and Gerry, or on the first level (as in pic below) where we can people-watch on the sidewalk.

Twice now we’ve gone for drinks and were given soup ‘on the house’ along with savory buns….I think they are looking to expand their menu.  This day we were treated to very tasty carrot soup.  All the food we’ve experienced here has been great.

Collage il GiardinoWe understand that this is one of the few restaurants open late at night, tip 1am or something like that.  A great place for after an evening show.

The biggest challenge would be the four flights of stairs if one has had too many drinks.  But go ahead, try it out….I dare you!


Renewing Our Canadian Passports Abroad: A Mexican Version

With such a large family it can really hurt the pocket book to have all passports applied for at one time…so an option is to have them staggered, but not too much so that keeping on top of them becomes a nightmare.  We had 11 of ours limited to just 2 different expiry dates, but now the eldest two girls have flown the coop and so it is not my concern when they expire, or even if they have them!  (well, actually that isn’t true since they need them to come visit us!)

Everette was heading back to Canada so he just did his Renewal back in BC.  Straight forward and simple…and cheaper!  Well, the same cost as other Canadians would be paying if applying for renewal while on Canadian soil.  The savings, however, didn’t warrant a trip back to Canada so the youngest 3 kids and I did ours here in Mexico.

First step was to get our passport photos taken.

We stopped at a photo shop in Chapala where we met the delightful and talented Paulette.  She made the kids comfortable and welcome, making the photo-shoot easy.

Collage Passport Photos

Although a man at the Cdn Passport office in Victoria raised questions about Everette’s photo being taken in Mexico, he was just an uninformed employee who pre-views to make sure you have all the pertinent paperwork before you enter the actual line-up.  When Everette presented all his paperwork to the actual person that accepts the application or renewal, having the photo taken in Mexico seemed of no concern.  It was signed and labeled by a professional photographer as required and that’s all that seemed to matter.

Since it was years since the last time we had to apply for the kids’ passports I had forgotten that both parents needed to be involved in the paperwork, so I neglected to get Everette to fill in the papers before he headed back to Canada.  So off he went to BC, applied for his renewal.  Weeks later I thought I should get our 4 applications sent in only to (re)discover that I needed his signatures on original papers.  So I waited for his return.

Weeks passed and when he received his new passport in Canada he booked a flight back and we ventured into the big city to have everything looked over.  We had to make an appointment for that.  At the Canadian Consulate located on the 8th floor of one of the World Trade Centers.

Collage Maria Bistro

Arriving early for our appointment we checked out Maria Bistro

Collage WTC

Everything seemed in order; we paid mucho dinero and made a stop at a DHL to have our package couriered off to the Cdn Consolate in Mexico City.

Collage DHL

We couriered them out on April 6/15.  One day to get to Mexico City, one day to return to us at Chapala, the rest was time spent at the consulate.  We received them May 21/15.  Thirty-nine days!! 6 1/2 weeks.

And I’d like to point out that the one Canadian brochure we received about our passports….was in French!!  I got a chuckle out of that.  I guess I need to brush up on my French.


We are thrilled that they were all approved and finally received.  These ones at least are good for another 5 years (mine is good for 10 years) and we only have a few others to worry about I think in year 2017.  All the adult kids can worry about their own.

Because our passports didn’t arrive before our T.I.P. was to run out on our van, our border-run was only partially successful.  Some of us couldn’t cross the border so Everette (& Danaka) did the van business and applied for their own tourist visas*.

By the way, for those that are curious, our T.I.P. costs about $42US (the actual permit) with a deposit of $300USD (either cash or credit card).  Prices are dependent on the age of the vehicle, so I don’t know how the deposit varies.


* Every time Everette (and Mitchell) fly back from Canada, included in their airfare is a new tourist visa for 180 days.  In essence, Everette didn’t need a new tourist visa as he had only been in Mexico 5 weeks.  But as the driver bringing the vehicle into the country (since I couldn’t cross) he needed a visa for the duration of the permit of the van.  A tourist visa costs approx $25US so it isn’t a biggie, but a necessity.


WTH is Under the Kitchen Sink???

We were just living our day like we often do…kids watching videos or playing video games, Danaka writing something, Maret catering to Epic.  Gaelyn was chopping potatoes to make Mashed Garlic Potatoes for supper, and in trying to find the slow-cookers she looked under the kitchen sink not realizing that we don’t store stuff under there except a casserole dish that catches the drips from the old leaky drain.

I was working on the computer (as usual) when she calmly came to the office and quietly said, “Mom, can you come and look at something?”  I was expecting to find a middle-rotten potato, or at worst a worm of some sort.

But NO!

She pointed to the cabinet, door wide open.  My unadjusted eyes saw black mold covering the walls as I guiltily remembered that I had forgotten (hmmm, oxymoron?) to empty that pan recently.  But no, this was 3 dimensional.  Black mold isn’t 3D.

I looked closer, and my nose deciphered the presence of earth before my eyes and mind could compute!  There was a pile of dirt flowing from where the drainpipe disappeared into the wall!!

under sink

I stared for a moment, dumbfounded.  Why was there a pile of dirt collecting in my cupboard?

I went to the office where I found Tina & Maret making plans for some big projects here at the hotel (like a dog run, and jumps for agility!) Interrupting their plans, I told Tina we had a ‘problemo’ which took her by surprise.  She said we don’t usually have a problem….okay, so we don’t complain a lot, like, well, some others that have stayed here 🙂

I told her she really needed to come have a look, I’d rather not try and explain it to her.

She apprehensively approached the kitchen.  I gently pushed her ownwards, promising that nothing was going to jump out at her!!


She was amazed and baffled too.  She said she would have the guys come by around 3pm (this was noon) when they were finished their current project…but within 15 minutes she had Juan inspecting.  Right away he knew what it was.

Chancharras…..hormigas arrieras

Army Ants…..under my kitchen sink!!

Juan immediately got to cleaning out the mess, dumping out the mud (the casserole dish once filled with water was now full of thickest of all kinds of mud) piled high with fresh earth (where the heck was the earth coming from inside the cement walls????  He started ripping off the previously rotten wood at the back of the cupboard.  And then he whacked away at the plaster that was ready to fall off the wall.

As per this sort of job, the mess increases well before the end is in sight.

Juan and Tom converse about the plan

Juan and Tom converse about the plan

The decision is made to remove all but the cross board right under the counter, the cupboard doors and the sink/counter itself.  Tom gets a new drainpipe and taps while Juan continues to disassemble and clean up.

Well, most of it was cleaned up until he turned the water to the unit back on.  He unfortunately had forgotten to close off the water to the sink.  I tuned in to a distant gurgling from my office and went to check on it, discovering water mixing with earth and powdery plaster, flooding the kitchen floor and running behind our other cabinets.  Argh!

Juan got the bright white drainpipe put in and hooked up the new taps, shining and bright. Photo on 5-29-15 at 5.49 PM #2

There will be more work to be done dealing with the mold and sealing off the cement.  Somebody (Daniel?) will build a cabinet incorporating the salvageable doors.  And we’ll be set.  Maybe the cabinet will be nice enough and dry that we can actually use it for storage?

Sure thankful that Gaelyn was on kitchen duty today!!