I’m always ready for an adventure, so I said yes when my friend Michele Rizza asked me and another friend to be “puppy mules” for her Panamanian rescue start-up.
Not in our wildest dreams could we imagine what that meant.
Sue Lamy from Dallas and I would fly to Panama City, pick up two puppies each and fly home. The incentive: Sue and I were allowed to hang around the water in our friend’s beautiful apartment for a few days.
Michele, a former Rancho Palos Verdes resident, currently resides in Las Vegas. She is still vice president of the Animals Rule Pet Foundation of San Pedro. It is a group that helps save animals on the peninsula. She also started her own nonprofit, Amore 4Pets, to save animals in the United States.
Last year Michele and her husband bought a condo in Coronado Bay, Panama. She wants to work with Panamanian vets to save the strays she encounters. Central Americans do not typically neuter or neuter pets. So starving dogs and cats are a common sight on the streets of the city and in the country.
Michele’s search is a self-funded, self-sacrificing calling that not many would understand.
“I don’t like seeing animals suffer,” said Michele as she boarded the plane to take her two pups back to Las Vegas. “They too are creatures of God, and we have a mandate to care for them.”
We three former flight attendants can’t decide who is the craziest: Michele, who came up with the brilliant idea of bringing six newly weaned puppies to the USA, or Sue and I – the two madmen who went along with the plan.
Sue said the whole thing sounded like fun as she agreed to help. But it was a challenge, she said.
“What I got out of it is, I was crazy and my friends are crazy,” said Sue. “And I wouldn’t change anything.”
Michele handled the red tape, including loads of paperwork, exorbitant Panamanian exit fees, groceries, toys, travel essentials, vet bills, cleaning supplies, and airline tickets.
Before the six pups are adopted, Michele said she will have invested about $ 3,500.
The plan was for Charlie Mosquera, Michele’s personal assistant, to keep the pups at his Panama Bay home until our departure dates. But he had to hand over the litter to Rizza because he was moving into a new apartment.
The early arrival of the six puppies in the apartment presented a completely different story than “simple” and definitely cut into our lounge time.
For five days we spent every waking hour cleaning up after the pups, which were housed in a wire pen in the middle of the tile floor.
On the third day, we would laugh or laugh hysterically intermittently as we counted silently in our minds whose turn it was to wipe the floor with Clorox or bathe puppies.
And then the dwarf got sick. Sue, Charlie and I took “Bandit” to the vet who found he had parasites. All six puppies also had to take the liquid medication.
On our last night, Michele slept on the couch because Sue and I had to leave early. When we opened the air-conditioned bedroom door at 3 a.m. to watch Michele, a sirocco made of puppy stink wafted over us.
Bye, sorry, no time to chat.
Amazingly, my pups were angels on the plane. But as soon as we got to the long customs line, “Blue” and “Max” broke loose with the rage of hell. Not only did I have to brush up on their careers while moving in line, but I also had to apologize to the people who were laughing at me.
Finally at home, after a few days, this puppy mule handed its charges over to Animals Rule, where care teams and new owners are strictly checked.
As of this writing, Michele is finally on his way home to Las Vegas with “Mugsy” and “Bandit”. Sue is still babysitting Brutus and Panama Jack in Dallas, waiting for Michele to pick them up or adopt them, whichever comes first.
Nonetheless, it’s great evidence of our friendship – and our ability to tolerate pretty much anything.
For more information on pet adoption, visit adopt.animalsrule.org.