I am so glad that you are all enjoying my travel journal, I love sharing it with you all. So here is part 7.
Saturday 27th October 2012 dawned a lovely bright morning. I was very glad that I had not come home late because I had a clear head and was ready to enjoy the day. As usual in the mornings Monroe and I sat out on the back porch drinking coffee (Costa Rican of course) and chatting. This was one of my favourite times of the day, when everyone else was still asleep and I listened to Monroe telling tales of his treasure hunting experiences. He is such an interesting guy and someone I would never have met if I hadn’t come on this trip.
A short while later, Annie rose obviously a little worse for wear and after a relatively chilled morning we decided to go up the mountain to see Helene who I later affectionately dubbed ‘crazy dog lady’.
Helene is a lovely warm hearted Austrian lady who has lived in Costa Rica for many years. During her time in this beautiful country she had grown tired of seeing so many dogs just wandering the streets, scavenging for food or getting knocked down by cars and left at the side of the road. So instead of becoming hardened to it she decided to open her house to them, provide the medical care, food and love that they need and ultimately try to get them adopted. She started out small but with so many street dogs this just grew and grew. The locals all came to know Helene and many, who can afford it send her money and food to help with their care. Over time this has become a thriving concern for Helene but she still loves each dog as if it is her own. She names every dog that comes through her door and never forgets which is which. So how many dogs do you think she looks after at one time? 10? 20? 50? Nope. not even close. She currently has 141 dogs. Yes that’s right 141. Of these 40 live in her house with her and the rest live on her land in kennels where they have freedom to roam and play. The ones that are in her house are the ones that are very sick, very young or old or who have just had surgery (she makes sure every dog is neutered to stop the breeding problems exacerbating).
A dog lover myself with 2 lively labradors, I was really looking forward to meeting Helene and her dogs. It only took us about 20 minutes to get to her land and we knew we were in the right place from all the barking we could hear from about 100 metres away. I commented to Annie that it is a good job that Helene doesn’t have any close neighbours or they would all have been driven mad by now.
We pulled up to a large green metal gate and banged heartily setting off a gazillion barks. After a few minutes Helene pulled open the gate and we walked into canine heaven. When I say there were dogs everywhere I really am not exaggerating. Big ones, small ones, puppies, old dogs, yappy dogs, jumpy dogs, lazy dogs of every breed imaginable ran towards us to have a good sniff and to say hello. I immediately fell in love with about 8 of them and wanted to take them home and I’d only just walked through the gate. Some of the dogs were kept separate from the others for varying reasons, some because they trod on the puppies or just snapped a lot but no dog was alone, they always had a friend.
Just a few of the doggies who greeted us
Helene herself was a mass of bright red hair and big beaming smiles. She still had the tell-tale Austrian accent but her English was impeccable. She led us into her house all the while talking to the dog and calling them by name. I noticed that the place was spotlessly clean, no poop or pee anywhere to be seen and when one dog did a little parcel Helene immediately scooped it up and disposed of it. Inside the large abode there were dogs on the sofas, lying across doorways and following us around tripping us up all the way to the den. As Helene remarked, you could not be sad in a place like that. Just one look around at all the furry faces eager to love you unconditionally has to lift your spirits and I understood then why she was such a cheerful happy person.
Helene the crazy dog lady
One big furry black dog called Pushy took a liking to me and stayed by my side the whole of our visit. He was so friendly and looked at me with his big brown doggy stare and I fell head over heels in love (I think Pushy would even give Johnny a run for his money). I asked Helene about him and she said that he was one of the dogs that would never be adopted because at 7 he was too old. “People want puppies”, she said. “The trouble with that is that when they get to about 2 or 3 they become less cute and the owners don’t want them any more so they get abandoned all over again”. I could see that Helene is fighting a losing battle but one that she is determined to fight regardless of the outcome.
Me with my beloved Pushy
When we left (without my beloved Pushy) I knew that these dogs were the lucky ones, they would get not only medical attention and food but real genuine one on one love and all from this one Austrian woman who has decided to take on the world. I can only wish her good luck and good health. What a wonderful lady.
Annie and I drove home deep in thought and got ready for our evening with Any and Norman, the fabulous Cuban couple that Annie had taken me to see on my first day. They had invited us to dinner along with Mike and Earl and I was looking forward to spending my last evening in their company.
When we arrived and I had finished hugging Norman and trying to persuade him to squeeze into my case we followed the gorgeous smells coming from Any’s kitchen. She opened the oven and showed us the most massive shoulder of pork I had ever seen. My mouth immediately started to water so Mike and I laid the table while Norman carved the meat. We sat down and prayers were said and then Oh My Lord!! I began to eat the best meat I had ever eaten, so succulent and tender. My mouth is watering again as I type, remembering such a wonderful meal. We had flan for dessert which we had to almost physically wrestle from Mike, it being his favourite and after coffee we all went and sat in the conservatory nattering about this and that. I looked around at these wonderful people that I had only met a week ago and was amazed that in such a short time they had welcomed me into their lives and homes and made me feel like family. I was going to miss these people so much.
All too soon it was time to leave and we had a bit of a tearful goodbye. I promised to return as soon as I could and we left for our last night at Annie’s home. I never could persuade Norman to stow away with me but he belongs to Any so I will just have to get back there as soon as possible, if only for their amazing food.
Any and Norman, the best Cubans in the world
So my travels had come to and end. Or had they? Oh no, I still have an eventful journey home to tell you all about tomorrow.