Photographs of the dogs of Costa Rica’s Territorio de Zaguates are making the social media rounds again, this time courtesy of Reuters photographer Juan Carlos Ulate. I wrote about this remarkable organization three years ago, when it launched an ad campaign that went viral. Today, more than 700 strays call the organization’s sanctuary home–that’s up from 500 when I wrote about it–and according to Yahoo! News, some 8,000 have passed through, with most adopted into loving homes.
Want to know more? Here’s a look back at my post from September 2013:
My Black Merle Aussie Sheprador
I’ve always considered Galen a mutt, or in more politically correct terms, a mixed breed. I thought of Gryffin the same way. When people would inquire about his pedigree – and they often did because he was fabulously handsome – I would answer, “Pure mutt.”
But now I realize I wasn’t giving my dogs their due.
I should have answered with their “razas unicas” – their unique breed names. Thus, Gryffin was my beloved Golden Flag-tailed Chowtriever.
Galen is my quirky Black Merle Aussie Sheprador.
If you’ve never heard of such breeds, I’m not surprised. As I said, these breeds are unique.
Perhaps, I should explain.
A video by an animal rescue organization out of Costa Rica, highlighting its efforts to increase adoptions, is burning up the Internet. The organization – Territorio de Zaguates or Territory of the Street Dogs – runs a sanctuary for the country’s abandoned dogs. These are canines – there are upwards of 500 of them at the sanctuary at any given time – that if adopted, would make great companions. The problem – and the impetus for the campaign – was that the dogs weren’t being adopted, primarily because many Costa Ricans have a stigma against mutts. Such dogs are perceived as less valuable than purebreds and, according to a blogger who visited the sanctuary, are “widely referred to as rats.”
The innovative campaign, which includes social media, community outreach, a national art exhibit, and TV appearances, seeks to undue this stigma by highlighting the “razas unicas” of the country’s canines. “They only exist in our country,” a dog expert crowed on one of Costa Rica’s most popular programs. “They are wonderful specimens… they are unique breeds.”
The message, as simple and creative as it is, is being heard. Attitudes are shifting. Adoptions are up. And as the campaign continues, dog lovers everywhere can only hope these trends continue and, they might, perhaps, even heed the message themselves. After all, who wouldn’t want to own a Shaggy Shepherd Dachspaniel, an Eye-patched Australian Dalmapointer, or a Schnaufox Melenudo?
As for me, I’m very happy with my Black Merle Aussie Sheprador, because it’s not just her breed that’s unique — she has one heck of a unique personality, too.
Go to Buzzfeed to see photos of some of Costa Rica’s canines, along with their unique breeds. My eleven-year-old daughter and I laughed together, as nothing puts a smile on your face like close-ups of smiling mutts mugging for the camera.
Go to Travel Mother to read the story of one blogger’s hike with Costa Rica’s street dogs. “The herd of five hundred dogs pouring out of their enclosure is a spectacular site. The pack flows like a rapid river as they turn down the trail entrance and out to the open hills. We volunteers then follow them for a couple hours of exercise, fresh air, and doggy-human socialization.” (Added to my bucket list: Hiking with the street dogs of Costa Rica.)
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