Ela: The Little Dog Who Thought She Was BIG!

Ela: The Little Dog Who Thought She Was BIG!

Dr. Ela Stolarczyk came to us one Saturday in May 2015, referred to us by a good friend. Her stunning heart (and beauty) and her amazing personality and capacity to feel for the animals quickly turned us into sisters. She’s been volunteering with Amigos de los Animales and serving on our board since then.

Recently Ela sent us this story about her first rescue in Puerto Rico: also named Ela. I almost cried when I read this and wanted to share it with the world. Both Elas will remain a part of our lives forever.

Love always,

Adri

Ela’s rescue

One Saturday in July 2015, after the shelter clean up, I was driving home with Lucy, another volunteer,  and we got a little lost in the area of Isla Verde. This is when I spotted a small black animal with a white tail down. I remember I was asking Lucy: “Do you think it is a dog or a cat?” We turned to the right and stopped the car to have a better look. We saw a small dirty dog, in an advanced stage of pregnancy and with a hairless tail who was walking along the road just long enough until the cars had passed, so she could then cross the street and check out if there was any food in the trash next to the Llorens Torres ‘caserio’ (the largest housing project in Puerto Rico with some sketchy areas). I remember thinking that she is quite smart crossing the street so carefully. I guess you have to be smart to survive on the streets when you are, you know, a dog.

We tried to approach her but she would quickly hide away. She had her spot in the abandoned house in front of the projects. The house had gates and was locked so we could not enter. A neighbor told us that the owner comes maybe once a week. We left some dry dog food next to the gate and I left my phone number. Nobody called. Lucy and I kept checking on the dog everyday, but she would not let us get close to her. We told Adri, ADLA Shelter Director and my personal hero, about this homeless pregnant dog and one afternoon the three of us, Adri, Lucy and I, equipped with special net (to throw over her) went to catch the dog.

But the dog did not want to leave. Adri, Lucy and I spent 2 hours trying to trap this very stubborn dog, who was growling, showing her teeth and ferociously barking at every attempt we made to approach her. This was a dog who was in an advanced stage of pregnancy, but that didn’t prevent her from running away and passing through the narrow spaces between the fence from one house to another so we could not get to her. The neighbor who was painting his house at the moment got involved in the chase and so did the children from the caserio.  We almost gave up. It was SO hot out!!

Ela, the day of her rescue

I insisted on her rescue though…

Finally, Lucy skillfully threw the net over the dog. The dog was trapped! She was covered in white paint, from the paintbrush the neighbor decided to use to stop the dog from running away (which was well-intentioned, if a little messy). Adri decided to name the dog after me, Ela.

We took Ela for a vet examination and found out that on top of the malnutrition, broken and hairless tail, she had demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange, anaplasmosis, erlichiosis, and the worst: heart-worm disease. We also noticed her bite was a little crooked (probably caused by being kicked hard in the jaw). Because of her advanced pregnancy the doctor decided to wait with all the treatments until she finished nursing her babies-she gave birth a few days later.

Ela arrives at the Shelter

Once at the Shelter she was given a run, food and water. We left her alone to relax and adjust to her new space.

Post-pregnancy vet visit

At first she didn’t eat the dog food so I remember cooking rice with meat for her. Robinson, Adri’s husband, was the one who’d come every day to feed Ela and clean her space. He gained her trust. But not Adri, not Lucy and not me – we were afraid of Ela’s bite as she growled at us and would show her teeth.

On Friday, August 7, 2015, Ela gave birth to 5 pups. During nursing Ela’s skin problems worsened and she lost most of her hair. After 6 weeks with her pups, when they were big enough to be separated from their mom, we were able to start her on treatments for her multiple health problems.

One day I was giving Ela a bath in the solution of sulfur and lime (for the sarcoptic mange) and one of the volunteers said “she looks kinda like a chupacabra ... it’s true, she didn’t look good at that time. I also have distinct memories when I took her to the vet for the vaccinations and skin treatments. She mentioned twice that I could put the dog down…I coudn’t believe it! It made me so angry. If I pick up a dog from the street and bring her to the doctor, it is because obviously she needs medical help; it is not to euthanize her, it is to cure her! How dared she even mention it?

As a Shelter dog, Ela was initially timid with people; she just plain did not trust them and did NOT want them approaching her. But, she LOVED dogs, the bigger, the better. She was the only small dog out with the big ones, and she was the most intimidating, ferociously guarding the Shelter and her dog friends.

Adri would say: “Ela insists she is a big dog… Imagine, someone will fall in love with Ela one day and let her sleep on their bed...”

I was very skeptical of this…

Ela’s pups

Ela gave birth to 5 pups: Charlie, Nala, Bongo, Kimba and Keisi. After 6 weeks of being breast-fed by their mom, they were moved to a separate space, a little baby cradle Adri placed next to her kitchen. They all had some skin problems and some worms, which is quite common for pups and Adri was taking care of them with all the resources she had.

One Saturday morning my friend Amanda decided to join us for the clean up. It was her first time. I remember I used to tell Amanda about Adri, how she is my hero, how charismatic she is and how she has this unexplainable amount of energy to put towards saving dogs and the trust that all will turn out well at the end, and that God will take care of us.

But the day Amanda came, Adri was not like herself. She was cranky, low energy and disheartened. I’ve learnt later why she was so depressed: earlier that day she found Nala, one of  Ela’s 5 pups, dead. She buried Nala somewhere in the backyard of her mom’s house (the house she turned into the shelter).

Going back to that day I cannot help but to think that there is some odd significance to that day, that yes, another innocent pup left this earth but, as if in exchange, we got Amanda, who is now the executive director of the shelter and makes things happen! Sweet and sour story…

Attorney Amanda Collazo Maguire was later offered the position of President of ADLA, which she held for ~ over 1 year as she continued her full time work as an attorney at law. She worked on building the entire administrative structure of ADLA. Recently Amanda decided to quit her job as a lawyer (!), step down as ADLA’s president to become CEO and Executive Director of ADLA, a key position for us but which pays a fraction of what she earned as a lawyer at her law firm.  Adri says she comes to work happy because she sees immediate results of her hard work, and all the good that comes with it. She knows she is doing something meaningful every single day. Amanda is the main motor of ADLA nowadays; she helps Adri “get her ducks in the row” and keeps a close eye on all operations reporting directly to us, the Board. I have never seen ADLA better organized than now. My heart grows seeing this change.

ADLA used to be a solely volunteer based organization. But it is quite difficult to get things done when you are relying on the volunteers only. Usually volunteers have a daytime job and do limited volunteering in their spare time. At first one may dedicate a lot of energy and time but it is really difficult to have the organization running by the volunteers only. After all, if you do not do your job, what are the consequences? None. Just like me with writing this blog… and here I am 2 months later still working on it…

Did Nala have to die? Ever since I met Adri she was struggling to keep the shelter running with extremely limited financial resources, all donations from friends and supporters she was able to make and keep over the years. But these were simply insufficient compared to the need, to the never-ending number of homeless dogs you encounter on the streets. And it is very difficult to plan when you have to rely on donations, on the good will of people. Adri is an angel in human skin, always sensitive to animal suffering, she wanted to save them all…her house/ the shelter was always overcrowded. When I started volunteering there she had 116 dogs. Later, when we formed the board, we agreed to limit our intake to 40 dogs. But it is hard to keep this number with all the abandoned and sick pups and kittens everywhere.

When I met Adri she was heavily in debt with the veterinarians but she kept rescuing dogs despite the few donations coming in. So the vet bills would grow and grow and she was always waiting for another miracle, another donation to save the shelter.

On the balance, at the vet office

At the time Nala died Adri was in debt for thousands of $$$ with several vets, and she was “cut off” until she could cover the bills.  I remember her saying ” Even though it’s time for these pups to go to the vet, I can’t go because we have no money, but as soon as I get some donations I will take them to Dr. XX…” Poor tiny Nala died before her first vet visit.

Charlie being examined

That day I took the remaining 4 pups to the vet. The doctor was kind enough to save my costs by only examining one pup and treating the rest for the same condition. He did the exam and blood tests on Charlie, the smallest one. Kimba, Bongo and Keisi received the same medicine. Everybody started getting better.

A few weeks later, sometime in September 2015, Adri was fighting the highly infectious parvovirus manifestation at the shelter. Adult dogs, vaccinated against parvo, usually can survive the infection. But puppies, whose immune systems are not yet developed, are an easy kill for the virus. To treat the sick pups and to not transfer the virus, every person at the shelter had to follow rigorous procedure: wear gloves, gowns and disinfect everything each time, including the shoes. It is a deadly virus and very easy to transmit. Ela’s pups were not affected thus far and I asked Adri if I could take them home to make sure they did not catch parvo. And that’s how I brought Ela’s 4 pups to our penthouse in old San Juan. I must say they were quite a bit of work but at the same time a real bunch of joy! Here is one of the videos I took:

Ela’s pups stayed with me til the virus at the shelter was stopped and it was safe to bring them back.

Me, Leo, Kimba & Bongo

It is easy for me to get attached to a dog. Or to 4 dogs. I think it was mutual. I wish I could have kept  them all…After a few weeks I brought them back to the shelter with a heavy heart. Afterwards, each time I would go to the shelter they would go crazy seeing me; and I wanted to spend all my time with them.

Keisi and her new parents in NY

Soon Charlie was adopted by a family of teachers who came to volunteer at the shelter.  Later I took Kimba and Bongo again to my home for a visit, and here they stayed till now… Keisi, the biggest of the four, flew to the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, in NY and in August 2017 was adopted by a young couple. Keisi was always very special to me. I hope one day I will hear from her parents.

Ela’s Adoption!

After few months at the shelter Ela gained weight and her coat grew back dark chocolate brown and shiny.

But it was after many more moons when Ela learned to trust, I believe, for the first time in her life. She became such a sweet girl, loved to be picked up and hugged. She responded to her name and loved to kiss (aka lick) – we never thought we would see this day: that she would trust a human again. She was ready to be adopted!

In September 2017, right after Hurricane Maria which devastated the island, Ela’s future adopter got in touch with us. The wonderful Martha Bozeman already had three doggy kids and was looking for a fourth. Ela turned out to be the one!

After much finagling considering the hardships Puerto Rico was going through, lack of flights and resources, we were able to fly Ela with a volunteer, to Martha in Orlando, Florida. At the time of her adoption Ela was around 3.5 yrs old.

Martha said, on Oct 29th 2017: “Ela the dog arrived in Orlando last night….I think she will be happy here. I know we are happy to have her.

On the picture below you can see Martha, Rich with their dogs. From right to left: Molly, Olivia, Lily and Ela. Lily, the 17 year old chihuahua has been with Martha for 15 happy years but recently she has passed away. RIP, Lily.

Ela with her forever family

Martha on Ela: ““She finally is the big dog she always thought she was”

Very gentle dog……. really the best personality overall of any of mine as I said. I am hoping her calmness rubs off on two of my other ones on our walks as they always have to put on a show if we pass other dogs.…She could teach all three of them better manners. She is so good and sweet to everyone

Ela sleeping in bed…

And Adri’s Prediction came true: ELA WAS SLEEPING IN BED WITH HER HUMANS!  Ela likes to sleep under the blanket between her parents and two of the other three dogs (she’s the biggest of them all), and most mornings she enjoys a belly rub before getting out of bed.

You should have seen my face when I saw the picture of Ela sleeping on the bed under a white blanket…😲 Unbelievable!

Martha: “She continues to do well in adapting to life with us. She initially had a good bit of difficulty walking with the other dogs, but I finally figured out that all she wanted to do was turn in circles periodically on the leash. I think it is a safety thing. She has to turn around and see what is behind her. So I just let her turn in circles periodically, and she seems happy. She continues to sleep with us every night and is such a cuddly dog.

Ela and her sister Molly. Two tired Easter bunnies…

“My husband Rich and I knew she was warming up to us when we could feel her wet nose on the back of our calves as we were fixing her dog bowl for breakfast and dinner. Her nickname is Moose because she’s as big as a moose compared to the other three dogs and she’s sweet as chocolate mousse.”

Ela was very quiet for a couple of months and has now starting imitating her sister Olivia who opens up a can of whoop ass on any dog that walks by. So I was hoping Olivia would learn from her, but she has learned from Olivia, and I can’t help but laugh. She is truly part of the pack now.”

That is really funny because her children, Kimba and Bongo, do the same when I walk them!

We always thought Ela was a chihuahua mix, probably because of her ears, but according to her DNA results, Ela is 62.5 % Min-pin, 12.5% Chow Chow, 25% Mixed breed.

Martha: “and 100% Love Muffin!”

Chupacabra? Or Love Muffin, Moose, Chocolate Mousse, Mellow Mushroom ? As Martha likes to call her…

I’m so happy it was Martha who adopted Ela. I have never met her in person, but I know she is a very compassionate human being. It is so good to know this small, once homeless dog, the mother of my 2 dogs, is truly loved and cherished by her humans.

Ela in Florida, “surveying her kingdom”

 

To all our supporters for making these beautiful stories a reality! Every dog deserves a safe place to rest its head and we couldn’t be prouder to do our part to achieve this.

There are still so many more dogs in Puerto Rico like Ela: abused, helpless, scared and sick. CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW to help us continue saving these animals!

Thank you for reading.

Join us in making this world a better place for all animals!

Love,

Ela

PS. If you wish to talk to me directly, you can email me at ela@amigosdelosanimalespr.org

2 Comments on "Ela: The Little Dog Who Thought She Was BIG!"

  • Rich Bergmann says

    We are absolutely in love with Moose (Ela). She is truly part of the family now.

    • Amanda Collazo Maguire says

      So happy you are in love with her. We adore the picture of her under the blanket. 🙂

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