One of the happiest dogs in town may be Sir Poindexter of Placitas, Dexter for short, whose home in the recent past was the streets of El Paso, Texas. The former street urchin now lives with the founder of Helping Paws Across Borders (HPAB), an international veterinary and animal-rescue program based in Placitas.
Veterinary and surgery technician Angie Cherry came up with the idea for HPAB after she and husband Bob vacationed on Mexico’s eastern coast about ten years ago. During a walk through the community outside the resort area she encountered the daily life of dogs and cats in a place with few if any vets and clinics.
“We got home, and I couldn’t let it go,” Cherry said. She enlisted her daughter Jennifer, and the two brainstormed what to do. They came up with the name Helping Paws Across Borders.
By the time HPAB was organized and ready for its first mission back to Mexico, Angie and Bob had moved to Placitas leaving Jennifer in Indiana. Jennifer, a former animal-control officer, now works at a shelter there.
Both found veterinarians supportive of their projects providing supplies, time off from clinics where Angie worked and in volunteering on the missions themselves. Friends and co-workers joined in as well.
Over the course of the next five years, HPAB worked with Animal Humane Grand Bahamas in the Caribbean handling innumerable medical treatments and vaccinations, establishing a spay and neuter program, dispensing collars and leashes, and doing what it could to instill concepts of responsible pet ownership. It also built a proper shelter where procedures like amputations could be done safely and outfitted a lab with donated equipment.
About 15 animals have been brought to Albuquerque for amputations by volunteer veterinarians, then to be put up for adoption. The team has done only one amputation in the field when it was deemed absolutely necessary, Angie said.
“The vets here are incredible,” she added.
Over the last several years HPAB has worked regularly in Belize with sponsorship from local vets. The second visit of this year in September drew a team of 12 volunteers who paid their own way and spent five days operating a clinic in the coastal village of Placencia.
The clinic examined and treated 261 animals and conducted 119 surgeries. Again, services and supplies mixed with education and being kind to animals.
“We’re getting a huge following of vets,” Angie said. “We all kind of know each other somehow.”
Dr. Adena Robertson of 4 Paws Pet Hospital in Albuquerque is one of those vets enlisting in the program soon after she hired Angie as a vet tech. It wasn’t a hard sell for the doctor with a track record of joining Animal Humane in crisis situations like hurricane Katrina.
“There are not a whole lot of vets who will do this on top of their regular jobs,” she said. “It’s nice opportunity to get to be a part of this.”
Robertson has worked with HPAB since its second or third year and performed amputations and other surgeries in her clinic. She is already planning for the 2015 trips.
Collars and leashes are in great demand and instantly change a child’s demeanor as he or she walks away with a dog, Jennifer said during a November visit to Placitas.
“Once you give them to the kids, you can’t believe how proud they are,” she continued. It’s often the kids and not the parents who bring their animals to the clinics, she added.
Those animals included seas turtles, iguanas, and a tapir, Jennifer noted during a November visit to Placitas. Jennifer serves as HPAB’s vice president and director of animal welfare, while Angie holds the title of president and founder. The group has gone to schools to teach dog-bite prevention and often brings along schools supplies and shoes.
Still, the program is not without its bumps as it must deal with border crossings, skeptical customs officers, and government permits. It also steers clear of the upper-class area’s modern clinics although some of those residents occasionally find HPAB and its free vaccinations.
HPAB, a nonprofit corporation with a 12-member board, is expecting its 501c3 tax status this month. It already has two trips planned for next year—Honduras in February and Peru in July—both at the invitation of local animal-rescue groups.
“People ask why we don’t do this here,” Angie said. “There are lots of resources here. They want us to come, and they need the help.”
Beyond donations of money, airline miles, collars and leashes, dog and cat treats and toys, and medical supplies, HPAB joins in area events where it collects donations. The next one is the 12 Strays of Christmas adoption event from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on December 6 at Cabezón Park in Rio Rancho.
The event, sponsored by the city of Rio Rancho, includes a low-cost shot clinic and an invitation to donate pet food and new or lightly used collars, leashes, toys, and crates. The donations will be divided among the dozen or so participating rescue groups.
Helping Paws Across Borders
Phone: Angie Cherry
E-mail: Angie Cherry
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