For me, this blog began with a single topic in mind. However, it was merely the start of a really interesting journey. Surprisingly, it was one that grew into a series all about Mexico’s street dog heroes. To be more specific, it zeroes in on the tropical south-east region renowned for its beaches, archeological sites and eco-tourism. As you will see, the action initiates in Mérida, Yucatán, and travels across the state of Quintana Roo. There are stops in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres and Cancún. And if you’re wondering who the heroes are, they represent the three North American countries (Mexico, Canada and the USA).

Feeders and waterers were installed in Mérida, Yucatán, by Mexico’s street dog heroes
Street dogs using feeders in the Yucatán capital of Mérida, south-east Mexico


Outdoor Food And Water Dispensers In Mérida

What first caught my eye mid 2018 was an article in the online version of the daily publication “Yucatán Al Minuto.” It was something I’d not heard of before. The story described the installation of outdoor feeders and waterers for dogs and cats. Importantly, those homeless animals that roam the streets of Mérida, the Yucatán state capital. 

Votes For Voiceless Animals

At the time, political campaigning was in progress for the upcoming general election. Mexicans would soon be voting for a new President as well as state officials nationwide. At the time, animal lovers working on behalf of the PRI party candidate for governor put their creativity to work. They decided to launch an initiative called “Yucaninos.” Interestingly, this word is a hybrid of the first four letters of Yucatán, and caninos, Spanish for canines. 

Those working on this project decided to install the state’s first ever feeders and waterers in Mérida. Moreover, prior to the launch, they held orientations to get resident support in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood. In addition, the plan included recruiting volunteers to ensure fresh food and water was always available and properly dispensed.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get comments from people on the ground there. However, the program appears to have been a success and was replicated in other communities. One of these is Tulum, where we will now make a stop.

Street cat in Tulum, south-east Mexico, eating from an outdoor feeder
Street cat in Tulum, eating from an outdoor feeder


Business, Advocacy, And Endurance

People who know Alma García well can tell you that she has boundless energy and a fighting spirit. And it is these qualities that have enabled her to do the following three things. 

Firstly, she and her Italian-born fiancé founded and manage two very successful boutique hotels. In addition, they also have a business that offers eco-tours to visitors from around the world. Second, García loves animals and raises money for local homeless dog and cat populations. And, her third endeavor is to push herself further and win more marathons!

Feeder Flop

It’s certainly disappointing but there are times when you have a great idea that just doesn’t work out. This is what happened when the entrepreneur set up feeders close to her hotels. As my readers probably know, distemper is highly contagious and potentially lethal. Sadly, there was an outbreak of this disease in Tulum which changed everything. Consequently, the local authorities stepped in and ordered the removal of the feeders to prevent it from spreading further. 

Despite this setback, however, García continues to help Mexico’s street dogs and cats in other ways.

iTour Mexico in Tulum and Akumal sells tee-shirts to raise money for street dogs and cats
iTour Mexico in Tulum and Akumal sells own design tee-shirts to raise money for street dogs and cats. This one says “adopt, don’t buy.”

Tee-Shirt Triumph

Undaunted, García supplements her personal donations with funds raised from the sale of tee-shirts in her gift shops. “Visitors are really motivated to ease the suffering of all the roaming dogs and cats they see in our area,” she said. “They love all our tee-shirt designs.”

Because of their support, García can buy food and contribute towards the cost of spay and neuter programs. And, there are many benefits to reducing the canine and feline populations on the streets. Both struggling and more financially stable communities and businesses are affected in a positive way. But, above all else, the animals themselves suffer just a little bit less. After all, it’s through no fault of their own that they are in constant survival mode. 

In addition, funds are sometimes allocated to construct dog houses out of wooden pallets made by a local carpenter. That way, some of the animals can also shelter from the blazing sun and torrential rain.

A local carpenter makes dog houses for street dogs in Tulum, south-east Mexico
A local carpenter makes dog houses for street dogs in Tulum, south-east Mexico

To Sum Up

Here are some of the people who deserve credit for the efforts described in this week’s blog. They are Mexico’s street dog heroes. They are the people who care about the wellbeing of these sentient beings who, through no fault of their own, end up struggling to survive on the streets. Thank you for what you do!

  • Yucatán gubernatorial candidate, Mauricio Sahuí; Edwin Espadas, who worked on his electoral campaign; and the residents of Mérida’s Emiliano Zapata neighborhood.
  • iTour Mexico, Alma García and Marco Pasqualino.                                           

Please be sure to follow me next week. We’ll be taking a trip to Playa del Carmen for more on dog houses, the before and after photos, and The Snoopi Project!

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  

The Complete Series

In case you missed any of the other articles in this series of six, here’s your chance to catch up now.







“Buster Brown” tried to get comfortable on a computer chair, things changed, now shelter dogs love their armchairs
“Buster Brown” tried to get comfortable on a computer chair, things changed, now shelter dogs love their armchairs

Who would ever have guessed how much shelter dogs love their armchairs? Well, actually, when you think about it, that should be no surprise. 

By thinking outside the box, and applying a little creativity, the lives of homeless pets are changing. This is what Knox County Humane Society did and now other organizations are following their lead.

It all started earlier this year and shows how resourceful shelter staff are becoming in their efforts to boost pet adoptions. Read all about it here and see my favorite video, picked especially for you.

Shelter Mascot “Buster Brown” Starts A Trend

Whenever he got the chance, the four-year resident would try and climb onto a computer chair in the front office to get a better view of who was coming and going. Then the staff at the Knox County Humane Society, Illinois, decided it was high time he had his very own chair. 

So they tried out an old armchair and “Buster Brown” was as happy as could be. He no longer struggled to curl up into a ball. He could stretch his legs and rest his head on the arm. That’s how the armchair initiative began and there are now 25 of them being used inside individual kennels.

Thanks to this guy, all Knox County Humane Society shelter dogs love their armchairs
Thanks to this guy, all Knox County Humane Society shelter dogs love their armchairs

It’s All About Comfort And Mood

Shelter Director, Erin Buckmaster explains the benefits and why the shelter dogs simply love their armchairs. “First of all, the dogs are off the floor and out of drafts. They are more comfortable and less stressed. Because of this, their behavior improves and they become more adoptable,” she told us. 

Buckmaster then went on to mention that in February the first chairs were put in the lobby, in an area specially set up for the three dogs that had been at the shelter the longest. That way visitors see them as soon as they walk in and they can immediately visualize them relaxing on a chair or a sofa in their own home. It was a big hit.

When the local community heard about this, the response was amazing. In fact, the very first day, one lady showed up with 11 chairs she had bought at a thrift shop. It’s worth pointing out that donations are always welcome since the chairs are frequently replaced due to getting a bit chewed up and scratched.

Chairs For Cats

At the same time, some of the cats also got chairs. However, they are now using mostly plastic lawn chairs since not all of the felines are litter box users.

See for yourselves why shelter dogs love their armchairs so much. Video created by KCHS staff member, Tanner Smith.

Unwanted Chairs Furnish Animal Shelters

The Start Of A New Trend

“When we heard about the success they were having with the armchairs at the Knox County shelter, we decided to try it out, too,” said Lissa Waters, Development Coordinator at West Valley Humane Society in Caldwell, Idaho. This is an open admission shelter in the Boise metro area, that takes in over 7,000 animals of all kinds every single year. And, they will have up to 100 dogs for adoption at any one time.

A great example of an early success story relates to Roxy who was about 10 or 11 years old. “It’s always a lot harder to adopt out an older dog,” Waters commented. “She wasn’t doing well in this noisy setting but as soon as she was given a chair, she curled right up on her blanket and started to relax.” Staff took photos, then a local television crew came out, and Roxy was adopted a day or two later. What an inspirational story!

West Valley Humane Society shelter dogs love their armchairs, especially when they are a perfect fit!
West Valley Humane Society shelter dogs love their armchairs, especially when they are a perfect fit!

To Sum Up

Because this is such a great initiative, I’d like to leave you, the reader, with no doubt as to why shelter dogs are loving their armchairs so much.

  • An armchair is a comfort item most dogs and cats are used to when they lived with their previous family.
  • A chair is comfortable and has a calming effect. The stress level goes way down and a dog’s mood improves significantly.
  • It allows a potential adopter to already visualize the dog fitting into its new home fairly effortlessly.
  • The likelihood of a dog finding its (hopefully) forever home goes way up. 
  • And you can help, by spreading the word. Maybe you even have an old armchair to donate. The dogs will thank you for it!

A Helping Hand

If you would like to donate or volunteer at either of these shelters, here is the contact information. 

Knox County Humane Society

1855 Windish Dr

Galesberg, IL 61401



West Valley Humane Society

5801 Graye Lane,

Caldwell, ID 83607

208 455 5920


Sad Update

I am sorry to report that “Buster Brown” passed away August 20 2018 due to congestive heart failure. R.I.P., sweet boy!

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!

Feedback On What Works And What Doesn’t

I decided to get some feedback on how this novel armchair program was working out. So I contacted Brittany Sundell, Development Coordinator at West Valley Humane Society. But before continuing, it’s important to remind everyone that this is a medium to high intake shelter of around 4,000 dogs annually. So, it was certainly challenging but began on a positive note.

Overall Results – Animals, Staff, Donations

‘We used donated chairs for about four months with dogs in our kennels and overall our dogs loved it. They felt happier and more “at home,” Sundell stated. “However we had the following problems that prevented us from continuing.” Here is a summary of what she reported.

  • Sanitation was a big issue since there was no way to truly sanitize a chair between dogs. As a result, they saw a rise in viruses like kennel cough due to the kennel environment.
  • Another issue was making sure all chairs had at least a 6-8 inch clearance off the ground to allow for easy cleaning.
  • Then the public, eager to help out, kept dropping off chairs while they were closed, that could not be used. Consequently, their trash pick ups became significantly more expensive because of the need to remove the unwanted furniture.

Other Shelters Can Now Make Informed Decisions

So, at West Valley HS they resumed using Kuranda beds with blankets to aid in the overall comfort and sanitation of the kennels. And, in her final comment, Sundell added, “We discussed the issue with our management team and the general consensus was this. If we were a lower intake facility that served less dogs or had a [shorter] stay for dogs, this would absolutely be a program worth continuing!” 

If you appreciate the craft of hand knitting, here you will realize how stressed homeless kitties benefit from these beautiful cuddle blankets: