Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Auction Where Everybody Wins!

Next to Homeowners, the most numerous group of residents in Loreto Bay have four feet – mainly dogs, but also a few cats. While many of these “best friends” come from northern homes, a surprising number have been adopted here in Mexico – a situation I refer to as the pet equivalent to winning the Lottery!

This analogy is particularly true if you are familiar with the sad situation of the many stray dogs that can often be seen in and around most places where people are found in Mexico. It has been an unfortunate fact of life in Mexico for many years, that packs of stray dogs, usually malnourished and often injured, make noisy pests of themselves. This was certainly the case in Loreto when I first started coming here, and in the Loreto Bay development, during the more than five years of intensive construction, there were many such animals “living” off the leftovers of hundreds of workers that were building the homes.

Given the number of pet-owners among the Homeowners here it is not surprising that there is an active and successful organization concerned with the welfare of the local animal population, that organization is called Animalandia. Their mandate is primarily to spay and neuter both feral animals and those owned by local Mexicans who cannot afford to pay for these operations. However, they explicitly do not want the services they provide to interfere with the livelihood of the local vets who are charging the people who can afford the cost of these procedures.

Animalandia works closely with Vets and Vet technicians from the US and Canada who donate their time and expertise and travel to Loreto several times a year to hold free clinics where they perform dozens of operations over a few days of intensive work. For this these volunteers receive free accommodations, often in the homes of Animalandia members, and their meals while they are in town. The clinics take place in a small facility that has been recently built by Animalandia, where up to four operations can take place at the same time. In addition to this facility, the organization also provides all the medical supplies required for the operations, some of which they receive as donations.

Another important role this group plays is to act as an adoption agency, finding homes for the rescued animals after they have been operated on. While many of these adoptions take place in and around the town of Loreto, including Loreto Bay (see prvious posts: “It’s a Dog’s Life” Dec. 2009, “A Dog’s Life Loreto Style” Jan. 2010), with the relatively small population base here a surprising number of adoptions take place north of the border in the US and Canada.

One of Animalandia’s main fundraising activities is a silent auction that receives contributions from many local businesses including Hotels and Restaurants and professional services including esthetics and massage as well as art and crafts, household goods, sport equipment and activities. In such a small community this sort of event takes on even more significance because many of those who contributed these goods and services also attend the event and further support the charity by bidding on auction items.

Last weekend, this auction was held at the Inn at Loreto Bay thanks to the support of the Manager Peter Maxwell.  In addition to providing the use of their open air bar and reception area as the venue, the Inn also contributed a generous spread of appetizers and some auction items of meals and accommodations.  I was pleased to have been asked to provide some music and act as a quasi-MC, using my portable PA system (which is turning out to be a great way to get invited to good parties!).

When I arrived to set up my equipment, most of the preparations had been completed by Animalandia volunteers, auction items or their descriptive sheets, were displayed around the perimeter of the mezzanine and bidder’s sheets with pens were placed with each item. A long table was set up at one end to hold the finger food and the cash bar took up another side. The rest of the area was filled with groups of tables and chairs. At the entrance to this space, which is upstairs from the lobby and overlooks the Hotel courtyard through to the beach on one side and the Sierra Gigante mountains on the other, was a display of many numbered door prizes and a desk where a small admission was charged and additional donations could be made.

I set up my equipment at one end of the bar and began to play music while some last minute auction items arrived and the final preparations were made. Shortly after the 3:00 pm start time people started to arrive and soon the space was filling up, with mingling over drinks and nibbling on the tasty food. Bidding strategy began to become evident – the early in, the wait and see, the bid and ignore, and the stand guard – all were represented! One of my jobs, as well as the music, was to announce winning ticket numbers for door prizes, and, due to the generosity of the many donors, a good percentage of those in attendance went home with one of these many prizes.

But the bidding and door prizes, the drinks and snacks, were not the only reason there were almost a hundred people in attendance. Although many people who live here in Loreto Bay have friends who live in the town 15 km away – and vice versa - so far, there have been a limited number of events where the two groups mingle, and only a few of those activities where the “townies” come out to Loreto Bay. So the welfare of the animals, both here and in town, was one of those opportunities and everyone present seemed to enjoy it!

There were even some four legged guests in the crowd – including one of the newest “rescue” dogs who had recently been found in very poor condition and, after the Vet provided some first aid, she was now being taken care of by a “foster” owner until a permanent home is found. Although the prominent rib cage told something of the hard life this dog had lived up until recently, at this auction/party she was happily excited to be surrounded by all these people and seemed to be responding very well to her improved living conditions – like any Lottery winner!

After several hours of bidding and visiting the auction sheets were pulled, starting with many from the supportive Hotels and Restaurants and working the way through the dozens of other desirable items and services which were on offer. I read out the “winning” bids and volunteers were kept busy receiving payments in exchange for the actual items or their certificates. Gradually the sunny afternoon had turned to early evening and the generous people who had attended made their way home, many with a new treasure, or looking forward to a new experience that they had bought.

In the seven years that Animalandia has existed here in Loreto they have made it possible for over 4,500 spay and neuter operations to be performed – and so eliminated many thousands more unwelcome and uncared for animals that would have plagued our community. In addition to this they have also arranged many adoptions of rescued animals, bringing untold love and joy to these animals and their adoptive owners, both here and in many other places in the US and Canada. If you are interested in learning more about this organization, or making a donation to support their good works (they are currently offering a great wall calendar with local children’s artwork and stories about adopted dogs) please visit their website:

While this is the second Blog in a row with a subject involving charity, I am somewhat uncomfortable drawing any parallels or comparisons between the good works of last week’s subject Caritas helping the people of San Juanico and this week’s story about Animalandia. In my mind there is no way to equate between the needs of people with those of animals.

But as we enter the Holiday Season and our thoughts turn to the act of giving to celebrate this time of year, far be it from me to judge the relative motive or effect of these two examples of generosity and care. Suffice to say, for those of us who are lucky enough to call this beautiful place home (or the many more that will do so in the future) the willingness to share our good fortune with others is one of the best parts of Living Loreto!