Interview by Andrea Altemülller
How many dogs and cats do you have in this moment?
We have in this moment 22 dogs and 12 cats, we feed 35 dogs in total including many of our neighbors.
Most of our dogs and cats are up for adoption.
Since when you are doing this protect?
This project began 8 years ago when Karina founder of the shelter, after living several years abroad, was spending some months visiting her family in Bogota, Colombia. “This time I went to live in La Calera" a little town located in the mountains 1 hour away from Bogota. There I met a young puppy, approximately 4 months old; she was mistreated and not cared for by her owners, my neighbors. Negrita was her name and her days and nights were spent tied to a tree with a very short rope. There she had to eat, sleep and defecate, with virtually no room to move! “I would secretly feed her every time I could” but as the months went by Neggy started to get sick and stopped eating. I immediately spoke with her owners and asked permission to take care her to the vet, they agreed. After 1 month of love, food and medicine Neggy got better but our happiness didn’t last long… her owners came looking for her and she was immediately tied to the tree again! =( !!! As the days went by, poor Neggy started to get sick again, she was sad and starving for food and love… there was nothing left to do but to secretly start to plan our escape..few weeks after Neggy and me were happily living together in a apartment in Bogota! "My plan was to find her a home and travel abroad again” but that never happened as Neggy and me connected in such a special way I committed my life to taking care of her forever!
After 1 year of living in Bogota, the noisy and busy city was enough for us, I met a very special person calle Nathaniel from Australia and we decided to travel around Colombia a bit, with Neggy off course! After some months traveling we finally arrived to the Caribbean coast. Santa Marta - El Rodadero was our first stop. Sadly here the situation of the doggies is very bad, so many of them in poor conditions and in the streets. In the parking lot in front of where we stayed, the sweetest puppy, so scared and nervous, would always beg for food when I passed with Neggy, "I would off course feed him like I had been doing obsessively with every hungry dog that crossed my way for the last years!” After a few days of interaction and a closer look to this puppy I was in shock when I realized every little space in his ears and between his paws was absolutely filled with ticks! I had never seen something like that before. I immediately took him to the vet where they applied special products to kill the infestation! And just like that Neggy had a new brother, Pizzy, our sweetest gift! My family started to grow!
On we went on our adventure: Pizzy, Neggy, Nat and me. We visited Casa Grande, Park Tayrona and finally for the first time, Palomino! This magical place stole my heart, with the rivers, the see and the Sacred Madre Sierra; after a few weeks Nat had already bought a little piece of land and I another. My calling was finally on its way!
What was the inicial motivation?
Palomino my new home; this paradise never lied! From the beginning the reality of the cruel and sad life that dogs must face was killing me from the inside. Most of the dogs here look homeless although most of them have an owner. They are fed scraps if anything at all, no water and no attention!
"I fed the ones that I could but there were just to many of them"
One night, I heard lots of dogs crying intensely and as I climbed a chair to look and see what was going on, I saw a medium size dog that had given birth to 9 puppies. I helped fed and take care of the puppies for months until they were all adopted, only 2 females were left without a home ( finding home for females is harder than for males because they are the ones giving birth to puppies ) so they entered my new and growing doggy family: Amby and Colita and their mother Niña as well. Just like this, very easy you can pass from having almost no dogs, to a lot of dogs! I started to realize the importance of sterilization and how this simple procedure can help us avoid the tragedies that lie ahead!
After 2 years I rescued my first cat, abandoned by someone near my home, a white and black screaming hair ball, totally afraid had been taking away from her mother! Her name is Dali and she lives happily ever after in the shelter.
Nat was planning his return home by then, so he decided to build a cabaña in the little lot he bought, which is located right in front of my house, which is now the shelter. He decide to name his place Neggy`s Playground in honor of Negrita, the first dog I rescued back in la Calera and until then our travel mate, the big black mama with the purest heart!. Neggy`s Playground has been donating food monthly for over 2 years now to the shelter and has provided me with a steady job. Without Nats support our shelter would not exist! You can rent Neggy`s Playground right now on Airbnb if you come to visit Palomino and want to support our shelter! Two years ago Alejo arrived, the last missing piece that would would make my dream come true! Two souls working together for one same loving purpose, is better than just one! Someone that shared my passion and gave me hope for the first time that not everything is lost. That we can make a difference. That We are Not Alone!
And then, the magic began to happen, Palomino Animal Soul - dog and cat shelter was born! Many furry lives have been transformed right before our eyes, with just a little bit of love and food, some medicine and our firm commitment to them and to show them the other side of the coin! There is no veterinary service in Palomino, there is almost no doctors for people either! Conditions here are extreme and poverty has always lived here. 10 years ago people couldn't walk the streets, violence and fear ruled. Most or all of the local population that survived are traumatized and in a way insensible to the pain of others.
Here many think animals have no feelings and are terribly mistreated and their rights totally violated!
Our daily walk with our rescued dogs to the river has now transformed into The Doggy Picnic, an experience we offer to animal lovers from around the world who come to visit Palomino. It consists of walking with the dogs to the river, where we offer them a vegetarian/vegan picnic. Check out our doggy picnic experience right now through the Airbnb platform! This is another way that we support ourselves and keep on working to always be a sustainable shelter.
The lessons of love we learn everyday with the animals are priceless; our will and believe in this cause has inspire us to rescue everyday more and with less doubt in our hearts! Today our goal is a Colombia free of animal cruelty and every day we are more, have no doubt about this!
From our shelter we believe we can generate a model, that goes beyond the limited tools we have to work with; we can only try to inspire others to love our little furry brothers like we do, respect them and allow their blessings to save our lives. Then if this human being is touched and transformed by this love, he or she can join us in this calling from Pacha Mama, from the Nature spirit, from our own Soul… all of us spring from the same source and are undoubtedly ONE *
How have your guest reacted to the Doggy Picnics?
We are the first oficial dog and cat shelter in Palomino. Winners of the 2018 Entrepreneur contest for sustainable and ecological projects with high social impact, organized by the European Union and the Chamber of Commerce of La Guajira - Colombia.
For 5 years we have walked with the dogs to the river and the last 2 we started to invite animal lovers! In this unique experience we bring together 3 of our passions: walking with the dogs in the beach, enjoying an amazing bath in our sacred River and sharing vegetarian/vegan food (prepared by us with organic local products). We love our Doggy picnic because while the doggies take their daily walk and swim in the river, our guests receive an overdose of doggy love from our pack and eat a delicious vegetarian or vegan breakfast. At the same time we have the opportunity to connect with people that share our same dreams and show them the work we do for animal rights and their welfare, specially dogs, cats and birds. The doggy picnic ends up being therapy for everyone and its even good for our environment as part of the experience is to collect the garbage that we find in our path and at the river mouth. We have done the Doggy Picnic approximately 50 times in the last year and we can proudly say that every single one of our guests have come 100% satisfied with the experience, many of them wanting to visit our shelter after to see where we live and meet the rest the dogs and cats that live here.
How can we help to support the project?
If you connect with our work and our passion of saving dogs and cats lives, you can become part or the Palomino Animal Soul family by participating in one of our programs. You can also donate trough our Paypal account or direct bank transfer.
Nutrition and Care Program: join this program and help us feed and care for furry residents of Palomino. Currently we feed more than 20 dogs and around 10 cats.
Sponsorship Program: join this program and godfather a resident of the shelter, either dog or cat, you chose! We will make sure he receives everything he needs and always keep you posted! You will even have the chance to come and stay with us if you wish to meet your furry sack of love.
Sterilization Program: our main goal is to control the population and to try to better the lives of the already existing dogs and cats in Palomino. One way to do this is to encourage the community to take better care of their pets. Some locals do care but really have no idea how to give the basic care. Another way is to sterilize homeless dogs and cats; this drastically increases their chances to a better life!
Buy a Palomino Animal Soul souvenir: we have t-shirts, mugs and notebooks. Also a great gift for all Animal Lovers.
Adoption Program: all of our dogs are rehabilitated, sterilized, healthy and full of love! Adoption is the answer for all the loneliness in the world!