Dogs, Cats, and a Snake

When we were still in California preparing to move to Panama, many friends asked us what would we do when we moved to Pedasi. Some thought after describing the town with its lack of shopping malls, movie theaters, large grocery stores, 500 TV stations, etc., they thought we might be bored. Pedasi has been described as somewhat like “Mayberry” by another expat and I would have to agree, but that is a real blessing for Mikkel and I. There are days where we just sit around and read a book and then go to the beach for a swim and walk-very relaxing and healthy. And yet other days are full of various activities. This past weekend was no exception.
Saturday, as typical, we spent the morning sleeping in, having breakfast, checking our emails, etc. Then in the afternoon, we went to see a couple from Colorado, Mike & Michelle. Our friends, Lee & India in Santo Domingo, had encouraged us to drop by and welcome them to Pedasi. Mike & Michelle had given Lee a ride home from the grocery store in Las Tablas and he thought we could visit them. They are house and dog sitting for the owners of La Rosa de Los Vientos Bed & Breakfast who are in Switzerland for a month. They had only been in Panama a few days, and Lee thought we could help clue them in on things here in Pedasi. Then before we left, Lee, who is good friends with the owners, called us to ask if we would be available to house & dog sit because Mike & Michelle needed to return to their home in Estes Park, Colorado due to the recent floods. At first we were not interested because we were going to be in Panama City this coming week for a VA meeting and visit to the Gamboa Rainforest, and then soon after we were moving into our home and we wanted to get settled. Well, God has a way of changing our desires and plans.

Anyway, on our way we stopped to pick up our clean laundry, which was not ready now until Monday (typical and no problem-they had plumbing issues when we dropped off the laundry the day before, so now they were catching up). We drove out to La Rosa de Los Vientos, which was near Playa Toro, and after a friendly welcome and introductions, sat out on the patio which overlooked the ocean. We had a great visit, talking for about 3 hours, sharing our story of our move and answering their questions about Pedasi and Panama. They shared their story and showed us pictures they were sent on the internet of their home and the flooding around it. So far it looks like the water has come up to the house but not inside. But all the roads are washed out; the only way in is to hike in or possibly drive an ATV. And there was still more rain coming. So even if they flew back right now, they couldn’t get to their house and it would probably take a couple of weeks to build a road to where they live. But they still want to leave by the end of September, and the owners are not scheduled back until Oct. 10th. When we left, we were more open to possibly helping them out, but we would wait to and see how things would play out.

That evening we were invited by Christine & Wayne, our friends and future landlords, to a birthday party of the wife of the owner of Smiley’s, a local restaurant and hangout of expats. He roasted a whole pig for the occasion and had a live Panamanian band to entertain us. We met several other expats who live in the area. Christine wanted to discuss with us some things about the house we would be moving into. They wanted to paint the rooms and of course clean up after the other tenants moved out. So we discussed a proposition. If we could move our things into the 2nd bedroom, which did not need repainting, and then stay at La Rosa de Los Vientos Bed & Breakfast until Oct. 10th to house & dog sit, would that give them the time they would need to paint and fix up anything. She agreed that could help. We would let her know after discussing with all the other parties involved. We also discussed the rent and came to an agreement that the rent would be lowered to $525 a month & we would pay the utilities instead of $600 a month which included utilities. This way we could control the costs. It amazes me how God works things out.

That night when we came home, we opened the doors and found a black snake crawling on our screen door. I must have jumped back 5-6ft. It was about 18-20 inches long and about 1/2in. in diameter. I know there are snakes here, but I still don’t have to like them. I refused to come inside until I watched it slither away in the dark off the patio. Mikkel does not like snakes also, so seeing that the door had a small opening to the outside at the floor, he blocked it with a box. So now we have had our first experience with an snake. I hoped to have no more, but can’t count on it.

Sunday, we got up at 6am (hard when you are used to sleeping in); picked up our friend Lee in Santo Domingo, and continued on to Las Tablas where we volunteered to help at a Spay/Neutering clinic held at a school in town. There we discovered 10 vets (or vet students) already at work and many others busily assisting, while many were lined up with their dogs or cats. A non-profit program in Panama City, Spay Panama, offers the meds, vets, and supplies along with some volunteers for clinics to be arranged by locals who plan the event. The local person or committee has to arrange for the location, donations, advertisement, volunteers, transportation, etc. This was the 2nd day of a 2-day event. We found those in charge and finally were assigned to various tasks. Mikkel was sent off with a volunteer driver with a small truck to find dogs and cats on the street. Later he would join Lee who was helping lift dogs and cats after they had received the anesthesia to the tables for shaving, surgery, or recovery. They also helped in washing and hanging up the surgical towels to dry. I, on the other hand, spent the day with the recovery station, spraying down the dogs and cats with flea spray after they received shots while they were still out cold, and then handing they over to their owners when they woke up. It was sad to see so many animals covered with fleas and ticks, especially the puppies. I thought I would be bitten by fleas since they usually love me, but did not get one bite. I guess the flea spray kept them away. Some of the animals were stray and after waking up, placed over to the side for adoption. If no one adopted them by the end of the day, they would be returned to the streets, but at least there would be no more babies created. Panama has very few places that house pets for adoption and no animal-control. There are many strays everywhere as well as homes with pets. This organization has been founded to slow down the dog and cat population in this country and to educate the people in animal care. We must have seen about 200 dogs and cats, including litters of puppies that day. Overall, there were over 350 dogs and cats spayed or neutered in the 2 days. The event was well-organized and they even fed the volunteers lunch. We worked for about 6 hours under an outdoor covered basketball court. It was very humid and I was pouring out sweat, but everyone kept on working without complaint. There were even some children who were volunteering. I met several people, expats and Panamanians, some who did not speak any English but we still communicated. One woman waiting for her cats to recover kept talking and talking to me in Spanish. I picked up on a few words and would try to speak back in Spanish. She would smile and kept talking. I guess she just needed to talk to someone and assurance that her cats would be okay. We finally left, even though the clinic was still accepting animals, but offered to volunteer for future events. Another reason for living here is to help out where and when we are needed. It’s very rewarding and creates friendships and fellowship. We thanked God for this opportunity. We dropped off Lee telling him we could now possibly cover for Mike and Michelle at the bed & breakfast in October and he would contact the owners. When we got home, we were exhausted, but happy we had volunteered.

Today, Monday, will be a day to relax. We woke up with threatening thunder, then suddenly the clouds opened up with rivers, not buckets, of water, accompanied by a wind and lightening. Sometimes the rain was so loud on our metal roof, we were shouting at each other in order to hear. It has been raining for about 4 hours solid now with no let up in sight. I watch the hummingbirds, which seem not to be affected by the rain, hover over the flowers around our patio. Its a good day to write this blog and read. Tomorrow we will taking a 5-day trip to Panama City and the Gamboa Rainforest. Mikkel wants to attend a VA conference in Panama City with Lee and another veteran. Just praying we will have a safe journey and I will write about our adventures when we return. Pictures are of the spay clinic and the birthday party. Did not get a picture of the snake, too busy staying away.

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