I wake up before dawn, feeling someone softly nibbling my nose – our rescue kittens are in the mood for cuddles and attention 

I need a bigger bed – 14 cats and 2 dogs sleep with us.

I am Stasya, or as everyone in the zip code calls me La Rusa. I was born in a country that does not exist any more –  USSR, half Russian – half Ukrainian, american by passport and Latina by heart . Gypsy, Adventurer, an Animal Lover … 

8 years ago, after family tragedy , I left the USA, and soul-searching brought me to Mexico. Eventually, I stumbled on a little fishing village,  Barra de Potosi on the coast of Guerrero; and 3 hour after I landed, I made an offer on a place I fell in love with, Betseyville, a former residence of new york designer Betsey Johnson. I turned it into a gorgeous little BnB, Hacienda la Rusa .

Great weather year around, gorgeous beach, friendliest people ever and delicious food ! What’s not to like !?

Our first summer , after all the tourists and winter residents were gone, one morning we woke up with homeless dogs coughing blood and vomit , suffering … dying on the streets and the beach … 

It was my personal hell. 

As you might know one of the most popular cheap and easy methods to control dog and cat population is rat poison… inhumane horrible nightmare … 

what do you do if this is now your home?! you can try to leave/move/run or you can try to make things better, and I do believe anyone of you would do the same …

I found a local person in charge – comisario, I promised him I would do everything possible and impossible to keep the animal population under control , and the same week Mike, my life partner, and I started our regular trips to SPAZ in Zihuatanejo. 

For over a year, once or twice a week we would load 5-7 dogs and cats into our truck, head to SPAZ, leave them to get fixed, go back to work and a few hours later back to pick them up… 

I met a lot of my neighbors, from across the street to the most remote ranchos; made great friends; I walked door to door, introducing myself and talking to everyone who cared to listen about animals and animal welfare. Word by word, I was learning bits and pieces of spanish; I went to little villages and to schools off the beaten path. Pantomimed to indigenous people trying to explain what its all about,  shared tortillas with the poorest families out there. Got infected with mange, fungus, west nile , chinkungunya, dengue, zika… 

now,  I walk dogs in the Sierra and an old ranchero would wave – La Rusa ! when is the next clinic?!

in 2015 , I started to work with local children and organized my first Mass Spay and Neuter clinic ! Beautiful team of vets led by Robin Gunter of Baja S/N foundation heard my plea for help and came to give a hand. 100 animals were sterilized during the first clinic . Then the next one, another one week long spay and neuter marathon …  slowly I was extending our borders and coverage to the Airport, Los Achotes and all neighboring villages and towns.

Children from my village of Barra de Potosi were helping at every clinic! 

This year, I  decided to do regular but shorter clinics, and I started putting together 1-2 days clinics a few times a year in small towns and villages between Zihuatanejo and Petatlan.

After each clinic I would wake up with every muscle and joint hurting… thinking I am too old and sick for this.

 14 -16 backbreaking hours each day, in the sauna heat of rural Guerrero , full  of mosquitoes fleas and ticks , with shade and fans for the animals only, covered in blood, vomit and pee,  forgetting to have a sip of water…

But then I would remember … 

I remembered the hard work and happy faces of my comrades; I remembered how grateful the pet owners were, people with no means were bringing us coconuts and ice; I remembered even the youngest of our kids volunteers refusing to head back home, carrying on till the end of the day; I remembered how my little team mates were teaching kids from other villages how to care for the animals; 

and most important, I remembered the dogs and cats we took care off on those days and thousands of puppies and kitties, who will not have the cruel fate of being born only to be killed or to live the life of starvation and abuse. 

After years of physically and mentally exhausting, challenging, incredibly rewarding, but mostly stressful job, we have covered a huge territory south of Zihuatanejo; we have sterilized over 2000 animals; worked with kids , adults, communities; found families for many and fed,  treated , euthanized hundreds and hundreds …

In our sanctuary we care for anywhere between 30-120  animals, dogs and cats.

 

Mike and I are officially broke. All these years, we spent everything we had, saved … earned .. and even loaned , on animals. But we finally have an amazing group of people from all over the world, who are supporting the cause .

Our Amigos FAMILY !  Animal lovers from Canada, USA, Belarus, Europe, Ukraine, Russia join our facebook group Amigos de Animales of Barra de Potosi , some of them never even been here , and these amazing people do their best to help us.

unfortunately  , donations don’t cover even half of the expenses. And on a daily basis we struggle, making ends meet, looking for money to pay the vet bills or buy kibble . The hardest thing I had to do couple times is to postpone the next Spay and Neuter clinic until  we were able to collect enough funds.

and in the mean time , Barra de Potosí is the first village in Mexico where 97 % of the animals are fixed and all are cared for by owners and Amigos de Animales . 

Barra de Potosi was just another one among thousands of lovely authentic mexican fishing villages with picturesque beaches and starving mange covered dogs, dying in ditches. 

But gone are the days when tourists carried a stick on this beach, scared of packs of hungry dogs; gone are the days, when a person with a soft heart was crying, promising never to return …

Barra de Potosí is turning into a destination for Earth and Animal loving people to peacefully enjoy their dream vacation on the beach in Mexico, eat great food, swim, whale watch, fish, kayak, bird watch, release turtles, bike, hike and volunteer at Amigos de Animales ! 

 

Stasya Briggs aka La Rusa and Amigos de Animales TEAM

click to read more about amazing people who are part of Amigos Team

http://www.amigosdeanimales.org