By Jules Lavallee
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 08/17/2020 – Stray dogs and cats in Mexico face an unimaginable reality: electrocution by animal control. One extraordinary woman, who commutes between Mexico and her home in Colorado, is doing everything in her power to save as many lives as she can. Alison Sawyer’s new book, “The Dog Lady of Mexico” shares her tireless efforts to build an animal rescue organization on the tiny Mexican island of Isla Mujeres.
Tell us about Isla Animals on Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
I moved to Isla Mujeres in 2000 and was overwhelmed by the sad condition of the dogs. There were wild dogs on the beaches and street dogs everywhere. “Street dog meaning that the animal has had contact with humans and can be approached.” Most of them were skinny, wounded, and had skin conditions. I started working with a group on the island who were trying to help and then eventually I started Isla Animals and ended up (at one point) having 65 homeless dogs at my 1/2 acre property. The rescue has grown from there. Now we are supported by the government (a huge step). They have lent us a building to work in. We sponsor large spay and neuter clinics, a weekly free spay day, vaccinations and we sponsor medical needs for families who can’t afford it. During this difficult time, we have started the Pet Food Project, we offer free cat and dog food for anyone who needs it. Many people on the island are out of work.
When did your love for helping animals begin?
I have always loved dogs but my obsession began when I moved to the island. I just couldn’t walk by so many sad animals and not do anything.
You created an adoption program that places thousands of dogs and puppies into homes all over North America. What is your recipe for success?
First, we have been around for 20 years and I think that longevity has made a difference. We have 45,000 followers on Facebook and are mentioned in travel magazines. Tourists come to the island and volunteer at our rescue. Often they will fall in love with one of our dogs and want to take it home. I’m so lucky to have a volunteer who has made it her business to learn everything about the airlines and their rules for transporting animals. She has also researched the best rescues in the US and Canada so we feel confident sending our cats and dogs to them as well. We have an adoption page with pictures and descriptions of the animals we have. And, to the best of our knowledge, we only send healthy, spayed or neutered, completely vaccinated animals.
Tell us about your new book, The Dog Lady of Mexico. What are the key points that you want people to know?
It took me 10 years to write The Dog Lady of Mexico. I had so many stories of a rather unusual experience, working in a different culture and trying to make a difference. The book is a novel based on a true story. It goes through the happy and sad side of dog rescue as well as successes and failures. I tried to illustrate what I have learned. One of my main messages is that sometimes you just have to move forward without a plan. If you think about it too much or want to have answers to all your questions you will not be able to meet the challenges you encounter. The book is for sale on Amazon in both hard copy and kindle.
What are you most proud of?
This is a hard question. I think that again, it’s the longevity of the rescue. I stuck it out, went broke, encountered heartbreaking situations and setbacks. I’m not a screamer but if you mess with one of my dogs and they are all my dogs, you will hear from me in very strong terms.
Share a few moments that were so profound.
There have been so many profound moments. Finding a home for and pup or dog who has suffered neglect or abuse is amazing. Realizing that the world would have missed what each of these animals has to offer – if we hadn’t intervened – is my best reward.
What is next for you?
I still run the rescue, although I have found a wonderful woman who would like to take it over as I get older. I am 67 and the rescue needs more energy than I have to offer working alone. We get bigger every year, we get more support which allows us to do more. There are so many animals who need help and I want Isla Animals to do as much as possible.
www.islaanimals.org. To watch a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGwX1afB_0s&feature=youtu.be.