The Other Side Of Paradise ... Hero's Hell

by Thelma Myers Grumbein (Oct. 5, 2013)

Our story began in December 2012 on a quaint little island known as Isla Mujeres located off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. A place truly forgotten in time, only a mile wide and five miles long, the mode of transportation is by scooter or golf cart. A beautiful villa right on the ocean, surrounded by the beauty of the Caribbean Sea. A romantic escape to celebrate our anniversary, the trip of a lifetime for us. Sounds like paradise right????? And then we saw the other side of paradise…

Behind our villa we found our Hero known there as “Killer.” He was chained with a padlock, dragging two feet of heavy logging chain, no food, no water, no shelter. He was literally skin and bones covered in scars from head to toe, ticks all over his poor body and inside his ears.

The area his chain allowed him to exist within was on top of a garbage heap full of broken glass, broken bricks, boards with nails, garbage and dead rats. No where to lie down, nothing to lie down on, nowhere to eat, nowhere to get out of the hot sun or the tropical rains, nowhere to even walk without walking on broken glass, nails and his own feces. The other side of paradise ... Hero’s hell.

I immediately told my husband I was going to help this dog. He replied, “Thelma you cannot save them all.” My response was, “You’re right, maybe I can’t but I CAN help him.” That morning I marched through the brush that separated our villa from him and took him some scrambled eggs and water. Not knowing what to expect as I approached he stood there sweetly, leaned against my leg, looked up at me with his gentle eyes and tried to kiss me. He took the food and ate gently then he just stood there leaning into my leg. From that moment I knew I had to help him AND I knew I loved him!!!!

I searched the Web and found Alison Sawyer Current who runs Isla Animals and works on the island to educate the locals, spay/neuter dogs and rescue puppies. Even though Hero was not a puppy, she didn’t hesitate to try to help us. We met her and took her to where Hero was chained. As we were showing her the dog, the owner,José, came out and spoke to her in Spanish.

Hero cowered behind me and urinated on my husband’s foot the minute José came out. So visibly afraid of him that he literally peed himself. José went to hit him and my husband stepped in front of the dog to protect him. I am shocked to this day that my Jarhead husband didn't flatten that monster!

As Alison spoke with José about the conditions, he told her he didn’t care, that “Killer” was a bad, stupid dog and he didn’t want him. We asked José if I could take him for a walk, hoping to get him free and not return him, but he said he lost the key to the padlock. We left with Alison telling José we would return with the local vet to get the dog free.

We believe José was afraid of getting in trouble, for in the meantime he cut the collar off “Hero,” whacked him on top of his head with the cutters, and chased him off. God was watching over Hero fortunately, for we saw it happening and took off on a chase through the streets of Mexico to get him. After a long wild chase we finally got him to come to us ... Hero was free from that living hell!

Over the weeks that we were there, I would tell Hero every day José was a bad, bad man and that Hero was a good dog, a smart dog ... a Hero. In my heart I believe he understood! We left the island right before Christmas and I left a part of my heart there when we departed. I had not yet convinced my husband that we should bring Hero home with us. He was hopeful that Alison would find a home for him on Isla Mujeres.

To say I was heartbroken is an understatement. I shed more tears than I care to remember. I had become so attached to Hero that I convinced my husband that we should do whatever it took to get him home. Thankfully Hero had worked his magic on my husband too for he agreed!

As a result of the years of torture Hero endured, he became vicious and developed some serious aggression problems that Alison was not equipped to deal with. She knew who could help him and made the arrangements to send him to Tierra de Animales outside of Cancun for training and rehabilitation. Hero had ONE hope and that was Ricardo, the founder of TdA.

Hero stayed at TdA until were able to get him home in April. I can tell you without hesitation that Ricardo is one extraordinary person. I have told him that he is the real Hero for in my heart he is! I know that it was his training that saved our Hero’s life! At one point during my contact with Ricardo he told me he was not sure he could help Hero get beyond his issues but he kept trying and worked patiently to help him. Thanks to his efforts Hero overcame his aggression and learned to live peacefully with people and other dogs.

While he was there Ricardo even house-trained him for us on top of caring for the needs of the 300 other rescue dogs that are at the TdA Facility!!!! Ricardo fed and trained Hero all of those months and never once asked us for a penny. He did all of this out of the goodness in his heart. Lisa Edwards, the Administrator of TdA, handled all of the medical, legal and flight arrangements to permit Hero to enter into the United States and she personally escorted him home to us!!!!

Hero has been with us since April 16, 2013, and we cannot imagine life without him. He fills our lives and our hearts with immeasurable joy. He is the sweetest dog, loyal, loving and so eager to learn. His strength, courage and will to live are remarkable. We learned that Hero lived like this, chained, beaten and starved for almost four years. Four years he suffered this torture while people turned their heads, sat by the pool, sipped margaritas and enjoyed their vacation in paradise.

When we first got him home it was no surprise that he was very sick. He had to be treated for heartworm, ehrlichia, intestinal worms, and several other serious conditions. X-rays show that he had a horrible break to his hip and hind leg that was never treated so it mended itself in a mangled deformed way ... mangled so badly it brought our vet to tears!

He will never walk right; he can’t sit right or run right because of it. He has a fractured jaw and broken teeth, a deep scar all the way across his back from a machete and scars all over the rest his body BUT what was not scarred is his gentle, loving soul. No matter how deep the scars he wears on the outside, it could not scar the love he has within him. He has a heart so full of love, his capacity to learn and trust simply amaze us. Everything is an adventure for him ... everything is a treat to him. He appreciates his bed, his water, his food, his freedom and most of all the love he gets showered upon him. We love watching him “love” life!!!!

The other side of paradise isn’t pretty. Our vacation was not the romantic, leisurely escape we expected BUT we wouldn’t trade one minute of it for we have Hero and he is priceless to us!!! Drumore, Pennsylvania may never be known as paradise but it’s paradise for Hero! He is home, he is loved and he will now live a life where he will only know the love he should have always been given.

Hero sends you all lots of tail waggin’ love and asks you to please get involved!!! Most of all he hopes by sharing his story it will help make a difference for his four-legged amigos who still suffer or need homes.

Please consider supporting Tierra de Animales and Isla Animals or any of the other rescue organizations. Every little bit helps their efforts. Help the street dogs ... speak up, don't just look the other way ... do something!!!! Hero is living proof that you can make a difference!!!!

Hero sends special thanks and immeasurable love to the people who made this possible: Ricardo Pimentel Cordero, founder of Tierra de Animales, Alison Sawyer Current, founder of Isla Animals, and Lisa Edwards, founder of The Lost Dog Foundation.

This world is a better place because of each of you. You give the animals without hope a second chance at life and remind us all that together we can make a difference. We just have to care enough to see the other side!

Akumal Villas

Cabanas Tulum