So far this has to be one of the most moving experiences of my trip, and possibly my life! Territorio de Zaguates is a farm for dogs that have been rescued by my new heroes Albero and his wonderful wife Lya. Over 800 dogs are now in their care, and I had the amazing opportunity to take all these dogs on a walk with Albero. To donate to them please go here: https://treeseed.org/TerritoriodeZaguates​
Territorio de Zaguates is a not for profit organisation, and is only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday mornings. However, it is probably best to contact them through their Facebook page in advance and check they are definitely open as things do vary from weekend to weekend. Walks take place at 9am so you have to be there before that- it is quite a difficult place to get to so plan ahead, message me if you need more information and I can help you. At some point I will try do a post with FAQ’s. I am really struggling with slow wifi here so I will upload more photos and videos when I can- but let’s start sharing and donating now so we can help them out!
I had the special opportunity to drive up to the farm/shelter with Albero. Despite being married to an English teacher for the past 20 years he does not speak any English! But we managed to have a conversation with my limited Spanish and with Guillermo’s help. Guillermo works at Territorio de Zaguates, and is also a taxi driver and so I had booked my journey with Guillermo after contacting Albero.
Albero was excited to hear about my travels, he is originally from Colombia and many years ago, sadly, his mother was kidnapped for two months. When she returned she was never the same, and life was difficult and so they emigrated to Spain. At some point he came to Costa Rica and has been running Territorio de Zaguates for over 10 years now.
Lya and Albero love dogs, and sadly in Costa Rica you will see many stray dogs on the streets everywhere you go. Often families buy dogs when they are cute puppies, but when they are older and less good looking they throw the dogs out onto the street. Some grotesque people also throw boiling water on their dogs, or they physically hurt them, stab them and even shoot them. Some are left starving to death, or are whimpering in pain from their injuries.
Lya and Albero started taking a few dogs into their home after seeing them left to die on the streets, but one dog turned into five which then turned into 100 and soon they had no space to move in their home! Albero laughed with me and said it became impossible to even go to the toilet because there were so many dogs.
Lya’s grandfather owned a farm near to Alajuela where he would grow coffee on the lower parts and higher up have some cattle for a small dairy farm. After he passed away they would let small plots of land to other Tico’s for their farming needs. However, this same farm is now the wonderful Territorio de Zaguates. Albero quit his job and started rescuing and caring for dogs full time. Lya works as a teacher, helping students get into universities away from home and helps them with their English and applications to increase their chances of being accepted. Every spare moment not at work, Lya is at the farm with Albero looking after the dogs which are more like her children. Watching both of them interact with the dogs is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s hard to put into words the feeling you get at Territorio de Zaguates.
On our way to the farm, Albero receives a call from a local soda (small kiosk type restaurant) they have found an injured stray dog and want Albero to come help. The local community all know about his wonderful work and call him when they find a dog who needs help.
Although it was sad to see, it was truly inspiring watching Albero in action. The dog was injured on his legs and very scared. He was trying to run away but couldn’t. Albero took off the belt of his jeans and used it as a leash. He examined the dogs and placated him gently and soon the dog relaxed into his arms. He is like a dog whisperer! It was magical. The dog joined us in the car and we made our way to the farm- upon arrival the dog was taken for a bath, further examination and then given any necessary medications. My eyes were welling up, I wish there were more people like Albero in the world.
Territorio de Zaguates needs over 320kg of food for the dogs everyday, medicines cost over $5,000 a months and occasionally more when dogs need surgeries and care that is more than what Albero can provide with his 20 years of experience around dogs. Albero tried to keep costs to a minimum and manages the shelter with only 9 members of staff. All our donations go to the food, medical care of the dogs and the salaries of this fantastic team.
Albero shows me around, they have made large cages for the dogs that are too wild to be with all the others, they have also made a dam to collect rainwater so they can use to feed and bathe the dogs- everything here is built by Albero and his team. To say they are self sufficient doesn’t even cover it!
It’s been an emotional morning and it’s only just 9am, and now it’s time to take the dogs for a walk. As Albero walks through the farm the dogs jump and bark in excitement. They are so happy to see him, and also I think they know its getting to walk time!
The dogs are let out and im bundled by hundreds of dogs, all shapes, colours and sizes! Some injuries are quite easy to spot (missing legs, burnt skin, no eyes etc) but despite their tragic past they are so happy here! They know they are safe, and now belong to a family that will love them unconditionally.
We climb up the mountain together, and I watch hundreds of dogs run together and play together during the most exciting part of their day- it’s truly breathtaking, and very emotional. I have some great photographs on my slr which I will upload when I figure out how to move my pics to a computer!
The dogs frolic in the stream and run up and down the hills together- each showing off to the team! The dogs come over to me for cuddles and play and I am having the time of my life!
We walk for about an hour and a half, Albero telling me stories all the way. Lya and Albero are so humble and such good people. After a long walk we make our way back to the shelter, the dogs excitedly still jumping around. Whilst we’ve been gone another dog has been brought here that has serious injuries- Albero gets straight to work.
It was an emotional goodbye to the dogs and Lya and Albero. I have the most respect for this wonderful couple. Please donate to this wonderful place, so each dog can be cared for and fed. Nothing goes in their own pockets and they truly give everything to their dogs. Please share this post, and share the donation information with every dog owner, animal lover that you know. A little goes a long way here- but please be as generous as you can.
I hope that one day you can visit Territorio de Zaguates and be as moved as I have been by this paradise for dogs.