At the ripe old age of 4, Frances "Kitten" Jones, started rescuing animals. From that tender age her destiny was set and a life long passion took root. "I was destined to do this (animal rescue) because it has always come naturally. It was what I was put here to do."
Growing up on a farm in Atlanta, Georgia, she says her family was always supportive. Frances adds that she was always "draggin' something home" that was in need of help, from a nest of rabbits, squirrels, possums to stray dogs. When she married her husband Bruce, he too was drawn into "rescue" work and has been a big supporter of Frances and her passion. That burning passion has a beautiful story behind it and an amazing rescue center called Lighthouse Animal Rescue here in Atenas, Costa Rica.
Frances and Bruce have lived in many places such as Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida, but about 9 years ago they settled in Costa Rica. When they first made the move south of the border, they chose Grecia and rented a home for their first year in the country in order to make sure that Costa Rica was going to be a good fit for them. When it came time to purchase a home, they could not find what they were looking for in Grecia so they ventured across the mountain and had a look around Atenas. The first two houses they looked at were not going to work, but the 3rd house was a charm. Perched high in the mountains with a spectacular ocean view, they had found home! The couple did a lot of work to the house, extending porches, adding both a second story and a full vet clinic to care for their furry friends.
I asked Frances how she likes living in Atenas. Frances quickly responded, "We love the people and the beauty of Atenas. Our community has some of the best people in the world. We also love the climate and being high up in the mountains. Atenas has a small town feel." Frances continued, "We are VERY proud to say we have had great success in our little community and, as of now, 95% of all the dogs and cats here have been spayed/neutered/vaccinated and are being cared for much better than before. Teaching the children is the very best way to teach the adults. Our neighbors are amazing and have been extremely supportive of our rescue. They know who we are and what we do and will bring their animals here when they are in need of help."
Gerardo and I have known about Frances and Bruce's rescue for years now. We often have clients who want to be involved and volunteer with animals, so we always send them to Lighthouse Animal Rescue to lend a helping hand. The rescue itself is located in Frances and Bruce's home. Frances says that Lighthouse Animal Rescue is "not your typical dog shelter". She continues, "The animals have the full run of the house, and are not kept in crates. They sleep with us and are part of the family." They have a beautiful home with a huge, fenced back yard, perfect for running and playing. I would say this is a dog's life!!! I wonder if they rescue humans?
I wanted to hear more about what Lighthouse Animal Rescue does, as if it was not obvious enough. You see, Frances was giving all the little ones their medicines as we were talking. Frances said, "We take in special needs animals that have been abused or abandoned." They lovingly nurse these animals back to health, making sure that they get the food and nutrition they need, vaccinations, and, most importantly, that they are spayed or neutered, which Frances says is "key". Once these special ones are nursed back to health, they can then be adopted out to a loving family that will appreciate and care for them they in the way they deserve. New recruits are quarantined until they are examined and can be safely introduced into the pack. The rescue also works at house breaking those that need it. The goal is to make each animal as adoptable as possible.
To give me a better idea of the work Lighthouse Animal Rescue does, Frances pulls out a folder with before and after photos of many of the furry ones they have saved. In all honesty, it is not for the faint of heart and much of what I saw turned my stomach, but it is something that must be shared. The photos tell a story of their own, showing the ugly side of humans and the cruelty they can inflict on animals. The photographs show everything from emaciated dogs with exposed ribs, embedded collars, and extensive burns where one cat was doused in gas and then set on fire. Frances tells me the story of one dog rescue they made in Esparza of a mother and daughter. She says "Laika and her daughter Perla were chained in the front yard of a home with no shelter, food or water. They were skeletons with skin on them and extremely vicious. It took us two weeks just to be able to touch Laika. Over time Laika has learned that all humans are not bad and that she can trust a few, but she still does not like humans so much." She shows me this distrust as she continued to bark at me for 20 minutes after I entered HER home, but in no way was she aggressive towards me. Laika still lives at Lighthouse, but Perla her daughter has found a happy home!
Lighthouse Animal Rescue also sponsors special clinics for the community where they will vaccinate, spay, and neuter animals. Frances says they have found and work with wonderful local veterinarians, particularly Dr. Rivas, Dr. Carvajal and Dr. Perez. Frances says Dr. Rivas is "one of the most amazing spay/neuter vets she has ever seen, doing as many as 70 spays/neuters in one day". These vets volunteer their time in these clinics and only charge a small fee that covers the cost of the sutures and anesthesia. One such clinic was arranged by a woman from the United States who sets up tours, taking veterinary students to volunteer in places that can use the assistance. Frances says, "that was a big one, a two day clinic with 18 student volunteers, and over 200 spays/neuters were performed."
All you have to do is look at these thriving, happy, and well cared for animals to see that they are getting the best care possible under the Costa Rican sun. The rescue has a fully equipped clinic where medical care can be given and grooming takes place. Frances is not a vet herself, but has had extensive training from many years of working side by side with vets back in the United States. This, combined with years of experience of caring for animals in need, enables Frances to give these animals amazing care and the animals are in TOP SHAPE. Frances can do many things to treat the animals herself and is often sought out for help and advice. In fact, people are often telling Frances that her advice saved their dog's life. In one particular case, her knowledge on what to do if your dog has been poisoned by one of the famed marine toads, saved a local resident's dog's life. Frances says that if your dog has been poisoned you must immediately turn on the water hose and flush the dog's mouth out from the side for several minutes. Then you mix milk and lemon juice for the dog to drink (forcing it if necessary). This mixture will help to neutralize the poisons. The next step is to get the dog to the vet for an atropine injection as soon as possible. If it is a real concern that such a poisoning may occur, try and have one of these injections on hand in case of emergency.
Because the rescue is funded 90% out of pocket by Frances and Bruce, I wanted to know if someone wanted to help Lighthouse Animal Rescue, what can they do? Frances answers, "We like to have volunteers to bathe and socialize the dogs. We can also use food (Purina Dog Chow and Purina Cat Chow), cleaning equipment, towels, laundry soap, and bleach. Also, if you have any medicines that are still good that your animal no longer needs or uses (within one year of the expiration date), lamb's wool pads, crates, cages, hoods, or anything else that will help the animals." Frances also adds, "We are always in need of foster homes for dogs and cats. Foster homes are temporary homes for animals while we are trying to place them." Never once did Frances mention money, but I am sure that is welcome, too!
There are several other ways in which the Lighthouse Animal Rescue raises funds. All the residents at the rescue (animal and human) agreed that they would love to host guest at their home. They offer a beautiful bedroom suite, complete with spa tub for only $50 per night. Of course you must understand that this is an animal rescue that at present time has 14 dogs and 5 cats, who will all welcome you with a wagging tail and a loving lick!
Another way to help is by going to the website www.theanimalrescuesite.com and voting for the Lighthouse Animal Rescue. Your vote gives Lighthouse a chance to win $1,000.00, which will provide food for 3 months to these amazing survivors. From the home page of the website, look on the right hand side and find the tabs. Click on the Shelter Challenge. Find the "search and vote for a shelter" box. In the country slot, choose Costa Rica. You will then have the option to vote for Lighthouse Animal Rescue!
When you have a passion, as Frances does, it must be shared. I asked, "What would you like people to know about rescuing animals and why is what you are doing so important to you?" I could see Frances become emotional as she answered, "Animals have made me whole. They give me a lot. They take most of my money, but it is worth it to see them thrive. To see a depleted animal come around and look at you with trust and love in their eyes, makes you whole." She continues, "Animals feel pain, they have emotions, are TOTALLY loyal (dogs), and will lay beside you and starve to death before they will leave you. Spaying and neutering is the most important thing we can do to help animals and prevent future abuse. If you see animals on the streets that need help, don't shun them. It is not their fault they are there. It is the fault of some rotten human who did that to them. If you do one thing you have done something. A pat on the head or tossing them your scraps you have left over from your meal."
Another important piece of advise Frances offers for those looking for an animal is "Adopt. Don't buy." Most "pedigreed" animals are not even related to the animals listed on their papers. Mixed breeds are healthier and smarter. Breeders of pedigreed dogs and cats breed for size, head shape, appearance, etc. They do NOT consider temperament, intelligence, or general health. If you just have to have a pedigreed dog or cat insist on going to the breeder's establishment to meet the mother and father of the animal you want to buy. Insist on seeing the entire facility. If dogs/cats are kept in cages then walk away because it is a puppy/kitten mill - a hell on earth for animals. Responsible breeders only have one breed, not three or four. They will never sell through pet shops because they screen the homes their animals are being sold to."
I had one last question for Frances before she gave me the grand tour of their home and clinic. "If you had one wish, what would that be?" She thinks for a minute and then replies, "My biggest wish is to see animals and humans happily coexist. I want to see animals treated with kindness and respect and not used and abused." After the tour, my visit had come to an end. I left feeling happy and full of hope, seeing all the good work that these amazing people have done at Lighthouse Animal Rescue. When you see these thriving, happy and healthy animals, it is hard to imagine their horrid pasts and all that they have endured. If we as humans could be more like animals in their willingness to forget and forgive the past and move on, then the world would be a much happier place. Their stories have moved me to tears and inspired me to do more for those without a voice. I hope it will inspire you, too!
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