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Pups in the Dominican Republic are finding new homes and receiving veterinary care, thanks to an international outreach effort. (Submitted photo)

‘Free roamer’ Dominican dogs find homes in U.S., Canada

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BY JEAN RUZICKA

Some cosmopolitan canines are now calling Hubbard County home.

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A dozen puppies from the Dominican Republic have arrived over the past three years at the Headwaters Animal Shelter, hand-delivered by Deborah Diekmann whose sister, Rochelle Hemp, is director at the shelter.

Diekmann, a retired Minnesota dentist who moved to the Caribbean region three years ago with husband Mark, said her rescues began when she spotted a puppy floating in a box in the ocean.

The mangy pup - “Moses” ­- disembarked from his vessel and ran to the beach, subsequently coming home with her. Another dog, infested with parasites, also made her acquaintance shortly after.

She soon became a volunteer with Asociacion de Amigos por los Animales de Sosua (Association of Friends for the Animals of Sosua), a not for profit corporation that was founded by Kathryn Neal, an American, in 1998.

The main focus of AAAS, Diekmann explained, is spay and neuter clinics. Veterinarians from across the globe arrive both to vacation – the country’s home to great beaches and restaurants - and donate their expertise. They also treat infections, perform surgeries, and address illnesses.

She and other “expats” (ex-patriots) assist the veterinarians.

Back at home, Diekmann is considered to be the “village vet,” providing de-worming medication and administering vaccines in the poor rural community. She goes on rounds once a month, parasite medication in hand, meeting some of her clients in the home with families, others on the street or beach.

“Now they come from other villages,” she said of her broadening clientele base. She recently served as midwife for a Chihuahua.

Dominican dogs are free roamers, she said. “They are laid back and smart. Amazingly friendly. For the most part, it’s a great life.” Owners of bars and restaurants look after them, often coming up with names, and regularly providing repast.

“The dogs make the rounds. They are part of the community,” she said.

Initially, Diekmann was of the impression the Dominican people were not fond of animals. But she learned it was the parasitic creatures on the animals that they found repugnant.

“Once the pet is healthy, it’s allowed back in the house,” she said.

But it’s a poor country. And dogs – seemingly more so than cats – need homes.

AAAS encourages tourists to consider adoption and hosts a website, www.aaasosua.com, offering information on the process to people in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations of money are welcome and a supply list offers suggestions for contributions.

In Park Rapids, the dogs arriving from the Dominican Republic do not displace local dogs, Hemp emphasizes of the four to six pups arriving each year. “We have denied Deb’s requests at times due to being full.”

Four to six puppies arrive each year, with Diekmann paying all the fees for transport. About half have been spayed or neutered; all receive immunizations and have been de-wormed prior to transport.

“Most are on site just a short time before adoption,” Hemp said.

Diekmann tells of arriving in Minneapolis with two puppies last summer with a doctor’s appointment that day. She took the puppies in their carriers into the office but was told they were not allowed.

She returned to the car, parked in the shade, and asked that she be notified when she was to be seen. Her worries soon ended when a technician and nurse arrived, telling her they were sharing “shifts” of the dog sitting.

By the time she returned, the dogs had captured hearts, and found new homes.

After a jaunt to Moondance Jam this weekend, Diekmann will return home, where her outreach will continue.

Head to Facebook and enter “cats and dogs of the Dominican Republic” to see photos and stories, with updates on conditions of the dogs posted regularly.

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