It's the moment you've all been waiting for.... Our little warrior girl has finally got a name!
You have been on this journey with her since the day I rescued her and I want you to continue to follow along whilst she is on the road to recovery. She still has a long way to go but she is getting stronger by the day. Her personality has really started to shine through and during this short time since I rescued her, I hope she has felt so much love that it will help her to forget what a horrific start she has had in life.
I am amazed every day when I look at her adorable sweet face that she survived against all the odds. It's truly a miracle that she pulled through. Her fighting spirit and warrior ways along with plenty of tender loving care and the best veterinary medicine available is what saved her life. I will forever be grateful to each and every one of you who sent heart warming messages, words of encouragement, prayers and positive vibes to wish her well and I am sure if she could talk she would say "Masha Danki" too!
Please allow me to introduce to you our warrior girl with her brand new name as voted for by YOU....
A phoenix is known for "rising from the ashes" and is a symbol of immortality.
She has endured so much and despite still being fragile she is going from strength to strength and I hope she has the most amazing, long and happy life ahead of her.
Now here's the kicker...
I cannot keep her... And before you all come down on me like a ton of bricks, please hear me out and let me explain why.
Since I already have three of my own rescued dogs I simply do not have the space or funds for one more.
I have received lots of messages asking if I will be keeping her and when I explain this reason the response I get is, "It's only one more".
But it's not.... As much as I hate to say this, Phoenix will not be my last rescue... There will be many more in the future just like her that need saving, a place to recover and my tender loving care. I know this from experience. Phoenix is the latest puppy in a long list of puppies that I have rescued over the years.
I wish that I could say that I will never have to watch another puppy or dog go through what Phoenix has gone through ever again, but the sad reality is, there will be more.
Until Aruba can get it's act together and really truly 100% make a change, there will be other puppies fighting for their lives just like Phoenix was.
It breaks my heart to say that, but it's the truth.
I have to be realistic and sensible and therefore I cannot keep Phoenix for myself.
I am sad just writing this because of course I have already fell in love with her, but I have fell in love with many others before her too... Isla, Deano, Cher, Lina, Leyo, Sol, Billy, Teddy... The list could go on. All puppies which I have personally rescued, all puppies which I have nursed and bottle fed around the clock, spent sleepless nights watching them to make sure they are still breathing. I have saved many lives and got attached to every single one of them.
Imagine if I would of kept them all?.... I would have a zoo by now and really would be the "crazy dog lady"!
It was only ever meant to be a temporary situation with Phoenix, I found her so I took responsibility of her, and I will continue to care for her until Luna Foundation can find her a loving family with a nice home to adopt her.
Trust me, I will be crying my eyes out when the day comes to hand her over to her new family. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes just typing this.
But I know it's for the best.
Phoenix will hopefully get a kind and caring family that will spoil her rotten, give her a big princess bed, have a huge fenced in garden for her to explore, take her on long walks and adventures and love her unconditionally. That is my dream for her, and that is also my dream for all the other dogs living on the street, and all the other rescued dogs waiting patiently for a forever family at Luna Foundation's safe haven.
I dream that one day they will all get the happily ever after that they so desperately deserve.
Please don't be mad at me for not keeping Phoenix. Please understand my reasons.
If I lived on a big ranch with acres of land (and won the lottery) then I would be scooping them all up off the street and bringing them home, but unfortunately that is not the case.
I am only one person with a limited amount of resources and I can only do so much.
I hope you can accept and respect that.
I feel guilty enough as it is by not being able to bring Jax, Rufus, Kira and all the other strays home with me!
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
For now Phoenix will stay at home with me until she is fit and healthy enough to get vaccinated and then she will be ready to meet her forever family.
Here on Aruba the animal rescue charities try their best to get the dogs adopted off the island. This is something that I battle with internally because I wish that was not the case. I wish the dogs could be adopted on the island and stay in Aruba... But here's the harsh truth... There are simply not enough good homes and decent people available to adopt them! And I really HATE that!
This is the problem... Someone will adopt a cute little puppy, take it home and want to play all day with their new best friend... But then the puppy grows up, they start to chew everything, they maybe have a few little "accidents" inside the house and pee or poop on the floor, they get bigger and older and the novelty of that "cute little puppy" wears off. So what happens?.... They throw that dog out on the street like a piece of trash because they no longer want it anymore.
And so the cycle starts again.
I don't want Phoenix to go to a family and then six months or one year later I am driving along and see her out on the road again. That would devastate me.
Do you see what I am saying here?
If the overpopulation of stray dogs and animal abuse and neglect in Aruba was not an issue then we would not be in this situation to begin with.
That is why the animal rescue charities want to get them adopted off the island and either go to America, Canada or the Netherlands because they stand a better chance of finding a good family and having a happy life away from the island that failed them.
It pains me to even say all of that because you know how much I love Aruba, but I have to keep it real so you understand the reasons behind these decisions.
I have this conflict within myself because I know the USA for example has many abandoned dogs waiting in shelters for their own loving family, it's a catch 22 situation.
Do you send a dog from Aruba to the States to be adopted and take the place of a dog already in that country who needs a home?
Or do you adopt them on the island, take a chance and pray that they get treated good and don't end up back on the street again?....
What do you think? What would you do?
Right now, Luna Foundation has over 60 dogs and puppies in their care. They are full to capacity and cannot rescue more dogs because not enough are being adopted.
They physically do not have the space to take in more strays. During this lockdown the local volunteers have been working hard to try to build more cages and dog houses with the limited resources that they have, but it's still not enough.
The amount of dogs and puppies that need saving is through the roof and even more so now because of COVID19.
With the borders being closed and no tourists coming in, it's impacted the animal rescue foundations on the island more than you could imagine.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Your response to the stories of Jax, Rufus, Kira, Dushi and Phoenix has been overwhelming to say the least. Never in a million years did I imagine that sharing their stories would get the reaction that it did. So many of you reached out to me in emails and private messages to ask how you could help.
Here's a few suggestions as to how you can make a difference.
If you are on the island and have a couple of hours to spare each week, please consider volunteering with Luna Foundation. They are always in need of more team members and I promise you this, doing an act of kindness with no expectations in return will make you feel AMAZING!
Their safe haven is tucked away in the cunucu and whenever I drive there I instantly feel a sense of calmness. The dirt road leading up to their safe haven is surrounded by cactus and is so peaceful and tranquil. I love going there to walk the dogs on the trail through the countryside. Being outdoors, getting back to nature and walking a furry friend is a great feeling. The dogs LOVE exploring and it's so rewarding to see them enjoy these mini adventures of freedom.
Find out more about other ways you can volunteers by clicking here.
They say you can't buy love but you can rescue it!
Adopting a rescued dog is one of the greatest acts of kindness you will ever do.
Dogs that have been rescued are the most loyal dogs of all. They appreciate you so much because you have given them a second chance to have a happy life.
Every single dog waiting at Luna Foundations safe haven has their own horrific back story. Their traumas range from neglect, starvation, being used as bait for illegal dog fighting and even sexual abuse. It's shocking that this goes on in todays world and even more disturbing that this is happening on my beloved "One Happy Island".
So many people want to adopt a cute puppy but more people need to come forward and adopt the older dogs. They always get left behind and many of them have already been in the care of Luna Foundation for well over one year already. When they host adoption days people just walk by their cages and don't even look at them. Can you imagine waiting for someone to choose you, sitting there all excited, wagging your tail, patiently waiting for someone to fall in love you with... And then... NOTHING!
You are just left there, all alone in your cage, wondering why no one wants you.
The only way the charities can rescue more dogs and puppies is if these older dogs get adopted and go to good homes with people who will give them a new lease of life.
To find out which dogs are looking for their soulmate please click here.
Luna Foundation relies solely on donations from the public as they receive no government funding. Without these generous donations they simply would not be able to function. I am always cautious about donating to charities due to my own bad experience which I will get in to later, but hand on my heart I can confidently say that Luna Foundation spends every cent donated on the daily care of the dogs, veterinary bills and maintenance at the safe haven.
They estimate that they currently use 10 bags of adult food ($40 each @57 lbs.) per month ($400) and 15 bags of puppy food ($28 each @32 lbs.) per month ($420).
If you are in a position to make a donation, no matter how small, it all helps towards the daily care each of the rescued dogs requires. If you are based in the USA all donations as tax deductible as Luna Foundation is a 501c3 charity as well as being registered here on the island.
If you are not able to make a monetary donation then you can always donate your time and volunteer. It costs nothing to give up your time but yet it is so valuable.
They need all the help they can get right now so please share this post, give them a follow on social media, help spread their message and together we can make a difference.
As some of you already know, I have been rescuing dogs for most of my adult life on my island. In the beginning it was just me and my boyfriend picking up dogs off the street that had been hit by a car, or dumped outside a supermarket or left to die in the middle of the road. We would always bring them home, nurse them, clean their wounds or take them to the vets at all times of the day and night. Sometimes we had to put them to sleep and that always broke our hearts. We would drive home from the vets in tears, feeling bad that we couldn't get there in time to save them.
Other times we would get them healthy and then ask family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, literally every one we knew, if they would adopt them. I have now ran out of people to ask because everyone I know has already adopted a dog from me!
We always paid for all the vet bills ourselves and never asked for money from anyone. At that time we was very fortunate because my boyfriend had a well paid job on the refinery so financially we could fund all these rescues.
I was kind of naive back then, I didn't even know there was so many animal charities operating on the island.
My introduction in to the world of "dog rescue charities" all started when I watched a video on YouTube of some girl with a dog that was loaded with ticks... And I mean LOADED! His entire ears were covered, he was skin and bone and was a few days away from death. Luckily this girl had found him and helped to rescue him and get him to the vets.
I was amazed at watching this girl on YouTube.
Here she was saving dogs on Aruba, just like me! I knew I had to reach out to her and find out her story.
So I tracked her down, got in touch and it turned out that she was a volunteer with a new dog rescue charity on the island. I immediately wanted to learn more because I felt that I had finally found a group of like-minded people who wanted to save the dogs like I did. That's when she put me in touch with the two founders. These women were my heroes! One lived here on the island, the other lived in the USA.
I loved what they were doing and instantly wanted to know how I could help.
I told them I could use my tech skills to maybe help them have an online presence to raise awareness for their cause.
I designed their logo, built their website, managed their social media, made t-shirts for them, set up a PayPal account, organised fundraising events... Two years in and I was in deep! I was running so much behind the scenes, as well as rescuing, fostering, doing vet trips, airport runs, picking tourists up from the hotels and taking them to visit the puppies... Anything they asked me to do, I did it without questioning it. I felt so proud to be part of their team. I really believed every word they said.
That was until everything came crashing down!
All those years of giving up my time and energy for free, I volunteered, never asked for one cent or got paid one cent. I want to clarify that before I go on.
Volunteering for them took over my life. My own business suffered, my work/life balance did not exist. I was completely sucked in to their world.
Why? Because I genuinely cared about the dogs and really believed that this foundation that I was part of was really making a difference.
I haven't spoken publicly about this since it happened around 3 years ago. The reason being, these "charitable" people threatened me to the point where I felt it was best for me and my dogs to leave the island for a while for our own safety. That's how bad it got.
So, what actually happened was I started to get a bad feeling that something wasn't right. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was but things were not adding up for months. I had access to the back end of almost everything regarding the foundation. I could read all the emails, had all the passwords for the social media accounts, PayPal account etc. Why? Because I was the one who set them all up for the foundation at the start and kept track of everything for them.
But then something changed. All of a sudden passwords started to change and I didn't have access to certain things anymore... And by certain things I mean the financial side of things... PayPal, YouCaring etc.
Which was totally fine because I never touched the money anyway, but I did like to keep track of donations so I could send personal thank you notes to the people who had donated.
I thought it was kind of weird and when I questioned one of the founders she just kind of brushed it off and said she would look in to it for me.
FYI both the founding women claimed to be technophobes and one even said she didn't know how to use an ATM card... And I f*&%ing believed that crap! Stupid of me, I know! But at the time I never once suspected either of these women would do anything to jeopardise the foundation.
I was so wrong!
My curious nature would not let this lie and my gut kept telling me that all these little inconsistencies needed further investigation... So that is exactly what I did.
I continued volunteering for the charity and never said a word to anyone, all the time I was searching for the truth. In all honesty I did not think I would find anything. I thought perhaps I was just blowing this out of proportion and there would be a reasonable explanation for all of this.
But no, sadly that was not the case.
As I still had access to the emails I could still see every PayPal donation that came in and every withdrawal request that went out. Each withdrawal ended up in the personal bank accounts of the two founding members of the charity instead of the official bank account for the foundation. They had recently got 501c3 status in the States so I warned them that they had to make sure they kept track of everything just in case it was needed for an audit in the future. During this time I found an accountant who was a friend of mine and she agreed to go through the files and paperwork that I had to see if she could help put things in order.
Two weeks later she contacted me and told me I needed to see her straight away.
She sat there with all this paperwork and confirmed my worse fears.
These two 'upstanding citizens', who all their fans and followers claimed to be 'Earth Angels' for saving all these dogs, was in fact stealing thousands of dollars from the charity!
My heart sank! I trusted these women.
I felt like, not only was we team members but we were friends. How could they do this? How could they steal from our dogs?
The transactions were ridiculous... Buying perfume and all kinds of personal goods in duty free at the airport, traveling first class back and forward between the States and Aruba, paying off their own personal credit card bills, sending money to one of the womens boyfriends in Colombia, purchasing boat parts and expensive mechanical items on eBay, hitting up multiple ATM's around the island in one day to draw out cash and then "POOF" it just magically disappears, no trace of the cash anywhere.
Spending all this money from donations that were sent in from kind generous people to help the dogs in Aruba. Instead it was funding their personal lifestyles.
Now I had this information I really did not know what to do with it. Part of me was still in disbelief. All I kept thinking was how many dogs they could of saved, spayed/neutered, fed etc with all those thousands of dollars. It upset me so much because I consider myself to be a smart person. How could they do this right under my nose? How did I not know that these people were stealing the donation money?
I had to take a moment to compose myself and calm down as my sadness was beginning to turn to anger. I knew I had to be rational about this and my next step had to be strategic. I wanted to confront them but I needed to be 100% sure that this discovery had enough evidence to back up these claims.
I went through every single email, transaction, donation a thousand times, checking, checking and checking again.
There was no two ways about it, these people who I had trusted had turned out to be thieves.
I knew I couldn't confront them on my own so I had to find other volunteers/team members who I could trust, which was really difficult for me because at this point I had no idea who to trust. Was everyone else in on this? Was I the only one kept in the dark? Were other volunteers also profiting from these donations? I honestly did not know!
I had to take a leap of faith and share this information because I couldn't keep it to myself anymore. It was eating away at me, and the longer I knew about these illegal activities the more bad I felt for all the good people that was sending money thinking it was all going to the dogs when in fact it was being spent on other things.
Misappropriation of funds is the official name for this illegal act.
Once I shared this information with a few close team members I felt a sense of relief that I didn't have to carry this burden alone.
And because I had confided in them they also started to share stories of their own concerns with me too.
What we uncovered was insane. These two women were running this dog rescue like a business, it was not being run as a non-profit, they were most certainly profiting by exploiting the sad stories of these dogs and preying on kind humans by pulling on their heartstrings to get them to hand over large amounts of money.
Just one example was their YouCaring fundraising pages... One was to raise money to buy a new car for the foundation. Sure enough a new car was donated to the charity but instead of it being used for rescuing the dogs, transporting them to the vets etc, it was in fact used by the founders boyfriend in Aruba to transport his music equipment for gigs and shows at the hotels and bars in around Aruba (she had multiple boyfriends at that time, one in Colombia as her younger side piece who she would send money transfers to, one in Aruba that she lived with, and then there was another guy in San Nicolaas who she was legally married to in order to get her permit each year so she could stay on the island).
Another YouCaring fundraiser was to raise money to buy a piece of land so they could build a shelter for the dogs... At least that is the story we were all led to believe. The truth was they had found a house which they had already put an offer on for her and her boyfriend on the side to move in to together when he returned from Colombia.
They managed to raise almost $17,000 USD for this so-called "animal shelter"... But guess what? That money miraculously disappeared in to fresh air! They claimed it was in a "special" bank account... But I knew different... I had seen the transaction and knew 100% that it went straight in to one of the founders US bank accounts!
When the time came to finally confront these two individuals it was a complete disaster!
We told them we had evidence and there was no way they could wiggle out of this. We asked them to be honest with us so we could clear this up internally, maybe they had a plausible explanation?...
Of course they tried to deny everything. They came out with so many stories that I think they even got caught up in their own lies.
Eventually one of the women admitted she had spent the donation money on herself but then screamed at us that it was HER foundation, HER name on the paperwork, so therefore it was HER money!
Hmmmm... Reality check.... That's not how a CHARITY/NON-PROFIT/FOUNDATION works!
Legally, if you solicit donations for a specific thing i.e a dogs vet bill, dog food, etc... That is where the donation money has to go! SIMPLE!
Imagine if I asked you to send money to me for Phoenix vet bill but then you found out I spent that money to go on vacation and poor little Phoenix didn't get the vet care she needed... You would be pretty mad about that wouldn't you? You would not think it was acceptable because that was not your intentions for the money you sent right?
These two women had been scamming people for years, they had both become master manipulators and to this day they are still operating in Aruba, picking up as many puppies as they can, selling them for $450 USD each and flying them off to America via there "flight volunteer" program. I don't know how they have the audacity to keep begging for money when they know that what they are doing is morally wrong and also illegal.
After our confrontation, the two women finally agreed that they should not be in charge of the finances and the team needed to come up with a back up plan so this did not happen again. Between us we all decided that the bank card should be kept with another volunteer and when it was needed they both had to go together to withdraw cash or pay the vet bill. That way we figured someone else would be accountable and they wouldn't be able to get away with this anymore.
I left this team meeting feeling like maybe some progress had been made, maybe they was going to put the money back... But I was wrong... AGAIN!
That same evening when I reached home I got an email alert to the foundations gmail account as I still had access to that... What I saw completely shocked me.... She had not only changed the linked account from PayPal to her other personal bank account but she had also withdrawn all the money!!!!! WOW!
I knew right then that they had no intentions of stopping this stealing. They was going to continue to do it for as long as they could get away with it.
That is when I made the decision to walk away. I quit my role as a volunteer and decided I was going to report them to the authorities.
In total there was five of us who stepped away and quit volunteering. We all went to the police here in Aruba and presented them with the evidence and paperwork... But in true island style... They was not interested. They told us they couldn't do anything... What they really meant was "we don't care and we can't be bothered with the paperwork".
So my next step was to warn the public. I logged in to their website (which I had built, designed and paid for) and made a public warning announcement on the homepage telling people it was a scam and if they had any concerns they should report it too.
Well that did not go down well at all!
They was mad af!
They wanted revenge and made it their mission to assassinate my character along with one of the other volunteers who had left the foundation.
Between us we endured months of abuse, threats, vicious untrue rumours circulating around the island about us... They did anything they could to discredit us and make people believe that we were lying and they was telling the truth.
They even held "hostage" $500 worth of my merchandise at their house to try and get me to "retract" my statement and issue a public apology!
Why on Earth would I apologise for telling the truth?
They are the ones who should be apologising for stealing all that money!
The worst part was when the threat levels started to get more intense and physical I became really concerned for my dogs. That was when I decided to leave the island for a while until all of this died down. I didn't want to have to deal with their abuse no more and it was frustrating me to know that they was still operating and getting away with this. I knew I had to prepare my dogs to leave the island with me which meant getting them checked at the vets to be able to get a health certificate in order for them to travel and fly with me.
On our way to the vets we stopped at the gas station and who should pull up in front of us... One of the founding members of the foundation. We were face to face and there was no getting away so I had to confront her. I have no idea how I managed to keep my cool during this conversation because the verbal abuse that she hurled at me was disgusting!
She told me that I was the most hated women in Aruba right now, I was mentally ill, I was a scumbag and because of me dogs were suffering.
She ended the conversation by saying that she had "already made sure" that my dogs would not be able to leave this island with me!
I asked her to elaborate but she just laughed in my face and got in her car.
I was really worried now. It's one thing to threaten me but to threaten my dogs...
So when I eventually got to the vets, I discovered that all of their microchip numbers had been changed in the computer system!!!
I asked the vet how this was possible and they said only if someone went into the computer and physically changed it.
The number wasn't even one or two digits wrong, the whole entire number was different.
So the vet had to change it back to the original number from the original health certificates I had and then reprint the new Health Certificates with the correct numbers on them.
If we would of got to the airport and they scanned the dogs and the microchip number didn't match the paperwork the dogs would not be allowed to leave the island. So it's a good job I double checked at the vets.
Anyway, after some investigating it turns out that she asked the vets to change their numbers... Coming up with some lame story that she got the numbers wrong. My three rescue dogs originally went on the foundation vet account in the very beginning before we decided that we was adopting them because originally we was fostering them until the foundation got them adopted, but due to what happened they of course never got them adopted so that is how they stayed with us and that's how she was able to convince the vets to change the numbers on their microchips.
These people are the type of people who can tell you that the sky is green and after five minutes of talking to them you would believe them. They have practised manipulating people for many years and I guess that is why they are still able to con people out of money.
No one wants to believe that these "angelic" people who rescue dogs every day could possibly be horrible, nasty thieves. I did not want to believe that either.
So that's my truth. My own personal experience of the "dog rescue world" in Aruba.
My advice to you is to be cautious when donating money, do your research and verify that the charity has a good reputation before handing over your hard earned cash.
Not all is as it seems.
When large amounts of money is involved, people can become greedy and forget about why they started rescuing dogs in the first place.
If they are legit then they should be able to produce annual reports showing the public where they spend the donation money so they can always be transparent with their followers, donors and dog lovers.
If you have made it this far, THANK YOU for sticking with me and reading my story. It's taken a lot for me to open up about this and really, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
For now, me and Phoenix will say "ayo" and also, remind you about our older strays Jax, Rufus and Kira... They are still looking for someone to love them and are in need of a good home to call their own. So if you or someone you know is looking for a companion please get in touch.
Until next time...
*SPECIAL THANKS TO MY DUSHI FAMILY; MAUD, SAMIL AND EDRICK FOR HANGING OUT WITH THE DOGS AT THE SAFE HAVEN AND FILMING THE BEAUTIFUL VIDEOS FOR LUNA FOUNDATION.