top of page
  • Writer's pictureAaron Bartlett

Our First Sterilization Clinic: A Huge Success! :)

Wow, what a day we had!

Imagine this: our property chock-full with Mayan families, over 30 dogs, cats, and our dogs still on the property hanging out with them all. No pushing, no fighting, no complaining. Little kids playing through the yard, they asked me if they can use some tie-material to make bow-and-arrows. They let me shoot one, and they used sticks to try and hit the banana tree. There was an air of fun, but also some heaviness, as most of the adults were just quietly waiting patiently for their animal's operation. We had a strict no-food-for-dogs getting fixed, as I learned dogs are technically not supposed to have food from midnight the night before a sterilization, nor much water. It can potentially be thrown up, and cause much complications (even death) during a sterilization operation. It was quite a hectic, but eventful day!

We teamed up with another organization that has done this type of event over 6 times in San Marcos, the neighboring town. Using Erica's help, they already had gone ahead and raised all the funds for this event. All we had to do was host the space, pick the date, work the organization of everyone (registration, who goes where, labeling the dogs) and provide the catering. Our amazing friend Maria (whom you should know by now) did all the catering, and was nice enough to leave her house at 5:30 in the morning, take the boat all the way to Panajachel, and get 10 lbs. of chicken and all the other ingredients we asked for to cook this huge lunch for the whole crew: vets, volunteers, and clients alike. The vets were quite grateful by the time lunch came around!

So, here's the run-down of how it went:

We thankfully had the help of many people in setting up this event. Andrés, our Perros-Libres landowner, is connected with the local municipality and was able to arrange an announcement to the whole town for our Sterilization Clinic on Saturday, December 4th, 8 a.m. Here is the flyer (made by a lovely volunteer graphic designer who has offered to help us with things like this, including our Instagram:)

What's really funny about this preparation...

Is that the 2 days before the event, the 2nd and 3rd of December, we had no power! I also had lost my phone a couple weeks ago, which was my only connection to "Satellite connection" (or data, which is SO useful around here when the power or WiFi goes out). The power, internet, water, you name it, goes out with a relatively common frequency over the course of the seasons. You can almost count on it, because the infrastructure in Guatemala is nothing like we're used to in the States. We were told power was out "because it was too windy", when all we felt were light breezes in Tzununá. However, whatever the reason, it happened. I had no way to access the Facebook (Erin also didn't have data at this time: she does now), and see if people were signing up for the event or asking me questions about cost, set-up, time, location, etc. Erica was kinda ticked at me, because I wasn't responding to any messages just days before this VERY important event she wanted to be apart of (Sorry Erica! 😅) But I went all the way to San Marcos the day before, just to log onto the internet and re-confirm it with her and the other organization. I reassured them it IS happening.

It went down very successfully. We started out at 8 a.m. with a table out in front of the house, with a paper for registration.

When very shortly after the vets showed right up in a Tuk-tuk, just after our partner-organization friend who helped us with the forms and technicalities. We had our two rooms, for the operation room and the recovery room, cleaned out a couple days before by Maria. They were bleached, mopped, swept, and essentially sterilized. Check out the two rooms:

It goes on: dogs after dogs with owners were showing up, almost all of them on leashes, some of them not. However they all got signed up on the registration sheet with their color, gender, their owner's names, and payment for the operation. Then they got a piece of tape on the dog's heads with their number (for ordering of operations). We charged 10 Q for locals, though some were able to contribute more. The payments helped us cover the cost of hosting the event: food, cooking, cleaning, and the eventual private boat we had to hire to get the vets home. The boat situation was due to the fact that more dogs kept showing up after we finished registration cap (at 30 animals), and the vets originally didn't have time for more than that in order to make the public boat back (last one is at 5:30, usually). But Maria had the idea that we get a private boat, made the call, and that allowed us to finish ALL of the animals: 36 in total. 34 dogs, and 2 cats. Everyone that came got treated. One of those dogs was our big white dog: Surya. I was told to let all the locals go first, and mine will be at the end. Because more and more locals kept showing up, Surya was the only one of ours we had time for, when Perrita was also on the list originally. We had no idea so many locals would show up, it was amazing. It's a shame Perrita did not get hers yet, but I am now of the understanding how important it is for her, and we are now equipped to do more of these events for those who haven't had their chance.

I'm going to repeat this for clarity: I used to not want to spay Perrita, because her owner originally asked me not to. However, I talked with her, and we both are of the agreement that as long as she lives on the lake, being spayed is essential for both her, and the population of dogs on the lake. Perrita will be spayed, at our next opportunity. We're here to take dogs off the streets, not add more to the pile.

Here is a pic of Surya with his number waiting for his turn:

Thank you: to all our helpers.

Thanks to all the volunteers, without whom this would not have been possible.

Thanks to the Municipality for announcing this to the town.

Thanks to Andrés for making that connection.

Thanks to the partner organization for organizing the vets, and registration.

Thanks to Erica for helping raise the funds and bring awareness to the situation.

Here is a gallery of some photos of the day:


I'm not gonna ramble on too much more for this post, simply: we did it.

This has been a long time coming for us to create this event. Many people have emphasized the importance to us of spaying/neutering, and in being here running Perros Libres for over 3 months, having seen puppies born on the street, us trying to save them, and not succeeding in them all, I have been ghastly proven how important it is for spaying/neutering. However this is not an operation that should be rushed, 4 months is the absolute minimum recommend by our vets for spaying/neutering, especially for the females (because they can cause urinary problems that last their whole life). I was told in the states they often wait until 6 months. This should be understood: this is a traumatic experience for the animal, and you want them to have their strength in order to handle it well.


I really, really appreciate everyone who has had faith in us.

Some have criticized that we have not been doing the best job at this intense, entirely exhausting work. Of course this is true: I came into this as a single person, with little experience besides being a life-long dog owner. I've learned this job as I've done it. It requires confidence, courage, and making hard decisions. But no man is an island, and we need a team. We have not done everything correctly, but we get better at this job every single day. And in lieu of all this, you have supported us. You have made Perros Libres continue to be possible, and you are unendingly appreciated. We will continue mission. Please let us know what you think in the comments, and share if you think we are doing a good job. We appreciate you, and the dogs do too. Libertad por los Perros.

119 views1 comment

1 Comment

Darlene Dupre
Darlene Dupre
Dec 06, 2021

Great job! It's a learning curve and not being a professional organization from the get go is very understandable. Your making an impact in the town and lives of everyone and bringing awareness to the locals.


mention to the owners...dogs cannot eat the corn unsupervised they can bite off pieces and it will Lodge in the intestines and throat you are aware.

bottom of page