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  • Writer's pictureAaron Bartlett

The Dark Side of running a Charitable Organization

Hello friends of Perros Libres. Hello family, hello fans, hello volunteers, and hello newcomers. I have a unique post today that I will be speaking to you from the perspective of beginner's mind: "Maybe this is their first time here. Maybe they know nothing about Perros Libres yet, and this is the first." This is important for this kind of news, because it is bad news. But things that seem bad are sometimes blessings in disguise, and I am the type of person that believes everything happens for a reason. Even when people wish you harm, even when people send ill will your way, I believe 100% in the Golden Rule: "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You."

So it is with this pretense I present to you the recent events: there is a person who has accused us of being a fraudulent organization. This is a huge claim, on both Perros Libres and my individual character. I am doing my utmost to not take this personally, and this is hard to do. But I wish to see it from a higher perspective, and think of all things in life that seem bad are often just lessons to learn and improve from. I will now give you the story:

Perros Libres was started from nothing.

I was in Guatemala when the first idea for Perros Libres came to me. My friend at the time was living in San Marcos, next to Tzununá where I am currently. She had bought Perrita: the dog who our followers have seen has puppies now, and is currently in our care. Two of those puppies still live with us, and the other two of those puppies with the person who is making this "fraud claim". There is also one other puppy in the mix that used to live with all of us together, and I will talk about her soon, as she is a focal point of the current situation. But first to our origins:

My friend (whom we will call "M" for anonymity) called and asked if I could help her. I asked what's wrong? Apparently Perrita had caught the deadly disease called Distemper. I had no idea what that was, but she said it was an emergency and if I could come over to her and help pay for the vet (My friend had absolutely no money at the time, and was living off the last of her rent she already paid for the month. She was in a bad position.) I said okay, your dog is sick and I was already familiar with Perrita because I helped M find her original owner who was a local named Mario to initiate the "transaction" of the dog. I wanted to make sure she didn't die, and it was even more serious than I could have imagined. Distemper is truly a killer.

So I took the next Tuk-tuk to San Marcos, and helped pay for the vet. It was expensive for Guatemalan money (called Quetzales), but I was operating my own online-business at the time, Musician's Ear LLC, which is how I payed my rent and had spending money. I taught music lessons to kids online because I have been a music-teacher for over 10 years, and in 2019 before the pandemic I created this business to sustain myself and continue my work without needing a home base. So I was okay, and had the ability to help her. So once I was there, I saw Perrita: She was laying down on the bed, not eating anything, and really looked like she was dying. It was weird because she just bought her barely a week ago. I don't remember the exact dates, but it seemed as if she bought her, and then she immediately got sick. She already had not eaten in over two days at this point, and that is bad news enough.

So, the good news: Pablo the vet from Vetitlan (check out their Facebook) came by and gave Perrita what she needed. He suggested we take her right away to his actual location and check her in for a couple nights. She came out two days later, eating, wagging her tail: a happy, healthy dog. This brought us both so much joy and relief: we were scared for her life. Not too long after this, M and Perrita moved into our house which only had two dogs at the time: Tostada and Tzunun (you can see us at this time period in this picture below.)

Tostada and Tzunun (pictured above with Perrita) who belong to the previous man of the house that I am currently living in were both also rescues. Our previous house-runner found them both on the street at different times and took care of them. Tzunun apparently "adopted" the owner, he says cutely, by coming into the house on her own and choosing to sleep there (just like Kiwi has now.) Originally I was asked to live here just to watch the house, and feed his dogs. No problem with that, it was cheap rent and I love dogs. So I agreed and that's how I ended up living in this beautiful big house in Tzununá. Nobody, not even me, knew I would be starting this doggie non-profit called Perros Libres to then bring help to all the other dogs I possibly could.


So now, the current situation.

I mentioned earlier there is a person who claimed we are fraudulent. I have no intention of harming the reputation of anyone, or slandering anyone. But we have been attacked, by claiming to be fraudulent, and I will stand up for us and simply put forth what is true about us and what we do, and how we've done things up until now. The truth is the most important thing here: and that is my single intention in writing this post. People can say what they want to, and there is some truth to what they have said too: we agree on many things actually.

The backstory: this person lived with me for over a month. They saw Perrita's puppies be born, and asked me if they could adopt 2 of them. I agreed, we already had a full-house of dogs as we still do. They currently still have those puppies and they are doing great: I checked up on them this morning. They talked a lot about helping us, bought a nice big stove so we can cook new types of dog food, and helped design the Perros Libres logo, which was a huge gift. I asked if they wanted anything for their contribution, and they said no, it was a just a gift for our work. It felt good to have someone who wanted to help us, with good graphic-design skills. I gladly accepted. We managed to live together for a month+ with no real issues, roommate stuff was decent enough & we got along and had a nice time. Perrita had her 4 puppies, we also had Tzunun, Tostada, Surya, and Scabby, at the time. Vibiana I believe came just after, but I could be mistaken.

Then comes Bodhi.

Bodhi is a super-adorable puppy that was found in this very box (pictured above) in the middle of town centro (center). Apparantely the locals were feeding it coca-cola 😅 at the time that my volunteer saw this dog, and called me immediately to ask if we could do anything to help it? I asked my other Perros Libres advocate, and he suggested trying to join it with Perrita's pups, and see if she'd let it nurse off of her (they were roughly the same age, too.)

So we tried this, and Perrita did not like it. She nearly ate the puppy alive, even though I was right there with my roommates and this girl that had rescued her. We were close enough to prevent Perrita from doing any real damage, and decided this was not a good idea. I was out of ideas. Then my roommate, the person whom I've referred to, offered to take her in. He said he would take responsibility for this dog so I did not have another one on my plate: and that was very relieving. I had my hands full and he could see it was hard enough for me to handle the other 9 dogs we had. So eventually, when they were to leave, they would take 2 of Perrita's pups with this dog, Bodhi. That was very helpful for me at the time, and saved me the need to look for homes for all of those dogs, while they were still getting care here while we lived together. Perrita's full litter could nurse off her as long as they wanted, which I suggested would be good for them all. It worked out pretty good.

But then, we had a tough situation on our hands.

The woman I've referred to in previous posts named Maria, who is a good friend of ours, asked for my help with two of her puppies, both of which had an insane level of both flea & tick infection. She had also mentioned that another one of her puppies had died recently. I asked why? She said she didn't know. I said I can help clean these dogs of their fleas and ticks, and I immediately sent a message to our Perros Libres WhatsApp group where another volunteer helped bring me some quick tweezers and a specific kind of medical-grade tick-removal aerosol can. Maria proceeded to bring the dogs to the house, and I put them right into our shower for a quarantine-type of thing, because I definitely didn't want our little puppies contracting any ticks or fleas or whatever. This day happened to be Halloween: and even though I was thinking of going out to a nearby party, my night was now decided, and I had to stay with these puppies to make sure they got better. Here they are below:

So this is where it gets hairy, literally.

I proceed to wash these dogs one at a time in the shower, and remove approximately 20 ticks out of each ear of each dog, not to mention each of them having at my best guess 100 fleas each. I spent hours doing it, and the next day I called Maria, and she said she's sorry she has to go to the Airport (5 hours away), and would not be back to get them until the evening. This day, after Halloween, happened to be All Saints Day, a huge party for Tzununá being a largely Catholic religion that operates in the modern culture. The family ended up going to the party all together, with me stuck at home with these sick puppies another night. I let them out, to sit by the door, because I couldn't possibly keep them in the dark, cold, wet shower for 2 days straight. It didn't feel right.

But then my roommates said to me: Hey aren't you worried about contaminating the other dogs? I shrugged it off, I was tired of working at this point. I just said I don't have a sense there's anything wrong here, and left it at that. They didn't like that, and soon enough planned to move out because they felt I was being reckless with letting these sickly dogs into our space, when we had all these other puppies that needed to stay healthy. Looking back, I can see the truth to their words with this, I was letting in all the dogs I was asked to hardly without a filter. Even though I knew there were risks involved, I took them, because it's my nature and it's why I got into this in the first place. I considered it my job, my responsibility. I knew if something went wrong I would fix it anyway. This is the mentality I had in this: just do it, and ask questions later. It's the only way I was able to accomplish anything at all, because I am not a professional veterinarian, and just had to ask questions to Pablo when they came up. There were a lot of snap-decisions I did not have time to wait for his answers. However this can have its flaws, and sometimes bad things result from this.

Bodhi got very sick, after they left.

This was horrifying, for both them and me. They were very upset, and said I was to blame for their dog getting sick. There is quite a strong possibility that those two puppies brought in by Maria were carriers of something, like Distemper or Parvo, even Pablo didn't know. What's amazing is that none of the other dogs got sick. There is a likelihood that it happened just that way for a scientific reason: Perrita, when she was young and had Distemper but beat it, she developed antibodies for the Distemper virus. That would mean that her puppies that fed from her milk, gained these antibodies. That would mean if something spread around our house because of this, all of Perrita's pups were immune, including the two the roommates took back with Bodhi. They remain good today. Also, interestingly, Maria's pups are also still living without having seemingly died from either of these illnesses. But this could be because they lived with one that did, and their bodies were containing it without it killing them: like we said, science says it's possible dogs can carry this virus without showing symptoms and spread it to others. This was something I did not consider, and was definitely a mistake on my end. But this is how the learning process goes, especially in such a risky business like this.

So, the aforementioned roommates made this page: "Perros Libres Fraud Alert"

I share this with you for more than one reason.

  1. I believe in Free Speech. Despite how this person is saying some slanderous things about me, no doubt, they believe it to be the truth. I am not afraid to share others opinions with you, and I welcome you to read it to make your own decision: that's what Free Speech is really about. It's the 1st amendment of the U.S. constitution for a reason.

  2. It's a challenge. If this page were to exist as a "check" of my abilities, then even it can serve a good purpose and help us grow, though some might see this as too optimistic. I have to stay on-my-game to not have people be saying slanderous things about me, and I welcome the challenge. If people want to question what I do, they are more than welcome, and the page can be used as a place of discourse for how to handle situations correctly.

  3. Finding the truth means hearing both sides first. Despite what anyone may try to do, the truth is always what comes out eventually. I have heard the saying: "lies spread faster than the truth, but the truth always catches up eventually."

I am confident we are doing what is right.

However, I am open to saying I am flawed and make mistakes.

I'm not a vet, just an average guy with a good idea.

The caveat: the agreement.

Our friendly neighbors who have made this post and proposed this challenge presented me this: let us discourse how to best protect the dogs, and give what they need. If they see me to be doing this, they agree to delete all posts and take the page down. They say this and I believe in full confidence they will do it, if we live up to our end of this bargain. We both want healthy dogs here, and if they mean what they say, then we can work together to make this lake a better place for these dogs. But this is the challenge: can we do it? Do we have what it takes to heal, and help, without putting even one more at risk due to any kind of negligence? Can we save the dogs of the lake, despite having people push-back and try to take us down? That depends on one thing:


Perros Libres cannot exist without you.

If people did not support our cause, I would not be here writing you this long blog about our hard work and the challenges that have come up. I am determined to continue on, for the dogs, and for Perros Libres.

You are the deciders of what happens next.

We cannot exist without you, so I invite you, to read the Perros Libres fraud page if you wish. Be the judge yourself if we deserve to continue on or not. If you think what we do is good, and correct, knowing I am a man who has made mistakes but is resolute in solving them, and doing a better job: please leave a message or comment on any of the pages. We could use your support now, more than ever. If you want to wait and see what happens, that's cool too. We will continue the work and let our actions speak for themselves. Let us know what you think of all this, if you feel so called, and have a great week.

Libertad por los Perros.

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