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  • Writer's pictureAaron Bartlett

What a year 2022 has been!

It is hard to believe we've made it here.

Today is December 31st, 2022. We've been living on the dog land the greater part of this year, and I never knew what kind of challenges we would face. I only knew, since starting Perros Libres in August of 2021, that this year, if we made it, would be the hardest year I've ever lived. It has no doubt become the reality: this year was all about building, destroying, and creating again. I can't tell you how many times we built stuff only to realize it didn't work well enough or we had to break it down and try again: furniture, kitchen, cement floors, fences, gates, walls, sinks, compost heaps: we've had to build it all from scratch. We did have some help with some things from amazing local workers and supporters! But I can't say I didn't learn a thing or two! I can say I've had to break-down and rebuild myself a few times as well.

Not to mention, of course, learning how to run a Dog Sanctuary.

This no doubt was the hardest part of it all. Learning how to live with a huge pack of dogs (especially full time), anywhere, is difficult. It requires a lot of adaptation, consistency, and patience. All these things are hard-fought but can be earned on the path of personal growth. This was the underlying element of it all, for me. If I could not change, adapt, and evolve: I could not have been able to sustain the energy it takes to build this project. I am a different man than I was, at the beginning of 2022.

Stunning view of the lake (shoutout Mixwell)

So, no doubt you know my gratitude.

When I look at the lake from such a view as this, so high up, I can't help but appreciate how amazing the experience has been. I am already stoaked to see what 2023 will bring.


So many large steps were taken for the dogs of Perros Libres.

What did we actually get accomplished this year? For the dogs? For us? For the local community? Let's see.

  1. Adopted out over 25 dogs

  2. Helped sterilize dozens of dogs (including our own)

  3. Fed street dogs all around Tzununa

  4. Rescued over 40 dogs

  5. Vaccinated with rabies & distemper/parvo/multivax ALL THE DOGS on the sanctuary

  6. Employed different local families over various time periods

  7. Spread awareness of the dog's conditions in Guatemala all over lake Atitlan

  8. Built a beginning Sanctuary which now houses volunteers, employees, and all the rescued dogs of Perros Libres

  9. Built a one-bed personal cabin for myself to sustain living with the dogs

  10. Planted the seeds and built the foundation for a movement that may one day take care of ALL the dogs of this country, and maybe further.

Fireworks go off, in the distance. I can't help think they are just for me, and just for us: all the dogs on the dog land.

Surya meditates in front of Acetenango


So what's next?!

Reimagining the structure of the non-profit organization: we now are not just a start-up, but a functioning, growing organism of community work in Tzununa, Guatemala. We constantly house travelers, pay employees, and have a very large pack of dogs in our constant care and responsibility. There is work to do for the 501(c)3 application which we are looking at for the first quarter of 2023. This is a big step for non-profits and I am very ready to propel us to greater heights.

I am still learning how exactly the non-profit concept works, the specific terms and legalities, and to maintain a non-profit one must follow a vast series of rules and regulations which we write ourselves partially, and some regulations by the government. There is much to learn to sustain a project like this long-term and I am on the job. Even after a year and a half almost of doing this, is still feels like we're just getting our feet off the ground.


Vaccination day at the Sanctuary!

We had a huge help-up from another awesome organization, The DOX Project (Dogs of Xela, Guatemala) who raised funding for all the dogs in the Sanctuary to get an updated Multi-vaccine! We also had the local municipal help vaccinate all the dogs for rabies! So we got up-to-date on all dogs vaccinations in the Sanctuary! Feel free to check out their project at the link above, because they are doing amazing work for the dogs up in Xela, a couple hours north of us here on the lake! Look at some of these cool photos from the experience:

DOX also helped us take Bear, the infamous skinny-mangey dog from Antigua. Bear, despite our best efforts, lost weight at the Sanctuary instead of gaining. We had a really nice time with this dog and made sure to give him extra portions when we saw he wasn't gaining weight, and for reasons not entirely known he could not put on any weight. So DOX took him in, did extensive vet research, and found he has a serious kidney problem. This messes with his hydration levels, and makes him need much more water than average as well. Thankfully Bear is in the best of hands with DOX and they have the resources and ability to give him extra-special attention and food designed just for him. Thank goodness for that!


Bring on the New Year!!!

Truly, a miracle of miracles we made it all the way through 2022. As a donation-based start-up with no initial capital, I don't know how many operations have ever pulled that off. It's in HUGE part thanks to the kindness of our landlord, Andres Yaxón who has made this possible. Without him, and the liberty to take our time to build without contract, has allowed us the ability to use our funding on the dogs and keep everyone fed and happy, while managing to build all at the same time.

But, ofcourse: we still need your help. We need funding to bring us into the first months of 2023, as we just made it to the end of the year. If and only if it's in your power to support us coming into the New Year, please consider making a donation. I'll provide the customary button below.


See you in 2023, folks.

Thank you to all of our monthly supporters! Your aid does not go unappreciated, and come the beginning of January I will be sending out all overdue sponsorship emails. Important:

If you have had a sponsorship and want emails but have not received them: please message me! I will fix it.

There are some people who have sponsorships but have not selected a dog for me to write up as your sponsorship, and if you want one but don't have one let's get it going! I plan to have a much more consistent and updating email system for the sponsorship program next year. Thank you to all currently sponsoring our dogs and our Sanctuary!

Let's bring in the new year with joy, optimism, courage and tenacity. We will continue saving more dogs than EVER in 2023! Have a great evening everyone, and

Libertad para los perros.

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