The Dogs of Haiti

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The Story of Ti-gba

Ti-gba is short for "P'tit Legba". (Little Legba). Legba is a Haitian loa (god) who represents the master of the crossroads and is the god who can create a bridge between the human and spiritual worlds. Legba is typically represented by an old man with a broken foot and a crutch.

click here to skip down to her story

[click on photos to enlarge]

These are the most recent photos of Ti-gba, taken in February and early March, 2004. Ti-gba has grown incredibly. She is very healthy and happy, but driving everyone crazy with her puppy antics. She has chewed through shoes, eyeglasses, hairbrushes, and everything else she can find. She terrorizes the rabbits, the cat, and the ducks, and buzzes the sheep which really annoys them!

We've started Puppy Kindergarten, which is helping quite a lot.


This series of photos was taken in early January, 2004.

This series of photos was taken in the first 2 weeks of December, 2003, after Ti-gba's surgery on her broken leg.


The day before I was due to leave Haiti, I saw Ti-gba lying in the middle of the road in Pétionville. Her little head was up and her eyes were alert, but the bottom half of her body was filthy with dust and grease and looked contorted. I asked the person who was driving me to stop, which she did reluctantly, and thus began the Haitian rescue.

When I picked up the puppy she was like a skeleton. She cried and grunted in pain. I set her on the sidewalk, and she collapsed -- she could not support her weight at all. I knew that leaving her would mean slow starvation. Or perhaps someone would kick her out of her misery. No one wanted to help this dog. The driver of the vehicle urged me to leave her behind - she said there is too much misery in Haiti, and one simply cannot fix it all. The vendors on the street gathered around us in curiosity, wanting to know why I was crying about a dog. One woman offered to take money from me and she would care for the dog - another woman told me "don't give her any money!" I laid the little puppy down away from traffic by the side of a building. A man vendor was packing up for the day and saw that the puppy was lying on a bit of plastic that belonged to him. He whipped it out from under her, angrily, and hit her with it. It felt like a nightmare. In the United States it is second nature for me to pick up an injured animal and find help. This is a concept beyond bizarre in Haiti, apparently.

We drove away and I didn't know how I was going to live with myself. We stopped to look at paintings, and I walked about like a zombie, trying not to let the curious vendors see my sobs. However, the driver must have had a change of heart, because as I walked about disconsolately, I saw her on her cell phone ... she found that there was a vet open until 6 pm (it was nearly 4:30 pm, after closing for most Haitian businesses). We bought a little basket for 50 gourdes, and rushed back to where we had left the puppy. The vendors were fascinated at this turn of events, and I was full of hope.

There are, in fact, a few veterinarians in Haiti. I cannot say I was pleased with the vet I saw - he was rough with this little 5 pound puppy and did not even treat her for the massive quantities of worms she had. But he gave me the essential paperwork: a veterinary certificate of health, which would allow me to board her on the airplane and pass through customs in the United States. He charged me 700 gourdes, about $17.

I returned to my friend Jan's office carrying the tiny puppy in the basket. He did not seem surprised (I feel sure that he played the part of angel in this story, urging his coworker - my driver - to find a vet). He then immediately went out and bought some meat for the little dog, who was so happy at this clean good food. I administered some of the Vitamin B I had requested from the vet, and she lapped that up, too. But... how was I going to get her on the plane tomorrow? We had virtually no phone access and for sure the airline offices were closed for the day. I knew exactly what to do! With the satellite internet service they had in the office, I emailed the metropets mailing list and asked for help - and was amazed that within 30 minutes someone had made a reservation for me. It would cost me $80 and I was going to be able to bring the puppy on board with me.

Elle ne comprend pas la tendresse, mais elle l'accepte.

I was so worried because I had no pet carrier. My friend Jan tried to help me fashion a carrier out of a plastic bag padded with towels; we perched her basket on top of it. Since she was so exhausted and slept all the time, I thought perhaps it would work. The American Airlines checkin agent was adamant: NO. I had to have a carrier. I pleaded with her, "where can I find a carrier in Port-au-Prince?" She shrugged her shoulders. There were none for sale at American Airlines - and the other airlines I asked looked at me in disgust - why would I bring a dog on board? Eventually the checkin agent told me that if I were willing to postpone my trip, she could have her husband bring me a carrier from her house. I simply didn't believe this - she must have been trying to get rid of me! I called Jan who is Dutch but infinitely wise about the Haitians, and he told me - "if she wants to help you, then let her help you." So simple. And it worked. The nylon carryon bag arrived at 2 pm as she promised. I boarded the plane, and was in the end, only 4 hours late arriving home.

Everyone wants to know how in the world I got through customs -- this was the easiest part of the trip. I had sprayed the carrier with perfume so that her rather bad odor would not be evident. I had in hand the veterinary certificate of health (and I prayed that the agricultural officer would not look too closely at this emaciated, sick puppy who was crawling with fleas), made the proper declaration on my customs form.... and after a short interview, we were in the US of A!


Elle ne pouvait attendre que la faim, la soif, et une souffrance intolérable, culminant dans une morte indigne.

Ti-gba and I went to the vet first thing the next morning. They did bloodwork and X-rays, and found that she had 2 broken femurs (one quite bad - it had actually ruptured through the thigh wall) and a broken pelvis. Worms of all kinds, fleas, and a low red blood cell count and very low protein. She weighed 5.1 pounds. They gave me two kinds of worming meds to give her daily, nutrical to give her more protein, and they put on Advantage for the fleas and splinted the really badly broken leg.

She began eating small meals at regular intervals, continuing with her Vitamin B anti-anemia medicine as well as all the other goodies the American vet gave us, and sleeping comfortably in her new, clean home. At first she had to be confined to a crate because of her limited mobility (she could only drag herself around with her front legs) and in order to keep her pelvis as quiet as possible for healing. Her fleas and worms were gone in very short order, and little by little she learned that people are kind and caring.

Ti-gba is alert and smart, gentle and beautiful. I am so grateful that I was able to bring her out of the hell that surely awaited her.


Please note: new photos will be posted on a regular basis to show Ti-gba's progress!

1-15: Ti-gba is well over 18 pounds and very tall. She is still lean, like a greyhound, but full of energy. Her right leg is still very stiff and requires regular massaging but she can outrun the donkey which is the important thing. She plays with my dog and hogs all the toys in the house. She no longer rushes to eat all the food in front of her - she now knows there will be more whenever she needs it.

12-16: Ti-gba now weighs 11 pounds and is a holy terror around the house. She still needs therapy on her right rear leg, because it is quite stiff but she can get up and down stairs and has started venturing a little bit outside. She shows a particular preference for eating shoes and killing socks.

12-1: Dr. George successfully operated on Ti-gba's right leg which was so very badly broken. He had to shorten it somewhat, but he was able to place the femur back in the hip socket and did not have to amputate, as he had feared!

11-27: Ti-gba wagged her tail today for the first time in her life.

11-26: The surgeon determined that Ti-gba's body condition was still so poor that she would not survive surgery. He sent me home with A/D diet food and instructed me to feed her well and regularly so that we could try again on Monday.

11-25: Ti-gba now weighs 6 pounds. Her red blood cell count and protein levels have risen, and she shows no worm eggs in her stool. She is recommended for surgery on her right leg which is badly broken. The orthopedic surgeon indicated that her back, along with her pelvis and two legs, is broken; however, there appears to be no neurological damage.


[Your donation will be marked "Star Gazing Farm", as that is where Ti-gba is recovering.]

Many thanks to:

Joanna Harkin
Tails of Hope Sanctuary
Barbara Cozzens
Mme. Poitevienne
Shivon Dosky
Cynthia DiBuono
Cathy Brown
Excellent Dog! Training School
Celine Roll
Joyce Whitehead

Current vet bills are over $2000 for blood tests, worm medicine, flea medicine, surgery (including metal plates in her leg), and Physical therapy. Would you like to contribute to help her pay for these?


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