Paradise and Parenting – PAWesomeness

What if I told all of my parent readers out there that your family could spend a fun afternoon together, helping out some really sweet, loving animals, and developing those much needed qualities of empathy and compassion? And… wait for it… it’s FREE! I know, right? Sign me up! Last week we took our children on a PAWesome tour (it’s really called that, I’m not just trying to be cute) with Nicole Martin to the SPCA Sanctuary. Believe me when I tell you that it was all of those things and more.
For my kids, the chance to hang out with a room full of tail-wagging pups sure doesn’t feel like community service work, not when it’s so fun. Our children were born into a family of animal-lovers.
They are quite accustomed to search and rescue operations interrupting our normal lives once in awhile, and they are quick to give us their input in every situation. I’ll never forget the time my daughter and I came upon what we thought was a lost human toddler and I ran to get my husband to help communicate the Spanish a little better. As we ran to the house, my daughter spoke to me firmly, like a parent before taking her kid to the pet store, “I don’t think we can keep this one, mom.” We have fostered for MexPup, a great organization, and adopted a poodle mix (Lucy) through them. However, once we adopted our second rescue, Max (who was at first mortally terrified when coaxed out from under our car, and is now the cheekiest little terrier/Chihuahua/Yorkie, etc. this side of the border), we knew it was time to find another way to help our furry little buddies.
I’m sure all of you know that there are several fantastic organizations out there that help animals. And I’m sure you also know that there is always great need for supplies and facilities to help these animals. But what is really needed out there are open-hearted people willing to put in some time. I think children make for great volunteers.
Children can be the most open-hearted of all, and if we start encouraging community service when they are young, remain that way as they grow. They are also, and I speak here for my own kids, happily oblivious to the passage of time on the best day, so they willingly give it up in a heartbeat.
As I said, we took the trip out to the Sanctuary, and we were all impressed.
The facility itself is wonderfully spacious, clean and in great repair. When you looked into the various kennels of the different dogs and cats you could see that they were genuinely cared for. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable and more than willing to share their time with us, answering questions, matching leashed pups to our excited dog-walkers, and handing out gowns to wear in the quarantine area.
Everyone wore a smile, including the dogs, and it was easy to join in the enthusiasm for this very special place. Nicole, our tour guide, also brought her little girl along for the very first time, and it was amazing to see even the tiniest volunteer gently pet the smallest kitten.
My own two children went right to their work of loving eager dogs and cats, and didn’t stop throwing fetch toys, cuddling, coaxing, walking, and more until we told them it was time to go. My daughter, the future vet, didn’t give up the quarantine gown easily, and trailed the gigantic garment through the hallways like a benevolent, mini Florence Nightingale until it was home time.
I found my son helping Nicole’s toddler roll a ball for a determined and feisty little bit of a kitten. What a meaningful, hands-on way to tell our children that, indeed, we have the power to be the change we want to see in the world, even if we start in one animal shelter in a little corner of Mexico.
If you would like to go on a PAWesome tour to the sanctuary and spend a worthwhile afternoon as a family or on your own, contact Nicole Martin at



  1. I love to see people helping animals and I really love seeing kids involved and teaching them how to care and be kind to them. Great work!

  2. Every story has a bright side, and a not so bright side. The bright side began when my father brought a cocker spaniel puppy home when I was around 7 years old. The not so bright side was when he got bigger, and I had to take care of him. Of course, being an annoyed boy, I threw him down the cloths shut.

    My wife’s bright side was she was raised with a pet cat she was close to and always kissed it on the nose. The not so bright side was when we courted for seven years, and she realized that I did not like being kissed by lips that had been kissing a cat’s nose. We did not test this out with our three daughters and they did not have pets.

    San Francisco is a city of 47 square miles with more than 70,000 pet dogs and some twice the amount of cats. When time get tough and owners cannot afford to feed their pets, they send them to the city pound. When the pound exceeds its capacity, the city gave a dog to the homeless folks, thinking that the homeless would have companionship. The city streets, front lawns, and parks are a mess.

    Some of these dogs run wild and kill the quail and rabbits in the parks. The feral cats have reduced the song bird population. City ordinances have been passed not to feed the wild birds and animals because if you do, there will be a problem with them. Skunks , raccoons, squirrels , and coyotes have come into the city searching for the cat and dog food. Since they cannot be killed, property owners have to hire trappers to catch them and take them elsewhere at a large cost.

    Pet dogs have even killed strangers that come near the home, and had to be put down.

  3. Wonderful share! I’m in tears feeling your sentiments! If only more people felt the way you and your family does! Thank you for giving back… it takes so little and means so much … to the animals and the staff! Nicole Martin is one unsung hero in Vallarta without question! !

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