From Rinconada to Los Angeles, Emilia rescued

The number of dogs rescued from Chile and adopted in the United States has reached eleven, with Emilia arriving safely into the loving arms of Lost Dogs web manager, Anthony Tanaka.

Since 2003, Anthony and his then-business partner, Tommy O’Connor, have donated their time and expertise to 21st Paradigm, helping the organization grow through tough times economically and culturally. With a spirit that can only be described as altruism, Anthony has offered up his nights and weekends to provide the project with the web sites that send our message out to the world.

Privy to the behind-the-scenes activity of the film project, Anthony knew of a dog left behind in Chile due to a case of mange that flared up right before she and two others were meant to fly to the US. Tonito and Felipa made it, now living happily in Oregon, but Emilia was left in Santiago… just one more dog for Gabriela Jarpa to care for (in addition to four of her own, and the hundreds of street dogs she encounters every day).

The cost of bringing a dog to the US can be prohibitive. Airfare is around $800, which some argue would be better spent on sterilization. The difference, however, is that the plea for dollars to sterilize is already out there. This was a separate campaign that needed cheerleaders with commitment. Reese Mercer, a former volunteer for Lost Dogs, and Carol Linacre, production assistant, lead the fight for Emilia, and won. With an online campaign they successfully raised the money, and at 6:30 a.m. on September 26, 2010, Emilia arrived at LAX airport.

The lengths to which her champions went are understood when one looks at Emilia’s history in a country supreme in its neglect of dogs.

Emilia was about two months old when Gabriela Jarpa found her in Rinconada, a dismal place outside Santiago where the heartless dump unwanted dogs. Surrounded by other abandoned, hungry strays and with nothing but rudimentary shelters (constructed by Gabriela and her friends) to guard against the winter cold, this tiny puppy survived here for almost three weeks. Without a mother or siblings, she stayed away from the other dogs, displaying the usual signs of fear and depression that lead to inevitable illness. Timing was crucial, so when a family responded to an online advertisement with an offer of adoption, Gabriela agreed.

The family comprised three women, a grandmother (55), her daughter (30) and granddaughter (2), plus a cocker spaniel that lived outside in the yard. But the yard was not secure, and when both adult women were at work and the child in kindergarten, the cocker spaniel would roam the streets, as owned dogs do in Chile. They assured Gabriela that Emilia would be kept inside the house and the yard secured.

The obvious happened. Emilia defecated, urinated, and chewed on whatever she could find. Teething aside, puppies separated too early from their mothers and with a history of human abandonment, have separation anxiety that manifests in destructive behavior. This can only be countered through patient training, companionship and nurturing, concepts of which many Chileans are ignorant.

So what did this family do to solve the problem? They put Emilia outside on the street.

Gabriela would never have found this out, had she not made a commitment to Emilia’s new guardians to have her sterilized once her health stabilized at seven months. When Gabriela arrived at the house, she was horrified to find Emilia on the street, in the first heat of her life, surrounded by a pack of male dogs.

Accusing Gabriela of lying, the family blamed her for the size to which Emilia had grown. Gabriela arranged for a sterilization procedure and a few days later she was able to take Emilia back. It was only then that she realized the extent of her condition. Emilia was showing all the signs of depression, frightened of loud noises and rapid movements, of broomsticks, hosepipes and newspapers. She was dirty, her ears were hairless from mange and her skin itchy and sore. Again, the family blamed Gabriela, saying she had given them a sick dog to adopt.

After Gabriela took Emilia to the municipal clinic to be sterilized and treated, the family demanded she return their dog. Supported by the veterinarians, Gabriela refused. Eventually the phone calls stopped.

Two other dogs from Rinconada, Tonito and Felipa, were flown to the US in May of 2010. Emilia was meant to be with them, but on account of the mange, she had to be left behind. It took another four months to raise the money for a flight to the US. All the while, Gabriela nursed Emilia back to health.

Through the perseverance of volunteers, Emilia would ultimately make the journey to America on her own. At fourteen months, with her formative and most harrowing years behind her, Emilia now lives with Anthony and his family in California. She loves his wife and follows her everywhere. During the first few days she shied away from Anthony as if his intention was to hit her, but with love, that too has softened.

Thank you to all who gave this story a happy ending, may it inspire others to choose one being and fight for its salvation.

Read more about Emilia from Anthony’s point of view:


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