Life on an island isn’t always easy for a compassionate mother of two who dedicates her life to saving stray dogs.
Lauren Cabrera, 33, spends most of her time working as a telemedicine nurse, juggling her family while rescuing dogs on the island of Guam. His nonprofit, The Boonie Flight Project, shares videos of the rescues and the adorable puppies they find on TikTok.
“There is a significant dog problem in Guam,” Cabrera said. Newsweek.
In 2014, a study by the WellBeing International Studies Repository found that there were 61,000 stray dogs in the United States’ remote island territory of Micronesia in the Western Pacific. Now, almost ten years later, Cabrera estimates there are 75,000 stray animals roaming the streets, many of them unneutered.
Sterilization and neutering can make a huge difference. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) states that a single unmodified female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in just six years.
The WellBeing study found that reproduction in dogs is largely uncontrolled and many owned dogs do not receive adequate levels of basic home care or veterinary care when needed.
In April 2020, 274 Guam residents were surveyed and the results revealed that dogs were the most popular pet. Forty-five percent of participants said they preferred male-bred puppies. This meant they were housed, while local mixed-breed dogs were left to roam and fed table scraps.
The survey also found that 23% of guardians in Guam had never provided veterinary care to their dogs and virtually no dog owners had their canines spayed.
Cabrera, a native of Dover, New Hampshire, said Newsweek about the devastating states she finds puppies in every day.
“You can’t escape the dog situation,” she said. “There are sick dogs on the road or dead on the road… It’s heartbreaking as an animal lover. ‘ wanted some. Anyone who wanted a dog already had more dogs, so I started looking for ways to bring them to the United States.”
Cabrera said she spends at least 40 hours a week rescuing dogs, while working evenings and caring for her children.
She started The Boonie Flight Project in April 2021. That same month, she flew 21 dogs to the United States.
“I used to try to save all the dogs, but it’s impossible,” she said. “The locals are friendly enough to feed the dogs, so now we are focusing on recovering injured and sick dogs. My goal is to control the dog population here, that’s why I repatriate dogs and raise funds for services of spraying and sterilization here in Guam.”
The goal of Lauren’s charity is to relocate the dogs from the islands to the United States. So far, 400 dogs have been placed in homes in 26 different states.
A pup named Meatball is one of them. He was found in one of Guam’s jungles covered in maggots and unable to use his hind legs.
“Initially, a Boonie Flight Project volunteer was called in to help a female dog who had been hit by a car,” Cabrera said. “She could see that dog was a mum, so she looked around to find the litter box and that’s when she heard Meatball moaning. He was covered in maggots and unable to use its hind legs.
“I thought he was in terrible shape, I didn’t know if we had the resources to help him,” she continued. “But the vet said give him a chance and we’re glad he did. Within weeks he learned to walk, got bigger and was a total goofball.”
But Meatball’s transition has a heartwarming outcome. In one of Cabrera’s videos on TikTok, the pup is seen bouncing before flying off to start a new life in Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just Meatball who had a rocky start to life. Cabrera also shared the transformations of two dogs named Clara and Lucky. These are just three of many dogs with a bittersweet history.
“Clara was very nervous and shy at first, but now she’s totally in love. We had no idea such a beautiful fluffy fur coat was hiding under all that scab. Lucky was limping when we found him. He had a stump damaged foot that needed to be amputated but it didn’t slow him down at all,” Cabrera said.
“I’m so used to seeing dogs like this. I’ve seen so many horrible things that it’s not shocking anymore. Years ago it used to get me down, but I changed my heart focus broken to useful.”
Cabrera admits that finding a charter is difficult and very expensive. Adoption fees range from $500 to $750 and flights from Guam range from $3,000 to $5,000.
“It’s difficult to ship dogs from Guam,” she said. “We need to charter a plane through a pet shipper. We would never ask someone to spend thousands to get a dog they’ve never met, so we need to collect funds to enable us.
“It’s so expensive to do all the time that trips are limited. We’ve found that the puppies are a cost-effective solution to help us get off the island as they can be carried in a crate for two, which greatly reduces the cost of the flight.”
Joe Kay, who works as a dog adoption coordinator, helping rescue, train and foster dogs, said Newsweek on the importance of adopting rather than buying dogs.
“It is very important to adopt. With nearly 700,000 dogs euthanized each year in America, adoption should be your first choice when looking for a dog. When you adopt, you not only give a second luck to a dog, but you’re also helping your community,” Kay said.
“Since most US shelters are operating at capacity when you adopt, you will be opening a kennel for another dog to be rescued. If you are looking for your next dog, please check your local shelters first. If you do not see not something you are interested in, broaden your search to the next town in. I promise if you look hard enough, the dog of your dreams is in a shelter or rescue center waiting for you.
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