Choca arrived from Puerto Rico on Sunday, March 11. She prefers to be alone in her cage and tends to scurry around anxiously when she is outside of it. That may be because she was found in an abandoned house on the Caribbean island, which was battered by Hurricane Maria in September. It was not clear how long she had been there, but she now finds herself on the Upper West Side.
Choca is one of 45 “satos” — street dogs — that were flown into New York through an Animal Lighthouse Rescue initiative in Puerto Rico. The goal was to take dogs from people's houses and the streets of Humacao, on the island's east coast, and find a home for them. For now, they are being cared for by Camp Canine on the Upper West Side.
“The dogs have various reactions to being over here,” said Camp Canine's owner, Tania Isenstein. On a recent weekday, Choca stays clear while a litter of puppies tussle over knitted toys and a visitor's boots.
Knitted toys, bags of dog food, dog carriers and sealed cardboard boxes crowd a narrow corridor inside Camp Canine, “That's what we ask for and that's what we get,” said Isenstein of the donations from clients of Camp Canine and people from the neighborhood.
Most of the dogs from the island arrived healthy, according to Lisa Lippman, the veterinarian responsible for the arriving dogs' checkups. Leesha, the mother of seven puppies, did arrive with heartworm, a disease carried by mosquitos that limits activity for a month. Another arrived with ehrlichia, a tick-borne disease, neither of which are contagious.
While the initiative is helping the 45 dogs find companionship, there remain hundreds of thousands of dogs in Puerto Rico without a home, Isenstein said. “We do whatever we can,” she said.