Dog shelter San JoseIt was with a very heavy heart that I left the Galápagos Islands and the wonderful 2 and 4 legged inhabitants I had shared my stay with. 4 boats, 3 planes, 3 taxis, 3 buses and 2 hotels later I arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. My route involved a change of planes in war torn El Salvador and I was relieved to note, as we came into land, that the runway was basically  intact and the terminal was functioning.

By the time I arrived at my Costa Rican hotel I was utterly exhausted. Unfortunately it turned out to be a hobo filled hovel. To make matters worse, I was told that they only had a single room with a shared bathroom booked for me. In the reception area there was a tatty old sofa which, to be honest, I would not have let my dogs sleep on. I perched on it suspiciously whilst deciding what to do next. It was at that moment a sharp spring ejected out of the sagging arm and pierced my thigh. At exactly the same moment I decided to eject myself from this dump and make other arrangements. To cut a very long story short, 2 hotels and 3 hotel rooms later I finally found somewhere I could just about live in, even though I have no air conditioning nor hot water.

The next morning I started work at a wonderful little dog rescue shelter which is 1 hour 10 minutes away by public transport, or 15 minutes by taxi. I was told to use Ubers as they are cheaper and more reliable. The App works brilliantly, even though Ubers are actually illegal in Costa Rica. I have to sit in the front by the driver and if stopped by the police I have to say that I am a distant relative of the driver, visiting from England. This hasn’t happened yet but I am not sure it will be a wholly convincing story, in which case a fair few dollars will have to exchange hands.

The dog shelter is run by a woman whose age I cannot determine as she sits down all day, eating cakes and is cube shaped. On arrival I was given absolutely no direction as to what to do, so I am attempting to clean the place. It is filthy and ravaged by cockroaches and rats which scuttle around in dark corners and gnaw everything in sight. Fortunately the 35 canine residents are very well looked after. They live indoors in 3 separate enclosures and have 2 good meals a day, plus one bath a week and the odd walk.

On the first day I was surprised that I was the only volunteer. 2 days later an American lady and her daughter, both nurses, appeared after a long weekend away. The first thing the mother said to me was ‘By the way don’t stroke the puppies, they have all got ringworm. The other volunteers aren’t here as they have all caught it and one is so ill she has had to cut short her travels’. I was totally horrified as I had spent 2 days playing with puppies and letting them climb all over me. It then transpired that even Cube Lady and her helper were infected.

San Jose dog shelterI have since developed ‘Blemish Phobia.’ I inspect every insect bite and scratch on my torso to see if it is forming a ring shape and I have stocked up on copious amounts of fungicide cream.  Apparently showering in a weak solution of bleach is a good preventative measure, however I fear it might cause a hell of a lot more skin conditions than it prevents…

Someone asked me the other day whether I was going to get a tattoo here, as they are very popular with travellers. I said it was highly unlikely, but if I did, it would be a small red circle with a black puppy poking out. As yet I escaped both fungal infections and tattoo parlours. Let’s keep it that way…
Jayne Webb

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