When Anne Dreier Jackson travels to Puerto Rico this month to compete in her third Ironman Puerto Rico race she is hoping to raise funds and awareness for a cause near and dear to her heart: the homeless dogs of the island.
Jackson is a certified nutrition coach and lives in Hudson with her four dogs and three cats. She fosters animals for Wags and Whiskers, a rescue organization in the Twin Cities. After returning from last year’s Ironman race, she was asked to foster a rescue dog from Puerto Rico.
“I had noticed the stray dogs everywhere during my trip to Puerto Rico,” she said. “I left saying ‘gosh, I wish I could do more,’ and here was my chance.”
Shortly after getting the dog it became clear to Anne that the dog had found its home.
“It’s called a ‘foster fail’ when the person hoping to house the dog until a home is found for it end up adopting the dog, and I failed,” she said. “The dog was the sweetest, most gentle animal and I knew she had to be mine.”
The mixed breed dog, now named Chica, has served as an inspiration to Jackson. Through social media, she became friends with the rescue group that sent the dog to Minnesota and learned of the problem with stray dogs on the island.
It’s estimated that there were as many as 200,000 dogs on the island before Hurricane Maria. With people leaving the island after the hurricane, it is estimated that there are now 300,000 dogs that are abandoned, abused and neglected. These dogs are called “satos,” which is Puerto Rican slang for stray dog. Effective spay and neuter programs are not widely available, due to the poverty, a lack of government funding and lack of help from the Humane Society.
This is changing, but there is a great deal of work to be done. The Humane Society has entered into an agreement with the government of Puerto Rico to provide veterinary services on the island, vaccinating and spaying and neutering animals.
After the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall, Anne contacted the rescue group that had sent Chica to see what they needed.
“They turned down offers of money, instead asking for dog crates,” she said. “They explained that many people had lost their homes and that a crate can provide comfort and security for a dog, so I went to work collecting used crates.”
When she was finished, 44 crates were ready to be sent to Puerto Rico. Due to electrical outages, there was a shortage of D batteries for flashlights on the island. Jackson used money that she had raised to send 300 D batteries along with the crates. The crates are now being used to ship dogs back to the mainland for adoption.
“There’s a saying that goes ‘saving one dog won’t change the world, but surely the world will change for that one dog’ I’m hoping to make a difference for some special animals,” she said.
The race involves a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. This is Anne’s third Ironman in Puerto Rico. She finished second in her age group in 2016 and is actively training indoors.
“When you reach the island with its 85º heat and humidity, it’s a different game,” she said.
Jackson has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the rescue group in Puerto Rico that saved Chica. The funds raised will be used to pay vet bills, buy food, and provide the animals with basic needs. https://www.gofundme.com/help-homeless-dogs-in-puerto-rico.