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Wilton

second chance

Sato Heart: Nonprofit looking for volunteers to help them rescue Puerto Rican street dogs

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Charlie Brown, a Yellow Lab and Chow mix, is one of the most recent Sato Heart rescues who is still available for adoption, has a snack while exercising in the dog run at Good Mojo Dog Center in Milford.

    Charlie Brown, a Yellow Lab and Chow mix, is one of the most recent Sato Heart rescues who is still available for adoption, has a snack while exercising in the dog run at Good Mojo Dog Center in Milford. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

    Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.
  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.
  • Charlie Brown, a Yellow Lab and Chow mix, is one of the most recent Sato Heart rescues who is still available for adoption, has a snack while exercising in the dog run at Good Mojo Dog Center in Milford.
  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.
  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.
  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.
  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.
  • Lisa Carter of Wilton has been assisting Sato Heart Rescue for more than five years now, rescuing street dogs from Puerto Rico. She herself has adopted two dogs from Sato Heart.

Luke and Hans, two nearly identical white shepherd brothers, are clearly best buddies, joined at the hip and never far from each other. Luna, an almost-grown pure-bred Great Dane, is perhaps a bit too enthusiastic with the smaller members of the little dog pack. Chiqui, a Chihuahua mix missing a hind leg, has to be taken out into the run separately from the other dogs, so she doesn’t get bowled over by their attempts to play.

A group of seven dogs getting their daily exercise in a dog run at Good Mojo Dog Center in Milford could be just about any group of randomly selected dogs. But they’re not from around here. The group made a flight to New Hampshire from Puerto Rico, to find their forever homes up north. A week later, after a full vetting by Wilton Animal Hospital, which volunteers its services to Sato Heart, all but three would have brand new homes ready to take them in. The rest would have to wait for one of Sato Heart’s regular trips to Petco in Amherst for an adoption fair to see what eyes and hearts they might catch.

“There’s all kinds of stories,” said Lisa Carter of Wilton, who volunteers with Sato Heart Rescue, a nonprofit organization that takes dogs from Second Chance Rescue in Puerto Rico once a month and houses them in foster homes until they are adopted. Some were abused, and many were found abandoned on the streets. Stray dogs are a huge problem in Puerto Rico, which has spay and neuter laws, but does not really enforce them. “Satos,” a slang term for street dogs, are common.

While visiting her mother in Puerto Rico, Bonnie Lukas, who is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was volunteering at a shelter and became passionate about the plight of the animals on the streets. Eventually, she opened her own no-kill shelter, Second Chance, where she takes in many dogs that other shelters would put down. Some come in with broken or mangled limbs from untreated injuries from car accidents, and some have been abandoned as puppies to grow with chains and collars around their necks, or left in sacks.

The Second Chance Rescue originally had a chapter in Jaffrey, called Wynn Rescue, which eventually moved to Temple six years ago, under the name Second Chance Rescue, where a resident volunteered his home to keep the dogs in quarantine for the first 48 hours they were in the United States. Eventually though, it just became too much keep up with, said Carter, and the rescue had to find a new home. Two years ago, they moved the base of operations to Good Mojo in Milford, which provides space free of charge for the dogs quarantine period, and changed the name of the rescue to Sato Heart.

The rescue has grown a lot since it first started a New Hampshire chapter, said Carter. Originally, there was only the opportunity to bring between two and four dogs to the U.S. per trip. Now, that number is closer to six or seven, and the turnaround on getting the dogs into forever homes is quick — usually between one and two weeks.

Carter said she first heard about the rescue when she found her pet there. She and her husband had been going back and forth about getting a dog for years. She wanted a Labrador. He wanted a Rottweiler. While poking about the Internet, Carter came across a profile for Buster, a mix of both breeds, on the Sato Heart website and she knew he was the dog for them. And after adopting him, Carter became a volunteer for Sato Heart .

Years later, Carter, who wanted to take in a second dog, saw a picture of a dog in Puerto Rico named Rosco, which had the same coloring as Buster. He had been rescued from a sack where he was tied with a litter of four other puppies. Only Rosco and one other sibling was still alive. Interested in him, she contacted Sato Heart and Rosco was put on the next shipment of dogs so that she could meet him in person. When she did, she was dismayed to find that he was a small dog. She’d never had such a little dog, said Carter, and had never really been interested in one, as she and her husband were active in outdoor activities and liked to take their animals along. Still, there was something about Rosco, so Carter decided to foster him until he was adopted. Two weeks later, he was — by the Carters, who had fallen in love with him.

“So many of them have just been through so much, that when we get them here, they seem to know that they’re safe,” said Carter. “It’s amazing how people can abuse them so much, and they still have an amazing capacity for love.”

Another volunteer, Stephanie Rockwell of Wilton, said she started out as a volunteer offering foster homes for dogs. Now, eight years later, she is actively involved as the director of adoption for Sato Heart, providing quarantine care and fostering, as well as owning three Sato rescues of her own. It all started with Tucker, who was a problem dog, she said. He had been returned by his adoptive home for being aggressive, and Rockwell had taken him back in as a foster. There was talk of returning him to Puerto Rico when there wasn’t a family willing to adopt him, so Rockwell decided to take the plunge and take on Tucker herself.

“I didn’t think that he was aggressive in the sense that he was aggressive to everyone and everything. He just seemed to be afraid, and I felt with enough time, he would improve. And he did,” said Rockwell. And that was just the beginning. Next was Bella, a bulldog mix who was deaf and had severe allergies, who had already lived at the Puerto Rican rescue for over a year. Rockwell couldn’t stand to think of the dog living out the rest of its life without knowing a family. So in came Bella. And then, Duke, a 3-year-old Chocolate Lab mix who had also spent his whole life at the shelter.

The dogs from Second Chance Rescue are special, said Rockwell. “I think initially it started out with the fact that it’s just a horrible, horrible problem there,” said Rockwell, referring to Puerto Rico. “Hundreds of dogs are euthanized every day, and the rest are left on their own. I think it’s just the fact that these poor things don’t have a voice. In the U.S., when we see abused or homeless animals, people step up. Down there, no one speaks up for them. That’s what attracted me, initially.”

Sato Heart relies on volunteers, said Carter, and not only the ones that help to care for the dogs while they are quarantined. While they are waiting for their permanent homes, dogs stay with a network of volunteer foster parents who may be holding the dogs for as long as a few days to more than a month. People willing to foster dogs are vitally important, said Carter and Rockwell, because the more foster homes available, the more dogs can be brought up per trip to be adopted.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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