The beginning of TicaChuncha’s story starts at the end of a long and lovely three week trip we were taking to Costa Rica from Canada.
With 48 hours left in our adventure, we headed out to see the Poas Volcano. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the national park, the rain was pouring the fog was blocking our volcano view. We headed up to the top of the trail, despite the weather. An adventure was in order – rain or fog couldn’t stop us.
Tired and cold from our hike, we started the drive back towards our hotel. We were hungry and chilled, so we decided to stop to warm up and have some local cuisine. The first restaurant we stopped at was not what we were hoping for –too “tourist-y”. It also did not have our favorite local dish that we had discovered during our Costa Rica travels – ceviche! Determined to turn our day around, we headed further back towards our hotel, scouting along the roadside for a restaurant where we could enjoy the local cuisine. The second place we stopped at was a winner Jaulares, located in Fraijanes – they had great ceviche and Imperial beer! Perfect!
The restaurant had open doors to let the warm breeze flow through the seating area. It was the middle of the day and the middle of the week, so we were lucky to have the restaurant mostly to ourselves. We settled in and prepared to enjoy our meal. It was just then that we saw out of the corner of our eyes, a tiny little ball of fur crawling towards the table.
Covered in fleas and flea bites, submissively cowering under the table, the sweetest little dog face in the world peered up under Chris’s seat at the table. How could he resist those big brown eyes? She looked so hungry and scared. So….a few chips from his ceviche “fell” to the floor. She quickly gobbled up every last crumb. She then crawled over to Carrie’s chair…and a few more chips “fell” to the floor. Cowering but devouring each chip, the little dog rubbed up against Carrie’s leg as if to say “thank you.”
The waiter returned to the table to see if we wanted to order anything else. Before taking our order, he shoo-ed the little dog out of the restaurant. We could still see her, peeking her little head around the corner of the entranceway to the restaurant seating area. Chris decided that he was still hungry…or that maybe others (like the four legged visitor we just saw) might be hungry too?? He ordered a steak. The most expansive item and it was going to the dog.
When the steak arrived, Chris cut off some small fatty pieces and passed them to Carrie in a little napkin. Carrie headed to the ‘baños’, taking the long way round and “dropping” the steak pieces at the door for the little dog along the way. While Carrie was gone, the little dog crawled back into the restaurant to see Chris at the table. A couple more pieces of steak “dropped” to the floor. Unfortunately, the waiter returned at that time and scared the little dog away from the restaurant but not in a malicious way. He just had to keep the restaurant clean and safe for guests he explained.
We finished our meal, hanging on to some more steak “leftovers” in a napkin. After paying our bill, we saw the little dog still shaking outside the restaurant across the parking lot. Carrie walked over to the little dog and fed her the final leftovers. Chris joined Carrie, petting the small dog’s sweet little head. We drove away quietly both thinking of the sweet little dog and wondering how she would survive, so small, so submissive, and so flea-bitten.
Later that night in the hotel, as we tried to enjoy our second last night in Costa Rica, we couldn’t stop thinking of that little sweet dog. As we sipped our beers, looking at the sunset from our hotel, we kept talking about her…should we go back to the restaurant? Could we rescue her? Get her to see a veterinarian? Take her back to Canada…???
The little dog was imprinted on both of our hearts. We had to do something. But what? We went back to our hotel room and started to research our options. We needed some help…someone local who spoke English (our Spanish is still being worked on!). After much time on our computers, we came across our answer – AHPPA – Animal Shelter Costa Rica!
We saw a story on the website – how the Shelter had helped others adopt and relocate a dog to another country. We saw that the shelter was open until 3:00 pm weekdays. The time would allow us to go back to the restaurant, collect the little dog, and work with the shelter to take her back to Canada! We were excited and nervous. Would this work? Could this work? It had to work!! As we fell asleep that night we thought…we should name the dog Tica…meaning ‘local female’. We had named her. We had her in our hearts. Now we had to find her!
The next day we called a local friend we had just met days ago to help us on our mission. It was a crazy mission. We were flying back to Canada in 24 hours. We were not even sure if Tica was still at the restaurant. We decided if she was still there, then it was meant to be…if not, then she was meant to stay where she was. So, on our way back to the restaurant, we asked our friend to stop some place where we could buys some supplies – something to carry Tica in, some food for her, a collar, a leash and anything else we might need. Our friend took us to K-mart – a name we recognized from North America. Perhaps this was a good sign?
We drove back to the restaurant. The night before Chris loaded some translated sayings to his phone in case we couldn’t communicate with the local staff at the restaurant. Questions translated into Spanish, like “does the little dog belong to someone?”; “does the little dog come to the restaurant often?”; and “we would like to adopt this dog and take it to Canada.”
When we arrived at the restaurant, Chris showed the staff at the restaurant the questions he had pre-loaded in the phone. The staff were so excited for us and the little dog. One staff member said we had just missed her – she had been there just before we arrived. She didn’t have a home – she was a street dog who came looking for crumbs at the restaurant often. The staff had nicknamed her “Little Crumbs”. Suddenly, everyone in the restaurant as well as our local friend who drove us as well as Chris were scouring the countryside around the restaurant looking for little Tica. Carrie stayed at the restaurant in case Tica came back while the others were out looking for her.
Our friend could only stay with us until 3:00 pm that day and we knew that AHPPA was closing at that same time and was a whole hour away from where we were located. We needed to find Tica before that time so that we could get her to the shelter and start working on flying her to Canada. Hours went by…we waited and waited. We decided to order lunch while we continued to wait. The hours ticked by. We were beginning to wonder if she would show up. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
We were about to go pay our lunch bill and leave, empty handed when the waiter came out with some surprise strawberries dessert. We were so touched by the kind gesture, so we stayed later and ate the delicious dessert. As we waited we saw a number of other stray dogs wandering by. They were in much better shape than Tica, but our hearts still ached for them all.
It was finally time to go. Our friend who had driven us had to get back home and it was fast approaching the time that AHPPA would close for the day. We had purchased some food for Tica earlier in the day. With other dogs nearby that looked like they could use something to eat, we decided to pay our bill and feed the dogs that we could. Halfway through feeding the other dogs, over the horizon, Tica’s little head popped up! She was making her way back to the restaurant. Five hours after we had arrived!
Chris quickly grabbed some of the food and headed towards Tica. Carrie distracted the other dogs with the remainder of the food, to ensure that the other bigger dogs did not scare little Tica away. Tica timidly approached Chris. When she saw the food he was offering her, she came closer and crawled up into Chris’s arms.
By this time the other dogs had moved on to other areas and the staff from the restaurant had gathered at the restaurant entrance to cheer! Tica had been found! She was going to Canada!!
We wrapped Tica in blankets and brought her into our friend’s car. The time was now 3:00 pm. AHPPA was closed and we were an hour away. What were we going to do? Our flight was leaving back to Canada in the morning and our hotel didn’t allow dogs. Our new friend came to our rescue once again by offering the kindest solution. While we had just met him, he offered to take Tica home that night and drive her to the shelter the next day. We were so touched by his gesture. The people of Costa Rica are indeed the kindest and most welcoming people.
On the drive back to the hotel we realized how covered in fleas little Tica was as well as we saw other scars she must have gotten from living on the streets. Our heart broke for this little ray of sunshine, who cuddle up to us and gave us the biggest smile. Our friend gave us some more time with Tica, and even invited us to his home later that evening where he and his wife prepared dinner for us and let us spend more time with little Tica.
We knew Tica was in good hands. We had contacted AHPPA and communicated with Lilian – our newest angel. She was away from AHPPA for a few days, but assured us that she would be able to help. When we boarded our plane back to Canada the next day, we were anxious for Tica, but reassured that she was going to be well looked after. Now the real work began – getting Tica checked out, vaccinated, spayed and all her paperwork to leave the country.
While we had left Costa Rica, we still called AHPPA every day to check on Tica’s progress. Our new local friends who had dropped Tica off for us with AHPPA checked up on her as much as they could too. With multiple emails, phone calls, paperwork, different time zones and getting back to our regular jobs in Canada, we wondered if getting Tica to Canada would ever happen. Lilian was amazing. She kept us informed every step of the way, and made sure that Tica had the best possible care.
And then finally, the day came!! On Friday, February 6 Tica made the journey to Canada. We live on an Island off the west coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Tica was able to fly to Vancouver and Chris met her at the airport after her long journey. After an overnight stay in a hotel, Tica and Chris took a ferry back to Victoria, British Columbia and Tica came home! She met her new big brothers, Ace and Simba – Rhodesian Ridgebacks who were also rescued. She also met her new sister, Kitty, a cat who joined our family from the wild a few years ago.
What is really special about our story is that the weekend of February 6 is known as the Family Day long weekend in the province of British Columbia in Canada. Tica joined her forever family for the BC Family Day weekend. It also is the National Pet Adoption Weekend in Canada…another amazing Tica coincidence! She is a light of Pura Vida love that fills our home and our hearts with happiness. We are truly grateful for our Costa Rican friends and for AHPPA for all their great work in making Tica’s Canadian journey happen. We send our gratitude to all who made Tica part of our family.