ExPat Dreams of Dogs Helping People

by Lisa Juliot  (June 2012)

Sylvie, the owner of SOS el Arca Pet Rescue, like many expats, came to Playa del Carmen on vacation and was enchanted by this laid-back beach town. She decided to move here after falling in love with the Caribbean lifestyle and came to settle in Playa in 1997. Sylvie is a woman with a heart made of gold, a strong work ethic, and a soft touch with animals that keep her on her feet and running the equivalent of a marathon daily. Owner of Byblos Restaurant on 14th between 5th and 10th, loving owner of 22 dogs and a woman who is standing strong to beat the odds for numerous dogs in her rescue and rehabilitation center, SOS el Arca, Sylvie does more in one day than many of us accomplish in a week.

SOS el Arca has only been open for a year and a half and in that short time, with little money and little assistance, Sylvie has managed to adopt out 521 dogs that she has personally rescued. I asked her how she decided to open a dog shelter here in Playa del Carmen. She told me the story of a restaurant employee, who asked her for help finding a dog for his family. Sylvie recounts that she suggested rescuing an animal from the pound. When they arrived at the pound, Sylvie saw something that pained her soul. She saw animals starving to death in a pound where there was often not even enough money to put the dogs out their misery. She insisted on taking a dog that was so sick and skinny that it had to be helped to stand; that was just the beginning of her dog rescuing. She couldn't sleep; the images of so many dogs in need plagued her. She went to the pound daily to take dogs out. She bought huge bags of dog food and bribed the workers at the pound to let her feed and care for the dogs.

Over the past year and a half Sylvie has become a lifeline for the local pound. They call her when they need food or other supplies and ask her for help. She has a threefold vision for the over 100,000 homeless dogs in Playa del Carmen. She explains her vision: "The first phase is rehabilitation and adoption for the dogs, the second phase is sterilization and educating the public, and the last phase is therapies with the dogs." Her goal is to find local homes for dogs and eventually to have mobile clinics go out to the poorer areas to sterilize and give medical treatment to the animals while educating people about the importance of controlling the animal population. Her ultimate goal is to train dogs for therapies to help rehabilitate humans and help them learn to love again. She would like to work with young girls who have been the victims of sexual abuse. Her idea is someday to open a home for these girls to come, where they could feel safe, learn to feel love, and accept healthy affection through the therapy dogs.

The SOS el Arca shelter is in the process of moving. Sylvie goes out of her way to educate the dogs she rescues so they will be good house pets. In each kennel she places furniture whether it be a table or a chair along with a dog house, dog bed or rug and she actively teaches the dogs which furniture is acceptable for them to be on and which is not. The new shelter is in desperate need of funding. Donations of medicines, dog food, leashes, collars, towels, rugs, dog beds, etc., are in demand.

Your donation of time is the greatest gift these dogs could receive. Sylvie does the work of 5 people every day, but cannot take all of the dogs for walks daily. If you would like to walk dogs between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.,  between 5 and 7 p.m., or would like to make a donation of any kind, please contact Sherry.

Please help Sylvie spread the word about SOS el Arca Pet Rescue so she can realize her ambitious goal of helping people through helping animals. Sylvie needs to get her message out to as many people as possible; she could really use a hand with Social Media. Please post and repost this article, visit SOS el Arca's Facebook page and encourage as many people as you can to "like" the page. If anyone is interested in volunteering to help with Social Media, please contact Sherry.