Family Magazine

Giving Back: the Best Birthday Gift Ever

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

dogs trinco

We’re just over one week in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It is an explosion of new experiences: it’s so different, full of new sights and sounds and tastes and smells, which are taking time to process! But we are so happy to be here, relaxing into a familiar rhythm and learning about a new place…like walking past the gauntlet of marine police, above,to what must be the best-guarded dinghy dock we’ve EVER tied up to.

trinco beach

They named her Lucy. Dutch Beach, Tricomalee, Sri Lanka

One of the things you can’t miss in Trinco is the number of stray dogs. They’re not a problem, they’re just omnipresent. Every walk, there’s one that follows for a spell. On the beach, a yearling romps in the sand with the kids. Almost every day, I see the same desperate looking pooch in front of the same storefront. Mostly, they don’t seem to belong to anyone, but to a space- a stretch of street- and somehow get by. The same few dogs in the police-customs compound we pass through from dock to street don’t seem to belong to anyone, but they seem to belong to everyone just a little bit. And it’s happened to us, certainly, as with the kittens and puppies back in Satun that our girls cared for last year, nursing them through early weeks when they were too young to be motherless.


Two of the six kittens the girls fostered in Thailand.

We’re not alone in having our hearts tugged by the critters around us. In Mexico, the family on SV Eyoni has a tremendous tale of two dogs they rescued from an island off Baja, fostering them (in addition to the pup they’d adopted in Guayamas) until finding them new homes. In La Paz, the two girls on SV Del Viento volunteered in two different shelters where they’d walk dogs, and it was younger sister Frances in particular who is passionate about caring for them. They’ve done fundraisers for clinics with dockside bake sales in Canada and Mexico, and Frances has fostered three dogs on board during their time in Mexico, and gone beyond the role of dog walker to provide meaningful support at spay/neuter clinics in Mexico.


Frances with puppy, and her sister Eleanor; Mexico. photo, M/W Robertson, SV Del Viento.

But the subject here is birthdays. Frances turns nine this week. When her parents asked what she wanted for Christmas, it was all about the dogs. When they asked about her birthday, all about the dogs. So, for her birthday, her parents are raising money to run a spay/neuter clinic for stray dogs in La Paz, in Frances’ name.

Frances doesn’t know yet- they’ll tell her on Thursday, for her birthday. The fundraiser runs for the next ten days. I really can’t think of a better way to help a bunch of creatures and make a little girl really, really happy! So if you’ve got a spare buck or ten, please visit their fundraiser site and give a boost. The more they can raise, the more dogs they can help- so share this to some friends, and see those funds get used more and more efficiently as it grows.

Back here in Trinco, I think about Frances and what a great gift this is from her parents, and what a great example of how cruising doesn’t limit opportunities to give back in communities – it just presents more and more of them, when you take the time to find an avenue.

Share the awesome, and click through to enjoy this on the SAILfeed website- it kicks change in our cruising kitty! 


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