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Introducing the Newest Member of the Pack: Laila

One reason we chose to adopt Laila is because she was destined for life as a street dog.

Like many countries throughout the world, (most, if we’re being realistic) animals are not treated the same way as they are in places like the US or Europe.

Throughout our journey, we fell in love with dog after dog, and it broke our hearts to have to shoo them away when we left. We wanted to save them all, and we just couldn’t. The horrific sights we saw in relation to animals during our trip led us to vow that our next dog would come from the streets.

Laila was lucky. She and her brother were found by an organization called Peludos Sierra de Aracena and each found temporary homes with foster parents. Others are not so fortunate.

We knew that we wanted to adopt a second dog once we settled in Spain. The Universe seemed to delay our settling week after week.

First, Dave’s father died.

Then, Sora’s cancer returned and she had to have a fourth surgery to remove the tumor.

In between all of that, we bought a car, visited numerous government offices to sort out our visa paperwork, tried to open bank accounts, had to find an apartment that allowed dogs (which was actually quite easy), made new friends, prepared for a visiting friend, set up our new apartment, and caught up on all of our work.

The timing of Laila’s adoption seemed all wrong. Not only did we not feel settled, Sora was still healing from her surgery and we hadn’t yet received her biopsy results. All of my time and energy and love and emotion was going to her. I didn’t think I could find the space for another being.

But Dave was looking around on Pet Finder equivalent site, regardless.

You know how that goes. You can’t just look.

He fell in love with this brindled puppy with a sweet face and folded ears. Chico, Laila’s brother. He was born on the street and found by volunteers with Peludos Sierra de Aracena.

“I do not want a puppy,” I told him.

“But look! He’s so cute!” he’d reply.

“Yes, he is adorable, but I do not want a puppy.”

Before I knew it, Dave had convinced me that we should look at this puppy a three-hour drive away. He promised that he would keep the puppy away from Sora to allow her to heal. That he would take him out to go potty regularly, deal with the endless energy, and do all the other not-so-fun puppy-related chores.

I still wasn’t sold, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to just go look at him.

Before leaving, we learned that Chico also had a sister who was staying with a different foster parent. We arranged to meet them both and see if either seemed a good fit for our pack.

We arrived in a small mountain town called Aracena at noon, pushing Sora around in her giant head cone and Burley trailer. A woman came to us with two brindled puppies gnawing at each other’s necks and legs and bellies, playing non stop.

Dammit. They were pretty cute.

Chico cried when we walked Laila (named Lola at the time) away from him. Laila could care less if her brother was across the patio. She also walked fairly well on leash and responded to treats.

Dave fell smitten for the 18-lb amber pup with tiger stripes. Her foster parent Pablo had to excuse himself to shed some tears over the loss of his companion while we traded paperwork with the organization.

Before I knew it, we were taking photos to post on the organization’s Facebook page with Laila and Sora.

I said I didn’t want a puppy, yet here we are with an energetic, bitey, sweet, dog who loves raw vegetables, playing with other dogs (perhaps a little too much), and who snuggles in between our heads at night.

She’s a pest and a lot of work, but she’s fitting in nicely. She and Sora get along great and Sora loves to put her in her place. Once she’s fully healed from her surgery, we can’t wait to see how they’ll rumble.

I frantically teach her new manners when I identify unwanted behaviors like leash pulling, biting, whining, barking, bird chasing, begging, etc. She loves the trail and will make a fabulous trail running buddy one day. Like Sora, she comes with us everywhere we go and will soon learn the ropes of adventure travel.

We wanted to save all the dogs and cats we met during our bicycle tour, and knew that was an impossible feat. But we did all we could by showing love, volunteering, giving food, and promoting animal adoption.

Next time you travel, give the street dogs some love. They’re sweet and could use a gentle touch. And if you can, consider taking one home with you. April 30 is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. If you’re thinking of adding a new member to the family, consider adoption.

Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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