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Last summer my wife read an article about couples in which one member will plan a vacation keeping the other as "in the dark" as possible.  She asked if I trusted her enough to let her plan our usual pre-Thanksgiving trip for us.  Sure, I said.  As long as it's someplace warm.

So that's how I found myself on the airport shuttle at Newark airport the Saturday before Thanksgiving with no idea where I was headed.  Another couple on the shuttle asked where we were going.  "I'm sorry, I can't tell you.  He doesn't know yet." was my wife's reply.

Finally we arrived curbside and the skycap asked us our destination.  I glanced anticipatingly towards my wife and she announced: "San Juan, Puerto Rico!"

When we returned and she told her co-workers about our trip, one of them said "Oh, Puerto Rico, that's where Dead Dog Beach is."

What's Dead Dog Beach?  Follow me over the orange gnocchi to find out.

Dead Dog Beach is the nickname applied to Playa Lucia on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico.  Island inhabitants abandon unwanted dogs there to meet their fate.  From the Sato Project:

Yes there is such a place and as its name states it is usually a last resting place for dogs and it is not a happy one. The dogs that die there usually die at the hand of man. Either by starvation, hacked by a machete, poisoned, deliberately run over with a car or ATV, used for gun or crossbow practice – the list of abuse is endless.

We are sorry to paint such a graphic picture. And the most horrific part is – that this beach exists in a commonwealth of the United States: Puerto Rico. A Tourist paradise that hides a horrific secret. There are approximately 250,000 stray dogs on the island – with only 5 shelters to care for them. The kill rate at these shelters is 99%. A dog is lucky to survive 48 hours if they are turned in to a shelter in Puerto Rico. Those who do not make it to a shelter face a far worse fate.

The Sato Project is an organization that my my wife uncovered that is run by Christina Beckles, a Brit who worked at an advertising agency, then became a professional boxer and now focuses her passion on rescuing these dogs who desperately need a champion.  The work being done day-to-day involves feeding and caring for dogs on the beach, rescuing those who are most in need as the group's finances permit and adopting out the dogs in the US.  They are also working with local officials to increase awareness and working to create a spay/neuter program in the long term to address the root cause of the problem - population control.  Christina also has a strong veterinary partner in Puerto Rico that assists with care and rehabilitation of sick animals, Dr. Bianca Aguirre Hernández, and a photographer that documents their work on the beach, Sophie Gamand.

This month, the group is executing "Mission Possible", their most ambitious endeavor yet, during which they will transport 30 rescued dogs and puppies to the mainland over 2 days: September 21st and 23rd. Support for this mission has been rallied primarily via Facebook and people are lined up to help at both ends of the transport.  There are numerous ways to support this organization with their work: escort a dog to the mainland if you're flying from San Juan to Newark or JFK, foster or adopt one of these dogs, or of course, donate, which can be done from the "Donate" section on their page.

The group has primarily done their own grassroots promotion press along with attracting some media attention.  Leading up to "Mission Possible", they created this video to remind all their supporters why what they do means so much.  The New York Times also highlighted the group earlier this year in this article.

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