The Land of the Strays

It’s very easy to say ‘I love dogs’ when you’re talking about fluffy, perfect dogs. When you love a dog that does not necessarily look beautiful, then you love a dog.” Lya Battle

We live in a time when everything is expected to be perfect. Our houses are to be perfect, our cars are to be perfect, our bodies are to be perfect, our jobs are to be perfect and the list goes on and on.

Perfection is not possible and I often wonder why we want to be perfect. Personally, I find perfection boring and making simple decision becomes huge because one has to make sure their choices meet their standards of perfection. Perfection breeds unhappiness and if we look all around us we see it. The straight ‘A” student who can’t accept a ‘B’ because they are a straight ‘A’ student. Why can’t a straight ‘A’ student get a ‘B’. What if while writing that paper they were not feeling well or not rested enough or maybe something depressing happened in their lives and they simply were not themselves. Perfection leaves no room for rest, no room for dallying, no room for lingering coffee moments for no other purpose than “just because.” The student would learn so much more from that “B” paper than a “A” but society doesn’t see it that way. To put it simply, we are setting our children up for for failure.

Lya Battle knows that lack of perfection opens the door for humanity. She lives in Costa Rica and she is surrounded by furry beings that society has deemed not perfect. They are mutts, dogs tossed out into the streets by society. Some are missing legs others missing an eye but all have several things in common according to Lya; they are survivors, they are strong, they are intelligent and she is inspired by their resilience.

Costa Rica has an estimated two million stray dogs on the street and Lya has approximately eleven hundred of those stray dogs on her three hundred and fifty five acre farm. She battles the government, she battles her neighbours who will sneak on to her property and poison the dogs. Yet rather than have a hateful, negative attitude, she is inspired by the dogs. They speak to her heart and soul and for the cruelty and suffering that humans have put these dogs through, Lya has this to say: “The cruely and suffering of dogs doesn’t come from evil, it comes from ignorance, ignorance perpetuates rejection and ultimately abandonment and overpopulation. Ignorance can be changed, it just takes enough people to want to change it.” Lya started this change by inviting people to her no kill shelter of 1300 dogs to change one heart at a time. It’s hard not to look at these beautiful dogs and not have your heart changed. One heart changed is many hearts changed and as slow as it may be, one heart at a time is the road to change.

Perspective is misleading, it can lead you on a long travelled road only to realize when you reach the end of that road, you had it all wrong. Many in our western society want to breed the type of dog that meets their lifestyle, dogs that don’t shed, dogs that are the right height, dogs that don’t bark, dogs that aren’t too energetic. As I write this I’m shaking my head as it’s so ridiculous but many do that to their children too, they see their children in a certain light, obtaining a certain education, in a certain career,playing a certain sport and many parents put all these pressures on their children and never ask their children what it is they really want. Again, perfection breeds unhappiness to be perfect means that you are always trying to attain that state of perfection. It’s exhausting and what many don’t realize is that when you accept the mess, the ugly and the not so desirable and walk with that, your life changes, your heart grows, your soul embraces and you learn so much about the world and what your part is in this world.

For Lya it started with one dog, a stray that ended up on her doorstep. She took him in and named him Oso. However, Lya had four dogs already and she was determined that Oso would not be part of her life. She decided to find a home for him and she did find a home for him but every home she found, the adopters sent him back within two weeks. He went to seven homes and each time she heard the following complaints about him: Oso was not disciplined, Oso didn’t listen, Oso chased cats, Oso dug up the garden, Oso jumps the fence, Oso barks too much. Lya agreed this was true but she also recognized that these qualities that irritated everyone, were also the qualities that made him unique. He was unapologetic, a self-proclaimed ruler of the universe and for all those qualities, Lya held respect for Oso and after the seventh person rejected Oso, he became part of Lya’s family.

What Lya found was that Oso came with many headaches and problems but he also brought with him very profound lessons. The most important lesson was that sometimes doing the right thing pushes you so far out of your comfort zone, you might never find your way back. For Lya that was the birth of Territorio de Zaguates, Territory of the strays. She went from five dogs to eighty dogs in that house and then moved all the dogs to a farm with many acres and named it Territory of the Strays and today she has over a thousand stray dogs on that property. All are fed, all have been neutered and spayed, all receive yearly vaccinations and all are loved, not one dog is rejected.

In some ways we are all from the land of the strays as we search for our place and purpose on this earth. May we stop being so pushed to perfection and focus on what is in front of us in the here and the now. May we entrust in the beauty that is within us and not hesitate to share that beauty with all we meet. Our purpose on this earth is to share our souls with one another, we were never meant to hide behind a mask of perfection. Our path is to be unique and to always be our true selves. Being our true self is enough; at any given moment we are enough…

Johanne Fraser

Watch Lya on Ted Talk here:

The Land of the Strays

Website: Territorio de Zaguates

Territorio de Zaguates on utube

Note: Territorio de Zaguates has been temporary closed to upgrade for government regulations. Please check their website for updates about re-opening.

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Just taking one step at a time and writing about the simple pleasures that make me smile.

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