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The Dog Situation


There are thousands of suffering stray dogs on the streets of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. This is the result of many factors, but primarily, and simply, a lack of resources. Virtually all of the dogs on the street are malnourished, weak and sick and most of these dogs are infested with fleas, ticks, worms and skin diseases like mange and scabies, which are easily prevented with proper nutrition and monthly medication. They also have not received vaccinations so many of them end up dying terrible painful deaths from preventable diseases like distemper and parvovirus. Many of the dogs get also get hit and maimed by vehicles and limp around with broken bones that never heal. Others are slashed and wounded by people with machetes who fear that they will be attacked by the dogs. Many are also routinely abused by people who see them as threats and therefore throw rocks at them or hit them with sticks. 


To deal with the overpopulation problem in the most cost-effective (yet least humane) way, some local municipalities conduct semi-annual poisoning campaigns wherein they put poison meat on the streets for the dogs to eat. Domesticated dogs who have families and homes also find these poisoned treats and many of them die while walking on leash or in their own fenced-in yards because the meat is spread out indiscriminately. 


This situation is one that isn’t going to go away unless we do something about it.  So, the number of street dogs in desperate need will only continue to grow unless we step in to help them. That’s where we and you come in. The problem we are sharing with you is big, but the love and effort needed to care for one animal at a time is small. Any amount you can give helps save a sweet street soul and prevents other puppies from being born into such hostile hardship. Together, we can make a difference in one dog’s life, then two, then 10 and so on. Please help us in any way you can. We will use 100% of the proceeds honorably and wisely to fund a safe sanctuary, food, medicine, spaying/neutering procedures, vet care, transportation and adoption expenses. 

"Xolo" Sanctuary

Xolo (Sho-lo) is short for Xolotl, a Central American god in the form of a dog. Xolotl guided souls into the underworld, so he is associated with many dark things such as misfortune, sickness, and deformities, the very same things that street dogs at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala face every day. But, Xolotl was also responsible for guiding the sun into and out of the underworld so he simultaneously represents rebirth. For this reason, Xolotl is the perfect symbol of our desire to guide these suffering street souls out of darkness and into the light and love of caring homes. 


The Community

Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) is a lake formed by a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago, and that magical energy radiates throughout the land and people that inhabit it. The lake is nestled in the jungle forests of the western highlands of Guatemala and is surrounded by three volcanoes and the Sierra Madre mountains. The indigenous Mayan people who live in villages around the lake live in very traditional ways, still wearing handmade traditional garb and collecting firewood to cook on. They are remarkably warm and welcoming, but economically under-resourced, so much so that 40% of families live on less than $2 a day and 70% of children suffer from malnutrition. So, as the families here try to care for themselves, the dogs are often left to fend for themselves. But, despite the economic challenges, the beauty of this place and people shines through as Mama Atitlan calls many foreigners to make her shores home. So, we are fortunate to have a diverse collection of good souls trying to address the suffering of the street dogs that also call Lake Atitlan home and we are honored to be a part of that communal mission.


Jeannette and Joshua Cooper

We are a husband and wife team originally from the United States who have been visiting Guatemala since 2007 and calling it home since 2019. At heart, we are just a couple of dog lovers who simply couldn't keep walking by the problem of desperate and dying dogs and not do something about it. So, we came together with the support of our local and worldwide communities to create Xolo Sanctuary, which is small-scale dog rescue that serves two to five dogs at a time with the hope of becoming a large-scale dog sanctuary and rescue in the future.

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