Animal angels are everywhere. These are the people who take care of the strays that live around their home. They feed, care for, and ensure the safety of these animals.
For Lya Battle, the idea of being an animal angel has involved an entire lifestyle change.
In 2006, she and her husband Alvaro Saume decided to adopt a couple of dogs from their local shelter. That is when they began to notice many other stray dogs around their home were vulnerable and would never make it to the shelter.
They were in desperate need of help. Lya decided to take them in. It wasn’t long before their property became the adopted home of over 100 dogs.
That meant there was little space for everyone. Thankfully, Lya’s grandfather had left her a 142-acre farm. She and her husband, along with all the dogs, decide to move there to make a better life for everyone.
It is now called Territorio de Zaguates, or Land of the Mutts and Strays. It is a real dog paradise.
It Is a Home Where All Dogs Are Welcome
For the average dog owner, it might seem like Lya is out of control in her quest to ensure that the strays of Costa Rica have a place to call home.
When you see this small farm and all the wagging tails personally, there is a very different story told. Volunteers come to the farm all the time. Every dog has a name which is never forgotten. You’ll find dogs trying to be funny, snuggly dogs, and those that have enough energy to run forever.
Every weekend, you’ll find dozens of people coming up to the farm to take hours-long walks with the dog throughout the farm.
What makes Lya special, however, is her love for the dogs that would never be welcomed anywhere else. There’s Milu, who survived a severe bout of distemper and now walks like a drunken spider. Or there’s a dog many call Stumpy, who had a paw chopped off by a machete wielded by a drunk owner.
Everyone at the Territorio de Zaguates is different. Each dog is seen as being beautiful in their own way. And that is what makes them, and this place, such a unique part of our world.
It May Be Special, But It Is Not Always Loved
As you might imagine, having 1,000 dogs around creates a good ruckus. That means Lya and her neighbors are sometimes don’t see eye to eye. Some believe there are too many dogs living on the farm. Some people have destroyed the farm’s irrigation pipes to try to deprive the dogs of water.
Someone even once killed over half of the farm’s horses to make a statement.
There are issues with sanitation with that many dogs around, of course, but Lya has taken care of that. Environmental engineers have verified that the water and land are suitable.
Then there’s the traffic which comes up the small mountain roads to the farm each weekend. It is impassable whenever the farm opens their gates to the public. That is the real testament to this “crazy dog lady” does every day.