Home Gossip Seen with Jean Shafiroff: Costa Rican Getaway Turns into Dog Rescue Mission

Seen with Jean Shafiroff: Costa Rican Getaway Turns into Dog Rescue Mission

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Elizabeth Shafiroff, Jean Shafiroff and Dr. Jiovanni Bulgarelli Jimenez
Elizabeth Shafiroff, Jean Shafiroff and Dr. Jiovanni Bulgarelli Jimenez
Jean Shafiroff is an American philanthropist and humanitarian who resides in New York and Southampton. Elizabeth Shafiroff is a freelance photojournalist. Both Elizabeth and her friend, Lindsey Spielfogel are animal rescuers and animal activists.
Costa Rica–January 2016

A popular destination spot for vacationers from around the world. Costa Rica is known for its beautiful beaches, plush tropical rain forests and wildlife.  It is no doubt, one of the

Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach

safest and most scenic Central American countries to visit.  Every year I try to take at least one trip to a country that offers something unique.  My recent January trip to Costa Rica with my daughter, Elizabeth and her friend, Lindsey, proved to be a real adventure. Little did I know that the trip would turn into a rescue mission!

We arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica in the late afternoon on January 5th and journeyed to the beautiful Gulf of Papagaya resort area located in the northwestern section of the country.  After a relaxing night spent dining at the hotel’s tapas bar, we all headed to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.

Visit to the Hospital Amigos por los Animales

Upon waking up, I expected a relaxing day on the beach.  Instead, the girls informed me that we would be journeying to Liberia to spend the day with Dr. Giovanni Bulgarelli Jimenez at the Hospital Amigos por los Animales.

The Hospital Amigos poor Los Animales
The Hospital Amigos poor Los Animales

Not one to disappoint, I went along with the girls’ plans, and off we went with our taxi driver, Carlos, to Liberia.  Along the way we stopped to photograph herds of cows and to buy fresh coconut juice from a young man, named Juan, at a roadside fruit stand.

After a number of detours, we eventually arrived at the veterinarian hospital, located just across the street from the Liberian police headquarters.  Dr. Bulgarelli Jimenez greeted us with a big smile and then proceeded to give us a quick tour of the small but very efficient hospital. She introduced us to her staff and then to the five homeless dogs and two cats she cares for at the hospital’s small shelter.

Stray Dogs and Cats

With some of the animals at the Veternarian Hospital and Rescue Center, Costa Rica.
With some of the animals at the Veternarian Hospital and Rescue Center, Costa Rica.

The very kind doctor took us aside to discuss the problem of stray dogs and cats in Costa Rica.  She explained that like all the other Central and South American countries, Costa Rica had a significant population of stray animals.  Although the government does their best to educate the people on proper care of the animals, and the need to spay and neuter their pets, over population and homelessness is still an issue.   Most people do their best to try to feed the stray animals but it is never enough.

While reasonably priced spay and neuter programs exist, these programs are not a priority for the people and the majority of individuals cannot afford these procedures.

Next Stop Nazareth

After a long visit with the doctor, we decided to tour Liberia with our taxi driver.  The city is small and rather charming with a population of about 60,000.   Part of the tour included a visit to Nazareth, a poor section of Liberia where we were told many Nicaraguan refugees live.

Once in Nazareth I got out of the taxi. We were fortunate to be invited into several homes.  Although the people were very poor, they were friendly and proud of their dwelling places.  It was there on the streets of Nazareth that I discovered a homeless male puppy infested with fleas and ticks.  He did not look well and his belly was distended.

First homeless dog we spotted. We later named this dog Nazareth after the place where we found him
First homeless dog we spotted. We later named this dog Nazareth after the place where we found him

As soon as Elizabeth caught sight of him, she immediately picked him up and cradled him in her arms.  Lindsey quickly ran over to help.  After a short conversation with a young family, we learned that the puppy was homeless.

Without further word we knew what we had to do and so asked that family for permission to take the dog with us to the veterinarian hospital.  (We asked permission because we wanted to make sure that the dog did not have a home.)  Before we left we gave the family some money as a gesture of good will. Then we said goodbye to our new friends and sped to Dr. Bulgarelli’s infirmary.

A little after 7 pm we arrived at the hospital to find the doctor still working on her canine patients.  We waited patiently until she could examine our little rescue.  After a thorough medical check-up, the doctor agreed to nurse our rescue puppy back to health in time for our trip back to the United States.

We named the puppy “Nazareth” in honor of where we found him and decided that we would take him back with us to the United States so long as he was in good health and had the required medical records.

Visit to Monteverde

On a suspension bridge located in Monteverdi, Costa Rica
On a suspension bridge located in Monteverdi, Costa Rica

The following day we toured Monteverde, a cloud forest located at the top of a mountain some three hours drive away from Papagaya.  While there, we walked the trail that crossed many suspension bridges through the beautiful tropical “cloud” rain forests.  The views were breathtaking.

One word of caution, to those going to Monteverde; the drive up the 5,000 foot high mountain is very treacherous.  The road is steep and unpaved most of the way.  Make sure you go with a professional tour group or hire a driver who knows the mountainous roads and who makes the trip in a four -wheel drive.  Do not attempt to drive on these mountain roads on your own!

On our way down from Monteverde, our driver stopped in an unpopulated farm area because he had spotted a homeless dog.  We got out of the car, and gave the dog our leftover lunch. The dog quickly devoured everything. From that moment on, he would not leave our sides.  We observed that there were no homes for several miles around. Our driver was absolutely convinced that the dog did not have a home and so, after some hesitation, we decided to take the dog with us.

Elizabeth Shafiroff in car with rescue dog, Martina
Elizabeth Shafiroff in car with rescue dog, Martina

Once again we drove straight to Dr. Bulgarelli Jimenez’s hospital who agreed to care for the dog and prepare her for our return to the United States.  This dog we named Martina.  Martina is a beautiful Australian shepherd.

The remainder of our trip was spent visiting our rescue dogs at the veterinarian hospital and then touring some of Costa Rica’s magnificent local beach areas.  Coco Beach stood out for its bohemian atmosphere and spectacular beach.   We, also, toured a few rural areas where we met the local people and were invited into their homes.

Home Sweet Home

On the day of our departure, we made our final visit to Dr. Bulgarelli Jimenez’s hospital to pick up our rescue dogs, Nazareth and Martina. The journey back to the United States was a joyous one.  Our arrival at Kennedy Airport went smoothly thanks to JetBlue and U.S. Customs.  Martina and Nazareth now reside, happily, in the United States!

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Jean Shafiroff is a philanthropist and humanitarian who lives in New York City and Southampton. The spectrum of Jean’s philanthropic work includes improving the lives of underserved populations, women’s rights and well-being, health care, animal welfare and resources for children in need, in addition to other causes.