I came to Guatemala to complete a circle. Back in 2008, my husband Matt and I were looking for a dog to adopt. We looked for quite some time, but that magic connection just wasn’t quite manifesting…until one day I went to the Marin Humane Society in Novato, CA and saw a dog that would change the course of my life. That “magic something” came through her eyes in a way that I will never forget. She was shy, but showed me a heart so unmistakably loving that there was no question. She was the one! She was about six months old at the time, and we noticed on her paperwork that she was from Guatemala! Thankfully her adoption papers also listed Animal Aware as the agency that had rescued her from the streets of Guatemala. Animal Aware was partnering with SPCA International at the time, and as a result of the unseen, collective hard work and dedication of these cooperating agencies and volunteers, this little dog found her forever home!

When we adopted her, her shelter name here in the United States was “Amber”. While her name certainly described her beautiful eyes, we felt the name “Maya” was a more appropriate way to honor her heritage. Although Matt and I went our separate ways in 2010, we have remained close friends and we co-parented Maya (with a regular schedule!) for ten years. Maya was a sweet girl. She could be shy and reserved at times, but once she accepted you into her circle, you were a friend for life and she would shower you with kisses and devotion.

On August 15, 2020, Maya was diagnosed with lymphoma. Although we tried a variety of treatments, we had to say goodbye to our sweet dog that December. We decided to have Maya cremated and have her ashes returned to us.

A few months ago, COVID travel restrictions were starting to ease, and not having traveled anywhere for some time, I started wondering about where I might go or what I might do with the opportunity. Guatemala started coming to mind, and I began wondering if maybe I might return a portion of Maya’s ashes to the hills at Aware in Sumpango. After all, Maya had made such a long journey for me…wouldn’t it be nice to return the favor?

Thanks to Tania, one of Aware’s most dedicated volunteers, I was able to spend the better part of two days at the shelter in May of 2022. It was quite the eye-opening and heart-opening experience. Meeting Xenii and seeing the hundreds of beautiful animals there that are well taken care of makes me believe and trust even more in Aware’s mission.

Before leaving the shelter, I scattered Maya’s ashes along the path where the dogs are walked each day…a shaded area, dotted with sunshine, leaves and pine needles. It was a beautiful day. I paused in a little clearing along the way and the breeze lifted some of her ashes up towards the clouds.

I now realize that the circle I was looking to complete is much bigger than I thought and it doesn’t quite end here! About a year and a half ago I began sponsoring a dog at Aware. His name is Hulk, and after meeting him, I was clearly enchanted by another pair of loving and knowing Guatemalan eyes! We’ll have to see what develops next… I hope my story inspires you to support Aware in any way that you can. If you can’t adopt an animal, please consider sponsoring one. Or come to the shelter and volunteer! I assure you that your donation will make a difference and will benefit the animals directly and meaningfully.


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