Our Dog Adoption at Hacienda Cusin

Here’s the story of our dog adoption aka one of our greatest little blessings.

I never thought I’d ever have a dog.
Danny loves them to pieces (which started to rub off on me a bit, I’ll admit.)
But in New York, a dog just wasn’t an option we were willing to consider without a yard.
But down here in Ecuador, there are so many dogs on the street (many who are starving or sick) that you can’t help but think about adopting them. My heart really had been feeling pretty big for these animals.
Little did we know we’d meet our little street dog after Vipassana
After the meditation course, Danny and I felt so ridiculously lucky to be able to go on a get-away together. After 10 days of being a part, WE WERE DYING TO BE WITH EACH OTHER!!! All I could think about was being with my husband. It freaking felt like a honeymoon!!  ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ And we were both even extra full of love after the cleansing/healing experience of Vipassana. (Can you see I’m trying to recommend Vipassana for husbands and wives?)
So off we went two hours by bus to Otavalo to stay in another one of Ecuador’s oldest and most famous hotels…Hacienda Cusin. Every guide book says it’s a “must visit.”

The Imbabura Volcano is nearby and offers the perfect backdrop in one of our favorite areas in Ecuador
The grounds for Hacienda Cusin are massive, and full of old world charm
We kinda wanted to just be homebodies and be with each other every second. We reconnected, chatted like crazy about our individual experiences at Vipassana, slept in (instead of getting up at 4:00 am!!!), enjoyed the scenery in what is known as “volcano alley”, ate a romantic dinner at the hotel (oh, that fish soup!), watched a movie in their cozy movie room (with a MASSIVE bowl of popcorn that they brought to us), and we fell asleep to a huge and extremely cozy fire in our room each night.

The Hacienda is located about 20 minutes from Otavalo in a quaint little town.  The cobblestone road lined with old stone walls reminded us of some of the old European towns we’ve visited
They grow all the produce used in the restaurant on the hotel grounds

But this was the best part of all
We met a very, very cute little doggie that was hopping and playing around the gorgeous gardens of the hacienda.

Oh my. She was seriously adorable. Likely due to an injury, she had only one working eye which made us melt.
We started to wonder: did she live there at the hotel? I’m all about asking in situations like this. And so we did. And we discovered that this 3 or 4 month old puppy was a street dog who had just wandered onto the property. The kitchen had been feeding her scraps.

How could we not fall in love with that face?
Would she be available for adoption? We asked, just for fun. Though asking that question was a bit surreal to me as the idea of owning a dog was still very new. I couldn’t believe we were actually asking about adopting a dog!! Oh my goodness!
And the answer was YES. The wonderful women at the front desk were GIDDY about the idea and said they would be delighted if we adopted her.
We kind of wanted to pee our pants after that. We looked at each other like – – Would we be crazy to adopt a dog down here? But how could we not do this? It seemed unreal that it could be happening. And it felt very exciting, too.

We let the hotel know that we would LOVE to adopt her, but we weren’t able to take her with us just then as our home was 12 hours away and we knew we couldn’t take her on the bus. So we returned home and later hired someone with a car to drive up there to get her for us. In the meantime, the amazing staff at the hotel took her to a vet to get her vaccinated and prepared for the trip. (They bent over backwards to be helpful through the entire process. I can’t say enough good about the dear people working at that hotel.)
I will never forget the moment we received her.
Danny had to teach a class at church that day so I was waiting patiently at home for her to arrive.
I expected the same playful puppy. But it turns out she was scared to death (!) when the driver placed her in my arms. She was shaking terribly. She wouldn’t walk and tried to hide against a wall so I carried her in my arms to the house. I felt this love just come over me for this little being as I carried her. I had never actually held a dog before. I had never even thought I’d ever own a dog. And yet here I was walking with her – just the two of us. And I felt this overwhelming desire to care for her.

Once home, she didn’t want to go inside. After all, she likely had never been indoors. I carried her in and wanted to feed her right away. When I returned with the food I couldn’t find her – she was hiding in a dark bathroom behind a toilet. She wouldn’t eat or drink at all. In fact, she started to tip over as she was standing. I called Danny and told him to head home that second! I may have a had a little tear.
It turns out that our little girl was not only traumatized by the car ride but soooooo very tired. She had traveled all night to get to us and we figured she didn’t sleep a wink the entire time.
Danny got home and we both loved on her and tried to gain her trust. She eventually ate a little bit (she probably had never eaten dog food and so instead of eating out of the bowl, she would take it with her to a “safer” more isolated spot). We were so happy she found comfort in laying on a folded up blanket. It became her favorite little spot for the next couple of days while she became more used to our home. 

Now she seems as happy and playful as ever. She is SOOO affectionate. Oh my goodness. Her favorite thing on earth is to get some affection with her head buried in our legs or arms. She just loves to follow us wherever we go and sits at our feet when we’re on the couch. When we arrive home after being out, you just can’t imagine how happy she is to see us. Her entire body wags back and forth. She’s also an incredibly well behaved dog (I don’t know how we got so lucky! I think street dogs have some extra smarts.) She comes when we call her name. She obeys us quickly if we ask her to stop doing something. She quickly learns anything we teach her. She instinctively knows to go to the bathroom outdoors. She is now looooving her daily walks (though it took many days to get her to budge while having that leash on.) 

We really are loving her to bits. 
And – – her name is Sila. (Or Si. Or Little Miss. Or Cutie Patootie.)
And her little Peruvian blanket is still her favorite place in the house. 
And Danny refers to me as “mama” when he’s talking to her.
(Something I didn’t see coming. But it pretty much makes me melt.)
Thanks for all your excitement. ๐Ÿ™‚ It has been exciting for us, too. 

P.S. Truth be told, we thought she was a boy when we first met her. Oops! Back then, due to her one eye, Danny was brainstorming with cyclops – and that turned into Silas. Later we realized she was a girl and by then we couldn’t bare to change her name much, since we’d been calling her Silas for two weeks before we got her. So Sila it is. It seems to suit her so well.

P.P.S – A big THANK YOU to Hacienda Cusin for providing accommodations and for going way past the call of duty in order to help us give Sila a loving home. Their staff was wonderful when we were just guests, and continued to be so helpful and accommodating when coordinating the care, vaccination, and transport of our puppy. Thank you!!!

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  1. Anonymous October 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your little one! She is so sweet! We adopted our puppy, Sherlock, after 3 years of marriage, and he has saved me through the past several years of infertility. It's like I can use all my pent-up motherly instincts on him. My husband also refers to me as "mommy" when talking to him, and he knows me by that name. Sherlock has made me a mother, even though it's not in the traditional sense.

    Even though your heart was already full of love, you're about to feel more than you could have ever imagined for a four-legged furry little creature. I'm so happy for you!!!

    • mara October 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      Wow. What a little blessing.

  2. mary plus vince October 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    She is so cute, congrats! My husband and I have been married 8 years and have been going through infertility the last 3 1/2 years… We got our pup last year and she has been the best thing ever for us. We definitely needed her presence in our home, it has been so wonderful! Good luck on this new journey!

    • mara October 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Ah, thank you for writing in. The "presence" is definitely a big deal, isn't it? I feel the same way. It's been just Danny and I forever now and it's sooooo different (and fun) to have another little warm body in the house.

  3. Malissa B. Moench October 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    So happy for you guys!! We just adopted a sweet dog from the Utah Humane Society a month ago. We got so lucky with her because she is 5 years old and already completely trained and extremely obedient! We LOVE her! Her name is Lady. We're expecting our first baby in February, and we're so excited for him to have a loving, patient playmate. Dogs are so wonderful!

  4. Baugh October 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    You two are the best!! It only makes sense that you two should have an animal to share all that love with. That is going to be one spoiled pup and I'm so happy about it. So does she have sight in her eye still? The pictures make it look like her eye is getting better. I love love love animals and I was so happy to read this sweet story. Thanks for the examples that you are and the love you spread.

    • mara October 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Thx for the note and for your excitement! ๐Ÿ™‚ She does have eyesight in just one eye. The other one looks like it got pretty damaged at one point. (Though now it has healed and the Vet says it doesn't need any further treatment or anything.) Having one working eye is definitely a challenge for her at times. When we play fetch she sometimes doesn't see the stick. When we go on walks she prefers to walk on one side so she can keep an eye on us better. Though if one of us is on each side, she has to really, really twist her body back and forth so she can keep an eye on us both.

      It's so sweet to hear you love animals. My family had very limited contact with animals growing up (my mom had allergies) so this is all so new to me. But it's been wonderful in the last year or so to begin developing more compassion and love for animals, I feel badly that I didn't have this in me so naturally before. (Also, the Vipassana meditation practice actually emphasizes love for ALL living beings, which was really beautiful for me to experience.)

  5. Anonymous October 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Mara – you are now officially a dog person, which I think are the greatest people:) Dogs are such incredible creatures and the way Sila has trusted you guys and now loves you unconditionally is proof of this. My dog has been with me for 6 years now through a lot of difficult times including and incredibly difficult break-up (which brought me to your blog in the first place). You are a momma, and you, Danny and Sila are all so lucky to have each other.

  6. PRT Living October 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Amazing!!!!! I'm sitting here reading this with my fur baby!!! These animals bring so much joy to our lives!

    So question! How will you get her to the US?? Or are yall planning on staying in Ecuador?? :0 ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thank you so much for blogging!!! I miss yalls blogging so so so so so much!!

    • mara October 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      We can travel with her to the U.S. when we move back. (It will require lots of paperwork but it can be done.) We don't plan to stay here forever. But maybe 2 years?

      Thanks for your kind and adorable note. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Anonymous October 13, 2014 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Amazing!! SO a few questions…

    Who is going to babysit the baby when ya'll travel Ecuador and South America?

    How is having a dog in Ecuador? Can they go lots of places like NYC?

    How long do ya'll plan to be in Ecuador?

    And one for you two love birds… How has your healing been Mara with your body? Have you been able to get a lot of the physical and mental healing that you wanted?

    Thanks!!! XOXO from the US ๐Ÿ˜‰


    • mara October 13, 2014 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      -For dog sitting, we found a dog boarder who has also been called a dog whisperer. She lives just outside Cuenca on a large property and cares for lots of dogs. Just THREE days after getting Sila, we had to send her to the dog boarder for TWELVE DAYS as we had to head to the coast for the retreat. We were so sad to send her away. But she seemed to do really well with Caty.

      -Regarding dogs in Ecuador – People seem to treat animals very differently here. They seem to treat them less like lovable pets and more like guard dogs. If you speak to a dog here, the dog has no reaction at all. It's almost like they aren't used to interacting with humans in a social way. Also, sometimes someone's so called pet will be running around the neighborhood without a leash or collar. There is a ton of that going on. And often the dogs will have worms and fleas and will be visibly diseased. People do seem to feed street dogs, though. It seems that most dogs we see are hanging close by a property – likely because they are getting fed there. As for walking Sila around on a leash – this is something I need to get better at because it's a bit scary to me when big stray dogs approach us and the dogs bark or growl or do their thing. Street dogs here can be very territorial but Danny says that *I* just have to be the alpha in those situations. Working on that. ๐Ÿ™‚ As for taking her places…I think we could take her pretty much anywhere. Ecuador does seem dog friendly in that way. Though I haven't seen too many dogs in restaurants, which ultimately is probably a good thing (even though we'd love to take her.) We don't think we'd consider tying up Sila outside a store or restaurant because dogs do get stolen here. There is a big open market every week where dogs are sold and people have actually found their stolen dogs being sold there. Though Danny says we might be safer in this regard as our Sila has one eye. ๐Ÿ™‚

      -We plan to be here maybe another 2 years. (We think, anyway. It is somewhat up in the air. But I think we could easily fit in another 2 years of this free lifestyle and some more adventuring.)

      -The healing has been good. For the most part I have felt healthy and good down here. Though ever since my first period after the last IVF I had been noticing more PMS type symptoms which was sad to me as I had not had any symptoms for 6 YEARS prior! So that has been a bummer. But the symptoms seem to be lessening. And actually recently I had some symptom free months. Also, we've eliminated ALL processed/packaged/canned foods and refined sugar completely down here (I only buy sugar for the hummingbirds that live in our back yard. ๐Ÿ™‚ And we've upped our vegetable and fruit intake a TON and hardly ever eat meat any more. I've had a chronic rash go away. And my skin has been as healthy as it could be. So overall I'm feeling really great health wise. And Sila is actually adding to that. I mean, those daily walks! It's so great to have a walking partner and I'm so glad to have that daily push to get out on a walk.

    • Anonymous October 14, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Thank you for eating less meat. That's a wonderful way to reduce the exploitation, torture and killing of innocent animals. And such a good way to be more connected to nature, love and compassion.

  8. eden October 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    what a sweet little girl! a dog seems to fit just perfectly with the two of you. i have two of my own and i love how they're always waiting at the door when i get home. i love that they follow me around, and i love that they are always ready and willing to go on a walk or hike up a mountain with me.

    she's such a pretty little thing.


  9. shesureissketchy.com October 13, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    This makes my heart happy.

  10. Kelly October 13, 2014 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    She is so beautiful! I started to cry when I read this, dogs are so wonderful and even if down the road you decide to expand your family in other ways, this wonderful creature will be there and will love any new addition.

  11. Anonymous October 14, 2014 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I loved this so much — it brought tears to my eyes. Again, blessings to you for giving her a home and blessings to her for being so adorable. Animals have so many important lessons to teach us and can bring so much joy. I love her just from seeing the photos. That golden fur and those little ears! I had a dog when I was a child and have had cats in the city. I have adored and learned from them all. So happy for you three.


  12. Miggy October 14, 2014 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Love this. I would love a dog one day although I don't have much experience with them from growing up either. And you know I love that you have a dog with special needs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Heather October 14, 2014 at 2:50 am - Reply

    I love this SO MUCH. I am complete and total dog lover and firmly believe that adoption/rescue is the best route. My rescued Benji is one of the absolute best things in my life and at this point, probably my greatest joy. I haven't been able to have children thus far either, and it is wonderful being able to care for someone who needs and loves you so much. After having Benji in my home for a few months, I felt the urge to help more dogs in need and began volunteering with a local rescue group where I foster dogs in need until they're adopted. We take them in, help them acclimate to a home, clean them up, teach them manners, and basically just make them more appealing to a typical family. It has been so rewarding.

    Anyway, all this is to say that I so appreciate that you did this and helped sweet Sila. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (By the way, my best friend occasionally refers to this quote she's seen about rescued dogs that says, "Who rescued whom?" It's a good question in my house!)

  14. Amanda @ A.Co est. 1984 October 14, 2014 at 3:45 am - Reply

    Omg Mara she is just a doll!!! So excited for you both on this sweet new addition to your family!! xo

  15. Courtney October 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Oh I LOVE this! ๐Ÿ™‚ I remember my heart totally melting when the woman we got Georgie from called me "mama." Sila sounds like such a sweetheart! I hope she'll continue to make appearances on the blog. You can't overdo it on dog pictures, if you ask me ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Anonymous October 14, 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Sweet, perfect, angel puppy!!! So wonderful!!!! Thank you for opening your heart and home to this animal – you all will benefit so much. And thank you for adopting rather than supporting the abusive breeding/sale industry of animals. This dog just became one of the luckiest in Ecuador.

    I hope your animal family continues to grow!

    Also, a tiny bit of advice… Please consider feeding her some actual meat and vegetables (my friend's dog eats all their vegetable scraps except a few that are bad for dogs – maybe onions). Most commercial dog food brands are horrible, toxic things. They are as much "food" as Fruit Loops are food for humans. In the US, you can shop at boutique dog stores (not the grocery store) and get healthy pet foods that don't have fillers, don't have grains, contain real meat (of a human grade), aren't overly processed, etc. But, I imagine that's harder to find in Ecuador. So, please supplement her dog food with actual meat, organs, vegetables, etc. You can find lots of sources online to learn about how to choose better brands of pet food and how to make your own.

  17. Kelly Rodriguez October 15, 2014 at 10:44 am - Reply

    She is perfect! What a precious gift you have been given. Enjoy the love! ๐Ÿ™‚


  18. A Few Good Eggs October 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    What a sweet, sweet post, story, and pup. Sila! She is the cutest and what a wonderful thing you have done in adopting her… and one that will probably benefit you both even more than her (I've found this with our adopted cat – he brings me so much joy). Can't wait to hear more about your adventures!

  19. Anonymous October 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    My husband and I live in one of the private homes located on the grounds of Hacienda Cusin. We met "One-Eyed Jack" (I nicknamed her, not realizing she was a "she") while we were walking our dogs. Our Rottweiler, Zoya, became fast friends with your pup and enjoyed rolling around in the grass together behind the kitchen (her favourite hangout). I'm glad you were able to give her the forever home she deserves. She has definitely grown since we have last seen her. Please give her a big hug from us and Zoya.

  20. Claudia Martins Dietrich November 13, 2014 at 11:57 am - Reply

    A lovely couple deserves a lovely dog! You and Danny are really special both as a couple and as individuals. I am very happy that you and Sila met. Iยดve recently adopted a street dog myself. My husband was always talking about the good times he had with his dogs as a kid and I was kind of jealous of all that adventures. I considered myself a cat person, but it turns out Iยดm a animal person. My little Ruffles acted the same shy way as Sila when he got home. It takes sometime to adapt to the new invironment. And yes, they are streetsmart, learn quickly and are always ready to receive and give love.

  21. Andrea Quimby January 19, 2016 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Hi Mara! I am so happy that you have a dog and are now in the club of those who have their hearts" broken wide open" by these little sweeties. My husband and I have two labradors, 1 who is 2 years and change and our "baby" who turns one at the end of this month. Yes, we call ourselves "Mommy and Daddy" when speaking for the dogs. His parents call them their "Granddogs." With or without adding a fertility journey into this equation, they are just the best. I don't know what I would do without them!

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