Pay de Limón (Lemon Pie) was found in 2011 in a dump in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, the town with the highest perception of insecurity in Mexico. Members of Los Zetas, one of the most violent cartels in the country, had preyed on the dog, who was barely a year old at the time. They cut off the toes of its front paws, which were finally amputated. Twelve years after being rescued from this horror by the owner of the animal shelter Milagros Caninos (Canine Miracles), the story of Pay de Limón has taken a remarkable turn. Three days after the closing of the America’s Favorite Pet contest, it is positioned as the first of the finalists, the one preferred by the voters.
The founder of the sanctuary, Paty Ruiz, compares the case of Pay de Limón with the kidnappings perpetrated by organized crime. “They cut off his toes one by one, like when they cut off the fingers of human beings who are kidnapped,” she says in a telephone interview with EL PAÍS. The dog now walks with prostheses that are renewed every year. The first ones were made in Denver (Colorado), and later came others from Washington and Virginia.
Ruiz says that the alert came to her from one of the members of the cartel. “He contacted me and told me where [Pay de Limón] was. That person liked dogs,” she says. Pay de Limón was located and transferred it to Xochimilco, in Mexico City, where a shelter for dogs that have suffered extreme violence is located. During the first months of care, they kept him hidden for fear of possible reprisals from the drug traffickers, until they decided that he should carry on with his normal life.
Contest organizers speak of Pay’s case as “simple, brutal and poignant proof of the cruelty of drug cartels.” Violence in Mexico is a daily reality. The country ended 2021 with 35,625 homicides, of which almost 5% (1,776) took place in Zacatecas, the state where the dog was rescued.
Using a photograph in which Pay appears with his ears tilted, his eyes closed and a pair of prostheses covered in camouflage gear, the animal organization has tried to attract support. “He is already over 13 years old and we know that time is working against him. He is a hero, a survivor of human cruelty. He is an example of unconditional love, resilience and strength,” they shared. The founder of the sanctuary says that, at more than 13 years of age, Pay de Limón is “happy and healthy.”
America’s Favorite Pet brands itself as the “world’s largest online pet competition since 2020.” If he gets the most votes, Pay de Limón will appear on the cover of Dogster magazine and win $5,000 in cash.
Meanwhile, the dog sanctuary of Xochimilco (which calls itself “the first in Latin America”) continues to care for dozens of dogs in extreme situations. Milagros Caninos is supported by donations, which are used to nurse the animals back to health and, later, train them to be therapy partners and to donate blood to other dogs.
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